A few weeks back, I was sitting at home doing what I do best at the hands of my Playstation 4, when all of a sudden I get a message from my buddy Erik. Now, to preface this, Erik is the biggest Legend of Zelda fan I know, introducing me to the franchise as a tot when he brought over his copy of Link to the Past, complete with a big strategy guide filled with hints, secrets, and lore. It was a great time in my life and many memories were made going at Zelda games like a mad dog does a cat, filling the halls of my home with excited yips and reenactments of the game’s music. Erik, our good friend Timmy, and myself spent many years doing just this with just about every major Zelda release. We were both blown away by Link’s Awakening 64.
Now, the message Erik sent me was a simple, “Dude, check this out,” tied to a link of a Gamenesia article. This was my introduction to Link’s Awakening 64, an Ocarina of Time rom hack that seemed to fully realize the Gameboy classic Link’s Awakening in a 3D space. Needless to say, my jaw dropped and I proceeded to research the project for an article I did here on Marooners’ Rock. Through my research, I sent a few messages to the hack’s creator, Ty Anderson, who happily agreed to do an interview with me. So let’s see what the creator has to say about Link’s Awakening 64, a high potential rom hack that will be coming out in about a year or so.
Before we start this interview with rom hacker Ty Anderson, let’s get to know the gentleman. Anderson introduced himself thusly,
“Let’s see, a bit of thought on myself. Right. Some of the things I enjoy; I love listening to Reggae music as it’s always been an inspiration to me. I love walking around in nature, escaping society as much as I can really. As far as things that have gotten me into gaming? I’ve been into gaming from a very young age, around five years old or so. I absolutely love the N64 Zelda titles; they were a big inspiration to my life and decided the type of computer games I would play. I wholeheartedly believe that computer games have such a strong impact on who we are as people, especially ones you grow up with. Legend of Zelda was just so impactful on my life.”
Originally, this hacking project was an effort to recreate Ura Zelda or Zelda 64 on the Disk Drive. What made you switch focus?
Originally, Ura in the Zelda modding community has been kind of thrown around as a buzzword as an extension for Zelda. I originally just wanted to make a few side temples. I had this idea of importing a new map over the Temple of Time and then from there having a room of portals where the player could quickly go to these bonus temples. Nothing particularly impressive.
I started learning how to use Sketchup and hex editing, to teach myself all these things in the space of about four or five months. I kept progressing and progressing and the more I developed my skills, the more I thought that this bonus temple build wasn’t satisfactory. I’d be out walking and think about making an outdoor map, rather than just making a temple. So basically, that idea never changed it kind of evolved. Eventually, I wanted an independent game and Link’s Awakening seemed like the best avenue to do that without necessarily screwing up the whole Hyrule Historia. Especially considering that Link’s Awakening takes place in a dream world as well.
Why Link’s Awakening? What about that game in particular inspired you to recreate it with the Ocarina of Time engine?
Well, it was definitely something about the timing for when that game was made. Link’s Awakening was the one directly before Ocarina of Time. On a side note, and I know this is a bit blasphemous, I never actually played A Link to the Past. I never owned a SNES either, but I did own a Gameboy Color. I was at the right age when I played Link’s Awakening. You have to be at the right age when you play a Zelda game for the first time. That determines whether or not it becomes iconic for you.
Now if I remember correctly, Link’s Awakening had been made by Capcom and wasn’t even supposed to be a Zelda game on the handheld. It was just being worked on independently. Eventually, Miyamoto enjoyed the fact that there were all these characters and stories and I believe that Majora’s Mask, which is my all time favorite game, took a lot of inspiration from Link’s Awakening. Even in Ocarina of Time, there’s the ocarina, the owl, the mysterious woods, there’s just a lot of correlation between the two. There were a lot of similar mechanics used in Link’s Awakening that were already sort of there in Ocarina, so I could sort of exploit those to my greatest ability. So yeah, there’s a lot of similarities between Awakening and Ocarina.
My second reason why I chose this is the fact that Link’s Awakening is set in this dream world, so there’s this great potential for me to play around with and break the boundaries of the original game. I wanted to recreate a game, so I had set goals. Doing an independent game, if you don’t have goals, you are destined to fail. You’ll keep expecting more and over-creating. To create appropriately, you need limitation. That’s what I wanted. I wanted to build on foundations of stone rather than one built on sand. That’s something I think the Ura Zelda Project lacked.
Originally, the Ura Zelda project got a lot of hopes up, but too much was expected and it fell through. That’s some of the negativity I have to push against with Link’s Awakening 64. One of the things I learned from the failing of that project was that there was too much creativity, not enough boundaries. As a learning curve from their failure, I decided that I would remake a pre-existing game, but I needed one with enough flexibility so I could change it in my own way. The fact Link’s Awakening was a dream, showed open doors for me.
I also discovered the manga version of the game, which was so much more in-depth, darker, and dynamic. Those comics showed this deep story that was barely touched on in the original game. Basically, my plan is to make Link’s Awakening as though it had a big development team, so that all the avenues have been explored, no unanswered questions.
I was also in hospitals a lot as a kid and because I was stuck in a hospital bed for months on end, my mom scraped as much money as she could and got me a Gameboy Color with a copy of Link’s Awakening. I absolutely loved the game.
“I wholeheartedly believe that computer games have such a strong impact on who we are as people, especially ones you grow up with. Legend of Zelda was just so impactful on my life.”
You’ve mentioned expanding the lore of Link’s Awakening, using things like the manga as a source. How will you be balancing that with the original framework?
Since we kind of answered this question in part, Ty decided to talk about some of the story details he hadn’t got much of a chance to talk about elsewhere.
So the Wind Fish and the Sun Fish’s relationship is an interesting part of the hack. In Link’s Awakening, the player encounters a character called Manbo who says his father is the Sun Fish. Players never get to meet this Sun Fish. I really wanted to develop the character of the Wind Fish because he’s kind of this being at the end who just wakes up, kills everyone, and sods off. That’s it. So, I’m building an origin story about how the Wind Fish came to be.
One of the places that’s going to be completely different is the dream chamber, which is in that little stone building on the edge of Mabe Village. In there, Link crawls into a bed and fall asleep, which is where the Ocarina of Awakening is found. Now, the dream that Link has in Link’s Awakening 64 is going to be much more in-depth. He’ll awaken in a museum and in that museum is going to be memories of the Wind Fish as he grew up.
Now, the Sun Fish is going to be the first creation of the Wind Fish. The museum is going to show them being happy together and growing up together, until eventually the Wind Fish becomes older. The Wind Fish matures, as we do as adults. We don’t have time for imaginary friends anymore, so he starts working on the island and developing everything. The Sun Fish is this child in an adult body that feels incredibly neglected because he sees the Wind Fish as his father. I won’t be explaining too much more, cause I want that sense of mystery, but I want to play on the mythology of Heaven and Hell. The island is something else, I won’t share what it is exactly, but it is incredibly mysterious.
You’ve mentioned a bit on the new boss designs you’ll be making for this hack in other interviews. Can you elaborate on the bosses?
The bosses that I’m going to be making are going to be inspired by the originals in Link’s Awakening, but a lot of the bosses are going to be original ideas. The reason for that is, I want to be able to get this rom working on some kind of console. Which means that I can’t use any ASM,. I just have to use hexadecimal editing. The problem is that limits me. I can change the animation for the way things fight, but not necessarily everything about them to make a completely original enemy.
So what I have to do is play around with animations and what already exists in the game and exploit them to the best of my ability. There will be bosses like the one at the end of Link’s Awakening’s Tail Cave using a boss from Ocarina of Time. Not the exact same boss, so players will be pleasantly surprised with these familiar enemies.
One of the more original enemies I’m working on is the Redead King. The swamp of Link’s Awakening 64 is now going to be a haunted swamp, instead of just being an area for a temple with no reason to visit it again. I want it to play a more significant role, because I have to build it as a full map; I may as well make more out of that space. So the Redead King has this crazy backstory, which explores what the Redeads are and why they are in Koholint Island. They are a special kind of nightmare.
The story I’ll be playing with is about when the Wind Fish was first creating the island, he originally created giants. This is due to him being a giant himself, but thinking of himself as a small fish. So these giants are actually bigger than the Wind Fish, because he believe himself to be a fish, not a whale. The Wind Fish wanted to give the giants a child, but the giants did not want the child, so in a way the giants have this gift aborted.
The swamp is going to be what’s left of the original home of these giants. Now, because the Wind Fish gave this being life, but the giants didn’t want him, he got stuck in this limbo as the Redead King. So this thing is a giant baby that replaces the King Dodongo boss, running around a pitch black maze.
I really want to play with the fact that this is a nightmare. The main theme of Link’s Awakening is that these monsters are nightmares, terrible, awful things, but playing the original game the boss is a cute and fuzzy, pink blob thing. It looks like it’s going to offer the player ice cream, and yet it gets stabbed in the face. So I want my bosses to have that, “Holy hell, what the heck is this thing!” air about them.
What brought you to Rom hacking as a whole?
Originally, I started doing texture maps and creating texture packs for games. A lot of my older texture packs are on my Youtube channel, even if they were of lower quality. So that was a bit of a learning experience. Now what eventually got me into Rom Hacking, oh, this is an interesting story actually. About three years ago, a hacker called Ganondork found my texture packs and asked me how I did them. So, I added him on Skype and I started teaching him a little bit. He eventually said, “Would you like to get into Zelda hacking?” as he was getting into modding himself.
So I agreed, but at the time I didn’t have much time as I was still in college. Basically, I was an ideas guy. So I would write these little ideas and stories and we had this idea to make a game called the Shadow Of Bagu, where you had to find the Bagu Tree, which was an evil version of the Deku Tree. So, together we tossed a sort of fanfiction with absolutely no clue on how to use things like Sketchup. I barely used Photoshop and it turned into this giant mess of random ideas. Different people were suddenly saying they were the leader of the project, even though the reality is that we had no direction.
So I left it for a year and that hacking group fell apart. When I came back into modding, I was looking at the old conversations and the maps I had made on paper. I thought, “You know what, I’m going to learn how to do this.” So I sat down for an evening with Google Sketchup and started teaching myself how to use it. I taught myself hexadecimal binary and then I started studying the inner mechanisms of the rom. Six months later, I announced that I would be doing Link’s Awakening 64. The Ura Zelda phase is in between that six months of me learning how all this works, making Link’s Awakening 64 a year old now, or a year from the announcement video.
I’m just obsessed with these projects. I’m entirely self-taught.
“To create appropriately, you need limitation.”
As far as the game’s mechanics go, is there anything that Link’s Awakening 64 will have that’s different from the Ocarina of Time source?
One of the mechanics that I’m going to change is the telephone booths scattered about the game. In the Gameboy game, there’s a character named Ulrira that talks to Link through a telephone, because the character was too nervous to go outside. So I’m going to elaborate that character’s backstory, as I can relate to that. I am autistic; I struggle socializing with people. I am a lot better with it now, but when I was younger I was terrified. So, I’m going to write Ulrira as an autistic character, but he’s going to use the Sheikah stones to talk to Link through instead of the telephones.
There are a lot of limitations here, so exploiting everything available in every way possible is how I’m going to achieve this remake in a way that makes sense.
Are there any rom hacks that have made an impact on your game development efforts?
What I used to do was watch other people hacks and I would be like, “Damn, I wish I could do something like this.” So I saw things like Star Road by Skelux or Kaze‘s Last Impact and I absolutely loved it. I just wondered how he had done all this and then I came across a video of the original Ura Zelda Project and I felt so betrayed that I couldn’t have helped more. Then, there was another one called Sheikah’s Apprentice, and more recently Project Beta Triforce. All of these hacks I’ve mentioned were much, much bigger than mine. For many of these games, a lot of them end up fading into obscurity and the members have all disbanded, or other life circumstances got in the way and stopped them dead in their tracks. So sometimes, if you want something to happen, you gotta do it yourself.
So I said, “I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of other people promising these awesome hacks and end up not delivering for whatever reason. I’ll learn how to hack and do it myself.” So the inspiration for Link’s Awakening 64 was continually getting my hopes up for all those awesome-looking hacks, only to have them fade away.
Do you have plans on making Link’s Awakening 64 compatible with flash carts like the Everdrive 64?
I am trying my best to make it possible. Out of all the limitations I have found, the biggest one is that I have expanded the amount of ram that the game is capable of using, so it could have more actors in a map. To make it available on the Everdrive I would have to disable that feature. One of the other problems is the simple fact that I don’t own an Everdrive or another flash cart for the Nintendo 64, so I have to speculate. Another thing I’m not too sure of is that the size of the rom itself. The original game is 64 mb, but my version is 72 mb. I’ve added in all the extras, making it slightly bigger. So I don’t know if that’s going to conflict with the Everdrive.
The good news is that I want to be able to convert the same rom that I am patching to be able to work on Wii and Wii U systems as a .wad file. That’s the hopeful aspect of the project, but I can’t make any promises as of yet.
Now the Link’s Awakening 64 files will be playable on anything that can run the emulator program. So if you’ve hacked, say a PSP, a smartphone, or any other device that can handle those games, Link’s Awakening 64 will be available for them. Even if the final file doesn’t quite work with the Everdrive.
What comes after Link’s Awakening 64? Another rom hack or a new game entirely?
It depends really, to be honest. All of it lies in what the fans want. If I wind up with huge fan support to enable me to work on modding full time, then I of course would continue modding. For now, I still need a roof over my head. So, my plan is that after Link’s Awakening 64, I intend to develop my own computer game in the Crysis engine. The game would be heavily inspired by the map layout and gameplay elements that I’m working with now, but of course it would be a full HD game. I already started kind of working out the story, cause my head fires out ideas constantly. I’m like a nuclear reactor.
The idea I have behind this future game is about a small boy from a tribe on the moon of another planet. Their custom is that in order for young boys to become men, they have to adventure across the moon and explore it as a spiritual quest. So, basically, this would be an open-world dungeon exploration game with elements of the collection games. Players would collect data, studying things, and unlocking new abilities. Imagine Skyrim, Fable, and Legend of Zelda all mixed together. I have already done some of the models already in Sketchup. So, after Link’s Awakening 64, I’ll be looking into where that project could lead.
Anderson also wanted to thank everyone for their support of Link’s Awakening 64.
It has been a long and lonely journey, but suddenly everybody knows about the project and seem to be excited about it. Truly I am over the moon that I could ever have had such support. The project went kind of viral, surprising me quite a bit.
After this interview, I won’t be taking any more formal interviews for a while. The reason for that is that I’m doing this mod and I work and am a full time student. My study time has been sort of compromised here of late and I’ve shared everything that needs said about Link’s Awakening 64 for now. Maybe here in about six months or so, when there’s a significant amount of progress made, I’ll share some more information. Right now, it’s time to work on the project.
To support the project, check out the links below. Be sure to follow the project’s Facebook page, as it a great place for updates.
Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/user/Insaneslug
Patreon – https://www.patreon.com/user?u=2683584
Musician for the Soundtrack – Lezg_G – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyCi2h6AOWf6_vbBeTtNeGQ