The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets
The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets, called BS Zelda no Densetsu: Kodai no Sekiban in Japan, was a downloadable game released in 1997 by Nintendo. The game was made for the Broadcast Satellite (BS) Satellaview, a satellite modem add-on to the Super Famicom (the Japanese Super Nintendo) that was released in 1995. This service was a subscription based service where subscribers could get radio shows, download both new and original games, and read newsletters. There was essentially a Satellaview radio guide that would tell users what media would be available at a particular time of day. This service, at its peak in early 1997, had over 100,000 subscribers. Nintendo released several downloadable games for this platform, including this Zelda title.
Ancient Stone Tablets was built using the engine of a Link to the Past and this is like a second quest for a Link to the Past. However, it has an altered overworld, different dungeon locations, and completely different dungeons. Ancient Stone Tablets was split in 4 separate episodes. Each episode would unlock more of the game’s world, and allow the player to proceed farther in the game. Each episode was playable during a specific time of day (one hour long) for a whole week in April of 1997. When the week ended, the next episode began to broadcast. This strict timing arrangement was needed because the game used the SoundLink technology of the Satellaview. SoundLink was essentially providing a streaming audio (included orchestrated music and voice acting) on top of the game that was specifically timed to correspond with cutscenes in the game.
The folks at ZeldaLegends.net actually have managed to recreate this experience almost in its entirety. They first obtained the ROM (software copy) of the game, but found the interiors of all the buildings and dungeons to be missing. However, they brilliantly recreated the dungeon interiors based on videos of the original game hosted online. They then translated the streaming audio from the cutscenes and all the in-game text into English. In addition, they also added the title screen above, and added appropriately themed music from a Link to the Past. I’d like to really thank the people involved in this project for their efforts since it’s made the game available to a much wider audience.
Normally, I would not be supporting emulation, but this is a game that Nintendo only released for a limited time in Japan and is not available or on sale any longer. I feel emulation serves as the only way to enjoy an otherwise lost Zelda game. I will not be talking about the technical emulation details here, but if you wish to play the game yourself, go to Zeldalegends.net and follow the instructions on their site.
Note: Veterans of a Link to the Past or other 2D Zelda games will probably be very familiar with the mechanics of this title. However, I have some notes that you should see before you begin playing this game. It also details some of the changes between this game and Link to the Past that you should be aware of.
If you have not played Legend of Zelda: a Link to the Past, I highly recommend that you play that first. It’s available for download on the Wii’s Virtual Console, or you may be able to find a copy of the Game Boy Advance port somewhere.
Links to the four parts of the guide (one for each week), the before you begin notes, and the review are below.