This Zelda ‘speedrun’ is legit one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen

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It may be an N64 game in origin, but Ocarina of Time is one of those that now just belongs to everyone: and it has since the earliest days of the speedrunning community been one of the core speedrunning titles. There’s a bunch of reasons for this, beyond it being a very popular and much-loved game, and one big element is the number of glitches that can be triggered in-game, whether just through player input or with machine inputs (what’s known as tool-assisted speedrunning, or TAS). It’s a game that can be made to do a lot of funky stuff.

Every time someone says something about Ocarina being ‘done’, another speedrunner turns up to blow the old assumptions away, and long may that continue. But this particular run from the recent Summer Games Done Quick showcase is something different. It is on a ‘beta’ version of Ocarina, for one thing, and it’s using tools to activate glitches that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

If you’re an Ocarina fan, and especially if you used to read games magazines in the late 90s, I recommend you make a cup of tea and just watch what unfolded yourself (the run starts at around 10:30). I’ll explain what’s going on below.

This version of Ocarina of Time has been re-engineered to incorporate almost every significant rumour that there was about the game. See, Ocarina was the biggest game in the world, and back then the industry was nothing like it is now. Magazines would have to find reasons to continue covering it, and embryonic online culture congregated around forums and faqs and sites dedicated to games like this. My first-ever published piece of writing was on a website dedicated to Ocarina of Time.

There were also no patches or DLC, and certainly not for a Nintendo game. Ocarina was the cartridge that shipped, and pretty soon had been laid bare in terms of its content (if not its speedrunning tricks), and so the rumours swirled around stuff that you couldn’t do in the game… but maybe it felt like you should.

Most infamous were the million-and-one methods that mischievous types said would mean you could ‘get’ the Triforce. You see it in the game, and there’s an indent on the item menu that looks designed to hold it, but this is impossible. That didn’t stop unknown numbers of players, myself included, from trying whatever crackpot scheme someone suggested in order to find it.

So too were there smaller fish, like a race you can’t win. The rumours abounded that this was possible, but only through using the game’s time trickery at the exact right moment. And there was a secret song, the Overture of Sages, that would help unfurl all of these mysteries… if only you could learn to play it.

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I’m not writing about this to unload all my pent-up nostalgia, but as the necessary context for what this ‘speedrun’ is. It’s something else: a livemod, a re-engineered rug-pull, a realisation of long-lost fan dreams. This is the Ocarina of Time that its most feverish fans invented in the late 90s.

That game was of course never real. Except here it is. If you watch the video it’s not clear at first exactly what’s happening, but soon enough you start to see these little nods to the Ocarina rumour mill popping up: and working exactly as those internet randoms on a geocities website said they would.

I won’t do a step-by-step runthrough but suffice to say that Link can play the Overture of Sages, the runner can be beat, and the Triforce can finally be obtained in Ocarina of Time. The run in totality takes maybe forty minutes but by the latter moment everyone in the crowd had realised what was going on, and the team behind this incredible project were getting the kind of cheers they deserve.

The ‘speedrun’ ends with a nod to the future: Breath of the Wild’s Link and Zelda in N64 style, running in Ocarina’s engine, looking out over the skies of Hyrule and celebrating being “Here together” with the viewers. Unbelievably, at this point, the ‘game’ then incorporates the Twitch chat handles of viewers who join in.

This creation was part of Summer Games Done Quick, and helped raise more than $225k for Doctors Without Borders. It was performed “using an original, unmodified US 1.0 release cartridge of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on a real, original N64” and everything was done live using only button presses and TAS software. Credit goes to Sauraen and dwangoAC, as well as TASBot.

This is not a speedrun. It’s an encapsulation of an era, one that its creators miss so much they had to make it real once more, and share with those who might feel the same. It’s a bunch of urban legends and half-forgotten beta screens reborn as something living. It’s like finding out Santa Claus was actually real.

I’ve seen some amazing things from speedrunners over the years, but I don’t think anything will ever top this.

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