During the heyday of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo and Bandai teamed up to release the Satellaview. Only released in Japan, the Satellaview was an add-on component for the Super Famicom, which connected it to a small online network. The idea was you could download new levels, characters, and moves for your games.

The flagship title for the Satellaview was to be BS The Legend of Zelda. Essentially a 16-bit remake of the original The Legend of Zelda, for one hour a day you could download a new dungeon. There were some major differences, though, in the BS version of Zelda and the original. First, you don't control Link in BS. You control the Satellaview mascot, a kid in a baseball cap. But perhaps the biggest problem with this game were the download times required to get new levels. It took approximately ten minutes to download a new level. The inefficiency of the machine, coupled with its high cost, led Nintendo to stop production. As a result, the game remained incomplete, as Nintendo stopped posting new levels.

Despite the glaring flaws associated with the system, BS Zelda was a fun slice of something different. While by no means a perfect game, the dungeons from the original Zelda were the pinnacle of early level design, and still worth playing to this day. It is possible, though extremely difficult, to find a ROM of BS Zelda online. Although the game remains incomplete, it is still worth giving a try, if only to be a Zelda completist.

Name: BS The Legend of Zelda
Format: Super Famicom via the Satellaview system.
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Year: Exact date uncertain*, but probably around 1991

After Nintendo created the Satellaview (a Japan only add on for the Super Famicom) aka the BS-X, they realised that they would need a good game to launch it with. The amount of systems with good hardware and design which failed due to a lack of quality software is huge - try the Sega 32X, the Sega CD, the 64DD, the Famicom Disk System... Nintendo decided to resurrect one of their old favourites from the NES vault to be the headlining star game. The game would be remade to have 16-bit quality graphics and sound, while retaining the classic gameplay from before. The game would be The Legend of Zelda.

The mascot of the Satellaview system would replace our favourite little green elf boy. Enemy and boss design stayed the same, but with the expected added graphicness.

However, this was no straight "tart up graphics, add some different music, release to adoring crowds" job. Nintendo don't work like that. Instead, as anyone will be able to tell from playing the first few minutes of the game, everything had been moved. While you start (playing with the mascot guy instead of Link) you are on a familiarly shaped screen. You automatically walk into that cave. An old man says "It's dangerous to go alone! Take this..." You pick up a sword. It's all good. But as you try to find your way to the first dungeon (which you, as a veteran of NES Zelda, should be able to find blindfold)... But. Well... Umm... It's not there. And while all the screens on the way looked.... familiar, they didn't seem to be in the right place.

That's because it's all been moved. The overworld is made up of screens taken from the first Zelda, populated by enemies of the first Zelda, but they have all been swapped around. The overall world map is smaller (I think) but since it has a different layout it will once again seem unuterrably vast. Luckily, the map in the top left of the screen has red dots to signify dungeons. You cannot tell from the screen what order they are in, however, but since the entrance screen in the overworld for each dungeon looks the same as before you should be able to work out which one you're entering (ie the entrance to the first dungeon is still into a big old tree.) A breakdown of the dungeons is as follows:

  • Level 1:
    • The main treasure in this dungeon is the Bow.
    • This dungeon has it's rooms arranged in the shape of an S
    • The Boss is Aquamentis.
  • Level 2:
    • The main treasure in this dungeon is the Boomerang.
    • This dungeon has it's rooms arranged in the shape of a T followed by a full stop.
    • The Boss is Dodongo.
  • Level 3:
  • Level 4:
    • The main treasure in this dungeon is the Flute.
    • This dungeon has it's rooms arranged in the shape of an I
    • The Boss is Digdogger.
  • Level 5:
    • The main treasure in this dungeon is the Stepladder.
    • This dungeon has it's rooms arranged in the shape of another G
    • The Boss is Parta.
  • Level 6:
    • The main treasure in this dungeon is the Magic Wand.
    • This dungeon has it's rooms arranged in the shape of an A
    • The Boss is Gohma.
  • Level 7:
    • The main treasure in this dungeon is the Red Candle.
    • This dungeon has it's rooms arranged in the shape of a Skull
    • The Boss is Aquamentis again.
  • Level 8:
  • Level 9:
    • There are no real treasures in this dungeon, apart from possibly Princess Zelda. You know you want her.
    • This dungeon has only three rooms arranged vertically.
    • The Boss is, predictably, Ganon.

So as you can see, all the items are there (all those not mentioned, such as the Blue Candle and the Sword and Shield upgrades can be found in the overworld somewhere). There is as usual one Map, one Compass, one Heart Container and one piece of the Triforce per level. There are some more interesting things to be found in the overworld - some Heart Containers for instance.

Aside from being a remake of a classic game, there is another cool thing about this game. That is the way that it had to be played. As far as I can find out (and information on the electric internet is hazy here), people in Japan who had bought the BS-X add on and paid for all the necessary gubbins, as well as a subscription to the Satellite TV service called St GIGA could access the games to download at certain times only. There are lots of different viewpoints from here - some say you could only play the game during an hour slot per week, when a program about it was broadcast. Some say that you could play at any time but it took up to 10 or so minutes to get into a dungeon, and so the prices were sky high to complete the game. Either way, somehow, someone managed to dump the ROM image of the game and get it out onto the Internet. If you want to track it down, be careful - perfectly complete ROM sites will list 6 Snes ROM files with the BS prefix and Zelda somewhere in the title. This is explained at BS Zelda. The ROM is occasionally called "BS The Legend of Zelda Remix" - this is the one you want. But running it in Zsnes poses another problem. Such as, nothing happens.

For whatever reason, there is apparently a 7 minute waiting time at the start of the ROM. I have no idea why this is, it is possibly because it tok 7 minutes to download the basic game package. Either way though, if you can be bothered to wait through this, you will meet another problem - you only have 57 minutes of playing time! Now even the most hardcore Zelda masochist guy would be pushing it to complete the game in such a short time. I have no idea why this is, but it may be to do with the "could only play during a certain hour" idea. that I keep hearing. Anyone?

But as with all great problems in emulation, the hackers of the world soon set to work on the ROM image.

And lo and behold, the Lord saw a fully patched version of the BS Zelda ROM which cut the 7 minute wait, got rid of the 57 minute limit, added a title screen, translated the whole game and generally made it super fun. The Lord saw this, and he said that it was good.

Finding the patched version can be very difficult, as big database like rom sites such as cherryroms very rarely contain patches. However, the website I mention in my sources should have some links to a site with one.

There were more interesting elements to the game. The time system was great - now that it is hacked to go incredibly slowly and never stop the game, people can really enjoy it. But it means something else - some parts of the overworld are only accessible at certain times. For example, the 16th Heart Container appears on a beach in the overworld, and is very easy to collect, but it only appears after the game runs for 20 minutes, and 7 minutes later it disappears. Don't get there in time, and you will never be able to get it. There were also some seemingly random events which sometimes took place when you walked from one screen to another. Exactly what happened depends (apparently) on how many Triforce pieces you have. Sometimes lightning will strike and kill all the enemies on screen. Sometimes Link... sorry, the mascot will hold up his sword and light will shine around it, and then nothing will happen. Apparently you can predict these events and control them, but it's beyond me to tell you exactly how. Try the GameFAQs BS Zelda messageboard for people who really know what they are on about.

Overall, this game is a hugely inventive remake of a classic game. I was too young for it the first time round, but this is perfectly formed product to get me into it. If you played it the first time round, this will be a dream come true. Find the version with a complete patch, sit down, and prepare to get reacquanted with a gold pointy triangle thing.

Thanks to Fieari for pointing out the new location of the BS zelda site, see the sources below.

* - /msg me if you know.

Thanks to Micholaus for the writeup above - if he hadn't done it I would never have got off my arse and wrote this.

The BS Zelda Homepage: http://www.tbl.bz/bszelda

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