It turns out that the 1993 Game Boy classic, "Link's Awakening" was intended to be the first multiplayer Zelda game. This predates Four Swords (the first Zelda game to actually include multiplayer) by almost an entire decade!
Editor’s Note: Link’s Awakening would have been pretty cool with two-four players…even if the using three link cables could have made things a bit tangled. Although I think Nintendo may have been planning to make this a two-player (as opposed to 2+ player) game before ultimately deciding to make it single player only. But it's still a neat piece of trivia regardless.
While watching Screwattack's latest 24 hour live-stream, I decided to start casually reading through the Hyrule Historia, which had just come in the mail. Now, Link's Awakening was the very first Zelda game that I had ever seen, let alone played. So since it has such strong nostalgic value to me, I excitedly flipped over to the section dedicated to the game, hoping to find pages of goodies to offer insight into one of the most impactful games of my youth. To my dismay, all there was was a single page... Page 144. But that single page actually contained 7 pages of information scaled down to fit in the margins. As I studied it, suddenly, my mouth dropped at what I noticed... the words "What're we gonna do about 1P mode?" Shocked, I looked over to the accompanying picture to study it. Sure enough, it shows several Links attacking the same boss!
The implications here are huge. So many questions arise. Why was the plan dropped? How far along did they get? How would players differentiate from each other on the monochromatic Game Boy screen? Would it have been the same as the story mode? Does the game we have contain the assets that were originally designed for multiplayer? If this was already in place then why wasn't it included for the DX version? Why did it take a good 9 years for Nintendo to finally bring the idea into fruition?
Link's Awakening is good but it would have went down in history as something really special if this had happened. Although multiplayer has been included in Zelda titles since, no game in the series has the level of integration implied here. This is a game that plays perfectly as a single player game. If it also played just as well as a multiplayer game then its design would truly be the stuff of legend. But maybe that's just it. Maybe they couldn't strike the balance needed to meet the standards of the franchise. And maybe that's why the Four Swords games are so drastically different in design than the other titles in the series. But, oh man, if only they were able to actually pull it off! This timeless classic would surely be revered to this day as something extraordinary.
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