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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is Being Decompiled, Allowing For Mods and Ports

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is being decompiled, opening the door to multiplayer mods, PC ports, and uncovering hidden secrets.

January 5, 2020

It seems almost inconceivable that over two-decades since launch there is a subsection of gamers still uncovering the mysteries of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Yet, the modding and coding community are taking on a fairly massive project to do just that: decompile the code from the original N64 ROM of Ocarina of Time. The hope is this will not only unravel some unanswered questions about the game, but also open up the possibility of mods and ports to the Nintendo 64 classic.

So let’s back up a second — what’s decompiling, and aren’t there already mods and PC ports of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. After all, ROM and emulators have been around for years, and we’ve all seen countless takes of Ocarina of Time rebuilt in different engines:


Roughly, while emulators are able to read ROMs as computer code as if it were the system it was coded for (in this case, Nintendo 64), decompiling is reworking that code into its original product. Where a ROM is landlocked to emulators, fully sorted and decompiled code into something that is human readable. The end result is something that is more editable and malleable for would-be coders, who can take the original products and work outside of the boundaries of the game or dive deep into the systems within.

With all that said, this isn’t an easy product — especially for a small decentralized team of GitHub coders. As a brief example, it was reported that Square Enix lost the original assets from the Kingdom Hearts series, it was deemed more easy for the entire studio to recreate the assets than work backwards to decompile the code. As far as modding projects are concerned, this is a pretty onerous project.

Naturally, there are some of the most interesting parts of the code that is lost in translation: comments. In the original compiling of the code, systems will ditch the non-essential parts of the code that don’t impact how the software will run — which means the flavor text of the game’s original programmers won’t be recoverable.

As I mentioned, decompiling the code will lend to a ton of new possibilities for the modding community of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. While the simplest iteration will be the ability to play Ocarina of Time natively on the PC, others intend to create new functionality like multiplayer options or an optimized version of the game with today’s technology. Earlier Game Boy Pokemon games have similarly been decompiled, allowing modders to add in Fairy type Pokemon, for example.

Last but not least, it’s unclear where decompiling stands with the Nintendo legal team. One of the most active legal divisions in the gaming industry, the legal department of the House of Mario has taken down a fair number of games that skirted the line of what is legal under current IP law. One of which was the dismissal of the fan game, Pokemon Uranium, which was dragged out of The Game Awards’ over legal issues.

It will be interesting to see what comes of this project, and whether it is accomplishable at all. In the meantime, if you are looking to scratch a Zelda itch, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is available now for Nintendo Switch. If you have been looking to grab the game, feel free to grab it on Amazon and support us.

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Lou Contaldi

Lou Contaldi specializes in both reviews and the business behind gaming. He began writing about tech and video games while getting his Juris Doctor at Hofstra University School of Law. He is maybe the only gaming journo based in Nashville, TN.

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