There are many tenuous challenges we have to overcome in our childhood: tying shoes, doing homework, eating vegetables. For Ocarina of Time’s 9-year-old Link, he had to venture inside The Great Deku Tree to defeat the deadly parasite within, defeat fire-breathing reptilian monsters to save the Goron race from extinction, and rescue a princess from the innards of a giant fish. You know, kids’ stuff.
Upon completion, each one of these trials rewarded the player with a Spiritual Stone. This was particularly memorable for many Zelda fans, as these were the first major feats to accomplish within the first 3D world of The Legend of Zelda. We all felt great acquiring those stones. You could just imagine the weight of those beautiful, sparkling jewels in your hands had they existed in real life.
Of course, they weren’t always that large, nor were they originally destined to be placed in the Temple of Time’s pedestal.
In a series of articles on IGN titled “The Z-Files“, which dates way back to December of 1997, Ocarina of Time producer Shigeru Miyamoto was interviewed by Japanese magazine Famimaga 64, wherein he answered 100 questions on the then-upcoming title.
There are many fascinating things from these articles which demonstrate, in many ways, a slightly different vision of Ocarina of Time from Miyamoto, despite the interview taking place just a year before the game’s release. One thing that struck me as fascinating was his discussion on the Spiritual Stones, which seem to have played a different role earlier in the game’s development.
Miyamoto confirms that the stones (which he refers to at this stage as the “soul stones”), were intended to be inserted into the Ocarina of Time. He clarifies, “This is why the holes are empty.”
The first thing that’s interesting about this is that this would make the size of the Spiritual Stones very different. In the final game, they are large enough for Link to grasp with both hands. If they were to fit in the holes of an ocarina, they would have to have been more akin to the size of a traditional gemstone.
Miyamoto is then asked what would happen if Link were to puff air through the Ocarina, to which he responds, “Just as the subtitle of the game suggests, this is important for going to the ‘Tower of Time.’ If you go inside, Ocarina must have the three soul stones inserted.”
To go on somewhat of a tangent — and to risk reading too much into something possibly insignificant — Miyamoto mentions a “Tower of Time”, which doesn’t exist in the final game. It’s likely that he was in fact referring to the Temple of Time, and there was either a mistranslation or a name change later in development. Still, there’s no ruling out the possibility that, at some point, there was planned to be a tower for Link to ascend through– perhaps presented as a traditional Zelda dungeon — in order to open the Sacred Realm.
Anyway, let’s also go back to the last part of that quote. “If you go inside, Ocarina must have the three soul stones inserted.” Miyamoto doesn’t clarify what would happen to Link should he enter the Tower of Time without the stones. The use of “must” is intriguing; he may have simply meant that Link “must” possess the stones in order to progress, but it could also imply that there would have been consequences had our hero not been correctly equipped.
As far as I can tell, it hasn’t been established why the stones’ size and application changed during development. I’d speculate that the increased size would boost the sense of value and importance of the Spiritual Stones to players, and therefore the satisfaction in earning them. Placing them in a pedestal before the Door of Time could have also been considered decidedly more dramatic, being as it is a now-iconic scene from the game.
One thing I admire of this early concept, however, is that Miyamoto seemed dedicated to place great significance on the Ocarina of Time, making it the home of these magical trinkets. Of course, he managed to achieve this anyway by making it the means of many of Link’s abilities, and the source of the game’s many wonderful songs.
20 years after the game’s release, the Ocarina is still iconic in Zelda’s history, and beating my first challenges to gain the Kokiri’s Emerald, Goron’s Ruby, and Zora’s Sapphire remain as vivid and precious memories.