Special thanks for this article goes out to:
- Jose Lara who graciously purchased the disk for us to finally solve the mystery.
- Clyde Mandelin for pointing out the disk was for sale and getting interest going.
- Frank Cifaldi for arranging it to be shipped to me.
Zelda no Densetsu – The Hyrule Fantasy (known as The Legend of Zelda in the US/EU) is a game that has been thoroughly researched and documented. There are however still mysteries and rumors surrounding a rare prize release of the game that isn’t terribly well known.
According to the user GPonys 1,500 copies of the game were given out as a prize along with a Famicom and Famicom Disk System in Japan. Nintendo teamed up with the ramen brand Myojo Charumera for a prize drawing around the time of the game’s release. Clyde Mandelin mentioned in a tweet that the prize disk was supposedly given out before the retail release (I haven’t been able to confirm that as of yet however). Interestingly Nintendo did a similar contest for Hikari Shinwa – Palthena no Kagami (Known as Kid Icarus in the US/EU), but since no disks have ever been seen with alternative labels for this particular game it’s very likely it’s identical to the retail version. The Charumera version of Zelda however DOES have a different label, sparking rumors that that this version might actually have some differences with the standard retail release.
Despite the 21st of February, 2020 marking the 34th anniversary of the release of this game, it had still yet to be confirmed if there were any differences in the retail version of the disk and the Charumera version.
However, on February 1st, 2020 Clyde Mandelin pointed out on his twitter account that a copy of the game was for sale on Ebay for the price of $1000 and that it had yet to be documented. Jose Lara quickly stepped up and purchased the rare item and arrangements were made for it to be sent to me for analysis. It seemed fitting for it to arrive on the 34th anniversary of the retail release; so I got to work.
When dumping media as old as this there’s always a huge possibility that the disk has gone bad and that was my greatest fear in this case. I hooked up my Famicom Disk System to my trusty FDSStick and stuck the disk in and proceeded to attempt a dump of the game. It seemed to dump but the process noted that there had been CRC errors and that some files were missing. This sometimes happens with disks and so I flipped the disk over to the other side and continued with the dump. I was again met with the same error and A LOT of files claiming to be missing. This was discouraging, and the resulting .FDS dump would not load in emulators.
I decided to test the disk on an actual console and to my excitement both disk sides still loaded. However I noticed upon going into a dungeon that the game would lock up with an ERR. 27 message. This made me worry again but then I remembered that my friend and fellow Gaming Alexandria moderator Noah Bacon had sent me a QDC by kitahei88. This device is also capable of dumping Famicom Disk System games. I hooked it up, dumped the RAW images and converted them to a combined FDS file. I loaded the resulting file into the emulator and… it worked!
Playing through the resulting ROM I went to a dungeon to see if the error was still there, and fortunately the dungeon loaded correctly. However it didn’t take long for me to realize something was wrong as the music sounded awful and corrupted. Myself and GA contributor togemet2 played through the ROM for awhile but noticed no game play differences. We also had a quick glance in a hex editor to scour for differences and didn’t notice any significant changes between it and the retail release except for a few areas. At this point I felt confident the game was identical to the retail release but wanted to make sure, so I sent it to Gponys to take a look at it. He did and responded with the following message:
“Side A is exactly the same as general Zelda.
Side B differs only in one place. Other than that, it is exactly the same as general Zelda.
The different part of B side is the file of No.19.
Please see the screenshots of the analysis and comparison attached to the email.
No.19 is compared.
Those who see this may think there is a big difference.
The Log Files I received from you include,
The data section (block4) of No.19 is described as “CRC wrong”.
For this reason, my guess is the same as you.
This is not a difference with retail products, but due to file corruption.
Except for the damaged blocks, they all match the retail products,
Both Charumera and the regular Zelda seem to be the same without any difference.”
He had attached a screenshot of the area in the ROM he was referring to:
I decided to test out and replace the corrupt section in the Charumera ROM with the data from the retail release of Zelda. After doing so I loaded the game into an emulator and proceeded into a dungeon. Upon doing so the music played as it should normally, which likely confirms that the Charumera labeled version is identical to retail Zelda. Despite the troubles I think we were quite lucky that we were able to get a good enough dump of the game to compare and confidently say that there are no differences between the releases.
While it may not be as exciting as finding out there are dramatic differences between the two releases it’s good to finally confirm this. I compared the manual and disk cover to the retail release and they are identical as well. So it seems that the label is truly the only difference.
It took 34 years but the game preservation community came together and was able to solve the mystery of the Charumera Zelda disk.
600DPI Scans –