If you took a portal to an alternate universe, you might find yourself living in a timeline where The Legend of Zelda, not Portal, popularized the use of live portals in video games. As spotted by VGC, ex-Nintendo dev Giles Goddard recently showed off an early tech demo of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on Twitter. And yes, it features a transportation portal.
Goddard, who worked on popular ‘90s Nintendo games like Star Fox and Super Mario 64, pegged the year of the clip to 1996 or 1997. (Ocarina of Time came out in 1998.) It’s fairly rudimentary, more a proof of concept than anything else, but it clearly shows the player walking down a hallway, stepping into a diamond-shaped prism, and seamlessly appearing in a different hallway. By looking through the prism, you can see the second location through the first.
This clip is not the first time word about an Ocarina of Time portal function has made the rounds. Earlier this year, Goddard mentioned the existence of nascent portals on an episode of the MinnMax Show, during a discussion about creating prototypes for the landmark adventure game.
“I was doing all these experiments,” he told host Ben Hanson. “You could have a portal, where you could look through, go in, and then you’d get teleported to a different part of the map. You could see through a door to a different part of the map, then walk through it, then walk back.”
The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time is likely not the first game to feature functional portals, either in an early stage of development or in the final build. 2005’s Portal predecessor, Narbacular Drop, was certainly the game that led to the notion becoming a phenomenon, while 2006’s Prey had them as early as 1995 during its tortuous development. Still, if Zelda had got there first, it no doubt would’ve been the biggest.
I’ve never understood why the portal function, which unequivocally rules, hasn’t caught on with more major games. Notably, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s level editor features a rift function that allows you to instantly zip from one part of a customized stage to another. This year’s PS5-exclusive Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart obviously featured similar rifts, but you can only deploy them at predetermined locations, kind of like you could in BioShock Infinite, back in 2013.