BS The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets (BSゼルダの伝説 古代の石盤 Bī Esu Zeruda no Densetsu: Inishie no Sekiban?) was a game that was released for the Satellaview (a Japanese-only attachment for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System) in 1997. The title was and sometimes is incorrectly romanized as Kodai no Sekiban. However, video recordings of the games original run confirm the subtitle Inishie no Sekiban. The game is almost like a "Second Quest" or "Master Quest" for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past since this game borrows heavily from it, but the storyline takes place after A Link to The Past.
BS stands for Broadcast Satellaview, and the Satellaview unit is commonly referred to as the BS-X. Using this add on, gamers could download the game from the BS-5 channel of St. GIGA's satellite radio network and save it onto either the BS-X base unit's flash-RAM (included) or a BS-X Special Broadcast Cassette (an additional purchase or prize).
The game and its gameplay was mostly identical to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which it is modified from, however, many mechanics were tidied up. The most notable change was to the Pegasus Boots; the player could now change directions when running with them, and could also move between rooms and screens without automatically stopping as in A Link to the Past. The Shovel also got a makeover. While in A Link to the Past it was merely a plot device, it could now be used to dig for Rupees.
Weak Walls, which in A Link to the Past were noticeably cracked, are in this game completely invisible. Only prodding with a sword will lead to their discovery by making the trademark hollow ringing sound. Each and every bombed-out area rewarded the player with Rupees, or pots concealing bomb and arrow refills, and so on. Sometimes the wall concealed an "Upgrade Thief"; the thieves who in A Link to the Past knocked into the player and stole the items they dropped now appeared in a helper role; he would upgrade their maximum of one ammo type (either bombs or arrows, each thief only upgrades one type, and once only), but for a cost. The price increased as the player progressed through the game.
When discovered in caves found on the overworld, these thieves gave out large quantities of Rupees if the player found them.
The game was divided into four weekly episodes. These episodes were played live, at the same time as a video game tips show was running on the satellite network (it probably contained ads and such to promote the games currently being played).
The game's storyline differs from that of A Link to the Past. The main character is not Link, but a mysterious person known only as the Hero of Light. The game seems to take place shortly after the ending of A Link to the Past, after Link had left Hyrule. Princess Zelda makes references to Link, saying that the hero reminds her of the him.
The player could configure his or her name and gender in the Satellaview game-selection interface. This then carried across to the game. The female version of the hero was the A Link to the Past Link model with hair replacing Link's traditional green hat, while the male version was Link with a baseball cap. This was the third time a female character had been a playable protagonist in a Zelda game—the previous two occurrences having been in Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon and Zelda's Adventure (two of the three Zelda titles released for the Philips CD-i), wherein Princess Zelda herself was the playable character.
The music was used from the CD Zelda no Densetsu: Sound & Drama. The music was streamed on a separate channel during gameplay. As a result of this, the same music played for everyone, regardless of location.
All cutscenes were fully voice acted and live, much like a radio play. The players constantly heard the "narrator" (playing the part of the voice of Sahasrahla, a well-known character from A Link to the Past) give various tips and hints during play, but not quite the same way as the orginal BS Legend of Zelda. Instead of pausing the game, the voice actors constantly talk as you moved.
The non-mandatory sidequests were also fully voice-acted, and, just as the BGM was, was the same for all players, regardless of location.
The Zelda no Video documentary shows several minutes of Live Voice-enhanced gameplay in action, both of the opening cutscenes and of a sidequest, with the voice actor for Princess Zelda calling for help desperately (and very realistically) for the entirety of the clip.
Also, recently full playthrough videos of all 4 weeks have been found. The BS Zelda Homepage has since transcribed and translated all dialogue to English, and and are re-recording it as well.
The game was played in real-time. Each episode was one whole hour, and so the gameplay was intense and compressed, with cutscenes in between. However, the game in its entirety took one hour, that means the cutscenes counted as part of the gameplay time.
There were several optional sidequests available, each with its own mostly text-only cutscene (they were not activated at any set time so could not feasibly feature live voice), the completion of which netted a score bonus and some Rupees, but getting this reward meant deviating and delays while reading through all the thanks responses, thus shortening the available game time even further. The player could also choose to bomb walls and explore caves and find countless chests full of Rupees (and, in turn, get points for opening them). While doing these sidequests netted more points for players hoping to win prizes, every minute of delay subtracted points from the value of that week's Tablets, and if the player got lost or waylaid in the dungeon or overworld and ran out of time it is to be assumed that they got nothing at all (judging by the specific wording of the "bad ending" scene in Week 4). Therefore, there were many odds to weigh up, and the player could not even pause the game to think his or her decision through.
Unlike other games where any clock feature stops when the player open a menu or pause it, in this game the clock kept on ticking no matter what. The enemies and everything else in the world as a whole do pause when the item menu opens, but the clock does not. So the player could not leave it paused and go off to the bathroom or get a snack or something like that; he or she had to keep playing or he or she would lose precious time. It is to be assumed that this made the game (in its original format) very addictive.
The clock affected gameplay enormously. At particular times on the clock various things could happen: health-restoring fairies appear, a Bombos or Ether magic attack destroyed enemies onscreen, the player got unlimited bombs, arrows or magic or could shoot magic rings from their sword, and so forth. An enormous variety of things could happen in each week, and the events and the times they happened at changed between weeks, as well.
At a different time each week, fog descended on the overworld. This was a warning to the player to hurry about his or her business, because a very few minutes after that a thunderstorm broke loose, restricting exploration by defusing any bombs planted and increasing the difficulty by replacing any normal overworld (i.e. not in a dungeon) enemies with Zoras, fierce lizard-like creatures that home in on the player and cannot be stunned with the Boomerang like their A Link to the Past forefathers could. After a few minutes the rain and thunder cleared, leaving the fog behind, and after a while that too disappeared.
The Rental Shops
A Link to the Past veterans noticed many changes to the overworld, most notably the addition of many Rental Shops. At these a player could purchase a sword upgrade (unless the player already had the Golden Sword) or a Shovel (unless the player already had it), for 100 Rupees each. However these items were rented, as the title indicated, for only ten minutes, so the player had to make the most of them in order to make his or her purchase worthwhile.
It was most advisable to buy the Shovel, because with it the player could dig for a hidden Piece of Heart; there were an even number of these in each week, and the dug-up ones could not be retrieved in later weeks, so if the player intended to have the maximum hearts when he or she faced Ganon he or she needed to buy a shovel and get digging. The first time a shovel was rented each week, the shop owner marked the location of the digging spot on their map. Each week this could be one of four different locations, and the locations that were randomly chosen between changed from week to week.
Since the Shovel can now dig up Rupees (it could not in A Link to the Past), it was a very lucrative way of spending up any remaining minutes before the gameplay hour ended.
The Mole is a strange character unique to this game. At a certain time he burrowed out somewhere (the location was different from week to week). If the player talks to him, he or she will get 10,000 points, then he burrows down once more. If the player can again locate his diggings, he or she would've discovered a Rupee treasure trove. He will have opened a cave containing six treasure chests, and the quantity of Rupees found inside increased for each successive week.
The Separate Weeks
In each week, the player could access only certain portions of the overworld. The areas shrouded in clouds were unreachable.
There were two dungeons per week, but the episode did not end when the player had completed all the objectives for that week, but only when the time expired. So in the meantime the player could complete sidequests and hunt for Rupees, Bottles and Pieces of Heart.
Once the player acquired certain key dungeon items, new areas of the overworld became available; for example, once a player has the Magic Hammer he or she can knock previously impassable pegs down into the ground, enabling him or her to walk over them. Also, large and heavy rocks lay in the hero's path, but when he or she acquired various types of Gloves, he or she can lift some or all of these rocks and throw them out of the way.
The End of the Game
At the end of the game, the hero solemnly placed the Master Sword in its pedestal to rest once more, and then vanished; they had gone back into their own world from whence they came. They saved all of Hyrule, and the others did not even know their name (characters in the game never refer to the player by their name despite entering it at the BS-X BIOS screen). Aginah walks off. Zelda walks away, turns to take one last look back, and then she too departs (this was voice acted).
Each event on their journey, both major and minor, would net the player points. Each event below had a score value associated with it. The scores added up, so a chest gave points to the player, even if it contained a points-bearing item in turn.
|Treasure Chest||500 points|
|Small Key||1,000 points|
|Piece of Heart||1,000 points|
|Dungeon Item||1,000 points|
|Heart Container||5,000 points|
|Special Item||5,000 points|
|Rescuing someone||10,000 points|
|Talking to the Mole||10,000 points|
* minus 500 points for every minute that passes (including the six minutes before play starts)
Strangely enough, there were no points given for collecting Rupees, slaying enemies or defeating bosses, however, the items the player got after defeating bosses do give points.
There was no feasible score limit; while the game allowed for 8 digits worth of scoring, there was no way a player can ever reach this even if they do absolutely everything and collect the tablets as soon as possible. This is because the amount of score-giving items in the game world are strictly finite; there was thus no way to discover what the game would do if the score were surpassed.
Scoring was an important feature of the game; while scoring had absolutely no effect on gameplay whatsoever, there were other post-game benefits. At the end of each hour of play the player was given a score readout. By submitting these game high scores (probably via a coded password sent by mail, but perhaps sent directly via the satellite link) his or her score would be recorded, and if the player scored high enough he or she might have a free gift sent out, such as a phonecard or flash-cart.
Replaying the game
Because the Live Voice content was absolutely central to gameplay (and was not stored on the base unit or flash-RAM cartridge in any way whatsoever) and also due to the fact that the timer was based on a real-time clock set by the satellite itself, this game could not be played whenever the player chose like some of the other BS-X games, but only during the set hours. The game would not run at all outside these broadcast times. The game was rebroadcast in the following year, but other than that the game was rendered completely unplayable.
However, around 1999, a group of hackers managed to dump the ROMs of all 4 weeks of Ancient Stone Tablets off of a BS-X memory pack. As Soundlink games were deleted after they ended, the ROMs were missing several things, most notably the intro, the tiles for every area, music, and voice acting. With the help of VHS recordings of the original broadcast, the BS Zelda Homepage managed to insert the intro back into the game, fix the tiles, and inserted the soundtrack of A Link to the Past. The game is now playable exactly as it was originally with the exception of the CD music and voice acting.
|30 Mar 1997||05 Apr 1997||BS Zelda no Densetsu Inishie no Sekiban Dai 1 Wa|
|06 Apr 1997||12 Apr 1997||BS Zelda no Densetsu Inishie no Sekiban Dai 2 Wa|
|13 Apr 1997||19 Apr 1997||BS Zelda no Densetsu Inishie no Sekiban Dai 3 Wa|
|20 Apr 1997||26 Apr 1997||BS Zelda no Densetsu Inishie no Sekiban Dai 4 Wa|
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, its direct predecessor
- BS The Legend of Zelda, a similar "master quest" for the earlier The Legend of Zelda
- The BS Zelda Homepage – the most complete resource for this game.
- Complete wiki game guide at StrategyWiki
- CD-Japan sales page, with more information about the Zelda no Video documentary
- Video clip of the opening cutscene ( DivX format, 2.30 MB) with many thanks to The BS Zelda Homepage Note that this is only a short clip, and heavily compressed, but the full clip can be downloaded from their site