Link to the Past was reverse engineered and ported to PC

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illustration: Nintendo

One of the most interesting developments in the emulation and coding scene in recent years has been the growing trend to take classic old video games and reverse engineer their code entirely.

We’ve seen fans do this for everything mario 64 to ocarina of time to Grand Theft Autoall with varying degrees of legal opposition. The reasons for this are diverse; There’s the challenge of reverse engineering itself, of course, but also the benefits it brings, mainly in the form of the ability to create true PC versions of classic console games, rather than relying on emulation.

What is the difference? As we have already explained, the emulation relies on your computer pretending to be an old console in order to run a game coded to run on that console. A reverse engineered port can be built from the ground up for PC (or other platforms!), allowing for the seamless incorporation of things like widescreen support and even (in the case of polygonal games) graphical tweaks like ReShade.

The latest game to get this treatment is The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Pastwhich was first released on the Super Nintendo in 1991 and has since been released multiple times across devices from Game Boy Advance to Nintendo Switch Online.

When Nintendo life report, a team of 20 led by xander-haj, accomplished the feat after working their way through 70-80,000 lines of code, adding “major improvements like faster transition times, faster text, widescreen support, pixel shaders, and a more detailed overworld map. Perhaps most importantly, a secondary item slot has been added, allowing users to quickly switch between two items without having to go into the inventory screen to select them individually.”

Here’s footage of the original game (running in an emulator on PC) versus this new PC “port”:

zelda 3 emulation vs pc port

Clean! This is now the part of the post where we point out that legally That’s still a very strange gray area. Reverse engineering itself is not illegal, but using a company’s assets can be, and these projects are a mix of both. Only they are too Not; the creators or replica games like this just prepare the base Code and ask you to pull the assets from a ROM yourself. For example, the description of this game says: “You need a copy of the ROM to extract game resources (levels, images). Once that’s done, the ROM is no longer needed.”

Nintendo would argue that doesn’t matter, the creators would argue that it’s an important distinction, and until we start getting some final decisions on disputes like this, I’ll have to type that in at the bottom of every post about it! Link to the Past was reverse engineered and ported to PC

Curtis Crabtree

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