It's a bit like going back to visit your school as an adult: everything seems smaller than you remember.
The Legend of Zelda series has always dabbled in alternate realities - mirror worlds, sunken pasts, waking dreams, futures that might have been. This is the story of one such lost future, a dream originally dreamt by the developers of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, kept alive by a fervent underground community of fans, modders and artists. It's the tale of a version of Ocarina of Time which is, somehow, both a tangible fact and an eternally deferred Holy Grail, always quested for, never quite grasped - the reworked "Ura" edition that was once planned for release alongside the Nintendo 64's ill-fated 64DD peripheral, tantalising elements of which can still be uncovered on a Zelda 64 cartridge today.
For its age, the 64DD was a fairly magical piece of kit, armed with internet connectivity backed up by a rudimentary gaming network, a real-time clock and support for rewriteable 64MB magnetic discs. Besides giving developers vastly more storage to play with at a fraction of the cost of the N64's existing cartridge format, it would have allowed players to craft their own textures, characters and levels into games like F-Zero and share them over the internet - years before user-generated content became an industry buzzword.
For a while, the 64DD was Nintendo's favourite son: in a December 1997 interview, Shigeru Miyamoto claimed that almost every new N64 game in production was designed to make use of it. But the add-on was a troubled project from inception, pegged for a 1996 launch only to wallow in development hell till 1999, when it saw a limited release in Japan as part of a game subscription package. By the time the 64DD was fit for public consumption Nintendo was eager to be rid of it, and the combination of an eye-watering price and N64's relatively modest installed base led to an early retirement in February 2001.
London, October 2011. Thousands are crowded into the Hammersmith Apollo, one of the city's most famous theatrical venues, to hear a concert of music commemorating the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda. It's an emotional night. Host Zelda Williams recalls how much the series she was named after meant to her growing up, and her voice audibly cracks at the memory. As Koji Kondo plays a delicate piano solo of Grandma's Theme from The Wind Waker, grown men can be seen dabbing their eyes. Kondo rises from his seat and the audience stands, too, applauding wildly, a number of them clad in the familiar green tunic, tights and pointed hat of their hero.
The best thing I ever read about Ocarina of Time wasn't a nostalgic retrospective - although there have been some wonderful pieces written - or a searing critical analysis of its themes and structure - again, there are classics out there. It wasn't even a FAQ for the Water Temple. The best thing I ever read about Ocarina of Time was printed on a back wall at the Game On exhibition over in the Barbican a few years ago.
Nintendo's back catalogue is never-knowingly underexploited. In recent years the runaway success of DS and Wii has emboldened the company to keep remixing – or simply repackaging – classic titles in the confidence that there's no shortage of customers to hoover them up.