(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e48hGPwwyCQ (/ embed)
Giles Goddard, from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, was a key backstage talent for Nintendo. When Nintendo 64 technology appeared, Goddard was responsible for developing several prototypes to show what the machine could do: the best known is undoubtedly the interactive face of Mario at the beginning of Super Mario 64. It turns out that there was something even more raising his eyebrows at the works: a prototype of Zelda that, well, was basically Portal before Portal.
"I found an old source code directory that I had modeled, and it was the first Zelda N64 map with the castle (…) I was doing all these experiments, you could have a portal, look through, go in, and then teleport to a different part of the map, ”Goddard said. "You'd look through a door at a different part of the map, go through it, and then go back if you see what you mean."
"It was basically R&D for the game, what could we do with the N64 hardware? It was basically a demonstration of portals, real portals that could be seen through other parts of the map."
The prototype did not have the equivalent of a portal weapon, but players rotated crystals to see different angles of the world and then pass.
Some of Goddard’s work on Zelda appeared in public: at the time, the show on display at Nintendo’s 1995 Shoshinkai (trade show) had young fans like me getting their pants wet in anticipation. Ocarina wouldn’t look much like this in the end, and it’s easy to see why a prototype concept like portals would have been difficult – even though Goddard thinks the reason is much simpler. "They probably never saw it."
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wo4KA0z3Ew4 (/ embed)
Portal began its life as the indie game Narbacular Drop in 2005, before Valve hired the entire team to test the concept: Portal launched in 2007, and since then we’ve never been safe from cake memes.
"Yeah, when I saw Portal, I thought I actually had this working on the N64, so I should have launched it," Goddard laughs. He says he still has the prototype working in the offices, but since it’s owned by Nintendo, we may not see it for a long time – if ever.