Even now, the original The Legend of Zelda is still a lot of fun to play. It’s a well-made game with a simple but effective design that still holds up today. Unfortunately, even with the inclusion of a second quest, The Legend of Zelda has very little replay value unless you are a speedrunner.
That’s where the Zelda Randomizer comes in.
Zelda Randomizer is a program by Zelda fan Fred Coughlin, designed to keep the game fresh and new through the magic of procedurally generated maps. This program, when given a Legend of Zelda ROM file, can shuffle and rearrange all kinds of things within the game. Shop locations, dungeon locations, items, even the in-game sprites can be swapped around to ensure that the experience is never the same twice.
Just one of several menus to customize your experience. The buttons on the right are for various pre-set configurations.
The Randomizer works because The Legend of Zelda is a very simple game under the surface: the screens are all exactly the same, all that changes is what’s in them. That makes it very easy for a program to take those screens (or the assets in them), shuffle them all around, and put them back in a new way. You can explore entirely new dungeons, find unexpected enemies around every corner, or just make it so that regular enemies will drop items like the Magical Sword and Silver Arrows and watch the game devolve into utter insanity.
My first time playing with the Randomizer, I moved the Wood Sword cave so that I would have to go looking for a weapon to use. I thought that would make things more interesting, and I was certainly right. The start of the game was extremely difficult and involved a lot of running away from enemies, but in the first dungeon I stumbled across I found the Red Candle.
For those who don’t know, the Red Candle creates small balls of fire directly in front of you. It’s used for burning bushes to uncover secrets, and to light up dark rooms in dungeons. You don’t usually think of it as a great weapon, but on this run it felt like an absolute godsend. I could finally fight back! The moment I picked up that candle was when I knew that I was hooked.
On another run I found the Red Ring (which reduces damage to ¼ of what you’d normally take) almost immediately, and I walked around the rest of the game as a nigh-invincible god of death.
To add to the fun, you can also select what kind of messages you'll get from the NPCs. You can pick from standard, helpful, deceptive, or community-created messages as seen here.
The Randomizer uses certain logic chains to ensure that every run should be beatable - for example, it will never hide the Bow in a room that you need to beat Gohma to reach, and will never put the Raft in a level that you need to cross water to get to. However, possible does not mean easy, so I’d like to offer a few tips from my own experience.
First of all, take notes. This can save you a lot of frustration, whether you’re looking for a dungeon that you couldn’t complete before or just trying to remember where that damn shop with the freaking Blue Ring is! I guarantee that you’ll need something to help you keep all the new locations straight.
Second, don’t be afraid to use a map. If you’re anything like me, you know where a lot of the hidden doors are in the overworld, but not all of them. The overworld is the one thing that never changes with the Randomizer, so don’t feel bad about using an online map to make sure you found all of the hidden locations.
Finally, for your own sanity, check the “Print Quest Info” button on the Misc. menu. That will create a text document along with your new ROM, and if you get stuck you can check to see where items and dungeons are.
A small taste of the madness. Just... take a moment to drink it all in.
If you’d like to get in on the fun all you need is an NES emulator, a The Legend of Zelda ROM (disclaimer: Sprites and Dice does not condone pirating games), and this: Zelda Randomizer. Have fun!
Have you experimented with this or another randomizer before? What’s your favorite story from it? Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page and tell us about your adventures! Zelda Randomizer costs… well, actually, it’s free, But we’d still greatly appreciate if you considered supporting our Patreon so that we can continue to bring you articles, podcasts, streaming, and more!