Was this the Zelda before Zelda?
For those of you who aren't familiar with it, Lost Levels is a group dedicated to finding unreleased videogames - or unreleased versions of videogames - and, er, releasing them to the world. This past Christmas, the Lost Levels crew unearthed a truly incredible (if genuine) find: An unreleased beta version of Zelda no Densetsu, better known to us in the west as The Legend of Zelda.
Yes, that Zelda; the Famicom (or NES) original that started it all. First party prototypes ever seeing the light of day from behind closed doors is rare enough as it is, let alone one of such a legendary game.
So, what's real in this version? In addition to the bugs you'd expect in a pre-release version, some rooms have different layouts, there's some new music and a sprite here and there has been changed.
Most striking, however, is that the notoriously difficult Zelda wasn't actually all that hard, originally. Check out the comparison screenshots above - on the left is the prototype, and the final game is on the right. The room on the left has a much smaller and significantly less taxing monster layout, for one, and gathering Rupees was apparently much easier to boot (note that Link is carrying the maximum of 255).
The full list of changes can be found over at The Cutting Room Floor. I don't know about you, but these changes make me more inclined to believe this is genuine, as some of the differences (particularly on sprites) are so minuscule I can't believe anyone would go to the trouble of faking it.
That said, it could be a fake; the result of an ambitious bedroom programmer out to pull a fast one on us. I don't personally believe it is, but it always remains a possibility.
So just think: This is where one of gaming's most famous series started. Though it admittedly loses something without the Zelda rap. That may just be me, though.