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The Thousand and One Revisions of Link’s Awakening

2014-04-11 by Morwenn. 5 comments

I have always loved The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I can’t even remember how many times I played this game. I somehow got interested in the game’s numerous bugs and tried to learn about many of them. The main problem with these bugs is that some of them are reproducible only in some revisions of the game. In order to know which bug could be performed with which revision, I tried to take an inventory of the revisions… but it soon turned out to be a nightmare!

Obvious differences

When we think about the different versions of Link’s Awakening, the first obvious versions that come to our minds are the original black & white version from 1993, and the color remake from 1998, known as The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX. Another noteworthy difference is that the original game has been released in four different languages (Japanese, English, German and French). Releasing the game on a different cartridge per language may have been due to the lack of memory on the old cartridges. While it was certainly not a problem with the Game Boy Color cartridges, the language separation was kept for Link’s Awakening DX, probably to lessen the burden of the development team.

Lesser known versions

Since the original Link’s Awakening managed to sell more than a million copies, it was re-released in 1996 under the Player’s Choice label (also known as Nintendo Classics in Europe), along with other Nintendo games that reached the same number of sales. Some bugs were fixed for the Player’s Choice versions of the game, introducing some more revisions of the game.

Link’s Awakening DX has also been available on the 3DS eshop since 2011. Apparently, there is still one version per language. The 3DS versions have undergone some slight modifications before they were released, so I will consider that they are different from the Game Boy Color versions. The game was also available for the Nintendo Power flash cartridges.

That said, I don’t know much about the 3DS revisions of Link’s Awakening, and I can’t tell which versions of the game were available for the Nintendo Power and whether they were different from the Game Boy Color ones. Therefore, this article will mostly try to make a list of the different Game Boy and Game Boy Color revisions of Link’s Awakening. From what I told earlier, you could probably count at least 4 versions of Link’s Awakening and 4 versions of Link’s Awakening DX, plus the Player’s Choice versions. However… there are at least twice as many revisions of this game. We will try to provide a mean to differentiate them and to eventually count them.

Cartridge ID

Every Nintendo product has an identification number. To identify the version of a game, it is generally possible to refer to the cartridge ID. This number is often written on the left strip of the cartridge (except for the Japanese versions). The version numbers for Link’s Awakening cartridges are as follows (an underscore represents the characters that change between versions):

  • Link’s Awakening: DMG-ZL-___ (e.g. DMG-ZL-FRA).
  • Link’s Awakening DX: DMG-AZL_-___ (e.g. DMG-AZLF-FRA).

There is one exception to this rule: the Quebec black and white version ID is DMG-ZC-CAN. In addition, the cartridge ID can be followed by the revision number (e.g. the Player’s Choice USA revision is DMG-ZL-USA-1).

Here is a list of the different versions that I was able to find, with the regions where they were likely to be released:

Link’s Awakening

  • English games
    • DMG-ZL-AUS (Australia)
    • DMG-ZL-CAN (Canada)
    • DMG-ZL-ESP-1 (Spain)
    • DMG-ZL-EUR (Europe)
    • DMG-ZL-HOL (Netherlands)
    • DMG-ZL-SCN (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden)
    • DMG-ZL-UKV (United Kingdom)
    • DMG-EL-USA (United States)
    • DMG-ZL-USA-1 (Unisted States)
    • DMG-ZL-USA-2 (United States)
  • French games
    • DMG-ZC-CAN (Quebec)
    • DMG-ZL-FRA (France)
  • German games
    • DMG-ZL-FRG (Austria, Switzerland)
    • DMG-ZL-NOE (Germany)
  • Japanese games
    • DMG-407 CHN (China, Japan)
    • DMG-ZLJ (Japan)

Link’s Awakening DX

  • English games
    • DMG-AZLE-USA (United States)
    • DMG-AZLE-USA-1 (United States)
    • DMG-AZLP-AUS (Australia)
    • DMG-AZLP-EUR (Europe)
    • DMG-AZLP-EUR-1 (Europe)
  • French games
  • German games
    • DMG-AZLD-NOE (Germany)
  • Japanese games
    • DMG-AZLJ-JPN (Japan)

DMG-ZL-FRG cartridge with a DMG-ZLD-0 microchip

Microchip ID

Unfortunately, the cartridge ID isn’t sufficient to identify which exact revision of Link’s Awakening (DX) we are playing. While it may give a good idea, some cartridges with the same ID may include different revisions of the game while some cartridges with different IDs may include the same revision of the game. There are only two ways to identify precisely a revision:

  • Check the microchip ID.
  • Check the hash of the ROM.

Two revisions of Link’s Awakening are exactly the same if they have the same microchip ID or the same hash. However, checking the microchip ID requires to open the cartridge while checking the hash requires to extract the ROM from the game. None of them is trivial. The version numbers for Link’s Awakening microchips are as follows:

  • Link’s Awakening: DMG-ZL_-_ (e.g. DMG-ZLJ-0).
  • Link’s Awakening DX: DMG-AZL_-_ (e.g. DMG-AZLD-1).
  • There is one exception to this rule: the Quebec black and white version ID is DMG-ZCF-0.

The last digit in the microchip ID corresponds to the revision number of the microchip. The total number of Link’s Awakening different revisions corresponds to the number of unique microchip IDs.

I managed to create the following table thanks to many websites (especially DAT-o-MATIC). This table tries to match the microchip ID, the cartridge ID and the MD5 hash of as many Link’s Awakening (DX) revisions as possible (Game Boy and Game Boy Color only):

Link’s Awakening
Microchip ID Cartridge ID MD5
DMG-ZCF-0 DMG-ZC-CAN DD0752E29D7754AE3249F32BF0352811
DMG-ZLE-2* DMG-ZL-EUR, DMG-ZL-USA-1 69D643BF4E37B3C133518517338B6A1C
DMG-ZLF-0 DMG-ZL-FRA 5BC0913D533000522C7C9CAC1EF6F97F
DMG-ZLJ-0* DMG-ZLJ* AE08C1F73F822116060EF58293B94ED8*
Link’s Awakening DX
Microchip ID Cartridge ID MD5
DMG-AZLD-0 DMG-AZLD-NOE E91FD46E7092D32CA264F21853F09539*
DMG-AZLD-1 DMG-AZLD-NOE B0080C2F1919A4BB0EA73B788F4A6786
DMG-AZLE-0 DMG-AZLE-USA 07C211479386825042EFB4AD31BB525F
DMG-AZLE-1* DMG-AZLE-USA-1* 1043FD167D0ED9C4094E3C9D8E757F1E
DMG-AZLF-1 DMG-AZLF-FRA 68242187B65166B5F8225B20E2021659
DMG-AZLJ-0* DMG-AZLJ-JPN* F75874E3654360094FC2B09BD1FED7E8
DMG-AZLJ-2 DMG-AZLJ-JPN 2E2596C008D47DF901394D28F5BD66EC

The fields followed by an asterisk are the ones that I could not verify but that are likely to be true. For example, I could never find any mention of the numbers DMG-ZLJ-0 or DMG-ZLJ-1, but the corresponding versions exist. The only missing information is the exact name of the microchip that I assumed to be DMG-ZLJ-* since it would follow the apparent naming conventions. I couldn’t match every microchip ID with the corresponding cartridge ID(s) either.

Anyway, trying to take an inventory of all the revisions of Link’s Awakening and Link’s Awakening DX was a great adventure, I would never have thought that there were so many of them! Even if the game is quite old, looking for this kind of data is a slow process and I probably wont be able to complete this list for many years.