When Nintendo dropped The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time back in 1996, the gaming world was irrevocably changed. The 3D action-adventure title revolutionised the genre, inspiring a whole new generation of games. While the game is still a banger in 2022 (it just launched on Switch late last year as part of the Nintendo Switch Expansion Pack), but it’s still obviously a game of its time. But what if it didn’t have to feel that way?
Enter Harbour Masters, developers who set out on their own adventure with the simple goal of making Ocarina of Time feel like a more modern gaming experience on PC. Their goal was made possible thanks to fans reverse-engineering the game into C code, a two-year feat. From there, Harbour Masters was able to make a port of Ocarina of Time with HD graphics, widescreen, controller rumble, modding support, and more.
Unlike traditional ports and fan remakes (which are often shut down by Nintendo), this version of Ocarina of Time is different in that it doesn’t actually involve any of the game’s code. Instead, the software, called Ship of Harkinian, is designed to read the code from a separate ROM file, which it then extracts to run a version of the game for PC.
In jumping that legal hurdle, Ship of Harkinian allows you to play the original Ocarina of Time on PC in a brand new way. It also means that in the future, the game can be expanded to support features like 60 fps, HD models, texture packs, online play, and Linux and Mac support. Right now, the game is limited to PC, with gameplay running at the traditional 20 fps found on the N64.
In order to play Ocarina of Time with Ship of Harkinian, you’ll need to provide your own ROM file. Knowing Nintendo’s lawyers are watching, Ship of Harkinian stresses that said ROM file should be legally obtained. In order to do that, however, you need to own the original N64 cartridge and have access to hardware that can extract the game file from the device. There are resources online to teach yourself how to build such an extractor, but if you’ve never done this type of thing before, it can seem overwhelming.
Of course, the vast majority of people playing retro games on their PCs are not using legally sourced ROMs. One might even conduct a simple Google search that would lead to many websites providing download links to just about any retro game ROM you can think of. But that would, of course, be wrong. (Although the industry has tried to crack down on these sites, it remains the leading way to play older games.)
We certainly won’t tell you to download an Ocarina of Time ROM from the internet. All we can say is you need to supply your own ROM in order to get this PC port up and running. In addition, you’ll need the debug version of the ROM (not the Master Quest version).
With your debug ROM on hand, you then need to download Ship of Harkinian from its Discord server. You’ll find the current build under the #builds channel. Make sure to pull up the Read Me doc, as it contains all the instructions for getting your Ship of Harkinian software up and running. Here’s a direct link to the Read Me, which you can also find via the pinned messages in the #support Discord channel, as well as in the Ship of Harkinian download.
For there: Unzip the download file, then open OTRGui. Choose “Open OoT Rom,” choose “Single Thread,” then select your Ocarina of Time ROM. Let the system create an archive file for the ROM. When finished, open soh.exe to play.
— Andy Robinson (@AndyPlaytonic) February 25, 2022
Since this isn’t the simplest system in the world to get a game running on your PC, you might run into issues. If so, don’t be afraid to check out the #support channel on their Discord. Questions are pouring in as of this writing, so there are bound to be others dealing with the same issues. And you know what they say about it being dangerous to go alone.