Secrets of The Legend of Zelda Prototype
Last Christmas, a surprise popped up online: a prototype of The Legend of Zelda, the iconic Nintendo game. Some changes are what you'd expect for a game that hadn't hit the market yet: the early version has some bugs, different music, and many areas are designed differently.
But what's most interesting about the prototype is that it's significantly easier than the version that shipped. It's easier to get money (rupees!), there are fewer enemies, and the famous line "It's a secret to everybody!" was originally more like, "Overlook it just this once!" (credit to The Cutting Room Floor for catching that). Okay, that one is no easier to understand, but hey, it's different. The point is, it appears that the game's designers realized at some point that making the game harder actually made it better -- and I'm glad they did, because finishing that game was one of my proudest little-kid achievements!
You can read about the prototype and download it here, or read a detailed explanation of the changes at The Cutting Room Floor. (The latter link even includes music you can play in your browser to hear the differences.) Finally, be sure to check out the map changes -- there are lots of them!
For more awesome stuff like this, check out The Cutting Room Floor, "a site dedicated to unearthing and researching unused and cut content from video games. From debug menus, to unused music, graphics, enemies, or levels, many games have content never meant to be seen by anybody but the developers -- or even meant for everybody, but cut due to time/budget constraints." This is some deeply awesome nerd stuff.