Did The Stampers Really Think Miyamoto Copied Sabre Wulf With Zelda? 1

As we all know, it's very hard to come up with truly original ideas in the world of video games.

Sure, there are a few trailblazing titles which established new genres single-handedly, but most games take an existing template and iterate upon it, offering improvements and evolutions which make the core concept better without actually offering anything in terms of innovation.

1984's Sabre Wulf wasn't as technically groundbreaking as its isometric sequel, Knight Lore, but it nonetheless introduced a unique blend of exploration, experimentation and combat which would influence many other titles down the line – one of which, if the Stamper brothers are to be believed, was The Legend of Zelda.

Speaking to Retro Gamer magazine almost 20 years ago (and unearthed by John Szczepaniak), John Pickford – who, along with this sibling Ste, would work with the Stampers on titles like Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II before becoming Rare Manchester – recalled a conversation in which Sabre Wulf was cited as a direct influence on Zelda:

They [The Stampers] kept telling us how much better Japanese game design was. They took us to one side and said, rule number one - you can't have any bugs. We were like, 'Yeah, right, not possible!" Then the second rule was that everyone's got to be able to finish it. As opposed to just making it harder until it crashed, like on the Speccy. Suddenly, it was about making games that people could enjoy, not us showing off how clever we were and it meant a fundamental shift in our approach. Mind you, they also showed us the first Zelda and said, 'This is Miyamoto's rip-off of Sabre Wulf', cheeky bastards...

Shigeru Miyamoto has previously claimed that Zelda's gameplay was inspired by his childhood exploring the fields, woods and caves in Kyoto rather than any particular video game.

While Sabre Wulf – and many of Ultimate Play the Game's other titles – were commercially and critically successful in the UK, it wasn't until the NES and SNES era (and the formation of Rare) that the Stampers' work gained global fame, so it's unlikely that Miyamoto would have been introduced to Sabre Wulf before working on Zelda in 1986.

However, we know that Rare was working with Nintendo before Zelda arrived, having approached the Japanese company with a reverse-engineered NES development kit to become the first Western studio to create games for the 8-bit system – so who knows?

Sabre Wulf forms part of the Sabreman series and would be followed by Underwurlde (1984), Knight Lore (1984) and Pentagram (1986). Another sequel, Mire Mare, was never released. Rare would reboot the series in 2004 with the GBA title Sabre Wulf, while the series would inspire the character of Sabre Wulf in Killer Instinct, Rare's fighting game franchise.