Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild (BoTW), released in 2017 introduced the protagonist Link awakening 100 years after the Age of Calamity timeline, where the nemesis Calamity Ganon took over Hyrule. For uninitiated readers, the green costumed fella in the Nintendo Zelda game somehow went to sleep and woke up when his planet is taken over by his nemesis, Ganondorf (aka Ganon).
“You got 1 Rupee. It's green! Don't spend it all in one place!”
Rupees are the primary currency in the Legend of Zelda games and they can be obtained by defeating enemies, cutting grass or bushes, lifting stones, treasure chests or good ole’ selling items to the NPC. The color (and sometimes size) of the Rupees determines their value. The most common color, green, is the lowest denomination of 1 Rupee.
Yes, it is!
“Rupee is the common name for the currency of India, Indonesia, the Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka, and of former currencies of Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE (as the Gulf rupee), British East Africa, Burma, German East Africa (as Rupie/Rupien), and Tibet.” - Wikipedia
Zelda games have always been notorious for strange names and not to mention the made-up languages. There are full fandom wikipedia pages about the names and it even made it to a full presentation in the inaugural digital Language Creation Conference (dLCC); shout-out also to a pretty extensive phonetic and lexical analysis of Gerudo language by Madeline R. Clark.
Legend says the homophones (same word, different meaning) of Zelda Rupees and the actual Rupee currencies are unintentional. The elongated / truncated dodecadeltahedron shape of Rupees in the game resembles the ruby gemstone and the original English manual for 1986 Legend of Zelda called them “Rubies” but they were changed to Rupees, most probably because they were not always red.
The original “Legend of Zelda” (1986) has a limit of 255 Rupees, restricted by the unsigned 8-bits in Famicon / NES consoles;
0000 0000 representing 0 Rupees,
0000 1111 representing 15 Rupees and
1111 1111 equals 255. As we reach the “Ocarina of Time” (1998) version of the Zelda game, the infamous wallet upgrades were introduced; with an initial capacity of 99 Rupees and a maximum of 799 Rupees after a first +200 upgrade and a second +500 upgrade. No, this isn’t the time for me to cut-away to click-bait topics like “Is BoTW or OoT the best Zelda game ever?”.
Adjusting for inflation using USD rates, the original 255 Rupees in 1986 would be worth 570.31 Rupees at 123.6% price hike in 2017. Working backwards, when BoTW allowed a million Rupees (999,999 to be exact) in 2017, it would be equivalent to 447,127 in 1986. It takes 1753 Links in 1986 to achieve that wealth. The next ‘wealthiest’ Link from Four Swords doesn’t even come close with 99,999 Rupees in 2002 which is equivalent to 60,922 in 1986.
Whether it’s 255 or 999,999 Rupees, it may look like a larger number is better and the common saying, “cash is king” might send Link hoarding imaginary binaries and selling actual assets (e.g. fruits, mushrooms, veges, monster parts) for paper money. But it is also a common misconception that cash in any currency is based on meaningful materials like gold, silver or precious metal. Today’s fiat currency (Latin word meaning, “let it be done”) is backed by hopes and promises. It is no different in Zelda-verse, the value of Rupees is determined by whatever the game developers deemed them to be.
Fiat money does not have intrinsic value and does not have use value. It has value only because the people who use it as a medium of exchange agree on its value.They trust that it will be accepted by merchants and other people. - Wikipedia
It’s hard to understand how those inflated numbers work to the layman (myself included), but if I were to tell you how many apples you can get with the Rupees in each version of Zelda, it would be definitely more digestible.
In 1986, The Economist invented the “Big Mac Index” as a guide to gauge whether currencies are at their “correct” level. It is based on the purchasing-power-parity (PPP) theory wherein the long run exchange rates of any currencies should move towards a rate where the value of money used to purchase an identical item (in this case McDonald’s Big Mac) in any two countries will be equalized. In short, The Economist asked, “How many Big Mac in your country can you get for $50 USD?”; for example, if
People have come up with several other similar indices that compare the same multi-national goods, from IKEA Billy bookshelf index to Starbucks tall latte index, and more recently, the annual golden question after every Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), “Which country has the cheapest [latest] iPhone?”.
Going back to the Zelda-verse, the most consistent and pervasive item that can measure purchasing-power-parity (PPP) is the wooden arrow (no fancy fire, ice, lightning, etc.). So we can ask the question, “How many wooden arrows can you get for 50 Rupees?”.
The prices of arrows in BoTW are:
35 rupees for 10x arrows (bundle) at
20 rupees for 5x arrows (bundle) at
5 rupees for 1x arrow at
The best value you can get would be with Giro in the forest near the Dueling Peaks with 12 rupees for 5x arrows (bundle) but that’s an exception. And of course, there’s Beedle (aka Terri) selling arrows to suckers at 6 rupees for 1x arrow and 30 rupees for 5x arrows bundle, lets's take him off the equation. People are somehow willing to pay for convenience since Beedle is like everywhere in BoTW. And someone got to do something about him always plotting to thieve the beetles you’ve collected.
From the above list, we get a median of shopkeepers selling 5 arrows for 20 rupees, so a unit cost of 4 rupees per arrow in BoTW. For the original 1986 Legend of Zelda, it’s a lot easier since it charges 5 rupees per arrow. At this point, you would be wondering, “What?! The price of arrows remained almost the same for 2 decades!”. Yes, and if you buy in bulk or hunt down Giro, it’s even cheaper today compared to 1986.
But consider this, regardless of the price of the arrows, there is a maximum limit to how many arrows Link can keep. There is no specified inventory limit for 1986 Link, so we compute the max 255 rupee capacity with 5 rupees, we get 51 arrows. And BoTW Link gets a whooping 999 cap per item, so we get 999 arrows.
Lets crunch the numbers, given that we have a max of 999 arrows and 5 rupees per arrow, the maximum purchasing power of BoTW Link is 4,995 rupees given the Zelda Arrow Index. And 1986 Link gets a 255 rupees cap. Accounting for inflation based on USD, 4,995 rupees in 2017 would be 2,233 rupees in 1986. The BoTW Link is still 9x richer than 1986 Link given the Zelda Arrow Index and maximum inventory capacity.
Yes, I would think so at least until the next Zelda game arrives…