Posted on July 03 2009 by Nathanial Rumphol-Janc
Question 1: What is your general definition of Zelda Canon?
Casey Hodges: Zelda Canon fully comes from all Nintendo made Zelda games. This includes the Flagship Studios games from Capcom which fully operated under Nintendo. Future companies who work under Nintendo in this fashion may also make games which can still be considered canon. It is important to point out that while all game content within a disk or cartridge is canon, there are exceptions in regards to coding. Coding consisting of unused characters, enemies, or areas are not considered canon because they were unintentionally accessed. For example, in Ocarina of Time, Link can fight a Starfox Arwing with appropriate alterations to the original code. Since this battle was unintended, this potential fight should not be considered canon. Everything else presented in the standard game should be fully accepted as canon. Along with the games, instruction book manuals and text that appears on the game box are all examples of additional canon which supports the in game content.
Finally, there is the unique information we receive from developers. Developer quotes and interviews can be considered potential canon. First of all, developers include, so far, Miyamoto and Aonuma. As future developers surface, they too may be quoted with Zelda canon information. By potential canon, I mean that what a developer says is more than likely canon, however until their information is fully backed up by in-game content, the developer may change his mind in future titles. Director quotes can mostly be accepted as canon, but if future game canon contradicts stated quote prior to that game, the developer quote may be considered spurious, therefore rejected from canon.
To summarize, Nintendo made Zelda games are the primary source of canon. Boxes and manuals provide additional support for the game they represent. Director quotes may provide new information for in-game canon, although these quotes can be disproved by future titles.
Alex Plant: Like Casey, rather than evaluating the content of a source, deciding for myself whether or not it appears to fit with other canon (as I’ve seen some people do), I base canonicity on whether or not a source was created or supervised by Nintendo and whether or not it was developed as part of the Zelda series. If Nintendo played a direct part in its development, then it is canon. If it was published by Nintendo, then it is canon. Every element of each game must be canon unless a future game renders such an element as non-canon*. Additionally, out-of-universe elements, such as Easter Eggs from other Nintendo franchises such as Mario or Star Fox (note the Arwing cameo Casey gave as an example).
All developer statements, as long as they are not contradicted by other later developer statements or shown to be certifiably false (not questionably false) when compared to the actual games, are to be given the same weight as canon, but are not truly “canon” in the sense that they are not the source material for the series. More recent statements that differ from earlier statements are always taken to be more correct. Oftentimes pre-release statements conflict with the post-development realities, so this possibility must be considered when evaluating developer quotes.
If the Japanese source text conflicts with the source text in other regional versions of the game in a way that changes the story, the Japanese version is automatically more correct. (There are some exceptions where other-language texts have purposeful differences, for example, they sometimes specify where the Japanese generalizes or merely implies.) Oftentimes the true meaning of the text is lost in translation, so fans fluent in Japanese have endeavored to make their own literal fan translations.
Of course, take the literal translations made by fans with a grain of salt, as most fan translators have their own theories and biases, and their interpretation of the text may not be any more reliable in some cases. Even if fan translations are reliable and do point out real disparities between the Nintendo of America translations and the Japanese originals, these differences are not always meaningful enough to warrant considering them a “change in the story.” It is usually obvious from the literal translations when the meaning of the regional text conflicts with the original plot.
(For example, the original A Link to the Past manual said the Master Sword was forged during the Imprisoning War, but the Japanese said that it was made long before. This is a meaningful difference, whereas the Twilight Princess rivalries taking place over the “Sacred Realm Hyrule” as opposed to the “Sacred Realm” is not necessarily a difference in the story, especially since most games associate the Sacred Realm with Hyrule at certain points, usually describing Hyrule as the resting place of the Triforce.)
I consider the following sources to be truly canonical:
• All The Legend of Zelda titles (including titles developed for the BS add-on)
• All spin-off titles
• Information from series developers
Some sources with tenuous connections to Nintendo may also be canon. Since their relationship to Nintendo’s development teams is often unknown, and will probably never be known, they can be considered as “deuterocanonical” (meaning “secondary canon”)—official sources, but not necessarily canon sources. Deuterocanon differs from regular canon in that it is an official production of Nintendo, but not necessarily a part of the official Zelda series timeline.
I consider the following sources to be deuterocanonical:
• Information from Nintendo Power player’s guides
• The Legend of Zelda Sound & Drama
(Note: It is unknown whether Sound & Drama was created and/or supervised by the people at Nintendo, pending translation of the credits. If it was, it is probably canonical; if it was not, it is probably apocryphal.)
Other sources which bear the Zelda name and are licensed by Nintendo, but are developed and produced solely by the individual
(s) to whom the license is given, are not canonical. They are related to and based on the Zelda series but not property of Nintendo. These sources are apocryphal, or “non-canon.” They are not a part of the Zeldaseries timeline and are not official series productions, but are still stories of the series’ characters.
I consider the following sources to be apocryphal:
• The Phillips CD-I Zelda titles
• The Legend of Zelda series manga
*Examples of things I consider “retconned” in this way include the Legend of the Fairy from Wind Waker (which explained the story of Tingle’s actions in Majora’s Mask, the Temple of Time’s location in Twilight Princess (it was in the center of Castle Town in Ocarina but was moved to a more remote spot in the GameCube game), and the original relationship between A Link to the Past and the series at large (it seems to have served as a “first story,” but this suggestion has now been rendered obsolete by subsequent titles).
Dathen Boccabella: Canon is defined as a ‘body of works considered genuine or official within a fictional universe’, and of course, within the Zelda universe people’s opinions of what is and isn’t canon can greatly differ and regularly do. To me, the ultimate Zelda canon is the main Legend of Zelda series which, majority of the time, contain the title prefix, ‘The Legend of Zelda: …’, except in the case of Adventure of Link. These are dominant when it comes to canon, yet even they can be cloudy with some slight changes occurring between the original versions and re-releases of the games. In these instances, personal opinions of which release is ‘more’ canon comes into the scenario, with people usually going with what supports their theories, as we cannot make an ultimate decision.
The manuals can also provide more information in relation to the games and their storylines. Modernly the manuals don’t give too much on storyline, however in the original few games the manual is what had the real heart of the storyline. Where the game doesn’t explain its storyline within, such as in the original Legend of Zelda, the manual is, in my opinion, canon. In the newer releases where the manuals do little more than provide a basic summary on gameplay, with little storyline, I likewise see these as perfectly acceptable canon. I would only label them as uncanon if and when they contain material that goes directly against what is seen during gameplay. The same goes for game boxes, which I see no reason to label as uncanon unless they contradict what’s seen in-game, though for the most part they don’t provide much information anyway. It’s also worth noting that things such as the boxes, and potentially the manuals, are generally created by marketing departments and not the actual game developers themselves. Similarly to the games, manuals and boxes can regularly differ from the originals in re-releases.
My views on director quotes are similar to the above. That is, I see them as canonical unless they go against evidence that is presented in gameplay. Precaution needs to be taken in relation to the timeliness of director quotes, especially with timeline placements. While they can be used to show a general game order at that time, with subsequent game releases those quotes can become ambiguous and outdated. Such examples include the Four Sword series being first in the timeline quote, from Aonuma, or the famous 1998 Miyamoto Timeline quote.
Though I do base my views of canon predominantly on gameplay, not everything within the games can be taken as canon. In-game things I consider uncanon include Easter Eggs, such as the photos of characters from the Mario franchise in Ocarina of Time, hacks and glitches. Hacks include changing coding, such as the cameo appearance of Link fighting a Starfox Arwing, mentioned earlier by Casey and Alex. Glitches refer to where the player manipulates little errors in the game coding to their advantage. For example, a famous glitch in Majora’s Mask enables players to play as Fierce Deity Link outside of boss rooms, or in Ocarina of Time where child Link can cross Gerudo Valley through a glitch called bombchu hovering. As glitches aren’t canon, I still only consider it canonically possible for Fierce Deity Link to be played in boss rooms, and likewise, Gerudo Fortress is only canonically accessible as an adult.
As Nintendo of Japan are the developers of the Zelda series, the Japanese text is, in my mind, supreme over the localizations of Nintendo of America and other translations of the games. When there are contradictions, it is the original Japanese text that is correct, however as Alex pointed out, we need to be weary of the bias that can infiltrate fan translations, but because most of us aren’t fluent in Japanese, these fan translations have to be what we go by.
Spin-offs are something that I judge in a different light, that is, by the content contained within the games. If the games show that they are clearly not relevant, such as the Super Smash Bros. games, then they obviously aren’t canon. However if the games show nothing contradicting the actual series and fit comfortably in it, then I think they can. Some spin-offs are canon and some aren’t, which I will further detail later. Although I don’t consider it entirely proper to have spin-offs in a timeline, I have little against fans placing certain spin-offs in their timeline, if they don’t ‘disturb’ the other games. Even the spin-offs that I consider somewhat canon shouldn’t be used as the basis or main evidence for theories.
Lastly, not everything licensed by Nintendo is canon and therefore things such as cartoons and comics on the Zelda series, as well as the Phillips CD-I titles, are clearly not canon. Obviously anything fan created is not even worth legitimately considering. Everything that I personally consider to be canon, I’ve mentioned previously. Some people refer to different levels of canon, which for me, generally works out to be the main series being supreme. Boxes, manuals and developer quotes are the second level, being canon as long as they don’t contradict the games, and spin-offs are the third level, with some being able to be included as relevant if they don’t go against the main games.
Ben Lamoreux: I believe all games developed by Nintendo, or developed by an outside source and supervised by Nintendo, are to be considered canon. Any Zelda title with supervision, direction and production, by Shigeru Miyamoto or Eiji Aonuma is to be considered canon. Their manuals are also to be considered canon.
Any Zelda titles or Zelda spin-offs that are neither developed by Nintendo, nor supervised in some way by Miyamoto or Aonuma are not canon unless otherwise stated to be so. An example of this would be the Broadcast Satellaview game Ancient Stone Tablets, which, although not released for a major Nintendo console nor supervised by Miyamoto or Aonuma, was featured in the Japanese “Zelda no Video Documentary”, showing that Nintendo considers it relevant to the plot of the overall series.
Developer quotes are to be considered canon if the game or concept to which they apply is fully developed. For example, a quote about a game that is already completed is to be considered canon, while a quote about a game that’s still in production can be considered uncanon, as the pl
ot has likely not yet been finished, and is subject to change. Developer quotes are not limited to Miyamoto and Aonuma specifically, as, other various members of the development and design team have relevant information. If a developer quote previously considered to be canon is proven undeniably false by in-game evidence in a future release, it is no longer canon.
The Japanese text of the games is the highest form of canon in determining the true story. If the Nintendo of America (or any other localization) text is directly contradicted by the Japanese text, it is incorrect.
CH: Several people have mentioned Japanese translations so far, which is something I neglected to mention. I do agree that the Japanese translation is the most original, therefore the most canon in regards to the English translations. However, the object of comparing these two translations is tricky.
If any of you have ever taken a foreign language class or tried to learn a foreign language, you would understand that the structure of each language is fundamentally different. I do not know anything about Japanese, but while studying Spanish, I quickly understood that a sentence in Spanish can translate into English in several different ways, and vice versa. Each translation is essentially correct in meaning, but there is no perfect translation.
If Japanese and English is anything like the relationship between Spanish and English, then I find it hard to believe that a fan translation is more relevant than the Nintendo of America translation. Nintendo hires a well educated team to translate all their games, and I simply find it hard to believe that an outside fan translator is more reliable. While the official Japanese text is more canon than the English text, fan translations are simply too unreliable and biased to trust. For your own benefit I strongly suggest you stick with the official Nintendo of America translation.
Melchizedek brings up a good point on spin-offs. While generally, it is safe to assume they are in no way canon, there certainly can be exceptions. However, until the other canon games or developers mention these titles, it’s hard to make a strong case for them. We aren’t supposed to go into specifics yet, so I hope we can discuss these titles later on in the debate.
AP: I can only find a couple points of contention here, and only on minor topics.
Firstly, I think that spin-offs should generally be considered canon because they are almost always framed in a certain context with relation to the universe. The Game Watch and Game & Watch games, for example, clearly took place in the same era as the original Famicom games; Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland frames the background for a few choice characters, such as the Subrosians (explaining why they wear cloaks) the Deku Tree, and Tingle, of course. This framework is not all too integral to the series, however, so whether or not they are canon is really of no consequence.
Secondly, I want to clarify something with regard to Ben’s description of developer quotes: I do not think that pre-release quotes should automatically be considered “non-canon,” as oftentimes they may still be correct even after the release, even if they are not corroborated directly by information from the game(s) they represent. I think that, in these cases, such as most quotes regarding Link’s age, we should take pre-development statements as canonical. I have a suspicion that you agree, but I wanted to make sure we cleared that up.
I also want to reiterate my stance on Japanese quotes in more detail. I do not generally hold the rule “the Japanese text is superior.” Now, you may look back at my last response and wonder how I can say this. Recall, however, that I asserted that the Japanese text is more correct when the story of other-language versions is in direct conflict with it. When the English words something in a different way, but with the same meaning, I think both texts hold equal merit. For example:
In the Japanese version of A Link to the Past, the in-game intro- that is, the legend about the sages’ seal- is phrased in such a way that the reader should understand it as a secondhand account of the events, not necessarily complete fact. There is no such convention in the English text. Instead, the English translators added the line: “But when these events were obscured by the mists of time, and became legend…”
In this case, I see that the English version of the intro is consistent with the Japanese text, but unlike the Japanese the script does not merely imply that the events may not be entirely accurate but more or less states outright that the stories were distorted. The statement in the English is not in conflict with the Japanese, but does carry a more explicit wording. I therefore take it as 100% correct, even though it has a slightly different meaning than the original.
There are also a few instances where the English or other-language texts make references to other games that are absent in the Japanese. For example, the mountain in A Link to the Past is named “Hebra Mountain” in the original Japanese, but “Death Mountain” in English. In general I consider all continuity references from any language version to be correct; in this case it turns out that “Death Mountain” is the mountain’s true name, as we learned in Four Swords Adventures, which has mostly the same settings from the SNES game.
I want to highlight this because I see on many forums that people take any difference between other-language texts and the literal Japanese source material as though it were a fatal inconsistency. I disagree fundamentally that the localizations should be discarded so easily; I think the meaning they convey is usually accurate in cases such as the ones I just described.
DB: Casey, you implied that developers include only Miyamoto and Aonuma, at this stage, however I agree with Ben that what other members of the development team say should be considered in the same light. I think quotes from people such as Satoru Takizawa (Ocarina of Time Character Director) and Toru Osawa (Ocarina of Time Script Director) should hold the same respect. I do disagree with you though Ben on the basis that Aonuma or Miyamoto have to have input on the game for it to be canon. Though invented by Miyamoto, as Zelda is a registered Nintendo trademark, I think Nintendo could technically release a canon game without input from either of them, although they would most likely always seek it, as long as they were around.
Alex, you said that you consider all spin-offs to be truly canonical, which I must dispute. Firstly, games such as the Super Smash Bros. series count as ‘spin-offs’, however I would take that you mean spin-offs other than them, as they seem highly unable to be a canon source. Game specifics is something to go into later, but I don’t see Link’s Crossbow Training as canon, yet Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland can be. Generally, I don’t see classifying something as canon based solely on the clause that it is a spin-off as justifiable. I do agree, however, that it is of no consequence to the overall timeline and series whether these games are considered canon or not.
Furthermore, I want to justify your view on developer quotes Alex. When you say you consider them truly canonical, does that mean they always remain canon, even though time and in-game evide
nce may suggest they are incorrect? I want to clarify: if something a developer said and something in-game directly clashed, what would you subscribe to? The game I would hope.
To address your input on translations Casey. I agree that those employed by Nintendo of America should be skilled at what they do, and potentially have a much better grasp of the Japanese language than any fan does, but they haven’t necessarily shown themselves to in the past, with mistranslations. For example, the credits of the original Legend of Zelda translated Miyamoto’s name so that it was misspelled. The point that makes me look to fan Japanese translations is the fact that the translators from Nintendo of America have levels of authority to change or manipulate the text, even adding or subtracting to the content, which they regularly do, on top of mistranslations. Fan translations are seen as better in that regard as they attempt to translate the Japanese literally as it is, not adding, not subtracting and hopefully not changing it, although we must be wary of potential fan bias, which I agree with you on.
BL: Well Melchizedek, keep in mind that I said games worked on by Miyamoto or Aonuma are canon, as well as any other game Nintendo indicates as canon. At this point, of all the various Zelda spin-offs, only Ancient Stone Tablets has been given any indication of being plot-relevant and/or canon to the series by Nintendo.
Casey, I agree with you to an extent on the topic of translations. However, in the case of Zelda, there wasn’t always Japanese supervision over the translation and localization of text. While current Nintendo of America Localization head Bill Trinen is fluent in Japanese and claims to know and adhere to the overall storyline, the same can not be said of former Nintendo of America Localization head Dan Owsen. Owsen was not the translator, but he was given the translated text and was allowed to localize it in any way he saw fit without supervision; tricky business when you consider that he admitted to not being fluent in Japanese. I do understand, however, your concern in regards to fan-made translations, as context and meaning is very difficult, and sometimes impossible, to relate from one language to another.
Alex, like Melchizedek, I take exception to the statement that all spin-offs should be considered canon. At times, there’s a fine, fine line between a spin-off and a cameo. Even in the case of a spin-off game that contains storyline elements from a canon game, there’s no guarantee that the spin-off was meant to be taken as proof of the overall series storyline. Spin-offs often take bits and pieces of the canon storyline and run in different directions with them with no intention of actually affecting the canon storyline. Unless otherwise implied by Nintendo, I think all spin-offs should be viewed in that light.
AP: I’ll address Melchizedek’s points briefly (or, as it tends to go with me, not-so-briefly).
First, please don’t misunderstand me when I say “spin-offs”; I mean only those that take place strictly in the Zelda universe, such as Tetra’s Trackers, Link’s Crossbow Training, the Tingle games and so on. I certainly take no issue with any of them being canon- the first two I mentioned specifically involve the incarnation of Link from a particular game, so it’s easy to fit them. Games like Smash Bros. and Soul Calibur II have their own fictional universes, and while they base their depiction of Link on his series, it’s obvious he’s outside of it.
As for developer quotes: I only meant that they should not be discarded purely by virtue of being pre-release. If they can still be correct, that is, if they have not been specifically contradicted, I would say more than likely they are correct. I brought up Link’s age as an example of such a time- most console games have some developer quote about Link’s age, but the game usually doesn’t go into detail, so they’re never confirmed, but also never contradicted.
CH: The manga is a separate or parallel canon that does not directly relate to the games or main canon. The manga retells the same stories found in their respective game, with a few touches of extra content. Since the manga directly contradicts the games with their touches of originality, it’s pretty hard to make any argument to consider them canon.
This case is very similar to the Transformer series. The show, the Marvel comic, and the movies are all separate canon. Each retells the same, or similar story with mild variations between each. Popular ideas like stories and characters may be used between each canon, but they never intersect with each other. Zelda games and manga work the same way.
AP: As a rule, the manga should definitely not be canon as it is written by people who are not in any way responsible for developing the games or other Nintendo-developed content (such as music and artwork). Like Casey said, even though the manga remains more or less a faithful telling of in-game events, it often distorts them in a way that contradicts the story. For example, the dragon Volvagia had previously terrorized the Gorons in the game, but was sealed away by a Goron hero. In the manga, however, Link befriends the dragon as a hatchling and it later grows up and becomes corrupted by Ganon. This is an irreconcilable difference between the two.
There are some moments that differ from the games, but only with respect to the game’s gameplay structure. For example, the manga usually has Link obtain “dungeon items” in a way that makes more sense from a story perspective rather than in a treasure chest within the hollow of the Deku Tree or inside a giant fish’s belly. These differences I think have some merit and are not so much contradictions but clarifications for the more literary version of the story. I think they do indicate that the gameplay features should be viewed in this sort of light, but I do not hold the manga’s specific original stories and details as canon- they are based entirely in the creative license of the author.
DB: To state it plainly, the manga releases of The Legend of Zelda titles are not canon. To be more specific, I agree chiefly with Casey. Nintendo gave permission for the manga to be released, however they are only the author’s personal retelling of the story, where they can change, add and subtract at will. Obviously, the manga isn’t something that can be placed on the timeline, which overall corresponds with it not being canon.
Although the manga is in no way canon to the Zelda series, the manga can be taken to form a Zelda universe of it’s own, separate from the timeline, in which it is canon. In other words, you can take the manga as a canon series within itself, however they cannot relate to the real Zelda series. Hence, to me, the manga stands for nothing in the world of Zelda when theorizing.
I like the point you mention Alex on how the manga gives more feasible stories on obtaining items, compared to the general game formula of treasure chests. It’s interesting to point out that in the release of Twilight Princess, Nintendo did stray slightly from this formula, with the Gale Boomerang being an item obtained in a more reali
stic manner, somewhat borrowing that concept from the manga.
AP: I’m hoping we see more “realistic” item acquisition sequences in future games as well. I like that Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess had quite a few of these outside of dungeons- for example, we needed to get the Zora clothes before we could enter the Water Temple in both games. Unfortunately this is probably pretty difficult to implement in-dungeon. Miyamoto needs to get over himself and realize that in a story-driven game like Zelda most of the key gameplay should make sense from a story perspective, not just vice-versa, where the plot needs to cater to the gameplay. The chances of that seem slim, though…
BL: There’s not much for me to say here really other than I don’t think the manga is canon, and that’s covered.
AP: From my perspective, in practice I’ve seen very little difference between the two. Aonuma has been in charge of three major console games- Majora’s Mask, The Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess– and while I think we can all agree that these games focused more on things such as plot progression, character development, and so forth, they also devote more attention to the “active player element.” The story has always been simply a tool for providing gameplay directions or hints. I can only think of a handful of plot elements that existed for their own sakes- Telma’s hinted crush on Renado in Twilight Princess, the suspected adultery between Kafei and Cremia in Majora’s Mask.
In a fantasy game like Zelda, players need more than arbitrary goals, such as collecting all 120 Stars in the console Mario titles we’ve seen since the era of the Nintendo 64. I would say that the only way to create an engaging fantasy game experience is through a strong story. Zelda games have never really been known for having particularly well-crafted stories or interesting character relationships- like I said, it’s usually just a vehicle that gets you from Point A to Point B. That’s not to say that the stories are bad, since we wouldn’t love discussing them so much if they were truly horrible, just that they are extremely underdeveloped. Maybe I’m just being cynical, though.
At this point, while I can imagine what the series would be like with a deeper story, I really can’t see it happening, even under Aonuma’s direction. I think it needs to be said, though, that Miyamoto does not “not care about the story,” he simply sees games as games first and foremost, and stories second (or last, perhaps). That does not mean he thinks the story is not important, just that it is not the most important element.
CH: Honestly, I don’t know very much about the different philosophies of Miyamoto and Aonuma. I believe that neither of them put as much focus on story as they do on gameplay. Personally, I feel that Zelda is ready for deeper storytelling. The franchise has basically mastered gameplay, so Aonuma should devote more time and effort into developing better stories. Gameplay should always come first when it comes to video games, but a good story will enhance the experience and stick with the player for years.
BL: While I believe that Aonuma shares Miyamoto’s sentiments of “gameplay first, storyline last”, I think Aonuma puts more effort into the storyline when he gets there. As Alex said, Aonuma was the mastermind for Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess….and I believe these three have the most character and storyline depth of any of the games.
Majora’s Mask gave storylines to all of the non-playable characters, and Wind Waker gave most of them storylines, and all of them unique character designs and names. Twilight Princess was certainly a step backwards in this process, but still had quite a bit of depth.
And while he was not the primary Director, Aonuma served as the Producer for Four Swords Adventures, a game which had its plot re-written halfway through because Miyamoto felt it was “too complicated”.
In terms of the overall storyline of the Zelda franchise, I believe Aonuma cares more than Miyamoto as well. While he still puts the individual game first, Aonuma has been more open in talking about how games connect to each other, and claims he’s trying to make the overall storyline more clear.
DB: Both Aonuma and Miyamoto don’t give as much care to storyline as I think they should, however I think that Aonuma may care slightly more about the storyline, and how games fit together, compared to what Miyamoto does. Nevertheless, it isn’t a top priority in either of their minds. Aonuma may be quoted to have similar views on storyline to Miyamoto, however I think he leans more towards doing what the fans want.
Aonuma has said that “storyline shouldn’t be something complicated that confuses the player” and has commented that the storyline of Four Swords Adventures changed right up until the very end, which is possibly the same with other releases to the series. With Four Swords Adventures, it seems to me that Aonuma was trying to relate it directly to other games, however Miyamoto changed that because it was too “complicated”. Despite his own views, Aonuma seems to follow Miyamoto’s lead regardless.
Miyamoto is often said to not care at all for the storyline, which may be a misunderstanding. He doesn’t necessarily put storyline as high as it should be, but I wouldn’t claim he doesn’t care entirely. He actually claimed that Nintendo has a ‘timeline’ when he said, “For every Zelda game we tell a new story, but we actually have an enormous document that explains how the game relates to the others, and bind them together. But to be honest, they are not that important to us.” I think Miyamoto looks to tell a good story within individual games themselves, but doesn’t really care for the series or any sort of ‘timeline’.
I don’t entirely disagree with Miyamoto’s philosophy that video games are created to provide more than just a ‘storyline’. We can read books for stories, but video games are to be a more interactive through game-play and puzzles. The point where I disagree with Miyamoto is that storyline is an important part of making a good game, equal to the game-play mechanics. All are required for great games and I feel the storyline of the Zelda series, though good, has
been rather wishy-washy. Finer attention should be paid to the game scripts.
To me, Ocarina of Time served as the ideal balance of storyline and gameplay, compared to new releases, which seem to lack in storyline. The storyline in Phantom Hourglass is completely revealed half way through the game, with nothing left to discover in the latter half. It was a simple ‘collect the spirits, collect the pure metals and defeat the evil Bellum’. Sure, game-play is good, but with little storyline a game is nothing. Storyline and gameplay are interdependent, and must be in harmony for a great game. I think that Nintendo should have paid more attention to the ‘timeline’ from the beginning, and strived for better, even more complex storylines. I doubt Nintendo, with their re-releases and contradictions, can have a set timeline or a set view on canon. It has become too late for that, and although we complain, if Nintendo paid games this extra detail, we wouldn’t be able to do the theorizing that we all enjoy.
Question 4: Do original manuals remain canon with updated manuals for re-releases?
CH: Remade manuals are the most canon, same with remade games and recent director quotes. If a remade manual leaves out information from the original it can still be canon as long as it does not contradict with anything else.
To be honest, manuals are really under used in modern games. Back on the NES, cartridges had little memory and not enough room to hold everything, so minor aspects, like the small story, gets bumped onto the manual along with other directions like game controls. Today games can hold a lot of information so there is no need to push extra content onto the manual. Very few people, including myself, even bother to look at them anymore.
Future titles probably won’t have any use for the manuals, but when looking back at the NES or SNES, it may be necessary to understand their position of canon in the series.
DB: Which versions of manuals to take as canon is something that I haven’t fully come to a decisive view on. As Casey mentioned, manuals for modern games are of little importance, but the manuals for the older NES and SNES games are of great importance as they give the story that the games can’t. Modern game manuals give little more than an overview and some instructions.
With some manuals being remade, namely The Adventure of Link and A Link to the Past manuals, I lean towards the original manuals being the canon ones. They tell the complete stories, which new manuals cut down and alter. I believe that all aspects of The Adventure of Link manual are canon and timeline relevant, and that the original A Link to the Past manual is more canon than remakes. Plenty of game remakes, such as The Collectors Edition, don’t even have any manuals.
I think that the original A Link to the Past manual is written in a way that strongly implies it is a myth, or legend. This can explain the inconsistencies in the original manual relating to the rest of the series as being due to the facts of Hylian history becoming distorted into legend over time. Thus, the A Link to the Past manual gives the basic story, which may not match entirely with Ocarina of Time (assuming that is the Seal War), but this is due to time- with the Great Flood and true-blooded Hylians dwindling in numbers.
I lean towards the original manuals being the most canon, and likewise, view the original versions of the game as most canon. Sure, Nintendo may change these things in an attempt for a chronology, but overall remakes help no more in placing games. The complete and original manuals for older games are more canon to me, and in newer games they don’t really have a drastic impact on canon, as they just describe minor details of the game.
BL: Manuals are a tricky thing. Unlike updated versions of the games or director quotes, there’s not always a clearcut answer to that question. In some cases they may just be saving space, but in some cases it may be done on purpose, as the old manual is no longer able to function in light of the new games.
In the case of Adventure of Link, the manual was drastically shortened during the 90’s, but there’s debate as to why this is. Some would say with the release of A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time it was purposely shortened to remove conflicting timeline indicators. Others viewed it as merely a condensed version. Then in 2004, it was re-released with the full story again. Was this done to signify the reintroduction of the removed story elements as a relevant part of the Zelda storyline? Or was their removal not meant to be relevant in the first place?
In the case of the A Link to the Past manual, I’d say both manuals are still to be taken into consideration, but the newer one is more canon. The original is much more detailed in its description of the era of bloodshed, the rise of Ganon, and the Seal War. Whether Ocarina of Time is still meant to be the more accurate telling of these legends or they occurred at some other point in time, it still makes the most sense for these events to have happened in a way similar to the original manual’s description.
The newer manual that comes with the GBA release of the game shortens the story drastically, omits any mention of Ganon’s involvement, and doesn’t detail why the Sacred Realm became corrupt and had to be sealed. This takes the importance off the fact that Ganon was involved and places it on the fact that a seal was cast. In this way, I believe the original manual to be more descriptive, and with the mindset of it being a legend, still canon. However, the new manual is more relevant as it places the importance of the Seal War back on the seal, and off of Ganon.
AP: I would say anything we see in any manual is and will always be canon until another source contradicts it. Even shortened manuals in “newer” versions usually do not run against the older sources, but rather give the bare bones of the story, leaving out whatever details might complicate things.
Honestly I don’t know what to say about the Zelda II manual. I would say that there has been little effort to “revise” content from the two original games in light of newer games, however. They remain canon, but how we are to associate them with newer games is largely a mystery.
The A Link to the Past manual I have a much firmer opinion on. Most of the information directly covered in Ocarina of Time involving Ganon, the hero, the threat of darkness, the Triforce, and the Sages is absent from the GBA re-release. Since we know that Ocarina of Time was meant to be the Imprisoning War upon its release, I strongly believe that these removals excluded details for two reasons. First, to avoid redundancy against the details of Ocarina of Time that might confuse players, and second, to cut out most of the implications that Ganon’s capture of the whole Triforce took place during that war.
In essence, the A Link to the Past GBA manual reflects the different level of relevance the Sages’ seal has to the scenario of that game in light of the developments seen in Ocarina of Time, where Ganon did not obtain the en
tire Triforce before his sealing, and another event needed to fill the plothole. Since new players will not read the original text as part of their game experience, we can no longer truly consider that text a part of the current edition of A Link to the Past. The accounts unseen in the more recent version but present in the original are still as true as they were in 1991, however.
That’s it for today. Part two can be found here.To discuss this debate, head over to the ZeldaInformer Forums.