Posted on July 05 2009 by Nathanial Rumphol-Janc
Here is the second and final part of the Zelda Canon Debate with Ben Lamoreux, Alex Plant, Casey Hodges, and Dathen Boccabella. Part one can be found here.
Question 5: Do you believe that Ganon was literally killed at the end of The Legend of Zelda?
CH: Ganon dies in regards to the fact that his body is destroyed. There were no Sages or Maidens to seal Ganon away, which further indicates that his body is destroyed rather than temporarily sealed away. What happens to his soul or spirit is debatable. In Adventure of Link, Link’s blood is required to resurrect Ganon. This indicates that his soul/spirit does live in some plane of existence, making a resurrection possible. This also indicates that Ganon’s body is indeed dead, because no other game references Link’s blood for a resurrection. This is because most other games Link does not kill Ganon, rather he seals him away in some form.
DB: In The Legend of Zelda Ganon is defeated by Link, who uses the silver arrows to defeat him. Unlike other games, this doesn’t just weaken him, enabling him to be sealed away, but rather causes him to fall into a pile of dust on the ground, with his Triforce of Power becoming separate from the body. In that context alone, I would assume that Ganon did literally die, with his existence ceasing at that very moment, however other games add further context.
The Legend of Zelda’s direct sequel, The Adventure of Link, shows Ganon’s minions attempting to kill Link and resurrect Ganon with his blood. One could say that what these followers were attempting is impossible, and their efforts are in vein, but the fact they succeed in the event of a game over validates their case. Because of this context, I do believe that Ganon lives on after The Legend of Zelda, in some spiritual form. Of course, this depends on timeline placement, but the linked ending to the Oracle games reveals Twinrova’s attempt to resurrect Ganon, which is somewhat more successful.
The Adventure of Link manual indicates that the spirit of evil is left behind in Hyrule, even after Ganon is defeated, which some take to indicate that he lives on.
“Hyrule had followed a one-way road to ruin. It was the power left behind by the wicked heart of Ganon, that was thoroughly corrupting the order in Hyrule.” – Adventure of Link Manual (Literal Japanese Translation by Johan, Zethar II, and David Butler)
In sum, I think The Legend of Zelda is the death of Ganon in the physical sense, however his ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’, as some people would put it, lives on in a way that it is possible to be resurrected. I do believe Ganon is revived later on in the adult timeline, but regardless of individual views, The Legend of Zelda shows something very close to the complete destruction of Ganon, beyond the power of Triforce resurrection, but not beyond resurrection. Ultimately, I tend to think the killing of Ganon, beyond resurrection, isn’t possible.
AP: I always had a sneaking suspicion in the back of my mind that being slain by the Silver Arrows gave his death a different quality than we saw in games where the Silver Arrows were not present. It seemed to me that the “early” games in the timeline, the 3D console games, which never feature the Silver Arrows, would have had a “less complete” death than the original games due to the arrows being the only weapon that can “deal the death-blow to Ganon.”
The newer games also occur earlier in the timeline, and we seldom (never) see references to anyone trying to resurrect Ganon.
So, for a while at least, I would have stalwartly defended the idea that Ganon in The Legend of Zelda is fully dead in the ending. A Link to the Past was no different since it too featured the Silver Arrows. If Ganon were to return after either of these games, we would need some sort of explanation.
But I don’t really think his death in the first game was supposed to be his final death anyway. His minions are obviously out to revive him, and even with the Triforce in Hyrule’s hands they at least partly succeed in the Oracles chronicles (which most place after one of the two main classic games), and Ganon makes another comeback in Four Swords Adventures through the Trident, which seems to suggest that he survived through it somehow from one of his previous defeats.
Once the voice-acting script for Ancient Stone Tablets got translated, we learned that Ganon’s “evil essence” lingers on when his body is destroyed, even by the Silver Arrows, supposedly the only thing that can destroy him. In that game, Ganon is able to resurrect himself and make another go at Hyrule. This was always what I supposed was the case in stories without the Silver Arrows, but now that we learned it was true in A Link to the Past, where Link uses both evil-destroying weapons to fight Ganon, I think we can safely say that Ganon’s “evil essence” will never truly die. Not in The Legend of Zelda, not in any other game.
BL: I think Melchizedek and Alex pretty much hit this on the head. While Ganon is truly dead, he still exists in some form. His “essence” or “spirit” may exist still. Adding to what the Adventure of Link manual and Ancient Stone Tablets have to say, the Oracle games have this to say about Ganon’s state when dead
“When the three flames are lit and we lift up the Holy Sacrifice, the Daimaou who is wandering in the darkness will aim at these lights and be revived! Uhahahaha!”-Twinrova
While it may be metaphorical, we get multiple hints in the Zelda series that Ganon is always, in some way, alive in spirit, even when his body is dead.
Question 6: Naming things specifically, outside of the main series what do you consider canon/ not canon and why?
AP: I consider any games produced by Nintendo with any connection to Nintendo employees to be fully canon. This would include the old Game Watch and Game & Watch games, both BS-X games developed in cooperation with St. Giga (BS The Legend of Zelda and BS The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets), both Tingle games as Balloon Fight was developed by Nintendo directly, and one of Zelda’s top directors assisted with Rosy Rupeeland, as well as Tetra’s Trackers which was included in the Japanese version of Four Swords Adventures and Link’s Crossbow Training.
Any official supplementary material to the games, such as the audio drama for A Link to the Past, the Zelda Box feature brochure for The Wind Waker, and “official box” descriptions are canon as well. I would say they are just as much a valid part of the games as the immediate content of the games themselves. Perhaps even more so, as they give us in-depth descriptions of things we might otherwise have only a surface look at.
A lot of theorists will dismiss certain things as being part of the canon universe because they deem them unimportant or as disrupting their perception of the Hyrule world. A common example we’re seeing recently is people who consider Ancient Stone Tablets as non-canon because it talks about Ganon’s “evil essence” having outlasted his death in A Link to the Past. They think this is outlandish or conflicts with the games too much.
I honestly think that this kind of approach to canon is self-centered in the wrong sort of way. While I value personal interpretation of the games heavily, often more than most people consider reasonable to stay true to the spirit of the series, to look at a work and say “I don’t accept what this is saying” because it doesn’t fit your interpretation of things seems like a tragic distortion of the series.
DB: Outside of the main series, there is very little that I consider to be canon, and lots that I haven’t fairly considered, to reach my stance on. I stated earlier that spin-offs are canon unless they directly contradict the series, however, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have to prove themselves to some degree to earn that position.
Firstly, there are a number of things which I haven’t really looked into enough to reach my view as whether or not they’re canon, chiefly because of time and resource limitations. Nevertheless, I don’t mind them being seen as canon, but I haven’t got a strong view on the matter. Regardless of that though, I don’t see them as things that bear the same level of canonicity as the main series. This includes installments such as BS The Legend of Zelda, Ancient Stone Tablets, Sound and Drama, Tingle’s Balloon Fight, Game Watch and Game & Watch. Some people use these as ways to explain things within the main series, which I see as fine, but I disagree with those who attempt to use these to change what the main series has portrayed.
Freshly-Picked Rosy Rupeeland is a game that I have considered and believe to be canon, yet there is no overall affect whether it is or not. Thus, whether or not fans place it in their timeline, I can accept that. Rosy Rupeeland has nothing that directly contradicts the main games and also contributes geographically to the idea of a new Hyrule in the adult timeline. In Rosy Rupeeland we can see the success of the Deku Tree to expand the land and bring the islands closer together after The Wind Waker, as well as seeing locations like Lon-Lon Meadows, the Deku Tree’s Forest and the Mountain of Death. These locations can relate the game to other games in the series, indicating that it is timeline relevant.
Apart from the aforementioned, and what I’ve said on things such as manuals and game boxes earlier, there is nothing else that I consider to be canon in the Zelda series. This includes Link’s Crossbow Training. I really don’t see Crossbow Training as canon, and timeline relevant, for a number of reasons. Some say that it takes place during Twilight Princess where Link takes time out from saving the world to practice using a crossbow, which remains a completely unexplained item, but that is unlikely. After is a possibility, but just as unlikely. The main reason for this view of mine is the final boss battle, against Stallord. Stallord is a boss that was utterly defeated in Twilight Princess and is unlikely to be revived anytime so soon afterwards, in a peace time. Likewise he is not going to be fought twice within the time frame of Twilight Princess. His appearance in Crossbow Training is my main reason for labeling it as uncanon, but there are other things, like the Carriage Escort Stage. That is just an alternative take on the in-game Twilight Princess event, and can’t be canon.
These installments don’t really provide much that affects the timeline greatly, and whether people consider them canon or not is something that I freely accept, either way. Canon is a personal interpretation, and I haven’t given individual candidates as much attention as they deserve, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t canon.
CH: In regards to spin-off games I tend to be a bit more skeptical. When a game is not released in the U.S. I usually assume the title is unimportant and therefore not canon in the eyes of Nintendo. However, this isn’t really fair considering some titles may potentially fit despite how minor they may be.
Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland does seem to have some relevance the Zelda franchise, with familiar characters and landscapes, but since I haven’t played the game there’s not much more I can say. Tingle’s Balloon Fight seems more like a mini-game since it wasn’t even sold in retail stores, but since it supposedly has a “story” I would hold it in the same regards as Rosy Rupeeland.
BS The Legend of Zelda and Ancient Stone Tablets are not main canon because they are basically remakes of the original Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past. Rather than Link, the game uses a Hero of Light character from another world or dimension. I believe when this other dimensional character interacts with Hyrule, he or she creates a tangent timeline that breaks off from the main canon. Try thinking of Kingdom Hearts when Sora interacts with classic Disney movies. His presence changes certain events from the movies, and while his tangent timeline does take place in the same world as the movies, Kingdom Hearts is still a separate story from these Disney films. I simply find it hard to believe that both A Link to the Past and Ancient Stone Tablets could possibly exist within the same timeline. The stories are too similar and they leave little room to argue otherwise. Yes, the “Zelda no Video Documentary” does reference the game, but I don’t see why that suddenly makes it into the main canon. Since both BS titles were so similar to two other Zelda games, they probably thought it was worth mentioning, but that doesn’t really mean anything to me. If they made a mild reference to a Mario game within this documentary that wouldn’t suddenly make it canon.
Originally, I thought Game Watch and Game & Watch were just simplified ports of the original Legend of Zelda, however both games have brief yet original stories. They may be minor, and definitely don’t seem to directly connect with any other game, but they are notable and arguably canon. Since they were released in the U.S., it does give them more credibility.
Tetra’s Tracker is in the same category as both the Tingle games. It could fit within the canon, but since it wasn’t released in the U.S., Nintendo seems to be indicating that it’s story is irrelevant. I don’t quite understand why Link is split into four in this game. If the game is canon, then it would have to take place after The Wind Waker, but I don’t see any evidence that the four sword is involved at that time period. This makes me think this is just a multiplayer game dressed up with Zelda characters and has no intention of being canon, like the online capture the flag game with Phantom Hourglass. Perhaps this is better explained within the game, but since I don’t have a translation it’s hard for me to say. I would call this game a potential canon, however unlikely.
Link’s Crossbow Training has no story. It is a random compilation of shooting games dressed up with a Zelda theme. Enough said.
Super Smash Bros. series has several cameo appearances of numerous Zelda characters, but these titles never seem to try hard at a storyline. From what I can tell, the game uses plush toys or statues of characters, brings them to life somehow, and they fight. So this really isn’t Link and Zelda we are dealing with, rather toy models of them. Basically there is no reason to argue that these models of Zelda characters are canon with the regular franchise, but I doubt very many people try to argue otherwise to begin with.
Soul Calibur II for the GameCube also features a cameo appearance of Link. Most will write this off along with Smash Bros., but the game does include a legitimate backstory explaining Link’s presence there. An evil wizard in Hyrule is receiving power from Soul Edge, so Zelda sends Link through to that dimension to stop it. Within the game, Link is referenced as being from another dimension by the other characters, and when Link defeats Soul Edge, he uses his ocarina to return to his dimension. The game perfectly explains itself and it doesn’t present any major conflict with the main canon so I don’t see why this title can’t be just as acceptable as some of the other spin-off candidates. I’m not sure how much work went into this story by Nintendo, but someone, from Nintendo, had to give the go ahead before the game was released. I remember a time when Gannon-Banned.com had this argument as a bannable offense, probably creating a stigma against it, but the rule has since then been removed so we are once again free to mention the unthinkable.
As I’ve said before, if a spin-off title does not contradict the main canon, there is no reason to write it off, but until the main canon specifically references this particular title, we can’t be 100% sure.
AP: I feel I should clarify something- Casey, Ancient Stone Tablets is not a remake of A Link to the Past. It is its own original story, completely different from A Link to the Past‘s, taking place explicitly a few years afterward. Rather than Ganon trying to break the seal of the sages to escape his imprisonment, and the hero rescuing sages, the hero is trying to gather the Ancient Stone Tablets to counter the threat of Ganon’s impending resurrection after his defeat at the hands of Link. As such, it cannot be said to be a true remake. Besides, there actually was a bona fide BS-X A Link to the Past remake released after Ancient Stone Tablets.
Also, though I doubt this will change your argument in the slightest, Link’s Crossbow Training does in fact have a story, albeit an incredibly weak one. Miyamoto even said it is a “side-story,” referring back to Majora’s Mask and its relationship to Ocarina of Time, indicating that he considers its plot to be legitimate. His team, he says, even wanted to make it into an “epic story,” but he vetoed the idea because he did not want it to be confused with the mainstream games. (Source:
Iwata Asks: Link’s Crossbow Training
CH: To continue discussing with Alex, I still must insist Ancient Stone Tablets is a non-canon remake. The game has basically identical overworld maps and dungeons as the original A Link to the Past. There are a few tweaks to items, like the Pegasus Boots, and instead of gathering three pendants and the seven crystals after each dungeon, the player finds the Ancient Stone Tablets. These very minor adjustments strongly indicate to me that this is merely a remake rather than a stand alone title. There are minor story adjustments, but these seem to merely reflect in the changes due to the presence of the Hero of Light, rather than Link. I’m not sure where you gathered that this game explicitly takes place a few years after A Link to the Past. Is there in-game evidence that I’m missing or is this your theory? Please explain. Regardless, if we are to assume that this game does take place after A Link to the Past, then the fact that the Hero of Light uses the Master Sword after Link does immediately contradicts main canon. A Link to the Past tells us that the Master Sword is never used again, making it impossible for the Hero of Light to use it.
As I have said before, if you must fit this game into the timeline, once the Hero of Light entered Hyrule he created a tangent timeline where the events of A Link to the Past are at least partly mirrored. This allows the Hero of Light to use the Master Sword without conflicting with A Link to the Past. However from this point on, this tangent timeline never intersects with the main canon.
I am aware that Miyamoto discussed how originally Link’s Crossbow Training did have a story, but like you indicated, this story was left out to either simplify the game or prevent confusion. Since this story never made the final cut of the game or the manual, it is safe to say that this game does not have a story and should be held in the same regard as the Phantom Hourglass Online Multiplayer on the subject of canon.
DB: Casey, I have to dispute one of your chief ways of determining what is and isn’t canon: whether or not it is released in the U.S. Clearly Zelda is a Japanese Franchise, so what Nintendo of America decides to release in the U.S. doesn’t say whether or not it is canon, it says whether or not they think it will sell and whether the game is worth releasing. Determining what’s canon to a series by what is released in the U.S, when it’s a Japanese series, seems unreasonable to me. I am glad that you realize it is an unfair assessment method though.
On Link’s Crossbow Training, I agree with all that Alex has said, but developer intent aside, I don’t see it as fitting with Twilight Princess canonically, because of what I’ve stated previously. From my knowledge, Alex is also correct about Ancient Stone Tablets. Some do label it as a remake, but I feel that is an incorrect assumption, as it comes soon after A Link to the Past. I’ll let Alex detail that further.
I find the point that you raise, Casey, about Soul Calibur II to be interesting, however I still doubt its canonicity. It does clearly explain everything as it matters for Soul Calibur, but I think that’s only for the purpose of explaining Link’s appearance in that game. The story doesn’t contradict the actual Zelda series, but it also doesn’t fit into it. I ride it off as a cameo, and in no way canon, similarly to Super Smash Bros., but I can see and understand how some may consider it to be.
CH: Melchizedek, I would like to explain that my intention was not to say that U.S. releases are the only canon games, rather any game that is only released in a few specific regions are in question. It just so happened that Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland was not released in the U.S. in this particular case, which causes me to question it. If a Zelda game were to be released only in the U.S. and not in Japan, I would think the same thing. Same goes for any region. I hope that clears things up.
I still find it impossible for Ancient Stone Tablets to take place after A Link to the Past. Since the Hero of Light uses the Master Sword, the credits of A Link to the Past, which determines that no one can use the Master Sword again, is contradicted. Since it clearly contradicts main canon, how exactly does this fit in?
With Soul Calibur II, I don’t understand what you mean by it doesn’t fit into the series. If it doesn’t contradict anything then it can fit quite easily. Pick any point in the Hyrule timeline not documented by a game and is before A Link to the Past, and that is a potential placement. The Hyrule side of the backstory is minor enough not to contradict very much. If you mean that no Zelda game references any of these events, giving it no precise fit, I agree, but that doesn’t discredit these events. It is impossible to be sure unless a future game or director quote indicates one way or the other, but until then, we shouldn’t write this game off so quickly.
DB: I understand your view, but I don’t see localizations as a strong way of determining exactly what is canon. There is of course some suspicion to be given to games that are only released regionally, but because it is a Japanese series, I don’t think whether Nintendo of America decides to release it or not is fair as a sole or ultimate method of judgment, not saying that is how you use it. If, as you suggest, a Zelda game was to be released in the U.S., but not Japan, it would be extremely questionable as canon, because it would be a Nintendo of America creation, not made by the actual series developers. However, I don’t think that still applies in the opposite way. Seen as Japan makes the games, whether or not they reach the U.S. seems irrelevant to me. This does show, though, the various interpretations and methods different people use to determine their canon.
As I’ve said previously, my mind isn’t yet made up on Ancient Stone Tablets because of not having the time and resources to play it, leading me to only know some fundamentals about it. According to my limited knowledge, what Alex has said is correct, but there are some points of concern on the matter. I’m really under qualified to truly assess Ancient Stone Tablets at this stage, so as I said, Alex should be able to better answer your concerns, if at all.
What I was saying with Soul Calibur II is that it tells its own stories which are not referenced in any other game, so therefore it could technically be placed in a number of places in the timeline, without contradicting, however, it has nothing necessary to incorporate it into the timeline. When assessing canon I use the element of how necessary is it for something to be included. I ask, does this need to be in the timeline? Soul Calibur II could be placed in the timeline, but it is unnecessary and contributes nothing. Canon sources should contribute something and relate, not just fit in, in my opinion. If we were to say that everything is canon that can fit in without disrupting things then we could put in a whole lot of unnecessary games. Until the need for things like Soul Calibur II to be incorporated into the timeline so that a chronology works, or if developers say that it supposedly applies, there’s no reason for it to be canon. My point in all of this is that there’s no need to include these games if they’re irrelevant, and offer nothing. It’s just useless baggage to the collection of canon.
I lean towards Soul Calibur not being canon, however, as I’ve stated earlier, my definitive view on it hasn’t been reached. I have no problem with it being placed in the timeline, as I don’t see it as necessary, but one could make that argument about Rosy Rupeeland too. I am slightly hypocritical in using the assessment of how much a game contributes to the series as whether or not it is canon, as a main series game would be considered canon regardless of what it gives to the series. To me, main games and spin-offs are assessed in a very different light, but, even the main games themselves have contradictions, so to label spin-offs so hastily as uncanon because of a few discrepancies is, in essence, bias. Nevertheless, I hold that my views are justifiable.
CH: As I have said Melchizedek, when a game is not released in every region, it merely arouses suspicion for me. When a region, for one reason or another, chooses not to release a game, then more than likely the same amount of effort, thought, and quality that goes into every Zelda game was not the case for this title. This seems to be the case with Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland as the developer Mari Shirakawa admitted to not understanding the series. However if in game evidence or a directors quote was to suggest otherwise about a title like Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland, then I would obviously accept the title as canon, but until that happens I will remain skeptical at best.
Soul Calibur II not being referenced in the main series is the same case for all spin-off titles, including both Tingle games. Whether or not the story contributes to the main canon seems irrelevant to me. I could argue that Phantom Hourglass does not need to be in the timeline because it had a very simple storyline that did not contribute much to the series, yet no one would argue whether or not that game is still canon. No matter how minor a story is, if it is possibly considered canon by the creators, then it should be considered a possible canon until further notice. Judging a potential story based on significance is an opinionated assessment, since our opinion can greatly vary from the developers. Granted, we can’t be sure about any spin-off until the main series or a director confirms it, but Soul Calibur II should be held in the same respect as Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland, as a potential canon, but not yet confirmed. So this isn’t just useless baggage to the collection of canon, it’s just useless potential canon waiting in the wings for some form of official recognition.
DB: Very quickly, on that point of Phantom Hourglass, I disagree that Phantom Hourglass contributes only little to the series. Whilst the predominant storyline adds nothing, there are themes and references included that I believe to hold a significant meaning to how the game relates to others, but I won’t be going into that now. In my mind, Phantom Hourglass gives more to the series than people give it credit, and the removal of it from the series would call for a significant reestablishment of my beliefs.
BL: Outside of the main series, the only game I consider to be canon is Ancient Stone Tablets. Given that the games Supervisor was Takashi Tezuka (who has directed, produced, or supervised five Zelda titles), and that it was included in Nintendo’s “Zelda no Video Documentary”, I believe it is to be taken as a canon part of the Zelda storyline.
If assuming Ancient Stone Tablets to be canon, one has to ask about its predecessor, BS: The Legend of Zelda, as these games contain the same main character. While, in that sense, I consider BS: The Legend of Zelda to be canon, I don’t think it has any relevance on the series. The game is simply a remake of the original The Legend of Zelda, and takes place inside of a world that is connected to our world by a door carved out of a giant skull. At best, the game is just a parallel reality of The Legend of Zelda, and not an actual replacement of the storyline.
Another game that draws some consideration as to whether or not it should be deemed canon is Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland. Though this game does a good job of explaining Tingle’s origins, and has some storyline, I do not consider it canon. When asked about the differences and similarities between Tingle’s adventures, and the adventures of Link, developer Mari Shirakawa had this to say:
In fact, I myself have not played the Zelda series a lot, and I sometimes felt lonely when I was the only one who could not participate in the lively conversations about the Zelda games during our development meetings! We did not want players to have that feeling, so we incorporated things from Zelda games to the extent that Zelda fans can smile, and someone who doesn’t know the Zelda series will also enjoy them. -(
So while the majority of the development team, excluding Shirakawa, had experience with the Zelda series, it would seem that the similarities to the main Zelda games is not necessarily canon or storyline relevant, but rather something so that Zelda fans can smile.
One final area of controversy is that of supplementary materials, the most intriguing of which is the Sound and Drama; a story retelling the events which prequel A Link to the Past that was released with its soundtrack.
While in some areas, it takes the original story, and adds to it in a fitting manner without contradicting the story told in the game or the manual, in other areas it strays to far from the original tale for me to consider it as canon, much like the manga. Seeing as none of the changes made to the story by Sound and Drama caused any modifications to be made to the storyline when A Link to the Past was re-released for the GBA, I consider the story to be nothing more than a distorted version of the tale.
Final Question: Please Summarize your views of canon in a few paragraphs.
DB: In a nutshell, to me canon is the 14 main games of the series which are relevant to the timeline. Timeline relevance and canon go together hand-in-hand for me. Of these games, the original releases are the most canon, as is the Japanese version of the game. Remakes hold little regard compared to the originals. When manuals are the source that contains the storyline because the game doesn’t, they also constitute this level of canon, and the original versions are the most canon.
As I stated at the start, there are somewhat different levels of canon. The above, is obviously the top. The second being modern manuals and game boxes that provide some game details, however minor, that don’t generally affect much. These are fine as canon as long as they don’t contradict anything directly. Developer quotes should be taken in this regard too, as they can become outdated, and are often just their personal interpretations of canon. They can help to show canon, but don’t have to be canon.
There are a few things in my views of canon that haven’t come up across the course of the debate, which I’ll briefly mention now. When I say that original game versions are the more canon ones, that also includes the Gamecube version of Twilight Princess over the Wii version. Because the Wii version is mirrored, it is an uncanon remake, as Link is left-handed, not right, amongst other things that the mirrored version distorts. Secondly, when fitting the games in a timeline, I believe the 100% completed game to be the most canon. For example, in Majora’s Mask, The Fierce Deity Mask isn’t an essential quest item, however the canon ending of Majora’s Mask involves Link having the Fierce Deity Mask. This also means that I believe the linked ending to the Oracles games to be the canon ending. I also want to point out, that I, as most people, believe the split-timeline to be confirmed canon to the series, and thus, the placement of the five games in the split-timeline arc is likewise confirmed.
Lastly, I’ve shown it to be clear in my mind that Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland is perfectly acceptable for canon, but that is doesn’t have to be. My stance is strong that Link’s Crossbow Training is definitely not canon, and irrelevant to an actual timeline placement. There is plenty that I’m yet to fairly assess in the broad range that can be canon. This is what I’ve decided to be definitively canon, or not canon, and things not included are either so obviously not canon (like Super Smash Bros.), or I’m yet to decide on them. My views are definitely not exhaustive and far from complete.
AP: I don’t really assume anything specific for Zelda canon that exists outside of the general definition of fictional canon. Any game that is approved by Nintendo (as indicated by Nintendo’s “Seal of Quality”) and that takes place in the Zelda universe (as opposed to crossovers such as Soul Calibur II and Super Smash Bros.) is a canon game. This includes spin-off games not bearing the “Legend of Zelda” title. Any out-of-game material, such as manuals, inserts, guides, interviews, and sound dramas, that is created or contributed to in whole or in part by someone in charge of direction for the games is also canon.
As for the question of “levels” of canon- I find it is useful only to a point. Developer interviews can become outdated, leading us to question whether they remain valid, and the extent to which differences between language-versions of the game texts “distort” the original story can often lead to questions as to whether official translations are accurate enough to be considered correct.
I do not find it acceptable to question “official” sources based on their content compared to the existing series, as Zelda’s universe is constantly undergoing expansion and revision and discrepancies are bound to occur. For example, I do not find the criticism that Ancient Stone Tablets contradicts A Link to the Past and is therefore not canon to be a conclusion that is true to the spirit of the series’ course of development. It is not our place to question the games, but rather to interpret them.
CH: While I respect the opinions of Alex on the subject of Ancient Stone Tables, I have to disagree that such a significant discrepancy can just be overlooked. While the Zelda franchise does change with every new title, I have never had the opinion that the series held many large discrepancies, at least none that couldn’t be explained later. I have read several timeline theories filled with discrepancies, but since none of these are official, it is nearly impossible to judge. But for such a questionable game to have such a significant contradiction to A Link to the Past, I just don’t see the logical basis for arguing for the game. I’m not sure what exactly “the spirit of the series’ course of development” exactly means, but I have a strong feeling that the only people that do know were the actual developers of the series, not the fans. And the don’t ask questions policy about games doesn’t work for me either. It’s our human nature to ask and question, and in this debate we’ve done nothing but question the canon of each game or other media. Since there is not a logical interpretation for such an obvious infraction to the main canon, there is no reason to place Ancient Stone Tablets as main canon.
To sum up, the main series, currently consisting of 14 games, is the highest canon. This includes manuals and box text. Developer quotes are the next highest canon, which can be contradicted and replaced by in game content or future developer quotes. Spin-off titles are not main canon until otherwise suggested by in game content or developer quotes.
Ancient Stone Tablets is not canon because it specifically contradicts main canon and bears no logical explanation for such an infraction. All other materials are considered not canon unless otherwise indicated by in game evidence or developer quotes.
BL: I believe that the 14 main titles in the Zelda series and Ancient Stone Tablets are the only canon games at present. I find the newest release of the games to be the most canon (though only the A Link to the Past remake for the GBA has any major differences), but that manual canonicity should be examined in the context of whether the changes were made for length purposes or storyline purposes. I believe that the original Japanese text is the highest form of textual canon, although minute differences in the English versions shouldn’t necessarily be discarded as current NoA Localization leader Bill Trinen claims he makes sure to keep his translations within the context of the overall storyline.
I believe director and developer quotes to be canon unless they are later directly and clearly contradicted by in-game evidence. In regards to quotes concerning the overall placement of the game, or storyline, quotes made before the completion of the game’s development should be dismissed, but any made after are canon. This is not limited to just Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma, but includes all developers, providing they do not contradict Miyamoto or Aonuma.
I believe comic books, manga, and any other supplementary sources to be non-canon, unless deemed otherwise by Miyamoto or Aonuma.
AP: I suppose I should clarify. When I say “the spirit of the series’ course of development,” I mean what things we know about the way the creators make Zelda games – that is, with story at the lowest priority, not restricting the prospect for future games and existing primarily as a means of driving the core gameplay (rather than gameplay driving the story). With story at the back-end of development and a story that is open and not restricted, we can hardly expect the games to flow perfectly, which is probably largely why the timeline is such a mystery.
And if even the general order of the games is so obscured, we can hardly expect internal details and plot points, such as the “Master Sword sleeps forever” quote, to be reflected exactly in future games. Note for example that Twilight Princess’s Temple of Time was nestled in the forest while in Ocarina of Time the Temple appeared in Hyrule Town, with no evidence or explanation to fill in the discrepancy. Does that make Twilight Princess non-canon since it directly contradicts Ocarina? I doubt that any would say so – most would simply seek an alternate explanation for the temple’s absence from the city, else consider the more recent story to be the more accurate.
This is an example of the story not restricting future games – the developers are free to say “the forest pedestal is the Temple of Time ruin” should they so choose, even though the original Temple of Time was not in a remote forest but in fact rested in a well-populated city. I find it difficult to justify the position that one game is not a genuine official work simply because it does not match previous works perfectly. Zelda’s core stories. Legends of the Triforce and the Sacred Realm, have been told many times over, and they have always changed with each new installment. This is something we as fans should come to accept.
CH: Alex, although the story of Zelda series is low on the priority list, that is no reason to assume that the story is inconsistent. A lot of effort goes into every aspect of a Zelda game, including the story, it just so happens that a lot more effort goes into areas like gameplay rather than the story, but that doesn’t discredit the story by any means. I do expect each game to flow with one another because the expectations of the Zelda series by the fans, by Nintendo, and by the creators are so high.
Twilight Princess perfectly explains how the Master Sword ends up in the forest, like we see in A Link to the Past. It’s pretty obvious that Hyrule Castle was moved from its original location considering the castle interior and Castle Town bares no similarities to the ones in Ocarina of Time, so I fail to see the inaccuracy in your example. Legends of the Triforce and Sacred Realm do change with every new installment but there is no reason to believe they contradict each other. Each change adds a new element to the Zelda lore, and we can’t expect each Zelda game to bare an identical story so I don’t understand what you are asking for here.
The “Master Sword sleeps forever” is a fundamental rule of the game. To suddenly anticipate the rule as non-canon with other titles is unfounded. There are no similar examples, at least as severe, to justify this opinion. I know we can’t always agree, but to openly accept such a questionable title without any form of strong confirmation is naive. Until we see an official confirmation or at least see a title that explains this infraction, there’s no argument to think otherwise.
That’s it for this Debate. Thanks for reading through all of it and we hope it was an enjoyable read. If you want to Discuss any of the questions above feel free to on the ZeldaInformer Forums. Thanks again and we’ll see you all next time!