Posted on February 22 2013 by Dathen Boccabella
Hyrule Historia was released in Japan to round out the year of
celebration for Zelda’s 25th
anniversary in 2011. For those of us in the west, the English translation just
arrived here in time for Zelda’s 27th anniversary, as yesterday
marked 27 years since the original Legend
of Zelda was released in Japan.
interested in the artwork of the series there are hundreds of pages full of
concept designs and sketches. For those who enjoy Akira Himekawa’s Zelda manga adaptions, there is also
some of that. Hyrule Historia is also
full of facts about the series and makes an excellent resource.
By far the
book’s best section is “The History of
Hyrule,” which provides the official series chronology in great detail.
Back in 2011 it seemed like a drastic turn-around for Nintendo to suddenly
release the timeline out of no-where, when for a quarter of a century they had
left it for fan interpretation.
people’s opinions on the actual theory and layout of the timeline, one thing is
for sure: Nintendo did an excellent job at conveying the nature of the timeline
For the first
couple of releases into the series, the timeline was by no means complex, but
as more and more titles were released, then the timeline became a matter of
debate. However, when prompted with questions on the timeline in the past both
Eiji Aonuma and Shigeru Miyamoto have said that there is a timeline, but it’s a
“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.” – Shigeru Miyamoto
“Yes, there is a master timeline, but it is a
confidential document!… The only people that have access to the document are
myself, Mr. Miyamoto, and the director of the title. We can’t share it with
anyone else!” – Eiji Aonuma
Hyrule Historia seemingly provided fans with that very document,
or at least a version of it, to our surprise. My biggest concern for releasing
the official timeline was how it may affect the player’s freedom to forge their
own legend while they play as the hero himself.
It seemed as if
Hyrule Historia could potentially rob
fans of their freedom to speculate and theorize, as they’d been encouraged to
do for decades beforehand. However, those concerns are invalid, as Hyrule Historia does a great job of
conveying the timeline’s nature of not being absolute.
While the book
is full of factoids and information that confirm long-held theories, such as
Rauru taking on the form of Kapeora Gaebora, it still successfully leaves many
things ambiguous, even highlighting other tidbits such as the relationship
between the Loftwings of Skyward Sword
and the Oocca of Twilight Princess as
carefully selected and translated words and phrases such as “it is said that,” facts can be presented
without entirely destroying fans’ freedom to think otherwise and entertain
alternate theories. That freedom of thought is something that has come to be
important to Legend of Zelda fans,
and even the official timeline release manages not to completely destroy that.
concluding remarks for Hyrule Historia,
Aonuma cleverly wraps up the nature of the overall Zelda storyline by talking
about the development process, and how stories are a device that arise to
facilitate the gameplay themes tackled in each title. Aonuma stresses that
although the plot lines may appeal a lot to fans, they are, after all, more of
an afterthought than a driving factor.
In this regard
Aonuma asks fans to keep an open mind, because inconsistencies run rampant
throughout the series. Below is Aonuma’s full statement. The emphasis is mine:
“The History of Hyrule”
allows players to determine where each Zelda game is positioned in the
chronology of the series. One thing to bear in mind, however, is that the question the developers of the Legend
of Zelda series asked themselves before starting on a title was, “What kind of
game play should we focus on?” rather than “What kind of story should we
write?” For example, the theme of
Ocarina of Time, the first Zelda game I was involved with, was, “What kind of
responsive game play will we be able to create in a 3-D environment?” The Theme
of Phantom Hourglass, which I helped develop for the Nintendo DS, was, “How can
we make the game comfortable to control using the stylus?” Lastly, the theme of
Skyward Sword, the latest entry in the series, was, “How can we use the Wii
Remote Plus to allow players to freely manipulate the sword?”
Because the games were
developed in such a manner, it could be said that Zelda’s story lines were afterthoughts. As a result, I feel that
even the story of “The Legend Begins” in Skyward Sword was simply something that came about by chance.
Flipping through the pages
of “The History of Hyrule,” you may even
find a few inconsistencies. However, peoples such as the Mogma tribe and
items such as the beetle that appear in Skyward Sword may show up again in
other eras. Thus, it is my hope that
fans will be broad minded enough to take into consideration that this is simply
how Zelda is made.
sentiment is largely expressed also in the introduction to Hyrule Historia’s
Chronology. While presenting an official timeline, it is done in such a way as
to not become the be-all end-all, which is frankly necessary for an
ever-evolving game series.
extracts are taken from the chronology’s introduction, and further highlight
the nature of the timeline as evolving, not absolute. They stress for the
readers the nature of the timeline as a legend. They stress it’s nature as one
of a constantly changing mythology. Again, the emphasis is mine.
“This is an introduction
to the history of Hyrule, told chronologically, which weaves together the
numerous Legend of Zelda stories. Is it
a legend? Is it an accurate history of a cycle of rebirth? There is evidence
that the story of The Legend of Zelda begins with Skyward Sword. Up to this
point, the legends of Zelda have been surrounded by myth and mystery, but now,
with the help of the following information, you will be able to discover for
yourself the real history of Hyrule.”
“This chronicle merely collects information that is believed to be true
at this time, and there are many obscured and unanswered secrets that lie
within the tale. As the stories and storytellers of Hyrule change, so, too,
does its history. Hyrule’s history is a
continuously woven tapestry of events. Changes that seem inconsequential,
disregarded without even a shrug, could evolve at some point to hatch new
legends and, perhaps, change this tapestry of history itself.”
“The heroes of these
chronicles all share the name Link. These Links might have been the same person, a series of familial descendants,
or a number of heroes with different names entirely. The Links of certain eras may also have been named after the
legendary hero. Hylian princesses bearing the name Zelda have also appeared
throughout the history of Hyrule. It is
likely that the name was handed down through the generations.”
An accurate way
to describe Nintendo’s portrayal of the timeline is as open. As Hyrule Historia details each of the
three splits of the timeline, it concludes with comments to leave everything
nicely open for the series to develop and advance, which, again, makes sense as
a gaming franchise.
Following “The Decline of
Hyrule and the Last Hero” arc: “Did generations pass, full of peace and
the light of prosperity? Or did the curtain rise on an age of darkness, when
people quarreled in their search for power? The future of this timeline has yet
to be unraveled.”
Following “The Twilight
Realm and The Legacy of the Hero” Arc: “Will the
Light World never be free of the threat of darkness? There may come a time when
the land will have need of the Four Sword once again.”
Following “Hero of Winds
and a New World” Arc: “With the lineage of the gods not yet
exhausted, who can say what successive generations will bring. The story will
continue to unfold.”
chronology revealed in Hyrule Historia,
it is satisfying to finally be able to say “this is the timeline,” but at the
same time we have the freedom to consider alternatives. We know that it can
change and alter, that time will not only provide additions, but alterations.
Due to the focus of gameplay over story, the plot will always be up for
interpretation with an open mind.
Hyrule Historia does provide a great amount of detail about the
games and their backstories, but it does not make everything black and white.
It may provide the timeframe of when the Interlopers of Twilight Princess attempted to invade the Sacred Realm, but it does
not confirm their identity. There is still room for interpretation in the
complexities of Zelda.
Of course there
are contradictions and things that can’t fully be explained without some pretty
out-there theories, but Aonuma asks that we understand that and gives us the
freedom to try and explain them. Even with the chronology said and done we must
accept that they are just legends, even hypotheticals based upon whether a given
Link succeeds or fails.
I am glad that
at the end of the day, that even with an official timeline, we still must
remember that each tale is “but one of
the legends of which the people speak.” Each story is “obscured by the mists of time and became legend.” Even with
everything seemingly laid out on the table, Zelda
is still just a collection of myths. It remains, in essence, a collection of ambiguous
legends about Link, Zelda and Demise’s lingering curse.