This article was originally written by Alex Plant, but was reposted after the 24-hour reset.
Yesterday I decided to do a full, in-depth examination of one of the recent Skyward Sword rumors: that Princess Zelda is planned to look like an Egyptian princess. A fruitful discussion was born, and so the rumor investigation saga continues – this time with a crack at another of the popular ones: that Skyward Sword will feature two overworlds, Skyloft and Hyrule, and that the two are contrasted like heaven and hell.
In a sense, part of this is already confirmed: we know that there will be a division between Skyloft and Hyrule, and we know that Skyloft is a heavenly realm above the clouds while the surface world is ruled by evil forces. We also know that the game revolves around traveling between the two and uncovering the secret behind why the worlds were separated. What we didn’t know was that both Skyloft and Hyrule would both be fully-fledged overworlds.
Dual overworlds aren’t all that uncommon in the Zelda series – they date all the way back to A Link to the Past’s Dark World. Usually they take on the form of parallel worlds: the Dark World being the most extreme example, while other games like Ocarina of Time and The Minish Cap used time travel and magical size reduction to create their own alternate worlds. We’ve never really had a game where we traveled to two completely different lands in the same physical world, however… or have we?
Skyward Sword’s director, Hidemaro Fujibayashi, made his series debut with the Oracles games for GameBoy Color back in 2001, and both of those games featured their own alternate world flavors. Oracle of Ages had Link traveling back in time to Labrynna’s past in order to fight Veran. Moving between the two worked in a similar manner to A Link to the Past’s Light and Dark Worlds, with Link using a magical artifact to return to the other world quickly in order to reach new places. Oracle of Seasons had season-changing, which in and of itself is a sort of parallel world mechanic, but it also had an actual second world: the subterranean country called Subrosia.
Subrosia_OoS.PNGLike the Skyloft-Hyrule relationship, traveling from Holodrum to Subrosia involved heading to a hidden lower world. In Oracle of Seasons, movement between the two involved magic portals that took Link down to the space directly below or above. Subrosia is in many ways like a hell – lava courses through the land, and its inhabitants are mere shadows living beneath cloaks. Compared to Holodrum, which aside from the monsters prowling the land was relatively lush and beautiful, Subrosia seemed primitive and dangerous.
The Zelda series is all about tradition meeting change. Given that Fujibayashi played a huge role in the creation of Oracle of Seasons, it’s likely that he knows all about the relationship between Holodrum and Subrosia – could it have inspired the Skyloft-Hyrule dynamic?
I personally loved the way the two connected. You had to find one of the many entrances to Subrosia up in Holodrum – they were usually well-hidden and required you to explore the world using a new item – and once you dropped down to the underworld below, you had to figure out where to go and what to do next. At first most of the various regions of Subrosia were blocked off from one another, but as you gained more items and abilities eventually you could move between them, eliminating the need to return to the upper world to head down through another portal. Meanwhile, Holodrum was still a full overworld – fuller even than Subrosia – and much of the game didn’t even necessarily rely on you going underground to progress.
This kind of structure could really work for Skyward Sword – especially given that it’s a console Zelda title and not a handheld game. I still get the impression that Hyrule’s going to be the primary center of the action, with Skyloft serving as the initial gateway to each of its regions, but thinking of Skyloft as a region (or, heck, even a series of regions) all its own on top of that, where we’ll have to scour the world looking for the next conduit to the surface (or at least figuring out how to open or access it) is getting me super psyched. And the best part is – we know it’s possible because the guy heading this game has done it before.
SS_Wasteland.pngI can’t say precisely how hellish Hyrule will be, though we’ve seen already that aside from the forested area, everything we’ve been exposed to has been pretty desolate – a fiery dungeon, a rocky canyon, a desert region. The whole land seems to be in ruins, as we see evidence of ancient civilizations everywhere but still no signs of actual inhabitants. I presume based on Aonuma’s comments about the surface being ruled by evil that monsters will also be more plentiful in Hyrule than in Skyloft.
Don’t take this as me saying I think the rumors are confirmed or even true – this is just some healthy introspection based on considering the idea alongside what we already know. We’ll probably find out more about Skyloft at E3… in just three days.