Zelda Dungeon Talks: What Effect Does Setting a Zelda Title In Hyrule (or outside of Hyrule) Have On The Game?
Posted on February 16 2016 by Josh Tasaico
Hyrule is generally the area that pops into your head when you think of a Zelda game. It has become as iconic as Link and the Master Sword and rightfully so. In upcoming Zelda games it would be interesting to have not only Hyrule to explore but other lands as well. When it all comes down to it though, Hyrule is generally the safest option when it comes to Zelda games as it’s what people are used to, and it is well known enough for new players to understand what Hyrule is.
In this week’s edition of Zelda Dungeon Talks, various staff members are going to share with us their opinion on the topic. As always feel free to leave a response in the comments section!
Jon Lett – View Profile
When making a big new Zelda game, setting it in Hyrule is basically playing it safe. That is not a bad thing. Hyrule will always have a familiar feeling to it, particularly in its lore and recurring areas, like Hyrule Castle and the common races’ respective homes (Death Mountain, Zora’s Domain, etc.). People will see that, and focus less on the place they are playing in, and more on the game itself. That being said, giving players brand new places to explore and learn about offers not only new local legends, but also new causes and effects for those legends. Termina had no creation story or Triforce, Labrynna and Holodrum had totally new worldly mechanics Hyrule has never had (time and seasons), and Lorule, similar as it is, offered a look at what Hyrule could have been, should it have ever taken a truly destructive path. New kingdoms/countries are a risk often worth the reward, and as long as the developers work hard to make it a believable, memorable place (all the things Tri Force Heroes DIDN’T do), people will continue to discuss that place alongside the mighty Hyrule for years to come. I think I would be comfortable with Zelda Wii U occurring in a totally different place; a risk that I believe Nintendo could afford to take.
Kevin O’Rourke – View Profile
I find it refreshing when games take place outside of Hyrule in the Zelda series. Instances where we have access to the Dark World in Link to the Past and Lorule in Link Between Worlds does a great job of keeping Hyrule in the game, as well as having an entirely different world to explore and interact with. Having a new world allows the game’s story to break away from the normal tale of the goddesses creating Hyrule or following the local legends of the Zora, the Deku, and the poorly adaptable Gorons. Having a setting like Termina really mixes up the original races and characters and allows them to be seen in a completely new region and setting. Majora’s Mask is the perfect example for a game that takes place outside of Hyrule and remixing the characters and setting to perfection. Not only are there new races added into the game like the Garo and Ikana, but remixes of the races from Ocarina of Time in a whole new twist are fun to see. The Gerudo are pirates, the Zora live in salt water in Great Bay (and play in an awesome band), and the Goron’s live in a mountainside that’s covered in snow until you save it. Having the game take place outside of Hyrule makes each game feel unique and I think that it has allowed the development teams to step out of their comfort zones and create some wildly different scenarios, and the payoff is definitely worth it.
Thomas Jacobs – View Profile
Setting the game in Hyrule sets certain expectations. About half of the games in the series have primarily been set in Hyrule so far (LoZ, AoL, ALttP, OoT, MC, TP, FS, FSA, ALBW and Zelda Wii U). There are some fringe cases with Wind Waker (the endgame is set there), Spirit Tracks (which takes place in New Hyrule), and Skyward Sword (which takes place prior to the founding of Hyrule). But with all the games that focus on it we’ve seen recurring elements. Hyrule Castle, Kakariko Village, Lake Hylia, Death Mountain, Lon Lon Ranch, Castle Town, Hyrule Field and some other places have recurred so far. As such, setting a game in Hyrule sets the expectation for the appearance of at least several of these places to give the feel that this is an entire kingdom, and that there is consistency with what it appears like. While this somewhat constrains development the places are vague enough to allow for a variety of things to be done with them, making the series feel like a, well, series but with every game feeling unique. If this is not something Nintendo or a third party wishes to go for, they might as well make something akin to Holodrum and Labrynna.
Jarrod Hadrian – View Profile
I find that a game set in a place other than Hyrule gives a sort of freedom to the game in ways. When a Zelda title is set in Hyrule there are certain things that are expected to be included such as Hyrule Castle, Kakariko Village and Hyrule Field. When a game is not set in Hyrule there are no real expectations from the fans when it comes to locations because there is no background knowledge. Games set outside of Hyrule can be very refreshing and allows for the developers to make the world greatly different from other Zelda titles that are set in Hyrule. For example Majora’s Mask which has greatly different settings. Snowhead was a very different setting that had not been done before and it may have been because the game was set outside of Hyrule that a location such as this could be done. When a Zelda title is set outside of Hyrule it means that the developers have the chance to make settings that would not be in Hyrule.
Alexis Anderson – View Profile
Setting a game in Hyrule automatically gives it a familiar feel, so it’s a safe setting for any wildly varied storyline to be placed into because the Kingdom already screams ZELDA and therefore the story doesn’t necessarily need to. However, over the years we’ve come to expect that certain landmarks and provinces make an appearance when Hyrule comes into play– Castle Town, Zora’s Domain, Death Mountain, Kakariko Village, etc. So this severely limits the amount of original and unconventional terrain, plot points, and characters because they do have to fit into this framework so that fans aren’t caught totally off guard. In placing a game outside of Hyrule, the creative juices really have the freedom to flow because there is no expectation. An entirely new world has the chance to establish itself in unique ways, and this is why Termina and the island of Koholint are so enticing– they’re strange, quirky, and full of surprises. I’d never want Hyrule to go away, but I do relish the chance to romp in a new land that keeps me guessing the whole game through.