There are a lot of catch-all "geek" websites out there that report some comic news as well as anything else that tickles their fancy. I'm dedicated to keeping Gutters & Panels comics-only, but when The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia crossed our path, I knew I would have to pass it along to Q Manning, one of my closest friends and the absolute biggest Zelda fan I know. Take my word for it - he's hardcore. So, please forgive us while we indulge in a brief sideways glance at the world of video games for a look at this comprehensive book. I now turn the floor over to Q...
f you’re a nerd or consumer of pop-culture of anytime, you know what The Legend of Zelda is. The world-renowned classic video game from Japanese company Nintendo, is going on its 26th year. And for 26 years, as game after game has joined the franchise, fans have wondered how they all interconnected.
All of the Legend of Zelda games feature the same main character, Link. However, not all Zelda games feature Zelda (though most do find a way to work her in). Unlike most game series, Zelda has never followed a sequential, chronological order for more than two games in a row. Fans have clamored to figure out the natural order of the games, without much success.
Are the characters related? Do all the games take place in the same universe? How much time passes in-between each title?
Most importantly, was the original The Legend of Zelda from 1986 where it all began? Well, no, it’s not. In fact, it’s the most recent game, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which is chronologically the first in the series. As for the original Zelda game? That actually falls toward the end of the series. If any of this seems confusing, now you know why Nintendo released the Hyrule Historia (with publisher Dark Horse Comics in the US and Shogakukan in Japan).
The biggest revelation of Hyrule Historia is that there are actually two timelines in the Zelda Universe, both of which have a split at the game Ocarina of Time. If Link beats the boss, Ganon, he goes back in time, and certain games follow. However, in another timeline, Link fails to defeat Ganon, dying in the process. Because of this, Hyrule falls into disarray, diminishing in size and power as it does. This is how Nintendo explains why the original The Legend of Zelda, which takes place near the very end of this particular timeline, has such a small map compared to the other games.
The book is full of many surprises, a few of which I’ll cover in a minute, some breathtaking behind the scenes artwork from Zelda series creator Shigeru Miyamoto, and an extremey convoluted way of storytelling. Instead of reading like a narrative story or even a history book, Hyrule Historia feels like you’re reading a cheat manual for a Zelda game. Poor graphic design, information architecture, and a glaring absence of any type of visual timeline, genuinely hold this book back.
While clearly billed as a history of Hyrule, the authors seem too damn scared to define anything concrete. A point made even more annoying when they continually hint about the same connections page after page, but won’t definitely state if people, characters or artifacts are actually connected.
Take what is arguably considered the series’ greatest title, Ocarina of Time, which prominently features...well, a bright blue ocarina (a type of flute.) In the most recent title, Skyward Sword, Link encounters a blue “time-shift stone.” Link hits it with his sword, and time goes backward. The Hyrule Historia hints that maybe ocarina was crafted from these stones. It hints at it a few times, So why not just take this opportunity to make it clear? Far too often, the book falls into this pattern. Hint at a connection, then pull away from it. This ends up muddying up what could have been a beautiful, rich history of one of the most popular games in history.
All of this said, however, the book is a treasure for any Zelda fan. Hyrule Historia is full of genuine surprise connections which are delightful to discover. Though fans will know most of these stories, there will be quite few discoveries you never thought possible.
If you’re a Zelda fan, you should buy this. If you know a Zelda fan, you should buy this for them. And, if you’ve ever been curious about the series, this is a great opportunity to educate yourself. Be warned, however, the more you read, the more you’re going to want to get your hands on a controller.
I want to close with giving you the 3 coolest little tidbits from the Hyrule Historia. Very mild SPOILERS...
- The wings commonly shown beneath the Triforce (first appearing was Ocarina of Time 1998), symbolize the large birds Link & others use as mounts in the most recent game, Skyward Sword (2011). Skyward Sword was the first appearance of these birds.
- One of the recurring characters in the Wii title, Twilight Princess, is an ancient, skeletal warrior who teaches Link certain powerful moves. Turns out, this character is Link himself. The real surprise? Why he’s trying to regain his honor.
- Though Skyward Sword is being billed as the “first Zelda story,” the manga/comic located in the back of the Hyrule Historia book actually tells a different story.