The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia – This book on the Zelda series is quite attractive, but does its content stack up? Well, let’s take a look. To begin with, the volume is divided into four parts. The first is information on and artwork from Skyward Sword, the latest installment in the series. The second, which is the most interesting to me, deals with the history of Hyrule and how all the games fit together, something that’s been confounding fans for years. The third section consists of concept art from each game, and the fourth is a comic based on Skyward Sword. My wife’s first observation about the book is that she wishes it had more screenshots instead of just the concept art, and that might have been nice. I guess the creators figured you could see that by actually playing the games, though, while the drawings provided more of a look behind the scenes. There’s not all that much in the way of text, but it IS primarily an art book rather than a reference on the series.
The history section mentions that gameplay, rather than story, was always the main thought when creating the games, which makes sense. I’ve always been interested in game stories, though, and it’s fascinating that the makers worked out a largely coherent history, even if parts of it do feel like afterthoughts. The second game was a sequel to the first and the third a prequel, and after that all bets were off. In a way, it’s largely the same story told in multiple fashions, with essentially the same hero every time. In order for the stories to fit together, it’s necessary for there to have been a great many Links, or one who’s particularly long-lived and has a really bad memory. The book says, “These Links might have been the same person, a series of familial descendents, or a number of heroes with different names entirely. The Links of certain eras may also have been named after the legendary hero.” There are certainly some differences in the appearances of the different Links (and the different Zeldas, for that matter), although they all have pretty similar dress sense. I guess fashions don’t change that much in Hyrule.
Anyway, you’ve probably seen the timeline by now, and if you haven’t I posted it in an earlier entry. As I mentioned in that post, it’s weird that the original game is more or less forced into a corner. More than that, it’s generally an unspoken rule that a sequel to a game assumes a successful ending to the previous one. Even if you haven’t won the original Dragon Quest, Dragon Quest II still opens with the Dragonlord having been defeated and the hero having sailed off to find a new kingdom. There’s no game that starts out assuming the Dragonlord won, or that Bowser succeeded in taking over the Mushroom Kingdom. In the Zelda timeline as presented, however, the first four games all proceed from the assumption that Ganon won in Ocarina of Time. Kind of bizarre when you think about it. I’m guessing that this was not the original intention, but when the creators started making games that followed up on the child and adult eras from Ocarina as two separate timelines, they realized that the earlier games didn’t really fit in either one. Which essentially means that they all take place in a post-apocalyptic world, doesn’t it? That actually makes sense for the first game, in which the few citizens of Hyrule you encounter are hiding out underground.
Maybe not so much for A Link to the Past or The Adventure of Link, which both have relatively peaceful towns, but who says the country can’t experience periods of recovery?