[Review] Hyrule Historia

Hyrule Historia book cover

Nintendo has done the impossible with the Legend of Zelda franchise. For over 25 years, they’ve sold the same basic story to millions of fans repeatedly. This is not even a bad thing; The Legend of Zelda is a series that has always been released with such sincerity that the magic has not once faded from it. With each new release, the charm is still there. Nintendo has created a cricle of trust with its fans. The fans know what they’re getting with each title, and the creators know what the fans want. Since Ocarina of Time, the fans have discussed the timeline, seeking confirmation from Nintendo about their theories. Now Nintendo has delivered it in the form of the Hyrule Historia.

I’m not going to give away much about the timeline in my review. Don’t worry. If you’re a fan and haven’t read it yet, I don’t want to spoil it for you. If you’ve come across the timelines page spread across the internet, don’t worry, there’s more to it than just the bare timelines page.

Hyrule Historia divided into three parts, four if you include the manga in the back. The first quarter solely focusses on the artwork from Skyward Sword, since it’s not only the most recent title in the series, but is also one of the titles that mostly plays into the fact that there is storyline to the Zelda universe.

The second quarter is all about the timeline, laying down all the games and detailing the important parts of all the games to get a broad sense of the storyline.

The rest of Hyrule Historia, a good half of the book, is artwork for the franchise. Including a lot of concept art that never made it into the games.

As much as I enjoyed reading the timeline, I really found myself loving the concept art in the second half of the book. A lot of the concept art of areas and gameplay elements not used in the final games found their way in, which was especially interesting in the case of games like Wind Waker and Spirit Tracks. There’s a lot of variations of styles for Link in games that were never used. A lot of strange and interesting characters that could have walked Hyrule but never did. And a bare-chested design for Tingle that I thankfully never saw in a game.

The timeline itself surprised me at points. Before diving into the actual book itself, I never looked up the timeline when it was officially announced. I’m glad I didn’t, because without the chapters explaining it, it felt strange for the way it splits. But even with a little thought towards why it went down the way it ended up doing, I can accept it happily. I am wondering what direction the series is going to head into though. It feels as though the entire reason they finally give us an explanation to the timelines is because, looking at each one respectively, they’ve all reached a similar point.

It’s interesting how big a deal the timeline has become amongst fans of the Zelda series while, especially now that the entire thing is put down in front of us, it’s very clear it was never intended to really be the main focus of the series. A lot of the choices made in the story make it very clear that most of the connections and choices are made up as they go along. Again, not a criticism, since it’s handled incredibly rare. Near the end of the book, one of the people behind the series, Eiiji Aonuma even admits the main focus is exploring the hardware’s functionality, with the story as an after-thought.

Maybe that’s why Zelda has managed to still feel like you’re actually out there exploring something new to this day. That sense of exploration is still there from the side of the developers, and in their excitement, they try to distill as many ways to carry that feeling over to the player.

A lot of the art, story details, and general ideas within the Legend of Zelda franchise went right over my head the first time I played most of them. I love exploring games with good, strong settings, and usually do my best to find everything it has to offer, no matter how well hidden. Reading Hyrule Historia made it clear to me how much more there is hidden away in those games. Even teaching new things to a Zelda die-hard like myself.

There’s no way around it. If you’re a fan of the Zelda series, the Hyrule Historia is something you should read at least once. It’s an amazing collection of art and facts about a game franchise that has always been crafted full of amazing art styles and an incredible attention to detail. Absolutely worth the money.

PROS

  •  The 25th Anniversary Illustration
  •  Way the timeline is handled
  • All that artwork

CONS

  •  Barechest Tingle. I could have lived happily without seeing that.
  • Some details are hinted at in a manner that makes it seem Nintendo still wants to be able to deny having acknowledged it.
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