The Legend of Zelda. Those four words (and those four notes) can elicit all kinds of emotions in gamers young and old. I can remember the first Zelda I’ve played, and how old I was when it happened. (Zelda II: Adventure of Link, 7 years old.) I can remember the first Zelda I successfully finished myself (Ocarina of Time), and the feel of the controller in my hand as I mashed the A button to render Ganon asunder. I recall friends who named their Link “Aquascum” just so they could see Ganondof scream, “Curse you, Aquascum!” as he fell, defeated. And, I suspect, most wizened gamers have the very same memories. (Maybe not that last one.)
From its humble NES beginning throwing you into a beige field where an Old Man awaited to give you your first wooden sword, the tales of the Princess Zelda and her young hero, Link, have reached the hearts of many across the world. There are few who don’t have that twinge of comfort and nostalgia when thinking of the Nintendo-bred series.
And that’s why you’ll buy The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia, available today from Dark Horse.
Finally translated into English after its 2011 release in Japan, Hyrule Historia celebrates the 25th anniversary of the fabeled game series. The 280-page tome collects tons of stunning art and nuggets of behind-the-scenes information that any discerning Zelda fan would want. The book details the in-game mythology behind each story, interwoven among the much-discussed official timeline for the games.
Hyrule Historia is, in a phrase, the definitive Zelda bible. With a foreward from the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto himself and an afterword with director Eiji Aonuma, Hyrule Historia is divided into three main sections: “The Legend Begins,” 60-pages of concept art and info about the recently-released Skyward Sword; “The History of Hyrule,” the much-debated chronological timeline of the events of each game; and “Creative Footprints,” concept art and notes from most of Link’s adventures.
The games’ design models and concept sketches adorn just about every page, and every gamer will want to drink it all up with a straw. (I wish I could buy a painted canvas print of the two-page spread introing “The Legend Begins” section.) Notes from the designers and artists complement the relevant art throughout every section, giving us insight on the rationale behind some of their game decisions and connections between titles that we may have missed. Though brief, these notes inform the evolution of Link, Zelda, Ganon, and everyone else over the course of the past quarter century and should provide more than a few points of note for any Zelda historian to learn.
The timeline is well worth a read, as it’s clear that great care was made bringing the entire story together in a way that makes sense. Whether you’re for or against the idea of an “official” timeline, the entire section, at the very least, is worth refreshing yourself of the lore behind the games you have played (and perhaps missed.) After all, the reason why Zelda games have been so compelling have been because the tales in each Zelda game often unfold like living storybooks.
As informative as the notes are and as beautiful as the art is, there are complaints. For one thing, it’s impossible to miss that the book is extremely Skyward Sword-heavy. While this logically makes sense (it’s the most recent game; therefore, more resources are readily available for inclusion), it is disappointing not to see the games we grew up on given nearly as much depth. I mean, even they say that Ocarina of Time was the game that made Zelda world famous – yet, it’s only given 14 pages vs. Skyward Sword‘s 60+. The book’s target audience, I assume, are the older gamers who remember their childhood world-saving feats fondly; it’s hard not to see a missed opportunity when the older games are relegated to much smaller compartments.
Still, Hyrule Historia is the Zelda bible, and we’re happy that it exists at all. There’s literally no other book out there like it, celebrating the series that we’ve come to know and love over the years. It’s informative; it’s gorgeous; it’s Zelda. And that’s why you’ll buy it.
The Legend of Zelda. It has been quite the legend in 25 years. And 25 years hence, a legend it will continue to be.
Verdict: Highly recommended for all die-hard Zelda fanatics. After all, how can you consider yourself part of the Church of Hyrule, if you don’t have the requisite bible to go with it? Come for the nostalgia, stay for the artwork.