If you have ever, EVER, enjoyed more than one Zelda game, stop right here. Go to Amazon, buy this book (link at the bottom), and then come back and finish reading this page. I’ll wait.
Book ordered? Fabulous, now let’s get down to business. For the record, I don’t consider them true spoilers, but be aware that I will cover and discuss any and all topics from the book, so be forewarned. If you still haven’t finished some critical Zelda game, or don’t want the book spoiled, STOP READING NOW!
Hyrule Historia is is best described as a definitive Legend of Zelda resource, featuring concept artwork from every main game, the ‘official’ timeline of the series, and an extensive look at the most recent release, Skyward Sword, including a manga-style comic to go with it. For anyone who has taken pleasure in defeating Ganondorf or exploring the land of Hyrule, this book is definitely a worthwhile read. For die-hard Zelda fans, this book is a must.
Hyrule Historia starts off with an incredibly deep analysis of the world of Skyward Sword. Virtually every aspect of the game is covered, with extensive concept artwork for all the characters, information about each zone, and insight from the game designers. Now, out of 240 pages in Hyrule Historia, 66 pages are devoted to just this FIRST section about Skyward Sword. Other sections in the rest of the book, such as the timeline, are also partially devoted to Skyward Sword. If you’re like me, and Skyward Sword didn’t exactly blow your skirt up, then this might be slightly excessive coverage. Don’t get me wrong, the detail that Hyrule Historia delves into Skyward Sword is phenomenal and honestly, makes me appreciate the game more, I just wish there had been an equal amount of emphasis on some of the older games. I understand that the newer games will have the most artwork and assets available to showcase, but I just wish there was a little bit more from the 8 and 16-bit vintages.
For most Zelda fans, the most intriguing part of Hyrule Historia will be the “History of Hyrule” section that attempts to lay out the “offical” Legend of Zelda timeline (or, should I say, the 3 “official” timelines). Starting with Skyward Sword (which is clearly established in game as the first Legend of Zelda game), it goes through Minish Cap, Four Swords, and Ocarina of Time. It is at this point, that things get….convoluted. The timeline splits into 3 legs, depending on the outcome of OoT. If Ganon is victorious and OoT Link perishes, we get a timeline resulting in A Link to the Past, Oracles of Ages/Seasons, Link’s Awakening, LoZ, and The Adventure of Link. Assuming Link is successful in OoT, there are two more possible timelines, one arising from Link returning to his childhood, and one in which Link stays as an adult. The childhood timeline goes through Majora’s Mask (pretty obvious), then Twilight Princess and Four Swords Adventures. The Adult timeline results in the flooding of Hyrule, leading to Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, and finally Spirit Tracks.
Obviously, timeline issues are too complicated to discuss here, and countless amounts of nerdrage have already been expended on this topic, but suffice to say, Hyrule Historia does a absolutely fantastic job of laying things out. The book delves into incredible detail, and will likely expose a few new ideas that the reader has likely never thought about (such as the same Link taking part in the events of both LoZ and the Adventure of Link). A lot of the artwork in this section comes from either the original game manuals or player’s guides, with only some new art in this section. Most of that comes in the next section, Creative Footprints.
Creative Footprints is the showcase for concept and final art for all the LoZ games. It is skewed heavily towards the more modern games, but a good amount of never before seen artwork is available for every game. In fact, there are some fairly, I’ll say, unique, concepts presented, including (but not limited to) a couple sci-fi themed Zelda sketches. My mind is doing cartwheels trying to grasp both the intent of these sketches, and the sort of different games that could have been produced under the Zelda franchise if some of these concepts had come to pass.
There is so much material in Creative Footprints it would be impossible to cover it all here. I’ll just say that it is chock full of fascinating things, and shouldn’t be missed. Seriously – this is where I find more than half the enjoyment from this book – so much epic artwork.
The last part of Hyrule Historia is an original manga-style comic made just for this release. I’m not a comic book person, let alone a manga person, so I don’t feel that I can really pass judgement on this section. Needless to say, I don’t feel like it adds much, but I can certainly see it attracting others.
The last thing worth mentioning for this review, is the bookend-ing notes written by Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma. These letters from two men who have been massively responsible for the direction of the franchise, provide an interesting insight and also lend a nice, personal touch to the book. The book could stand on its own, but these personal notes help to tie things together and honestly, just make me smile.
Hyrule Historia is a phenomenal book, that belongs on the shelves of any half-serious Zelda fan or Nintendo collector. Between the countless pages of truly beautiful art and never before seen information, Hyrule Historia provides a ton of content that really should not be passed up. My only real complaint is the somewhat overbearing focus on Skyward Sword, but given the timing of its original release in Japan, it is understandable. Also, the age of the franchise explains some of the lack of information on the older games, but even in the 8 and 16-bit eras there is a lot of good content to be found. Overall, a phenomenal resource.
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