In 1986, Nintendo released a gaming system in Japan called the Family Computer Disk System (or, as it came to be known as, Famicom Disk System). Among the small group of games launched with the system, a diamond in the rough lay hidden amongst them. It was a game with a simple title about a young hero who had to solve puzzles to save a princess named Zelda from the evil Demon King, Ganon. The Legend of Zelda was the first of many games to come in the popular and well-known Legend of Zelda series and, on the series’ 25th anniversary in 2011, Dark Horse Books and Nintendo collaborated on a project that would share with fans behind-the-scenes information and stories never before released to the public. Thus The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia was published.
Each of the games within the Legend of Zelda series has roughly the same basic storyline: an evil Demon King named Ganon(dorf) is after the Triforce, a sacred relic consisting of three triangles representing courage, power, and wisdom that is said to grant whoever touches it, whether that someone is good or evil, a wish. The Triforce must be whole to grant a wish and Ganon(dorf) only possesses a third of the sacred relic: the Triforce of Power. The princess of the land of Hyrule, Zelda, possesses the Triforce of Wisdom and to keep Ganon(dorf) from taking it from her, she seeks the help of a young hero named Link who possesses the Triforce of Courage. Over the many years and many games of the series, this story’s basic structure has remained. And yet, every new story in every new game continues to bring all new adventures.
The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia contains so much information that it can reach out to those who have played every game in the Legend of Zelda series, to those who may only vaguely understand the main storyline after having played one or two games, and even to those who know nothing about the games. The book is split into three sections: “The Legend Begins,” “The History of Hyrule,” and “Creative Footprints.” Published the same year as the release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the first section of the book, “The Legend Begins,” solely focuses on this game. Skyward Sword is supposed to be the story that started the whole legend and “The Legend Begins” takes readers step by step through the game’s story and how certain elements and characters link to other elements and characters from other games.
The longest and most informative part of the book is section two: “The History of Hyrule” which contains a chronology of the connection between the games and the order the stories are thought to be in. However, before readers even begin this section, a note is given to read first, stating, “This chronicle merely collects information that is believed to be true at this time, and there are many obscured and unanswered secrets that still lie within the tale. As the stories and storytellers of Hyrule change, so, too, does its history. Hyrule’s history is a continuously woven tapestry of events. Changes that seem inconsequential, disregarded without even a shrug, could evolve at some point to hatch new legends and, perhaps, change this tapestry of history itself” (68). This was a great addition to add for Nintendo is reminding readers that the stories and the games are ever changing and that the storyline that is shared in this chronology is not set in stone.
The chronology itself is fascinating for fans and newcomers alike. Aside from smaller spinoff games not being a part of the timeline, the games that are are well organized and flow very well into one another’s stories. When it comes to a certain game’s time in the spotlight, much attention is given to its story. Those who have played or are familiar with the story will perhaps endure nostalgia while reliving the gameplay through words and those who have never heard of the game will be told a story that may make them want to pick up and play the game referred to. Along with the story, information such as characters, maps, items, and fun facts are given for each game and include colorful pictures for visual aid.
The final section of the book, “Creative Footprints,” contains various pieces of artwork from various games over the past 25 years. Many of the pieces of artwork have never been released to the public before, including early character sketches, storyboards, creatures that never made an appearance in any game, and more. After the artwork comes a list of the Legend of Zelda games in order of release from the very first in 1986 to today. A bonus 32-page manga of Skyward Sword is included at the very end of The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia that contains beautiful artwork and storytelling by Akira Himekawa, a female manga artist duo who have released ten volumes so far of a Legend of Zelda manga.
With an eye-catching cover, in-depth looks at each of the Legend of Zelda games’ stories, and beautiful artwork and colorful game screenshots on each page, The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia is a book every fan of the game series should own and a book for those who are unfamiliar with the stories would enjoy reading. The stories will capture the attention of anyone who is a fan of fantastical adventures and of anyone who is a fan of light versus dark. The Legend of Zelda is a story that began over 25 years ago and the legend continues ever onward towards the future. With the history of the game series thus far written in a memorable format, who knows what the next 25 years will produce.
Originally published at www.examiner.com on February 4, 2016.