Reading is Zeldamental: A Look Inside Hyrule Historia!

So how’s the view from the top? If you’re truly interested in knowing, then that might be a question you could pose to Dark Horse Books and Nintendo as their publication Hyrule Historia continues its reign as the #1 best seller on Amazon.com.  After a long wait (I pre-ordered months ago), my copy finally arrived in the mail yesterday. The level of joy, anticipation, and excitement that I experienced as I pulled the book out of the shipping box instantly reminded me of pulling the master sword out of its pedestal in the Temple of Time back in 1998. Ladies and Gents, there is no sugarcoating this, Hyrule Historia is without question a must own for anyone who calls themselves a fan of the series. First, without even delving into the actual contents of the book, I was immediately impressed with its physical attributes. The hardcover and binding are very well put together, not to be outdone by the amazing quality of the 280 pages within. The gate of time (Skyward Sword) in gold on the green backdrop of the cover is also worth mentioning. Ocarina not included.

After a few minutes of superficial observation, a funny thing happened. I decided to crack open the book and was spontaneously warped 5 hours into the future. Suddenly, I couldn’t remember where the day went. I became completely engrossed in the book starting from Shigeru Miyamoto’s opening letter commemorating the 25th Anniversary of Zelda, all the way up to the manga (Japanese comic) section toward the end.

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Hyrule Historia opened up with a 60-page journey into the world of Skyward Sword, the latest installment of the series which actually serves as the earliest story in the chronology.  Although I’m partial to Ocarina of Time being my all-time favorite, I believe that Skyward Sword is “arguably” the best Zelda title ever made due to the incredible story, epic art style, and innovative fight mechanics. This opening chapter of Hyrule Historia made me appreciate Skyward Sword that much more as it was filled to the brim with detailed information of the story, characters, and locations of the game. This was complemented well by the amazing artwork highlighting the aesthetic style that fans came to love about this game. I also enjoyed looking at the concept art, witnessing how these characters developed to their final versions while also being introduced to the characters who did not make the final cut. Overall, a fantastic start.

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The next section is where I spent most of my time, and I assume that other Zelda fans will follow suit. This chapter, “The History of Hyrule: A Chronology,” began with the hotly debated official Zelda timeline, which to the glee of some and dismay of others, chronicled the various timelines of all the installments of the series. This timeline either confirmed or disproved the myriad of theories spawned from Zelda fans over the years, which probably also correlates to the level of acceptance of the timeline from said fans. What followed the timeline was an inconceivable amount of data explaining the stories of each game in their rightful place on the timeline. After reading the chapter carefully, I came to two conclusions. (1) I have no problems with this timeline and I believe it is correct. I was only able to make that determination after reading the entire chapter and not simply looking at the graphic of the timeline. I also appreciate how there are several opportunities present in the timeline for future Zelda games to slide right in, which in essence makes the timeline perfectly imperfect.  (2) I also came to terms with the fact that I must agree with the popular sentiment that the “hero is defeated” timeline split was indeed a cop out, basically a lineage of games that they couldn’t figure out how to incorporate, so they just created a 3rd split for convenience. Miyamoto will never admit that, but it’s the truth. However, I did appreciate that the stories of those games on that particular split came together quite nicely and made sense, thankfully.

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If that wasn’t enough, Hyrule Historia then treats you to 100 pages of artwork documenting the 25 years of Zelda. This massive section is nothing short of spectacular. The layouts are great and the artwork is greatly supported by the size and quality of the pages it’s printed on. Some games got more face time than others in this section, so hopefully you don’t feel slighted if your favorite title didn’t get the space you think it deserved. Nevertheless, it’s a great section culminated by a letter from arguably the second most important man behind the Legend of Zelda series, Eiji Aonuma. Personally, I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t also hear from Koji Kondo, the brilliant composer behind the timeless music of this series. Maybe next time.

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Finally, the book bows out with a section that I’m fairly new to, Japanese comics known as manga. It was interesting to discover that you customarily read these comics backwards from right to left. I got the hang of it rather quickly and was able to enjoy the artwork and the story of events that eventually lead up to Skyward Sword. Well done overall.

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At the end of the day, a Zelda fan not having this book in his/her collection is equivalent to a fish out of water, it just doesn’t make sense. Bible, encyclopedia, tome, whatever term you wish to attach to this masterpiece, it should already be on your coffee table or on its way. Hyrule Historia is a great piece of informative and decorative work that I am elated to have and thrilled that it was translated and brought to the West.  Eiji Aunoma closed his letter with “Never stop playing Zelda!” You have nothing to worry about on my end Mr. Aunoma.

– JayDubb

Image sources: David Somers (Jalada) (cover), Dark Horse, ZeldaInformer, Kotaku