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The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia Hardcover – January 29, 2013
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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About the Author
Eiji Aonuma is a Nintendo game designer, director, and producer. He is the series producer and manager of The Legend of Zelda and won the Golden Joystick Awards’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.
Akira Himekawa is the pseudonym of two female comic book and manga artists who have collaborated together since 1991. Their illustrating credits include The Legend of Zelda series, Astro Boy, and The Dragon Dreams of Twilight.
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The first third of the book, entitled "The Legend Begins: The World of Skyward Sword" is devoted to said title, the most recently released Zelda game we all played and loved. It's filled to the brim with the concept and official art that inspired Skyward's Sword brilliant aesthetic style. As one who views Skyward Sword as one of the most beautiful and brilliantly inspired video games ever made in terms of its art design and visuals, this is just fine with me. There's tons here, including a lot of really interesting ideas for characters that didn't make it into the game, like a floating Fi in a massive suit of armor or Zelda designs that are decidedly more elegant and fancy. Really cool. There's also a good amount of location art that is simply gorgeous and really captures your imagination, just like the settings in the game did. Throughout this whole section are notes from the Zelda team, which gives nice insight into the design process of the game. It's a great start to the book, and roughly 60 pages long.
The next section, "The History of Hyrule: A Chronology," is probably what most Zelda fans are most excited for. It begins with a chart chronicling the various timelines and when each and every Zelda entry takes place in the chronology. Needless to say, it's quite interesting and some of it will probably be very unexpected to many fans out there who, up until now, had only their own musings and theories to make sense of it all. What is even better about this section is the following 70 or so pages that actually chronicles, in great detail, the events of each timeline in chronological order. These different timeline sections provide a lot of details about the events of each game in their respective timeline, and can be viewed as an encyclopedia of Hyrule. It's hard for me to describe this section without resorting to spoilers so I'll just say this: the official Zelda timeline is somewhat complex, with major splits and events that lead to multiple timelines. Despite how easy it would be for this to be confusing, it is presented in a way that is simple and intuitive to read through, and boy is it riveting! It really feels like you're reading a tome of legends. Sprinkled liberally through all of this are nice screenshots and art, as well as fascinating tidbits, like boxes that fully decipher the various Hylian/Hyrulean dialect text that appear in the games. How awesome is that?!
After this is "Creative Footprints: Documenting 25 Years of Artwork," which goes for about 100 pages. This essentially boils down to old concept art the went into almost every single Zelda game ever made. It's all amazing. Newer games get more page space, obviously. Twilight Princess has about 32 pages, The Wind Waker (cannot wait for the Wii-U remake!) has 10, Ocarina of Time gets 6, and so on. You may think that some of the games deserve more space, such as A Link to the Past (1 & 1/2 pages!), and you're right, but the pages are pretty huge, and it's understandable that the newer games have more art stored than the old ones. Personally, I love this section very much. The layouts are great, and the pages are huge, so trust me when I say a lot of art is given its spotlight. This section closes with a very nice letter from Eiji Aonuma, arguably the second most important man behind the Legend of Zelda, after Shigeru Miyamoto of course. A great way to close the book.
Ah, but the book isn't over quite yet. The book ends in spectacular fashion, with an all-new manga by Akira Himekawa, the genius duo that have made many fantastic Legend of Zelda manga already. Anyone familiar with their past work will not be disappointed here. I won't spoil anything about it for you, but I will say it's an all new legend, featuring a new, original Link, that essentially spells out what happened on the surface with Hylia during the original war with Demise, a story that would eventually lead to the events in Skyward Sword thousands of years later. I love that even farther back than Skyward Sword's seeming origin story, there are even more legends to tell in this universe.
So that's the content of the book. It's all fantastic. The presentation and quality of the book itself is just top-notch. The lay-outs are nice, the printing quality is vibrantly beautiful and sharp as a tack, and the pages are crisp and clean. The binding is also high quality, which is important because this is a big book that would fall apart relatively quickly if it wasn't bound well. And how about that gorgeous cover? I love that they decided to make the Gate of Time from Skyward Sword the art on the cover. Its dazzling gold sparkle contrasts nicely with the forest green. It declares loudly and proudly to all who see it that this is a sacred historia of true legends, and you'll be proud to display it prominently. Great stuff!
I know this review is a little lengthy and full of praise, but man, if ever a encyclopedia/art book/celebratory tome deserved it, it's this one. As I said earlier, I love the Legend of Zelda. It is by far my favorite series in gaming, a hobby I consider my favorite pastime. There are few games that capture the sense of beauty, imagination, and adventure like the Legend of Zelda effortlessly does with each and every release. This book really honors the series' legacy. If you're a huge Zelda fan like I am, or you have one in your life, getting this book is an absolute must-buy-immediately. Buy it, get lost in this lovely Zelda celebration, and be inspired by the legends within.
The Legend Begins: The World of Skyward Sword
This is the first major section in the book, where you will find a great deal of interesting concept art and also small notes on each character/location written by some of the game's creators, which are actually very insightful, and sometimes quite amusing. Yes, this section does take up a large part of the book, and rightfully so; this book was released as a celebration of the 25th Anniversary, and, by extent, the release of Skyward Sword, which was, at the time, the newest Zelda game. This may annoy some fans, but it should be kept in mind that Skyward Sword is not just another new Zelda game, but also the "origin story" of the Zelda universe. Naturally this wonderful game would get a lot of love and attention, and any true Zelda fan should be able to understand that to celebrate Skyward Sword is to celebrate the origin of the beloved series and every other game in it. I find it terribly sad that people claim to care so much about what's canon and what's not, but then choose to ignore a game that is canonically at the start of everything on the timeline, and as a result, needlessly bash this book for respecting that. This is not a huge advertisement, but a celebration that Zelda has made it this many years and is finally able to reward fans with an origin story. As a fan of the game, I can definitely say that this section is very satisfying and does not miss a single aspect of it. As a bonus, there is also a panel of additional facts, hints, and interesting theories about the things in Skyward Sword and their possible relation to the other games on the bottom of most pages in this section.
The History of Hyrule: A Chronology
This is probably the thing that people purchasing the book will be the most interested in, as it is an actual list on the official chronological order of the different Zelda games, according to Hyrule's historical events. All of the core games in the series up until Skyward Sword are included here; however, all of the spin-offs (e.g., Link's Crossbow Training), the two Satellaview games, Soulcalibur 2, and, thankfully, the awful CDi games, are not listed here. It is very well written, with a few mysteries that leave the reader with some very interesting questions, but not so many that the games seem out of place in the chronology. The timeline splits off in three directions after Ocarina of Time, but this should be no problem for anyone who is even just beginning to understand the concept of alternate universes, also called multiverse. In short, it is listing a set of three universes that occurr as a result of different possible outcomes at the ending of Ocarina of Time. It may sound difficult, but it is actually quite simple; this topic is covered in many different games, books, and TV shows nowadays, so I'm sure a great deal of people out there will be able to grasp this without any trouble. Furthermore, it gives some details about the first legend of Zelda game and Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link that the original games could not provide, such as the story of what happened just before the game began that set Link on his adventures. In addition to this, many of the pages detailing each era also include a small chart at the bottom of the page showing the Hylian writing of that particular time, along with a way to translate it into either Japanese or English. This is very important to those who have always wanted to read the writing placed on many signs and objects throughout the different games, so fans are sure to be pleased that these official translating guides are finally available. The Skyward Sword writing, however, was left out because Nintendo had intended for fans to try and figure it out (many already have).
Creative Footprints: Documenting 25 Years of Artwork
As the name would suggest, this section is full of artwork from the other core games in the Zelda series. It is definitely true that there is more artwork for the newer games like Twilight Princess and the Wind Waker, but I do not feel that this means they are ignoring the older games; I realize that the other artwork is simply more easy to find and publish because it is newer. As they said, for the older games, they had to dig through stacks of old documents to find the concept art, whereas the newer art would be more accessible. Also, it is unlikely that there would be much art for some of the older games, since the game systems were extremely limited in graphics, and as a result, not much detail could be put into designs that would be visible within the games themselves. Overall, this is a pretty large section, so they certainly were generous with the amount of art put in it.
Special Comic: The Skyward Sword Manga by Akira Himekawa
This was a very special manga requested by Eiji Aonuma for the 25th anniversary. As is stated by Akira Himekawa in the back of the Hyrule Historia book, this was also to celebrate the release of Skyward Sword and tell a story connected to the game that would complete the "very first Zelda tale" (Skyward Sword). As with most manga, it is read in the traditional Japanese right to left, back to front reading format. Contrary to popular belief, this is NOT a preview for a longer Skyward Sword manga; this is just a very short, very special story. There will not be a bigger manga released later, as is evident now that well over three years have passed since Hyrule Historia's initial release.
The story starts out in beautiful full-color, then goes to black and white after a few pages. Some people find this disappointing, but I for one am quite happy with it as it is. The art style is beautiful and perfectly suited to the Zelda style. The story is top-notch and extremely touching, describing the tale of the war between the goddess Hylia and the Demon King Demise, the ascension of Skyloft, and the true origin of the Zelda/Link reincarnation cycle, along with introducing the very first Link, Hylia's Chosen Hero, and explaining his bond with the Crimson lofting. Now, some people claim that some things contradict the games and therefore cannot be true; however, in my opinion, this is incorrect. The Master Sword could have existed previously, been forged by Link and his comrades who would later be called the Seven Sages, and then devolved after the Triforce left its blade and entered the Silent Realm, just for example. In any event, I simply wanted to point out that while other reviewers claimed it non-canon, this was actually never said, and since I realize that many will skip over it if they feel it isn't canon, I wanted to clear that up, so hopefully more people will give it a read and enjoy this book to its fullest. In fact, since it was requested by Zelda's creators and placed in this official book, I think it's pretty safe to say that it is canon. Definitely worth a read, and in my opinion, worthy of its own separate game. I have to say this is my favorite part of the book, as it truly made sense of everything that I still had questions about in regards to Link and Zelda. If you are worried that this story may disappoint you, don't be; I am a huge Zelda fan and adore all of the core games in the series, but this story still holds an extremely special place in my heart, perhaps even slightly above any Zelda game I have ever played (and I've played them all); it's that good. Akira Himekawa's love and respect for the series truly shows in every aspect of this tale, and the final lines in the story really sum up the Zelda series beautifully; "a story that weaves destinies and spans eternity".
At the start of the book and just before the manga are two small sections in which Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma, respectively, say a few words about their love for the Zelda series and thank the fans for their continued support, nicely wrapping up the book in a very nostalgic way.
The name Hyrule Historia is not intended to imply that the book is mostly about the development of past games, or the history of the series as it has evolved over the years, although it does provide some of that; the name refers to the chronological history of Hyrule that is shown in the book, with all of the events talked about and shown in Skyward Sword being at the beginning of that timeline. Anyone who buys this book would do well to remember that, as it is unfair to expect the book to be about the official chronology, and still not have any focus on Skyward Sword over the rest. As a whole, the book is beautiful and interesting, the price is extremely amazing compared to the usual price in-store, and though it took a while to arrive from overseas, it was well worth the wait. I know that some reviewers complained that their book did not arrive with enough protective packaging, and as a result, was damaged, but this was not the case for me; it arrived in a very large box filled with protective bubble pack, and was in perfect condition, as I bought it new. I highly recommend this book to any and all Zelda fans, and I sincerely hope that if you are undecided about whether or not to buy it, like I had been, this review will have convinced you to give it a shot. You will never regret it.
The book is full of Zelda concept art and illustrations. These are all wonderful and look beautiful in the book. Along with that, there is an official timeline, information about every game released, and information about the series in general. There's even a manga included. The book is very detailed and of very high quality. You're definitely getting your money's worth with all of the content included in the book.
I can't recommend this book enough to a Zelda fan. The book actually exceeded my expectations, and I was very, very pleased as a huge Zelda fan. Get this book, you won't be disappointed.
Despite that, it's so much fun to explore what went on in the creators' minds when they were creating the Zelda games. Some of the characters' inspiration were... kind of problematic, as this book revealed, rooted for instance in transphobic and homophobic caricatures, but it's hard to comment extensively on that without a stronger understanding of Japan's cultural background than I have. But the book is also thorough, beautiful, and really exciting to own.