This book is almost too awesome for me to put into words. I've long been a fan of the Legend of Zelda. It is not only my personal favorite video game series, but arguably the greatest series in video gaming, period. When this book released in Japan for Zelda's 25 year anniversary, many hoped it would get translated and come to the States. Thankfully, our wish has been granted. This book is about as high-quality as they come. The opening letter from Shigeru Miyamoto sets a wonderful, celebratory tone for the rest of the book. I can't think of a better opening.
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.