Dating back to the Nintendo Entertainment System, one of the most iconic characters in all of video gaming is Link, hero of The Legend of Zelda series. One of the the titles that truly put Nintendo on the map, the timeless tale has literally traversed generations as gamers, new and veteran alike go nuts whenever a new iteration of the story is announced. There are many factors that play into the greatness of this series, but probably the most important and most recognizable is the theme. Whether it is played by a symphony orchestra or you are just hearing the MIDI from the original gold cartridge classic, you stop and listen when you hear this:
When you hear that music, something stirs inside. No matter how many times you have picked up a Master Sword, or been a victim of chicken rampage or wanted to just smash Navi with a rock, the point is that you and millions like you keep coming back for more. Finally we are able to get our hands on something that collectively explains why.
In December of 2011, roughly one month after the release of Skyward Sword and during the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Zelda series, Nintendo published a book that celebrated the beauty of the recent release and basically thanked fans for the quarter century of success the games have enjoyed. This book was Hyrule Historia, and the world outside of Japan cried in both sadness and anger that like many other cool things Nintendo has created, this gem of a book was being kept in the mother country. Thirteen months later, fans rejoiced as North American and European versions of the book were finally released. Dark Horse Books teamed up with Nintendo to bring two hundred and seventy-two pages of fantasy, memories and fun to the masses. Giving the fans what they want has not been unappreciated, as the book is enjoying top spots on the New York Times Best Sellers list.
The book itself is massive. Gamers usually only have something this big when they have purchased the hardcover special edition of a Final Fantasy strategy guide. The inside is a literal encyclopedia of everything Link has ever experienced. The first section focuses entirely on the most recent game, Skyward Sword, describing the characters, the world that Link explores and the connections to previous games. While there is much that is familiar, Skyward Sword has some big departures from the normal Zelda title. The second section breaks down the chronological progression of the Legend’s history, from 1986 up to today. The final main section delves into the creative processes that went into the earlier games.Fans are also treated to a special Skyward Sword comic from Akira Himekawa (in original manga format). All of this is preceded by a foreword from Shigeru Miyamoto on the creation of the original legend and followed by Eiji Aonuma summarizing everything. The only bad thing about this book is that nothing has been added since the original printing. This is the exact same book that came out in 2011 so the only fans that really needed to wait for this are those who cannot read Japanese.
The art featured in Historia does true justice to the series. Everything you could want from original conceptual design sketches to the final drawings are included. We are able to see the evolution of characters and even get some insight as to why certain things did or did not make it into the Skyward Sword. The creative footprints section is slightly less detailed, but that is because there is so much more to cover and because much of the information had been previously released in other publications. Not that anyone would have complained if this book were double the size and had full detail of all the games, but it would definitely be a lot more expensive. Fans are going to have very little to be upset about once they get their hands on this book; minor gripes will be voiced, but primarily, satisfaction will be the end result.
As I said, there will be minor gripes and I do have a few. First and foremost, the fact that Western fans had to wait over a year to get their own version of this book is not messed up in itself, but the fact that they got no extra concept is a bit of a smack in the face. No attempt was made to add any additional information regarding future products. With the Wii U now being in stores, one cannot believe that Nintendo is not quietly working on a new Legend of Zelda. Even the slightest snippet of information regarding that would have been appreciated. Sketches, story ideas. . .something to make readers feel like it was worth the wait. The argument can be made that it would be unfair to the Japanese fans and that is valid, but they got the book over a year earlier than anyone else so it balances out. I also think the cover should have been gold, to commemorate the original cartridge, but that is a really minor gripe. The bottom line is that because of its many fantastic features and because of its few shortcomings, this will be a must have, but for Zelda fans only. The art is very well done, but you will not care if you have never controlled Link before. How well this book will age depends upon the next twenty-three years of LoZ history. Regardless, this book will definitely be something to share with future gaming generations.