REVIEW – Hyrule Historia (book)

Building A Mystery –

The Legend of Zelda is one of the most beloved video game franchises of all time. But for a series that is so treasured, Nintendo has been coy about giving fans an insider scoop regarding detailed plotlines, development commentary, and the behind the scenes creative process. In fact, the overarching storyline has been a topic of heated debate among gamers for years. Finally, after 25 years, Nintendo in partnership of Dark Horse Comics has peeled back the veil of this legendary video game series.

Hyrule Historia is a hardcover documentary detailing everything Zelda.  Originally, this book was released only in Japan as a tie-in with the release of Skyward Sword.  But thanks to Dark Horse, everything has been translated to English – even handwritten captions by Japanese developers have been reworked for Western audiences.

Epic cover

Epic cover

This book is basically divided into four sections.

The first section is solely dedicated to Skyward Sword, the most current Zelda game but the first in the Zelda timeline.  Tons of artwork is nicely displayed along with developer commentary and notes. It might seem kind of strange that such a large section of the book is dedicated to this one game but it was originally designed as a side-by-side release with the Skyward Sword game.  Also, since this is the most recent game, all the game’s assets should have been the most easily accessible.

Visually explore Hyrule

Visually explore Hyrule

The second section is going to be the most coveted as it finally explains the chronology of the entire Zelda series.  All the games are canonically linked together on the opening page but then followed by brief summaries of each title on the subsequent pages.  As a Zelda fan that has played and completed every Zelda title (except for the highly difficult Adventure of Link – someday I will conquer it!) this section was an eye-opener.  Details explained in this section are not something that players can obtain simply by playing the games or reading the instruction manual.  Even if you played every Zelda game one hundred times, there are still factoids listed here that you never knew about.  Just browsing through these pages will create several “ah-ha” moments especially for hardcore fans.  While the rest of the book is definitely welcomed, this section undoubtedly makes the most impact.  However, although the book explains the Zelda series in more detail, it still leaves enough open-endedness to allow for readers to make their own assumptions. But at the same time, it leaves things vague enough so future Zelda games can find their place in the series history.

Many hand drawings are in this book

Many hand drawings are in this book

Creative Footprints: Documenting 25 Years of Artwork is the third section.  Here, viewers are treated to a highly visual representation of the entire Zelda series by game.  From early rough sketches, to creature design or declined ideas, this section focuses on the craftsmanship of Zelda.  Unfortunately, the earlier released games, say before Ocarina of Time, received the least amount of attention although these games are often the most interesting.  Nonetheless, it is pretty to look at and well respected.

Finally, artist Akria Himekawa drew an exclusive Zelda anime that basically sets up the events of Skyward Sword.  This is an interesting way to experience Zelda especially since this story is basically the origins of Link and Hyrule.  Unfortunately, much of this comic is in simple black and white.  For a book that is so detailed, the black and white is a jarring difference and doesn’t hold up in comparison to the rest of the publication.

Zelda Anime-style

Zelda Anime-style

The book itself is also well put together.  The heavy green cover makes the reader feel like they are holding history in their hands while the pages are printed on high quality paper to make colors pop without unsightly finger printing.  This book, in a way, almost makes me feel like I am holding the book of Mudora from A Link To the Past.  Luckily, I didn’t need the Pegasus boots to knock it down from the top shelf.  Instead, this piece of video game history retails for $35 but outlets like Amazon are charging under $20 it. This is a great way to absorb the most amount of Zelda with the smallest price.

My complaints revolve around omitted material.  Outside a brief sidebar, BS Zelda was not talked about.  Also, the CD-I titles were completely absent which only ensures that Nintendo chooses to ignore this unsightly blemish.  The cartoon and even the Zelda cereal were also not shown any love.  For a book that is basically the encyclopedia of Zelda, omitting these pieces of Zelda history seems like a wasted opportunity.  And for a book based on a game franchise that is filled with some of the most creative character and level designs in history, many of this book’s screenshots and other art assets are small.  It would have been nice to see a blown up map or landscape art spread over two pages on occasion.  And the Dark Horse logo on the binding of the book also looks out of place; it detracts from the aura of the publication when it sits vertically on a shelf.

Hyrule Historia was created for the fans and the artistry shows.  Sure there are some flaws with the final execution but the excellent quality of the cover and paper along with the intriguing content make this a book gamers will actually want to read.

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