Review - The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia HC

Believe it or not, there are some people out there who never owned a Nintendo growing up. That doesn't make them any less of a friend. It just means they might have missed on the historic magnitude of The Legend of Zelda. The game hits consoles with a fury in 1986. Since then, it has gone on to sell over 67 million copies of all incarnations of the game, cementing its place in video game history.

Now, Dark Horse has joined with Nintendo to present The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia HC to sate your historic Zelda thirst. The 276-page art book and story guide covers a good chunk of the green warrior's travails and is about to be unleashed upon the US.
The book is broken into three major sections. The first is called "The Legend Begins" and focuses specifically on Skyward Sword, the latest entrant into The Legend of Zelda franchise. This section spends time focusing on both primary characters of the game, such as Link and Zelda, as well as new characters, such as Loftwing and Ghirahim. That time is spent showing the reader various character designs, progressions and giving insight as to why certain looks were chosen for certain characters. For instance, that insight includes a quote from designers Hirono and Kobayashi as to why Zelda was depicted as "Goddess Zelda dressed simply and in white."

The world is further fleshed out by illustrations of the world the residents of Skyward Sword inhabit. What makes the work so extensive is that--again--the illustrations are accompanied by some great creative design facts. Coupling those with the sketch progressions really give the reader a glimpse at what the creative process is like for a game as mammoth as Skyward Sword. There's a lot more to the world that you might not have fully experience playing through it and seeing all the concepts behind it really establish the strength of the game's presence.

The second section is called "The History of Hyrule" and takes a broader look at Hyrule itself. The strongest feature of the section is the Zelda timeline, which will serve as a definitive guide explaining how every game released under the The Legend of Zelda name is woven together. Again, you may have played every game in the franchise, but it may have felt if you were simply battling Ganon over and over again for the safety of Zelda.

What this timeline (and broader section in general) does is put all the games into context. This is an almost priceless qualification that makes you realize that there really is an overarching thread of story that connects all the games. There's so much more to the Sacred Realms, Light Force and the Forbidden Forest than just a Magic Mirror that warps you between light and dark worlds. Link and Zelda inhabit a Hyrule teeming with history and eras, all of which are subtly captured in the games, but put on full display in the book.

Probably the most interesting tidbit from the timeline is that the timeline doesn't follow along chronologically with the games. That is, for instance, The Legend of Zelda is later in the chronology, despite being the first in the series. The games really moved around the timeline quite a bit, which might be a big reason why there never felt to be any continuity. It's there though.

The third and final section is called "Creative Footprints" and takes a look at the history behind the creative process dedicated to The Legend of Zelda. This is probably the meatiest for The Legend of Zelda history buffs. It's here that readers will find a treasure trove of more historic character designs and sketches, including some focused on early conceptions of Like-Likes and Wallmasters.

A lot of care went into showcasing the history of the characters. Granted, some of their looks changed over the course of the games, but the core of their appearance remained largely the same. Seeing all the iterations of Link alone is like strolling down The Legend of Zelda memory lane, bringing you back to those times in your life when you were playing whichever The Legend of Zelda you were playing at the time. It's even more powerful than the timeline and yes, there's even a look at Tingle.

There are other bonuses included in the collection. There's an introduction by Shigeru Miyamoto. You know, the guy who created the original incarnation of The Legend of Zelda. There's a game catalog, which shows all the games released under the franchise banner and the consoles they were released for. There's also a closing outro by Eiji Aonuma, director and producer at Nintendo and series producer of The Legend of Zelda series. All of that and we haven't even gotten to the best part.

The best part would have to be the inclusion of a 25th anniversary issue of The Legend of Zelda manga published by Shogakukan by Akira Himekawa. The manga is presented as originally presented, meaning you have to read back to front, right to left. It was created by Himekawa as a bonus for the collection, in honor of the franchise's 25th anniversary.

The work is beautiful and really does a great job showcasing all the things Link can do as a hero. Zelda is equally as powerful, maintaining her status as a powerful princess capable of holding her own when necessary. The manga is a worth addition to the book and keeps with the quality of the remainder of the book. It's a great change of pace of sorts visually, almost combining all the years of the title into the most familiar appearances.

If there's one minor gripe about the book, it's that the book focuses heavily on Skyward Sword. That's not really a surprise considering the book is billed as such; however, it would've been nice to see some more of the older games in the franchise. It's possible that the concept art for those games (if there was any) was harder to come by, but seeing more from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for instance would have made for even better reading. Again--to be fair--the book is pitched as a 25th anniversary of the character centered around Skyward Sword, so it's not like there's any marketing sleight of hand.

As far as collections go, The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia HC is truly top-notch. It's something that fans of the games will definitely want to get their hands on and Dark Horse has done a phenomenal job paying tribute to one of the most fabled characters of all time in Link and his mythos. It's a book that will fit beautifully on your bookshelf, showcasing a true love for a series that has withstood the test of time and will continue to be a legend. Only thing that would make it better is if it played The Legend of Zelda theme song when you opened it. Guess we'll have to wait for the 35th anniversary edition.

The book is available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indie Bound. Check out the interiors below. Although you really shouldn't need any more convincing to pick it up.