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Book Review: The Legend Of Zelda: Hyrule Historia

Posted by Damien McFerran

Consulting the legendary tome

It’s amazing to think that a game which started out as a very basic action RPG on the NES has morphed into one of gaming’s most enduring and famous properties, sparking everything from emotional debate to hushed reverence whenever its name is uttered. The Legend of Zelda series - apparently inspired by creator Shigeru Miyamoto’s love of exploration rather than a desire to tell an epic tale - spans 25 years and has sold millions of copies worldwide across a range of different consoles. Hyrule Historia is an attempt to celebrate that vibrant and expansive past, and it’s almost entirely successful.

Comprised of 276 lush pages, Hyrule Historia was originally released in Japan in 2011, but US publisher Dark Horse - famous for its comic books - has kindly translated the tome for English-speaking audiences this year. Inside you’ll find a plentiful supply of official artwork (both final and concept-based), a thorough history of Hyrule and the character of Link, design details relating to each instalment and even a manga prequel to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, illustrated by A. Honda and S. Nagano (better known by the collective pseudonym of Akira Himekawa).

If you consider yourself to be an ardent Zelda aficionado, then it’s hard to see how you can’t fail to lose your head at the quality of content on offer here. Hyrule Historia isn’t your typical cash-in publication produced by a disinterested team of hacks working on a tight budget and deadline; it feels as if Nintendo has opened up its vaults and made available every single shred of information regarding the franchise, allowing it to be pieced together by a group of passionate people who live and breath this series.

Granted, it’s slightly odd that some games in the bloodline are given more coverage than others - The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks gets several pages, but The Legend of Zelda: A Link To the Past is afforded only a couple of sheets. We imagine this probably has something to do with the availability of assets; the DS games are quite recent and therefore materials will be easy to track down, whereas Link To the Past is 20 years old - and was produced before companies began storing images digitally. We would also guess that the production team was smaller, which means less supporting artwork would have been produced.

The timeline constructed by Nintendo is likely to settle (and start) a few arguments as well, but just reading it and trying to get your head around the various concepts and tangents is thrilling and engaging; it’s also a testament to Nintendo’s talent that each tale in the Zelda lineage is simultaneously the same, but also different to all of the others. Even if you’re of the opinion that all Zelda games are near-identical, Hyrule Historia lends fresh perspective by dividing the timeline into segments, making you appreciate the individual stories in a slightly different light than before.

Packed with information and lavishly produced, Hyrule Historia was always going to be a standout publication. However, its depth and detail have surprised even us. Few video game franchises could ever hope to support such a weighty and significant book, and even if you’ve only a passing interest in the adventures of Link, this should be a permanent addition to your coffee table or bookshelf. Our fingers are crossed that the same treatment can be offered to other key Nintendo properties in the future.

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User Comments (75)

DePapier

#4

DePapier said:

Btw anyone knows what's the difference between this edition and the collector's edition? (Apart from a higher price, limited print and a different color?)

SteamMistwalker

#10

SteamMistwalker said:

i think i ordered my copy in my sleep this morning! woke up to an amazon screen detailing my purchase! lol

ajcismo

#11

ajcismo said:

Got the Japanese version last summer, the English version is shipped and should arrive tomorrow. My shelf space is ready.

Late

#12

Late said:

Waiting for mine to arrive. Couldn't order it from Amazon (had trouble with my Visa) so I ordered it from another place. It's looking really nice. Can't wait!

crumpledpapyrusStaff

#13

crumpledpapyrus said:

Such an amazing book. I'm actually browsing the internet right now for a coffee table especially for it... My priorities are definitely in order. Who needs sofas anyway...

Bulbousaur

#17

Bulbousaur said:

This truly is an amazing book, I had mine preordered since August last year and I am definitely not disappointed. To me, the book is perfect except for the lack of Majora's Mask concept art. it is simply really interesting to see all of the unused concept art and ideas that didn't make it into the games, and how they evolved into what we have today. It really is worth the money and I cannot recommended it enough to any Zelda fan :)

I might buy another and keep it unopened as a collector's item...

Neonridr

#20

Neonridr said:

@bulby1994 yours came wrapped in shrink wrap? I preordered mine through Amazon and I received it yesterday, but it was just a book placed in an Amazon cardboard shipping package.

It is awesome though, it doesn't give any reference to the CDi Zeldas for those who are asking (those games didn't really exist in my mind, kinda like Rocky V)..

The timeline is awesome as it puts every game into place as where they should fit. Then it gives a detailed story about the games in the timeline. It's awesome. I highly recommend this for anyone who is on the fence about it. You can't beat the price for this amount of content either.

HouseofBees

#24

HouseofBees said:

I GOT THIS.

In fact, I'm so cool I'm carefully transporting it around the house in the amazon cardboard. Presumably just in case my avatar uses it as paper when I'm not looking.

DrakeStaff

#25

Drake said:

I got the Japanese version literally a week before they announced the English one, I guess I'll have to buy another!

Haxonberik

#26

Haxonberik said:

Can I get it in book stores, or is it only available online? Because Im going to have a hard time getting one through the internet as I dont have a house on the US

Knux

#27

Knux said:

This book looks beyond awesome. I might just have to buy a copy. :O

Also, the article made the huge mistake of calling the original Zelda a game ''which started out as a very basic action RPG''. The only Zelda game that can be considered even remotely an action RPG is Zelda II. All other Zelda games (including the original), are considered action-adventure games with hardly any RPG elements.

Just wanted to point that out.

Neonridr

#28

Neonridr said:

@Haxonberik - I purchased mine through Amazon.ca - I don't live in the US either, I live in Canada. Does Amazon not ship to wherever you are?

Neonridr

#29

Neonridr said:

@Knux, well it did say a very basic action RPG... but I agree, the one with the most RPG elements was definitely Zelda II

Boo_Buster

#30

Boo_Buster said:

"I've had mine pre-ordered since August"... Cool! You and every other Zelda fan with $25 to spare. I've had mine pre-ordered since August of 1986! I win!

Having said that sarcastic comment; I am really looking forward to reading this book. It looks beautiful and informative.

Haxonberik

#32

Haxonberik said:

In the worst case I'll just ship it to a friend's house and pick it up next time I go to the US (april)

Mowzle

#33

Mowzle said:

I live in a comparatively rural part of the UK Midlands.
To my surprise I saw it in the window of Waterstones bookshop in Burton-on-Trent. Didn't have time to stop and investigate, but it is out there for the high street shoppers.

CanisWolfred

#34

CanisWolfred said:

It's on my list of art books to get someday. Along with the Darkstalkers, Okami, and Mega Man Zero books.

bluecat

#35

bluecat said:

@MarkMcColtney I've only flipped through mine, I haven't read it cover to cover yet, but it doesn't seem to mention the CD-I games anywhere. That was one of the first things I thought to look for too. :/

Kirk

#37

Kirk said:

Although I really like the look of this book I'm never gonna buy it.

What I would love to see however is a downloadable pdf of it.

I don't really care if it's a approved version or not.

Neonridr

#38

Neonridr said:

Unless you are a real Zelda nut, I can't see a regular person wanting to buy this game. I mean it's full of character art, a 30 page manga prequel to skyward sword, detailed stories and timelines from the various games, and various other tidbits all related to the Legend of Zelda lore.

I don't think this book is aimed at the masses, just the various collectors and Zelda buffs out in the world. I've only had a chance to glance through it and read a bit of the chronology of the games, but I love what I have seen so far, and I can't wait to read it in more detail.

For those of you on the fence though, it's not like you're breaking the bank, it's only like $20, so it's a pretty fair deal for what you are getting.

The gold lettering on the green cover looks awesome too.

Tony_342

#39

Tony_342 said:

I pre-ordered mine in November! Should be here within the next two days. I would love to see the Metroid series get a book like this, if for no other reason than seeing all the amazing artwork from the Prime series by Retro Studios incredibly talented artists.

Neonridr

#40

Neonridr said:

@Tony_342 - I would purchase a Metroid one in a heartbeat. It's a shame they didn't think ahead of time to do something for Metroid for it's 25th Anniversary. Considering it released in North America in August of 1987, they just passed their own Anniversary milestone.

Oh well, some day perhaps.

DamoAdmin

#41

Damo said:

@Mowzle I know that Waterstones well! I live in the Midlands too, and visit Burton on a regular basis. Lovely place.

Varia01

#42

Varia01 said:

I wonder how much it will cost. That seems like it will be a cool book! It will be in interesting to learn about the history of a legendary series. I may look into buying it. For Zelda is my 2nd favorite nintendo series after Metroid. It's cool to see that the book will hold magna comics and developers' backgrounds. I might ask my parents about buying this nifty looking book.

KAHN

#45

KAHN said:

god, i can't wait for mine ); so jealous looking at those screenshots... lovely review, btw. i've anticipated this review on the site for a long time...

Neram

#47

Neram said:

Has anybody else noticed the "Famicon" typo on the first few pages yet?

Xiao_Pai

#48

Xiao_Pai said:

...I know the price will scare me.
checks
...Ok never mind. o.0
Still going to have to wait, got other stuff to deal with. :p

SilentHunter382

#49

SilentHunter382 said:

I am tempted to get this book but I game getting new parts for a gaming pc. Hopfully there will still be enough around after I get the parts.

Squid

#52

Squid said:

Trust me, those of you who are looking at the pictures, these screenshots right here are only the top of ze schnitzel. There is so much more amazing content hidden in those majestic pages that you need to see.

KAHN

#55

KAHN said:

i just can't wait for my own copy! it's because of that that i'm constantly visiting this page.

AVahne

#56

AVahne said:

It's only $20 on Amazon. That is INCREDIBLY cheap for an artbook. Especially a hardcover one.

RevolverLink

#57

RevolverLink said:

I'm enjoying the book immensely, but if I had one nit to pick with the Hyrule Historia, it would be that it hasn't gone into as much detail with The Legend of Zelda's dungeons as I would have hoped.

My absolute favorite thing about the book has been seeing the architecture of various areas evolve over the course of their development and all of the neat ideas the designers had while they were initially conceiving them (the same goes for the character designs, which are, thankfully, much more plentiful), and it just seems slightly odd that such a major part of the series wouldn't receive much attention with this sort of thing.

Galactus

#59

Galactus said:

Got mine this morning from my local comic shop. This thing is amazing. I've only read through the Skyward Sword portion and am now at the Timeline. Very reasonably priced also. As a comic collector I expected this thing to be at least $50.

Oran

#62

Oran said:

To be clear this book isn't a limit print sort of deal is it? Don't think Ill be able to get one for a while...

Emaan

#64

Emaan said:

This looks amazing on all levels. :O

Really need to order mine soon, hopefully they don't have too limited of a stock.

Trikeboy

#65

Trikeboy said:

I have the LE preordered and was resigned to wait for it. However, I caved and wanted it asap so I ordered the standard version too. The LE will stay unread and be the focal point of my book shelf. My plan is to read the book and have the music from ZREO playing in the background. I can't wait for this to arrive.

kurtasbestos

#67

kurtasbestos said:

I've been on the fence about whether or not I really want to buy this book, but seeing some of the insides and hearing what Nintendo Life has to say about it have convinced me it needs to be on my bookshelf.

Henmii

#68

Henmii said:

Is this book already available in Europe? I am also thinking about buying this book after seeing the artwork on the internet! Especially Skyward sword seems to be supported with a lot of artwork and sketches! So many cool things! A pity that a lot of characters I saw didn't make it in the final game. Maybe in the next one?

Update: According to the Game-mania site it's out on the first of Februari for 35 Euro. I might buy it in a couple of days/weeks!

Moshugan

#69

Moshugan said:

I'm so thrilled for this! Bu what's different about the Limited Edition?

@Henmii Chek Book Depository dot com! I ordered mine from there last night, free shipping to most anywhere!

Rockman

#70

Rockman said:

Got mine last tuesday.. love every bit of it.. Pre-Ordered on amazon last year november.

Henmii

#72

Henmii said:

@Moshugan,

Thanks for the suggestion, but I'll guess I'll try my luck at Game-mania!

And to answer your question: Amazon says the difference is that the limited edition has a leather cover and gold gilded pages. But it comes at a price: It's twice as expensive!!

I think I'll just go for the normal version! It's the only one available at Game-mania anyway!

Update: I also found a bookstore in my area that has it (normal version), so that may also be a option!

Luigi1987

#74

Luigi1987 said:

Ive read about this.I really want one! I am a retro gamer.If it has Zelda 1 through 6,Witch it does, I will keep my hopes up.

Moshugan

#75

Moshugan said:

@Henmii I hope you got one! Mine's in the mail, yay!!
In my opinion the special ed isn't worth it if that's all there is to it.

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