On Dec 2011, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia in Japan (later released in America on Jan 2013 by Dark Horse Comics). This harcover contained some behind the scene goodies from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and other Zelda games, but more importantly it codified and clarified the timeline for the entire series. Prior to this many fans have hypothesized where each of the games fitted within a unified Zelda timeline. Until Hyrule Historia it was all just speculation. However, the Historia posits an official timeline of all the official Legend of Zelda games. This base timeline begins with Skyward Sword and ends with Ocarina of Time, from the N64 classic the timeline splits into three branches. One branch is where Ganon defeats the Hero of Time and is victorious and the other branch is where Link triumphs over Ganon. The Triumphant Hero branch splits into two further timelines with a Child Era and Adult Era. The defeated timeline leads into the Era of Light and Dark and the Era of Decline. That is the timeline that is of pressing interest with Nintendo’s recent announcement of A Link to the Past sequel coming to 3DS this holiday season.
Hyrule was peaceful for a time until the appearance of a mysterious Priest named Agahnim. This Priest controlled powerful dark magic, he sought access to the Sacred Realm and to resurrect the Demon King Ganon. To achieve this goal, he murdered the King of Hyrule, took control of the Castle Knights and captured the Seven Maidens including Princess Zelda. These Maidens were related to the Seven Sages and slowly he sacrificed each by sending them to the Dark World in order to bring the Ganon back to the world of Light. Before he could sacrifice Princess Zelda, she sent out a plea for help waking Link and his Uncle, the last of the Knights of Hyrule. Link’s Uncle leaves in the middle of the night with lightning crashing and the world drenched in rain, but Link cannot stay in bed. The young boy then embarks on a journey that spans between two dimensions and numerous perilous dungeons and monsters both deadly and cunning. By the end he has rescued Seven Maidens, defeated Agahnim and Ganon, and saved Hyrule returning it to peace with the Triforce.
This Link’s journey did not end with his exploits in A Link to the Past though. The Hero had to prevent Twinrova from resurrecting Ganon again in the far away lands of Holodrum and Labrynna. The Triforce transported Link to these lands following his initial defeat of Ganon. In the Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages, Link once again had to protect the world from the unrelenting threat of Ganon (these adventures will once again be available on the 3DS eShop on May 30, plenty of time to prepare before the new 3DS game). After triumphing over the Demon King once again, Link set sail to find a new adventure and new land to train. In Link’s Awakening, Link washes ashore on Koholint Island where he meets a girl named Marin. As Link traverses the eerie and mysterious island, he learns why he is there and what he will have to do in order to head back to reality. It is a bittersweet adventure (The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX is availabe on eShop currently). At the end of Link’s Awakening, it is said that Link set sail in search of another adventure. However, that is where the ALTTP Link’s journey ends as the next events in this timeline are the Era of Decline comprised of the NES games.
Where will this A Link to the Past sequel fit into this timeline? Reggie Fils-Aime revealed that the game will featured a new and original storyline with new dungeons. Aside from it not being a 3D remake and it using the 3D capabilities of the system in gameplay, not much is known about this new game. That said, the screenshots seem to indicate that it is set in the ALTTP Hyrule as the field and enemies have the roundness of the original SNES adventure’s art style. The enemies shown bear a striking resemblance to enemies fought in ALTTP too, obviously Nintendo stating this is a sequel to the game is not just for publicity. However, that does not mean this game will take place directly after the events of A Link to the Past. Being that the Oracle games see Link facing Ganon again after ALTTP, it is unlikely that he will face Ganon immediately after saving Hyrule and returning it to peace. Only to fight him again in the Oracle games. What is more likely (or seems interesting and plausible) is that this game sees the homecoming of Link to Hyrule after his journey at sea following the events of Link’s Awakening. Perhaps, sensing that his home is in danger once again and having trained enough, he returns to save the Kingdom once again. He may indeed square off against Ganon and a element of Ganon again, but the events of the game may serve to connect the Era of Light and Dark to the Era of Decline a bit more concretely or expand upon the Golden Era that has not been touched upon in a full game.
In the coming months, the designs and speculation on where this 3DS game will fit into the timeline will heat up once more details are revealed. What is more intriguing is the new Wii U game that Eiji Aonuma announced to be in development back in Jan. When looking at the Zelda timeline, the biggest developments have always been on home console titles be it Ocarina of Time, the Wind Waker or A Link to the Past. While this ALTTP sequel on the 3DS is exciting, it will simply help illuminate details on the Era of Light and Dark without making some major waves like 2011′s Skyward Sword did as the origin for the entire timeline. This Wii U Legend of Zelda, however, will likely be a major addition to the timeline and whether that means continuing the the Hero Triumphant branch in either the Child Era or Adult Era remains to be seen. Or perhaps starting a new branch (say what?). The news of the Wind Waker HD remake coming out on the Wii U this fall might hint at the continuance of the Adult Era and following up on the events of Spirit Tracks. What seems to be true is that even though Nintendo may have attempted to clarify the timelime of the Zelda games, the new entries will only lead to more speculation and confusion. Until Nintendo releases a new Historia in another 25 years, the Legend continues to grow.