Legend of Zelda: Did we really need a Timeline?
I remember way back when when I would watch my older brother play Legend of Zelda, how enthralled I was by how grand and charming it was. Every year since then I always look forward to the next game with an enormous amount of enthusiasm to see what kind new twists and turns Nintendo takes with both the story and game play. However, with the existence of Skyward Sword as the official starting point of the entire franchise I have to wonder, was it truly necessary? I’m not saying this because I dislike Skyward Sword. In fact, I may be one of the few who actually enjoyed it, though I do understand the gripes that most Zelda fans rant about. My only issue focuses on the idea that Skyward Sword is supposed to be the beginning of Legend of Zelda story, and how every other game that came before it now has a canonical order of what happened when. For such a long lived franchise, this is a huge achievement considering all the time travel shenanigans that occur in certain Zelda titles and the time line according to the Hyrule Historia makes a certain amount of sense. But was it truly, 100% necessary for fans to have the entire series continuity explained in a chart from beginning to end, or even for a “starting point” to exist? In my personal opinion, no. No it was not.
Though there are several games in the series that are clearly connected to each other story-wise, such as Ocarina of Time to its sequel, Majora’s Mask and its loose connection to Wind Waker (along with the DS games connected to it as well) almost all other Legend of Zelda games could be considered stand alone stories, as most of them where considered at the time. Granted these games shared a lot of the same elements, such as identical protagonists, heroines, and almost always set in the land of Hyrule. These elements are used so much they are recognized by fans and even people who have only heard about the games. But instead of seeing it as a method to connect all of the stories together, I see it like retelling of a classic story. Kind of like how we have multiple versions of epic stories and fairy tales like Beowulf and the Legend of King Arthur. Each time the story is told, things are added or altered over the years to make it more relevant to the listeners or in this case gamers. To give them something new and exciting but with just enough familiarity that you recognize the characters and setting as something special from your childhood. That isn’t to say that you had to have grown up with the Legend of Zelda in order to enjoy it, but instead shows how important those characters are to the narrative. It wouldn’t feel right if you replaced Link with a new hero, with a new name and different personality. Much like it would not be the same if instead of King Arthur was changed to King Bob.
In both story and game play, its not hard to see how much both have evolved with each new release. Both Skyward Sword and a Link Between Worlds are no exception with how they have added advancements for the series. Yet, with an official time line, it seems some of the magic of interpreting the similarities of each story and how they relate to each other is lost. For example, part of the advertising for A Link Between Words was its connection to A Link to the Past. Why outright state such a fact when instead you could have left subtle hints about what ties the two stories/worlds together? I know I found Wind Waker’s twist much more enjoyable discovering it in the actual game instead of it being advertised as one of the reasons I should buy and play the game. It just goes to show how Nintendo sees its fan base and what they think we want out of Legend of Zelda. That in order to be purchased and enjoyed, the games have to have complete continuity with each other. So much so that they need to invent new elements, that may or not may not make any sense, in order to explain why its always the same Zelda, Link and Ganon. Or why Hyrule looks different in each installment. Some fans may enjoy finally having their answer that, yes it is all connected. But while I do appreciate all the effort the creators must of have gone through in order to make put that chart together, I don’t feel that they really had to in order to simply please the fan base. As long as they tell a coherent story about good vs. evil and give us a fun adventure to go on, I’m sure both myself and most of the Legend of Zelda fan base will continued to love the series for years to come.