Finally, the book 'Zelda' fans have been waiting for

ssloan@herald-leader.comMarch 28, 2013 

A new English-language version of Hyrule Historia provides a nearly 300-page in-depth study of Link, hero of The Legend of Zelda series.

PHOTO COURTESY GAMES PRESS

  • BOOK REVIEW

    'Hyrule Historia'

    English-language edition edited by Patrick Thorpe

    Dark Horse Books. 274 pages. $34.99.

It used to be tough to find books about video games.

There were strategy guides, but the industry's focus on digital made it difficult to find anything in print other than an instructional booklet.

Eventually novelizations came around, and now we've reached a near golden age of books on video game artwork. If you're a gamer with a coffee table, you can fill it with character art ranging from Capcom's Street Fighter and Mega Man to more modern fare like Uncharted and God of War.

But what we still don't have enough of are the true reflections on a game's legacy. Save for a certain Italian plumber, no video game series may have a larger legacy than The Legend of Zelda.

That's why it was a thrill for fans of the series when in 2011 Nintendo issued a nearly 300-page book examining the adventures of the heroic Link, who assembled the mythical Triforce to rescue Princess Zelda from the evil clutches of Ganondorf.

Except it was in Japanese.

But with the help of Dark Horse Books, an English-language version of Hyrule Historia, named for the land in which the series takes place, became available earlier this year.

The promotional website for the book says it's "in essence, the Zelda Bible." That's spot-on.

It's full of artwork, including a manga, but it also offers what Zelda fans like myself have wanted for years: answers.

Around 70 pages of the "Bible" offer an explanation on how the tales told through the numerous games fit together.

I've tried to figure that out myself over the years, but, frankly, it's made my head hurt. If you find it difficult to understand how the nine episodes of Star Wars fit together, you would have just given up on Zelda.

Even Hyrule Historia, as authoritative as it seems, offers a warning early on that "this chronicle merely collects information that is believed to be true at this time, and there are many obscured and unanswered secrets that still lie within the tale."

"As the stories and storytellers of Hyrule change, so, too, does its history," the book states.

It's as much an out for explaining future games as an admission that some events are just too difficult to explain. Nintendo definitely tried. Over those 70 or so pages, you learn about alternative histories and how the original game came near the end of one such time line.

It's a rich retelling of individual stories so compelling that they captivated gamers and led to the series being widely recognized among the top video game brands ever.

And while the text-heavy story explanation of Hyrule Historia might disqualify it from your coffee table, it has plenty of character artwork over the years to earn its spot there.

Dotted throughout those design sketches are little bits of trivia like the fact that Link was originally to be right-handed, but "in order to aid in the creation of the pixel art and for the purposes of configuration in game screens, he was altered to be left-handed."

Overall, Hyrule Historia focuses most on the latest Zelda adventure, Skyward Sword, but that's because it was published at the time of that game's launch. The historian in me would have preferred a more balanced approach, but there's plenty here for fans of all of the Zelda games over the years.

And with any luck, we won't have to wait another 25 years for Nintendo and other game companies to offer more "Bibles" of our most beloved series.


BOOK REVIEW

'Hyrule Historia'

English-language edition edited by Patrick Thorpe

Dark Horse Books. 274 pages. $34.99.

Scott Sloan: ssloan@herald-leader.com. (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @HeraldLeaderBiz

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