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Legend of Zelda has No Coherent Timeline?
by Seth Sivak on 07/16/09 10:01:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

This story is a few days old, but I still feel the need to comment on it. I played Ocarina of Time extensively, and I have been known to rant about it. If you want a quick overview, the person that made the Split Time Theory video emailed Nintendo and asked about the timeline of the Legend of Zelda story as it relates to the games.

Nintendo responded that "there isn't a true frame of reference of timeline possible for the series" based on the fact that "each new game represents a new Link" main character. This clearly annoyed OcarinaHero10, the user responsible for the video, but does it really mean for the games and franchise?

The interesting thing about the Legend of Zelda games has never really been the meta-story. If you look at most of the games it is always the same quest of a young hero who must fulfill his destiny in order to save a girl (or young woman).

However, the environment and steps involved in the story are always unique enough to keep players coming back. This is really no different from any other formulaic video game (or movie, or book) story that is reused with a slight twist. But if that was really true what has millions of gamers coming back each time?

I think this is one of the rare times that players enjoy a divergence from what they know. It is fun to play the most recent Legend of Zelda game because you know it will be very well crafted from a gameplay point of view, but also to see how the Legend itself will be retold this time. It is like hearing a ghost story at summer camp and then coming back the next year ans seeing how the counselors changed it since last time. The beauty is that the meta-story remains the same, but how it is told is new, fresh and unique.

This is becoming common in entertainment (and even in culinary and fine arts), where an old movie or story is reimagined by a new generation. Legend of Zelda is just one of several examples of this (most of them from Nintendo, and it has basically been going on since the leap from the NES to SNES) and I am sure we will see this trend deepen in the coming years now that franchises totally dominate the industry.

Part of me really wishes they did not officially destroy the theorycraft behind weaving all the games together, but as long as they don't ask Michael Bay to reimagine Legend of Zelda I think we are all in good shape. 

I think these reimagined versions are always interesting and cool, it is fun to see how different designers envision the Legend of Zelda story and what new twists can be added.  Like any good fairy tale or fable, the story of Link and Zelda is alive in the minds of gamers, so it is interesting to watch it evolve along with gamers and game designers.

Much like Super Mario Brothers or any game that has made multiple transitions across hardware generations, Legend of Zelda is a good barometer for game design styles and trends.  At least one Legend of Zelda game has appeared in each major console generation (including handheld) and it is fascinating to see how the hardware and game design fads of the time have impacted the games themselves. 

I just hope that the coming generations of the Legend of Zelda series stay true to form and continue to be some of the very best this industry has to offer.


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