The 100-Year Itch

Guest Article By pipking

Spirit Tracks, the sequel to 2007’s Phantom Hourglass, reportedly takes place 100 years after Link bested Bellum on the Great Sea. Phantom was an immediate successor to The Wind Waker, but for our next trip into Toon Link’s world we’re going to the far flung future. Again.

Everyone knows that The Wind Waker took place hundreds of years after Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask – long enough for the entire world to flood, the people to adapt successfully into sea-faring pirate folk, the Rito to evolve from the wrong love between a Hylian and his carrier pigeons, and the Zora to disappear. Long enough to take the world fans knew and loved and change it entirely.

Think about a hundred years from the day you read this. Will cars fly? Will our pollution have finally peeled off the ozone layer and leave the earth standing dead and baking like a sun-fried orange? Will members of your extended lineage live on Mars? Will aliens make contact and live among us? Will we all be immortal brains plugged in to machines?

A lot can happen in a hundred years. It is far enough away from today that one can reasonably conclude of a science fiction future that only barely resembles our current world. If the human race makes it, anything we take for granted today may become a curious relic of a more savage time – your quaint suburban bungalow could be unearthed and studied by the people of tomorrow with the same fascination as we look at Mayan temples today.

In the hundred years since Phantom Hourglass, it can be assumed land was finally found, peopled, agricultured, civilized and the beginnings of a technological culture have formed. In the real world, trains and horses lived side-by-side for a time before the internal combustion engine gave everyone wheels. I believe that this new Zelda takes place in a similar grace period. The beginning of an industrial revolution – but just the beginning.

While Spirit Tracks still appears to hold to the fantasy roots of the series, perhaps it marks a turning point – after all, there is only so much future left to go without getting into cars and planes and guns. How long before long all you have left are lasers and spaceships?

That assumes, of course, the progression of a fantasy universe would mimic our own in some way. There are many fictional spaces where magic and science live side-by-side in compliment, the foremost being Steampunk.

While Steampunk can refer to many specific genre things, the foremost is a technological progression where steam power drives all innovation and ingenuity. It’s often linked to the aesthetic of Victorian era England – all dark coats and sooty faces, dirigibles and Jules Vernes and Jack-the-Rippers in the shadows. But more than a specific look, the important thing about the Steampunk style is it allows fantasy and technology to coexist. In a way, I feel it is about the magic of the technological, that precious space where fancy and fact haven’t quite met; somewhere directly between worshipping the Moon as a goddess and landing on it in a rocket.

What we know of Spirit Tracks so far is that it has trains. Trains in a fantasy world do not a Steampunk make – but it certainly suggests some possibilities.

Zelda could use bit of Steampunk shine.

Let’s face it – the Lord of the Rings films completely ruined high fantasy. It is played out. While each property will treat its elements differently, the resultant salad tastes the same. This doesn’t mean there should be any shortage of traditional fantasy in the near or far future. As a fictional space, it’s like a well-loved blanket people feel comfy under. But it does open up the possibility that a series which likes to jump around in time might be well advised to drop down in Steam town.

One of the best and worst things about Twilight Princess was its commitment to the history of the series. It played like The Legend of Zelda Greatest Hits. Until Twilight Princess, the games had kept evolving – new dimensions, new mechanics, new worlds – while maintaining that “Zelda-feel” so loved by fans of the series. There was a balance between difference and similarity that virtually all Zelda games struck to greater or lesser extent – until Twilight Princess.

It was not the mechanics, which gave players the ability to be a wolf, surf on a spinning top, grapple with both arms, fight on horseback and aim the bow with exacting precision. It was not the story, which shoved Zelda in a corner and gave Midna centre stage. It was not the dungeons, where were some of the most interesting of the series.

It was the world. Here we were in Hyrule again – a Hyrule that meticulously mimicked Ocarina – doing variations on things we had done before. While most Zelda games played the same, give or take, they rarely felt the same. Aside from being a wolf, a lot of the additions weren’t integrated fully enough in the experience to make it feel new again. Twilight Princess remained a fantastic game from start to finish – but at the end of it, aside from a few exceptionally bright points, too much felt like stuff I had done before to feel completely satisfied with the experience. It left me wanting, not more of it, but more of something different.

Whatever is planned for the next Zelda Wii game, now being teased in very thin drips, I want it to feel new again. New like walking out onto the beach in Wind Waker and confronting that bright blue sea. While sailing was much maligned in the community I found it one of the most compelling and endearing aspects of the game. The world of Wind Waker felt complete, and new – not a place I had been dozens of times before. Hyrule, in its historic form, is played out. Adventure depends on surprise.

The train in Spirit Tracks was a surprise. Definitely a step in the direction I want the console games to take.

For all appearances that won’t be the case – Miyamoto has suggested the new Zelda Wii features a Link that is slightly older and more mature than his Twilight Princess counterpart. The concept art shows him virtually the same as he has been. While I can’t fault the developers for a game that still exists to us only as potential, it’s disheartening that the bravery shown by the handheld team hasn’t appeared to translate to it’s console cousins. Link is trapped in his high fantasy milieu.

Not that I want guns or lasers or nanotechnology in my Zelda – but something new, something the sparks the true sense of adventure the series has embodied since it’s inception. Steampunk is an obvious choice because it would allow the series to keep it’s magic roots but give endless room for invention.

Of course, I may be an anomaly in the fanbase. Given the hateful reaction of many fans to The Wind Waker’s cheery veneer, maybe changing the world context would be too much of a jump. Maybe Zelda will keep towing the same line it has, because that’s all it needs to be for most people to be satisfied. Maybe we don’t want change as much as we say we do.

Maybe in 100 years.

  • Phantom Majora

    I can see where both sides of this argument come into play. I certainly enjoyed my fair share of Twilight Princess. The fantastically brilliant new items which allowed players to (often literally) jump into this new world (or perhaps an old world) with a new sense of adventure and vigor. However, I also see how Wind Waker was an entirely new and refreshing sense of a game that offered Zelda fans everywhere not only a new outlook on Link (and I don't mean just in the sense of graphics) but also a new type of Zelda adventure.
    When I first played through The Wind Waker, I was thrilled to discover that not only is this an entirely new game and a new world to explore, but it also remains true to its Zelda roots. It was more of a continuation of the same plot line that I loved but with it's own unique spices. Seeing Zelda reborn into the rough and tough girl that is Tetra and seeing a new Ganondorf attempting to revive his old forgotten world brought a smile to my face and a renewed sense of adventure and determination that every Zelda game has brought.
    Basically, I am also highly anticipating the release of this new handheld game, Spirit Tracks, in the hopes that it will bring something new and refreshing to the Zelda Universe (no pun intended) but it will still remain true to its roots as its previews have shown the lovely Princess Zelda.

  • Excellent article, pipking. You always choose a subject that is a great topic for discussion. I hope you write more in the future. I miss reading your Behind the Rupees articles.

  • Graham

    i have to agree- wind waker felt more new and more satisfying in general than twilight princess. when i focus and try to remember bits of twilight princess, i go 'oh yeh, that WAS cool', but the point is i have to try. there was something innately forgettable about the game. for me, wind waker felt like it had more love and excitement put into it, whereas TP was a case of serving up what was asked. without passion.

  • Samuel

    I agree with the thought of moving the next Zelda to a different place. I would be happy with a setting like Kolohint or Termina, a story that didn't revolve around the Triforce and the classic saving-Zelda-from-Ganondrof story.

  • Megabrain3000

    Very interesting article, I agree with many of your points
    I agree that Twilight Princess was trapped in high fantasy. There were hints of change that I noticed in the game, however, and I wouldn't mind if they pursued those. One of those instances was the Goron Mines. That seemed to me to be a advancement of sorts, that the Gorons had a sophisticated mining operation while still fitting in with the whole High Fantasy setting.
    I agree 100% with the WindWaker statements, I loved the feel of that game, that merging of an ancient legend and a new world. As for the next console game, I'm not making any judgments until we get some more information. One can always hope with Zelda.
    Overall, great article. You're far from an anomaly in the fanbase, pipking. If you are, then the Zelda community could use some more anomalies.

  • I'm one of those fans that never quite got in to Wind Waker. I agree that the feel of the world was vastly new, and fresh, but I've always been fond of tradition. The part of the game I enjoyed the most was seeing the world beneath the sea: the shadow of that ancient Hyrule.

    After I've finished a game, the part I recall most fondly isn't the dungeons or the worlds or the subplots. It's the story. Probably because I write so much. And the games I enjoy the most are the ones that tie back to those older premises, revealed in aLttP and OoT, and even better, the ones that can be linked to the minuscule bits of information found in LOZ and AOL.

    And not to say that Wind Waker's story wasn't brilliant, but it wouldn't have been complete if the whole of it wasn't a tie-back to those older games – a "what-if" situation covering a possibility much darker than one would expect, based on the carefree look of the game. Twilight Princess was the same way, though its darker tone was much more overt (which was both a curse and a boon to it. But I don't want to talk about TP versus WW).

    Phantom Hourglass didn't have that connection to bring it to life; like the Oracle Games, Majora's Mask and Link's Awakening before it, it's one of the travelling games. And that's fine: variety and deviation from the standard 'Save the Princess! mission' is essential to the franchise's continued existence. But I can't say I'm fond of the notion of continuing to develop one of those worlds. [It should be said here that I'm ignoring Four Swords, which I technically oughtn't be. It's tied to Minish Cap, which gives it an edge up in this argument. But I do my best to forget that Four Swords exists at all, so forgive me for the glaring gap in my logic.]

    The worlds of Koholint, Termina, Labrynna, Holodrum (and Subrosia, too), and the World of the Ocean King (notibly nameless, in this list) are well enough, but I don't feel they are designed to be grand enough to go back to: in Hyrule, even as the characters change, you still have the tie-backs to hold the world together. What would Labrynna be without Ralph and Queen Ambi? Or Termina without Kafei and Anju or Sakon and that stupid bird of his?

    Hryule has more legends and history than any of those other worlds (and the history, game-wise, to keep them going strong). You knew, stepping into Twilight Princess's version of Kakariko that it was the same village, even if the western twang in the music seemed foreign. Or looking up after exploring the Forest Haven's floor and seeing the Deku Tree – looking more like the Maku Tree with age – you knew that it was the same woods from Ocarina of Time, thousands of years later.

    The World of the Ocean King doesn't have that. One could say (mean though it sounds) that the world doesn't even have a proper existence in its own right: like Koholint, it is shown as a dream-world, an alternate existence. And not that that's detrimental in itself, but it certainly doesn't have the depth I feel is necessary to create a path of its own in the franchise. A future-scape game or not, there's not enough history (both in the premise and the franchise) for Spirit Tracks to pull it off well.

    Going back to Wind Waker, despite how different the world was, there was that lingering echo of "Hyrule" writ in each island and each people's history. Or in Twilight Princess, which was so obviously recognisable as the same world, despite the grandness of it and the altered hierarchy. That echo isn't going to be there in Spirit Tracks: not like it ought to be. At this point, we don't even know if we'll see familiar names: Mercay Island, The Isle of Frost, the Ocean King himself could all be far away or history. And without those details, those places and stories to tie the game back to its roots, what will be left? The Anouki and the Yooks? Two admittedly novel races, but hardly a good enough summation of a whole game's premise. And even if we do see Mercay, or the Ocean King, in a world so radically different from the World of the Ocean King that we know, how will we recognise them? There won't be obvious clues like background music or stained-glass windows to help us out: one short game isn't enough to ensure the warmth of familiar reunion in places one-hundred years different, especially in a direction of change as radical as Spirit Tracks promises to be.

    So, long argument straight: I still don't trust Spirit Tracks, but not because of fear of the 'future' (though, admittedly, an industrial revolution Zelda game is still really creepy). Honestly, labelling it as steampunk helped; I can now keep in mind that trains might not ruin the classic feel of the franchise.

    It was good to read an article of yours, pipking. It's been a long while. Thanks for the discussion-fueling post.

    • t-man

      longest post ever :DD

      • Hahaha! I try; took like an hour and a half to formulate right, but hell, it was a great distraction from real life.

        • protorpop

          you should write articles :3

          • linker27

            You flatter me, protorpop.
            Maybe some day I'll have enough time to write something legitimate, theory based or speculation (though, like with my ignoring Four Swords in this post, I'm not always an impartial observer and I do have areas where my knowledge is substantially weaker), and I'll look into getting a guest article published here (which sounds frankly awesome; considering how long and extensively I've used this place's wealth of resources), but time is always a rare commodity, and I've other obligations. [And even /considering/ writing up something to try and get put up legitimately would likely first require a greater presence on the forums, and also reading through and considering the whole site's backlog of debates and theories, neither of which I have the time to do properly at present.]
            (And now I'm thinking of ignoring my work for the day and reading through that aforementioned backlog. Shoot.)

  • Michael Z.

    You're basing an entire article based on something GameTrailers said about ST taking place 100 years into the future.

  • Zeldadudetp

    I don't know.

    I don't want Hyrule to grow up. I enjoy riding horses, and using the bow, versus riding a train, and using guns.

    Not saying that Spirit Tracks will use guns.

    It better not.

    Michael- Even if GameTrailers is wrong, we know that ST's has to take place many years after Phantom Hourglass.

    linker- Are you saying that Spirit Tracks is going to take place in another world? I surely hope not.

    • [I did not think on spoilers. Whoops. Because of the game's link as 'sequel' it seemed unnecessary. If you haven't beaten it, my humblest apologies. Though, it's not really that big of a surprise.]
      The Sea of the Ocean King isn't the same Great Sea as in Wind Waker; they entered another dimension/world when they walked on to the ghost ship. There are hints scattered throughout the game, and confirmed in the post-game ending sequence.

  • To tell the truth, It's been a long while since I've visited ZU. I'm glad to be back though. Most people probably won't remember me but I wrote the theory on a mutual dimension linking the two time lines in the split time line theory. That dimension was the Twilight Realm.

    Anywho, piking, I agree that there needs to be innovation in Zelda. We need some more progress. TP I enjoyed as it gave more substance to my theory. Personally I enjoy the story and time line almost more than I enjoy the game play. I also am a writer, though not professionally, so I guess that's why I enjoy the story line so much.

    My hope is that Spirit Tracks will push Zelda into the future where there are so many more possibilities. I also hope that the train idea is used as much as the boat from WW. If not, the game will be a huge disappointment.

    I agree that WW was a great refreshment from Hyrule. I enjoyed the game very much and I hope that Spirit Tracks is as satisfying.

    Finally I really hope to see Zelda take brave to steps into a future world of Hyrule. Who knows, maybe we will get to see Link much further ahead in time than we ever expected one day. My hopes for the next Zelda Wii title are that it will continue the TP story and theme but with enough of a new feeling that we will remember it as better than TP and a great comeback for the console titles. Maybe we will see the future of Clock Town, although that goes against what I just said. I hope whatever it is, it will be a game that renews passion for long time Zelda players and starts new flames for others. Come on Nintendo, don't just make a Zelda game. Impress us.


    • linker27

      I think I remember that article on the mutual dimension in the split timeline. Any chance you still have a copy of it floating around (or could direct me to where I might find it?) No clue what it was called, so I doubt I could stumble upon it on my own.

  • wat if they made deku muskets

  • benthegreater

    I think technological progress would not be so much an 'innovation' for the series, but more of an escapism tactic…..
    I'm a writer and game designer, and and for good or ill, my work is in high fantasy. There are SO many places the series could be taken that would satisfy your need for something "new, adventurous, and different" without resorting to full on steampunk-ing it. I've had half a dozen concepts that I wish to heaven I could get nintendo to look at, all of which are different, and in keeping with the overall feel of zelda so-far, and NONE of which include advancement of technologies as a major plot driver.
    Now, I'm in no way saying my concepts are actually worthy of nintendo's attentions; what I'm saying is that if they wanted to, it's extremely possible to think of new and exiting ideas and places for Zelda without resorting to a drastic and (largely) undesired jump in setting like Steampunking Zelda would be.
    I'm most certainly not opposed to Spirit Track's concept. It's quite exciting actually, but it doesn't look at all like it's making an unrealistic departure, so that,l in my eyes, is a great thing.
    As far as the ultimate forgetabillity of TP, I have mulled this over quite a bit myself, and I do not believe it's any fault of the setting at all. It was the collective shalowness and disconnect that almost every NPC character seemed to give off. the ONLY character other than link that I really loved and remember is Midna. For other games in the series, it was inherently easy to remember characters like the Mask salesman, Talon, Orca, and even the singing Scarecrow. They had a unique soul, every one of them. TP's characters seemed more like walking, talking dolls…there, but absent at the same time. THIS was the source of my discontent with the game, not any lack of setting freshness.

    • benthegreater

      sorry for the spelling errors 🙂

    • Jamie

      Ive got to agree with you here. I couldnt really place it before, but now im confident that TP really was lacking in that essential relationship the player has with the characters in the story… much like the relationship a reader has with the characters in a book. thats what makes zelda, and some other great games, truly special. Ill always have a fond memory of Ocarina of Time and Majoras Mask for this reason; somewhere between the memorable personalities of talon and malon, the (rather incredible for a video game) empathy you have for the tragic plight of Anju and Kafei, and even the well-roundedness of characters like that Rito girl really open you up to the story and make the game much more unforgettable.

  • zombiefragger

    I must say that the idea of the Zelda series starting to develop technology is long over do. This is because of the fact the series has been around over 22 years and link still uses a horse to get around and sword and bow to fight with. Even link's Nintendo cusin Mario has experimented with technology and even made the jump into space (no pun intended). I think it is time for link to trade the horse for a self propelled vehicle (a motor bike, car or space ship will do fine) and the bow for a gun or bazooka but the sword can stay.

  • Dana the Great

    The only other thing I could stand seeing would be a hot air balloon, maybe a horse-drawn carriage, or how about a skateboard? like in peter pan and the lost boys! lol. the moment i see link in a car, motor bike, i will turn and forget it ever existed. i don't think guns would work too well with link either, what is he going to find ammo by chopping shrubs? did u even think this one out? i'll do with a sword and shield anyday. and, on the topic of technology, how advanced can it get when link doesn't even speak? he's not for war, but adventure.

  • Dana the Great

    The only other thing I could stand seeing would be a hot air balloon, or how about a skateboard? like the lost boys in hook! lol. the moment i see link in a car, motor bike, i will turn and forget it ever existed. i don't think guns would work too well with link either, what is he going to find ammo by chopping shrubs? did u even think this one out? i'll do with a sword and shield anyday. and, on the topic of technology, how advanced can it get when link doesn't even speak? he's not for war, but adventure.

    sorry if this goes through multiple times, this is my first post.

  • lattiag3

    the idea of link going into technology is like a win some gain some to me. because the feel of playing the older games will like dissapear. but it is bringing a new twist to the game.i mean maybe if he ditches the horse for a mystical vehicle or somthin. its kinda cool, but it wont be like the other past games. i couldnt imagine link with a bazooka or machine gun or somthin.

  • HylianShadow

    Wow! This is a great article, it kind of makes you think a lot about the subject. It's actually one of the best articles I've read online. I've never thought about it before, but you're probably right about the subject on wanting a "new" feel for the future Zelda games, and arguably right about the 100 year thing. Though I can't really imagine Link acting like someone from the Halo series or Call of Duty…

  • murdokdracul

    Nice article, but I think the 'industrial revolution' stuff can only ever really work in Spirit Tracks, and that's where it should stay. High fantasy is what this series has always been about, and if that changes then there will be an uproar.

  • scott

    i think the train is worth a try but i miss the medieval aspects and the adventures of Old Hyrule

  • Stealth Pilot

    Why? Why oh why? Why did old hyrule dissapear under the ocean. The best LoZ adventures were Ocarina of time and Majoras mask. Why must that place dissapear, oh why oh why?

  • Eakdog

    i think people shoud be prepared.

    the day were we see Link in a spaceage kokiri outfit, with some weird tribal pattern tattooed on his face, welding laser guns and light sabers could most def be approaching soon.

    ive always pictured a spaceage Link, looking something like Fierce Diety Link, just upgraded with spacey armour and hi-tech weaponary. not my ideal setting for link by far, but could also be a good game.

    hasnt anybody noticed what theyve done with cartoons these days, everything is a remake of something i used to watch when i was a kid, now just upgraded with brighter colors and things like new weapons and super powers.
    shows & characters like scooby doo, bugs bunny, daffy duck
    just take a look at what theyve done to cartoons like that, and you'll get an idea of whats happening and whats going to happen to the LOZ.

  • Eakdog

    Nintendo can promise us that they will stay true to the series all they want, but when all the original fans are 40-50 years old and not buying enough games to keep the franchise in business, what do you think theyre going to do??

    i can almost guarantee that one day we will all be old and frail yelling at the kids how back in our day, we only needed a sword and a fairy bow to save Hyrule.

  • Eakdog

    when it comes down to, i wouldnt expect zelda 16 or zelda 28 or any future zelda for that matter, to be better then ocarina of time of majoras, or even better then twilight. because the feelings i have towards those games were formed through the sheer brilliance of the games themselfs. not because of how well i could aim the bow, or what ganondorfs head looks like recreated in HI-DEF.

    if a future game does happen to completely blow my mind, all the better, at least i have left myself open to hating it for what it is and not just because it has LOZ written on the front cover.

    oh and excellent article pipking, some nice insights into thinking about the future, and i always enjoy reading an article written by someone who thinks as much into it as i do and more. i actually was one of the people who hated Windwakers setting, but this has kind of changed my mind.

    it was absolutely the freshest turn we have seen in a zelda game since OOT launched on N64. and im even gettin a lil nostalgic just thinking about my first trip to that beach. lol

  • Leenda

    I love this new game!It's brilliant!

  • zeldafanboy23ify

    ey now that i think of it
    the guredou legend says a male will be born every 100-years and since he always dies maybe a news hero is born every hundred years
    youtube channel –

  • DawsonTheMinish

    it took me 4ever to beat spirit tracks 2 freaken months i got stuck for a little while on the last tower of spirits its sooooooooo hard!

    • protorpop


  • SpiritZelda

    st was the first zelda game i ever herd of.(yeah, shot me)but it made me a loz fan for life^-^ !!!I've only played 1 other game(ph)have all the manga, & i know a lot!!!!!

  • protorpop

    therse also niko, who is 120 year old too or something…

  • sarahtheswan

    I am not a huge fan of Skyward Sword either. But, my reason being, it's too repetitive. And Twilight Princess was almost my favorite game (for a while, it was). The reason it isn't is because OoT was the first Zelda game I played, the one I love the most. Why do I love that one the most? Twilight Princess was (IMO) just as good, if not better. Well, because it connected me to a lot of great people. It got me to write my own fan fiction, which made me realize I'm not that bad of a writer. Honestly, I very much agree with everything in this article.

  • *I was very pleased to find this web-site.I wanted to thanks for your time for this wonderful read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you blog post.

  • Shawn

    Well I read this article and granted it's old, but I feel that Zelda needs to keep its roots and stay in its current position. Final Fantasy plunged with X, and every release after doesn't follow the true roots of the game. Zelda has stuck to its roots and needs to. No trains, no cars, no flying ships, nothing like that. Keep it with Swords and Shields. You want to use guns go play CoD. You want to use light sabers, go play Star Wars, leave Zelda as it is. Tools, puzzles, new equipment to help get through the next dungeon/level/world. That is all…

  • It is laborious to discover educated folks on this topic, but you sound like you realize what you’re speaking about! Thanks