Official timeline

Over the weekend yet another fascinating page of Hyrule Historia was translated by GlitterBerri and her team–an afterword in which Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma reminds fans of something that he (and creator Shigeru Miyamoto) has said many times now: Zelda games are built on game mechanics first and a story is added after the fact to fit the gameplay.

Unfortunately, it seems that this statement has been misinterpreted around the web as meaning that the timeline presented in the book is not valid, with GamesRadar claiming:

“Eiji Aonuma has announced that the official Zelda timeline found in the limited edition Zelda book ‘Hyrule Historia’ that was sold in Japan recently may not be totally canonical.”

Kotaku took this a step further, writing thatit’s a timeline, sort of, but only in so far as it’s what they’ve thrown together and casually arranged after the fact.

Neither of these claims seem to match up with the quotes that they are supposedly taken from. Let’s look at Mr. Aonuma’s exact quote.

“Chapter 2, “The Full History of Hyrule,” arranges the series in chronological order so it’s easier to understand, but from the very beginning, Zelda games have been developed with the top priority of focusing on the game mechanics rather than the story. For example, in Ocarina of Time, the first installment of the series I was involved in, the main theme was how to create a game with pleasant controls in a 3D world. Or in the DS game, Phantom Hourglass, the focus was having comfortable stylus controls. Finally, in the most recent game, Skyward Sword, we focused on an easy way to swing the sword using the Wii motion plus.

Thinking of that way of developing the games, it may be correct to say that the story is an appendix to that. I even think that setting Skyward Sword as the “first story,” was merely a coincidence.

While reading over “The Full History of Hyrule,” it’s possible that some parts may look contradictory. For instance, the Mogma race or the beetle item that appear on the very first story do not appear on any other game that takes place in the future. I’d like to ask everyone just to enjoy the book and to be broad-minded, and to think that those parts are the way they are because of the way Zelda games are developed.”

While several large gaming sites, including IGN and Kotaku, have taken this to mean that Aonuma was offering a disclaimer on the accuracy of the timeline, we can see that he was instead talking about the way that the story of Zelda games is created around the game mechanics. A feature of one game, like a new race or a new item, might not appear in another game considered to be later in the timeline, and Aonuma realized that this could cause a bit of confusion to someone looking through the Hyrule Historia chapter “The Full History of Hyrule” who might be wondering for example why the Subrosians–who were in the previous game on the list–are now nowhere to be seen.

In other words, things like your choice of items in a game aren’t arranged based on the timeline, but are instead considered a matter of the game’s mechanics/gameplay, which the story is then created around. However, nothing in that statement renders any part of the timeline incorrect or suggests that it is not the official canon.

This is an important distinction, as the answer Aonuma gave does not suggest that all of the issues people have with the timeline’s story can simply be dismissed because there are a “lot of contradictions” caused by adding the games together, whereas several sites have claimed this to be the case. For example, IGN, after suggesting that the timeline was inaccurate because the Link from the Oracles games seemingly doesn’t know the Zelda from A Link to the Past, then said that this doesn’t matter because the timeline has been declared not entirely reliable, which is not something that Aonuma stated.

As for Kotaku’s statement that it’s a timeline “only in so far as it’s what they’ve thrown together and casually arranged after the fact,” this also misinterprets Aonuma’s words. There’s nothing in Aonuma’s quote to suggest that the timeline in Hyrule Historia was invented for the sole purpose of Hyrule Historia. It’s been made clear several times before that Nintendo has long kept track of the relationships between their Zelda games with a timeline document, and it would seem the timeline presented in Hyrule Historia is that very document.

Hyrule Historia translation source: GlitterBerri

  • thank you!

  • Luke

    i still think each title is just in another universe just like the final fantasy series..

  • ToyotaObsession

    What makes me laugh is the Beetle was a lost Technology Skyward Sword. So it's entirely conceivable that the Beetle would have been lost again long before the other events happened in the Timeline.

    Not every game comes with everything that came in the game before it. The Rope from Wind Waker for example.

  • yeeeepa

    let's just say miyamoto is awesome………..

  • Disciple of Midna

    *facepalm* Oi, people! How did they manage to get "timeline isn't canon" from "story is written around gameplay?" I can't even figure it out. >.>

  • Flare

    I think what the real take away from Aonuma's comment is that the timeline is cannon… for now. >_>

    As he's stated, chronology of the Zelda world is an after thought to game development. For right now, that's the order they're going with, and it works (for the most part) But who the hell knows what the next game might through in there.

    And that's how I prefer to think of it. Mostly because I'm severely disappointed with the timeline that they announced and have found a dozen other theories out there that seem to be more coherently spliced together… but that's me.

  • Jquestionmark

    First, this is a fine example of why I don't take anything on Kotaku seriously anymore. They tend to work a little too hard to try to make a story out of nothing or grab attention by simply being intentionally contradictory. Their handling of the Penny Arcade/Ocean Marketing debacle was a joke, and so is this.

    Second, and more importantly, there is something very worthwhile to take away from what Aonuma said. Zelda games are about fun, and adventure – the plot and the overarching nature of the series is an afterthought, and rightly so. For my issues with some of the poorly thought out mechanics of SS, and my preference for the 2D entries of the series, I still love all the games and find them to be a ton of fun. Yes, it's very cool that they put out a canon timeline (even if the third branch was a bit troll-ish and there's no reason to expect it based on the actual game), and it always has been cool that so many people have been trying to solve the riddle of the timeline themselves. It's just another way that these games are fun. Props to Miyamoto and Aonuma for making games that continue to be fun after we play them and put them away to think and talk about them instead.

    For me, the timeline that really matters is my own: the order I had the pleasure of experiencing the games in. The evolution of the mechanics and the experiences I've had with friends and family while playing them is what really counts. To me, at least. Regardless of the timeline you favor, regardless of Aonuma and Miyamoto maybe throwing the timeline together at the last second, regardless of "big name" news sites running their mouths without ground to stand on, the Zelda series is fun, so let's enjoy it.

  • somecrazyguy

    well, even tough this statement has been construed to mean the timeline isnt accurate, i still beleive its not accurate. the timeline doesnt follow IN GAME cannon, such as link not knowing zelda in the oracle games, and FS coming right before FSA. not only that, but the only case that i can find for a possible split due to link failing is in not ocarina of time, but adventure of link, whjere when you die, the game over screen specificly states ganon is resurected. nintendo doesnt know the meaning of the word "cannon"

    • somecrazyguy

      i know the games are built around gameplay rather then story, which is cool and stuff. and i really dont care if there is a fail timeline or not, as long as its a "what if" scenerio. but to have the oracle games between Alttp and LA, when in the oracle games zelda and link meet for the first time (the only way ill accept this is if the oracles link is not the same as the ALTTP LINK.) and to have FS seem to be hundreds of years before FSA when in FSA it is clearly stated that FS happens right before FSA is kinda mind boggling. i dont get that.

  • A good thing about the timeline is that it can be altered when needed to, and made to fit more exact storylines. This is what happened with the original splits, and then the third was added. I hope that was for the better.

  • HylianWarrior

    Glad to know that we were hyped for nothing supposedly…..Not sure what to think at this point lol

  • TheMaverickk

    I think that the proper interpretation should be this;

    The Timeline as presented in Hyrule Historia is canon and legit, that is until we say other wise. Basically this is the timeline to the Zelda games as Miyamoto and Aonuma see it at this point in time. Which could change based on future Zelda titles, and possible remakes.

    Not to mention that they are also saying to not spend too much worrying about trying to connect every little detail, and trying to point out every little contradiction.

    Regardless, even if this is the timeline to the Zelda games now, it may not be in the next 5-10 years.

  • Rick420

    Its CANON and those that don't like it can suck Link's Deku Nuts 😛

  • Craig

    Do people not think that Zelda has just been kidnapped, in shock, put to sleep and in a dazed state of mind… She might be all over the place and not remember him properly.