In the early 1990s, Nintendo was in the early stages of creating a CD-ROM add-on for their Super Nintendo Entertainment System (known as the Super Famicom in Japan). One of the companies they were considering collaborating with was a company called Philips Entertainment. They signed a deal, but after witnessing the poor reception of Sega’s “Sega CD” add-on, Nintendo scrapped the idea of making a CD-ROM add-on for their own console.
The Creation of the Unholy Triforce
As a part of breaking their deal with Philips, Nintendo gave them the rights to use Link, Zelda, and Ganon in their games, among other Nintendo characters. They released three Zelda games for their CD-i platform: Link: The Faces of Evil, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, and Zelda’s Adventure. Even Impa appears in The Wand of Gamelon, and various classic Zelda enemies appear within the games, such as Iron Knuckles, Moblins, and Darknuts. While Nintendo took no part in the development of these games, they did give Philips free reign to use the characters as they saw fit in games for their system, the CD-i. This, to me, suggests that they are in fact canon. When you consider that Nintendo contractually agreed upon giving Philips the right to use these quintessential characters in three Zelda games for the CD-i platform, this strongly adds to the argument that these games have a place in the Zelda timeline.
It doesn’t matter that these games do not appear in Hyrule Historia, or that Nintendo doesn’t even want to acknowledge their existence. The fact of the matter is that they are Legend of Zelda games, and so they should have a place in the timeline regardless of whether or not Nintendo wants to acknowledge this fact. Classic Zelda characters and enemies alike appear within the titles, and unlike certain games that contain Zelda characters such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl, these stories all center around Link, Zelda, and Ganon, and are Zelda games, even if not developed by Nintendo.
The History of the Timeline
Up until The Wind Waker, there was no real established timeline. Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the Zelda series, gave his own chronology of events regarding the timeline in an interview with Nintendo Power shortly after the release of Ocarina of Time.
: Where do all the Zelda games fall into place when arranged chronologically by their stories?
: Ocarina of Time is the first story, then the original Legend of Zelda, then Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and finally A Link to the Past. It’s not very clear where Link’s Awakening fits in–it could be anytime after Ocarina of Time.
“Ocarina of Time is the first story, then the original Legend of Zelda, then Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and finally A Link to the Past”
And the timeline confusion begins with this simple act..
In an interview with Nintendo of America localization manager Dan Owsen after the release of Ocarina of Time, Dan re-affirmed Miyamoto’s order of events, but also described Ocarina of Time as the “Imprisoning War”, an event which is depicted in the prologue of A Link to the Past. This further cements that as of 1998, A Link to the Past was chronologically last in the series, with the original Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link preceding it, with all three taking place after Ocarina of Time. And this came straight from the mouth of Shigeru Miyamoto himself.
: Dan, it appears something about the The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past translation is jumbled. It is said the events played out in Ocarina of Time were the events that happened in the story of A Link to the Past, and therefore were to solve many story holes. But if Zelda 3’s instruction manual is read, these events sound completely different, and now there seem to be more holes than ever. It clearly states on the back of the box of A Link to the Past that it was a prequel to Zeldas 1 and 2, but Miyamoto says it comes after them. What’s the truth?
: The truth is, the text on the box (and possibly the Nintendo Power guide) is wrong. D’oh! If you just ignore the box text, the stories fit together better. Basically, the events in Ocarina are the “Imprisoning War” described in the SNES version’s story. The Golden Land was the Sacred Realm before Ganondorf corrupted it. The order of the stories is: Ocarina, Zelda 1, Zelda 2, A Link to the Past. Since Link’s Awakening was a dream (or was it?) it’s hard to say where it fits.
A very different timeline than Miyamoto envisioned in 1998!
This is a very different picture than what we have in Hyrule Historia. A split timeline wasn’t even truly hinted at until a 2002 interview at a Wind Waker summit that had both Eiji Aonuma and Shigeru Miyamoto in attendance to answer questions.
The timeline as it exists today didn’t truly begin to take form until after The Wind Waker was developed
: Where does The Wind Waker fit into the overall Zelda series timeline?
: You can think of this game as taking place over a hundred years after Ocarina of Time. You can tell this from the opening story, and there are references to things from Ocarina located throughout the game as well.
: Well, wait, which point does the hundred years start from?
: From the end.
: No, I mean, as a child or as a…
: Oh, right, let me elaborate on that. Ocarina of Time basically has two endings of sorts; one has Link as a child and the other has him as an adult. This game, The Wind Waker, takes place a hundred years after the adult Link defeats Ganon at the end of Ocarina.
: This is pretty confusing for us, too. (laughs) So be careful.
What does all of this tell us? The timeline as it exists today didn’t truly begin to take form until after The Wind Waker was developed, and possibly later than that. A split timeline, with two branches, was finally confirmed with the release of Twilight Princess.
: When does Twilight Princess take place?
: In the world of Ocarina of Time, a hundred and something years later.
: And the Wind Waker?
: The Wind Waker is parallel. In Ocarina of Time, Link flew seven years in time, he beat Ganon and went back to being a kid, remember? Twilight Princess takes place in the world of Ocarina of Time, a hundred and something years after the peace returned to kid Link’s time. In the last scene of Ocarina of Time, kids Link and Zelda have a little talk, and as a consequence of that talk, their relationship with Ganon takes a whole new direction. In the middle of this game [Twilight Princess], there’s a scene showing Ganon’s execution. It was decided that Ganon be executed because he’d do something outrageous if they left him be. That scene takes place several years after Ocarina of Time. Ganon was sent to another world and now he wants to obtain the power…
The timeline split is confirmed with the release of Twilight Princess
The timeline that Hyrule Historia presents has been 17 years in the making, at the very least. Much has changed over time and Miyamoto himself has even contradicted this new “official” timeline at one point or another. While we can still use the Hyrule Historia timeline as a guide to place the CD-i Zelda games within the Zelda canon, Nintendo also gives us just cause to do so because the timeline has never been truly set in stone until Hyrule Historia was released. As it has been chronicled here, there have been many contradictions over the years, and the timeline has been more of an evolution if anything. Hyrule Historia itself says on page 68 that “This chronicle merely collects information that is believed to be true at the 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. Hyrule’s history is a continuously woven tapestry of events. Changes that seem inconsequential, disregarded without even a shrug, could evolve at some point to hatch new legends and, perhaps, change this tapestry of history itself.”
The timeline that Hyrule Historia presents has been 17 years in the making
With that being said, why can’t the stories of the CD-i games be woven into this chronicle as well, given that Hyrule Historia gives us the justification to do just that?
Where the CD-i Games Fit
Now that we’ve established that the official timeline for the games has developed over a long period of time and was never set in stone, we can begin to decide where to place The Faces of Evil, The Wand of Gamelon, and Zelda’s Adventure into the official timeline. But the question is, where do we place them? There are three options: the Adult Timeline, the Child Timeline, or the Downfall Timeline. The games could theoretically fit into any of them as things stand now, but there are some subtleties that lend credence to the fact that the games fit best in either the Child Timeline or the Adult Timeline.
Not everything in the Zelda timeline fits perfectly; it’s more like a puzzle
In the Downfall Timeline, Ganon is destroyed and his resurrection is foiled in The Adventure of Link. True, he could have been resurrected at a later point in time, but given the ambiguous nature of Ganon’s demise in the Child Timeline and the Adult Timeline, I would tend to think that it is more likely that these games take place in one of those timelines.
Now let’s take a look at the Child Timeline. The Child Timeline ends in Twilight Princess, with Ganon(dorf) being stabbed by Link through the chest. His death is somewhat unclear though; we don’t know if he’s gone for good, or if his Triforce of Power merely deactivated for the time being and he went into some kind of ‘hibernation mode’. While it is possible for the CD-i games to take place in the Child Timeline, between the hundreds of years that separate Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess, the landscape has not changed dramatically. In the CD-i games, the landscape of Hyrule does seem to be quite different, and Link and Zelda embark to lands that are unheard of in previous games.
This leaves the Adult Timeline, the most likely setting for the Unholy Triforce to dwell. Towards the end of the Adult Timeline, Ganon has the Master Sword plunged into his forehead and turns to stone. In a previous CD-i article, we talked about how the CD-i games, much like the proper Zelda games, reference mythologies and cultures from all around the world. This is somewhat speculative, but what if someone, hundreds, maybe thousands of years later once the oceans recede, were to release the Master Sword from Ganon’s forehead? If he were to reanimate, it would be very similar to 1938’s The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White. If thousands of years have passed, and the legacy of Hyrule has continued to be passed down by Tetra and Link in The Wind Waker to future generations, the various new locations that are explored in the CD-i games and the new terrain of Hyrule would be explained perfectly. Not everything in the Zelda timeline fits perfectly; it’s more like a puzzle. But this would make the most sense out of the three options we are given.
The CD-i games are just as much a part of the Zelda franchise as any other Zelda game
The Zelda timeline is constantly evolving, and has been evolving since its inception 28 years ago. At one point Ocarina of Time was meant to depict the famous Imprisoning War; now, according to Hyrule Historia (pg. 93), it doesn’t. Originally A Link to the Past was meant to be the final chapter in the series, but according to Hyrule Historia, it takes place before the original Legend of Zelda, once again contradicting what is now considered to be the official timeline. As much as some fans don’t want to hear it, the timeline for The Legend of Zelda series was made up as they went along; there was never any grand plan. The CD-i games are just as much a part of the Zelda franchise as any other Zelda game, and they are more than deserving of a place in the official timeline of The Legend of Zelda series.