When I play Zelda, I play for the world. Not the world-building (although that’s fun too), but for the simple pleasures of exploring the vast, beautiful landscape of Hyrule. Indeed, I think Miyamoto concurs, “Zelda has an epic story and all, but the truth is, to me it’s all about hiking.”
My favorite subjects for Zelda fan art are landscapes or maps, and Melora from History of Hyrule is one of the very best at both of them. The piece we’re highlighting today is an older one from 2003: a stylized map of the western half of Hyrule from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. This map has captivated me since I first saw it 15 years ago. It’s a world I want to be in: a vast version of Hyrule with many towns, forests, mountain ranges, and interesting coastlines.
Like any good map, this one rewards an eye for detail. Zoom in, and you’ll keep finding little touches that bring the image alive. For example, look at the seagulls around the Island Palace, the small sandy islands at the feet of the bridge between Death Mountain the King’s Tomb, and the miniature version of Zelda 1’s map in the lower-left corner.
The map is super stylized. Those seagulls are enormous! This is an iconic style, where towns are represented by small clusters of huge houses, entire forests are rendered with just a few enormous trunks visibly peeking out of the bottom, and the world’s most enormous bridge spans the river delta. This style allowed Melora to capture a sense of a vast region while simultaneously making it feel personal — like we’re nearly there. The other thing it does is allow her to adjust the sense of scale or distance by altering how iconic and detailed different parts of the map are. Compare the “Death Mountain Area” in the lower-left, the map from Zelda 1, to the rest of the map. There is less detail, and smaller features; it creates a sense that the area is smaller and further away than the rest of the map.
I’ve known Melora for years. She is a naturalist at heart: she loves forests and mountains, the animals in them, and the worlds they create. These days she doesn’t do as much Zelda fan art, but her love of wild places has always been the beating heart of her art. As this map beautifully shows, she often uses vibrant greens and blues contrasted against warm, earthy hues; her color palette feels like it came straight out of A Link to the Past’s tileset. Even when she does character pieces, she often grounds them in lavishly detailed landscapes that I would love to visit. You can find more of Melora’s work at her DeviantArt Gallery.
And if you want to explore that beautiful landscape? Well, I hear Adventure of Link is playable on at least seven platforms. Go forth, and save that beautiful land!