Arriving a year after the Japanese edition the Western release Hyrule Historia is an impressively weighty tome. Beautifully hardbound in green and embossed with gold it looks and feels much more expensive than its cover price suggests.
The same attention to detail extends to within the book. It’s beautifully laid out on excellent stock, the colours and sketches popping with vibrancy and detail. Hats off to Dark Horse for the exemplary production.
Hyrule Historia is split in to three main sections; a detailed look at Skyward Sword, a fictional history of Hyrule and a game by game look at the art of the Legend of Zelda series.
Much of the book is given over to the most recent Wii title, understandable given the original release date, but a year on it maybe feels a little top-heavy. Nonetheless it’s fascinating to see the design process behind the various characters and locations from the game. The attention to detail that Nintendo puts into its games is evident on every page. Tiny things, such as the design of a crest on an NPC’s dress or the confused expression on a shopkeepers face, are all documented and reasoned. It’s a reminder that no one sweats the small stuff more than Nintendo.
The artwork is simply beautiful and its a tragedy that such detailed and enchanting designs had to be transferred to the lo-res display of the Wii. Let’s hope Skyward Sword gets a HD Wii U update too.
The middle section of the book charts the much discussed Zelda timeline. It makes a kooky kind of sense and is fun, but I’m not sure it deserves quite as much detail as it gets. That said, picking up on the recurring motifs is enjoyable and it’s surprisingly coherent.
The third section takes a broader look at the entire Legend of Zelda series through concept art and development notes. Again the artwork is beautiful but understandably there’s distinct lack of material from the earlier games in the series. It’s a real shame, particularly for the two N64 titles where more concept art does exist.
It’s also a pity that the book doesn’t delve into the technical aspects of the series such as level design, music and game-play mechanics. All of these areas are hugely important to the Zelda franchise but get little, if any, coverage here. First and foremost Hyrule Historia is an art book, even finishing with a rather nice Manga strip that ties into the events of Skyward Sword.
Hyrule Historia would probably need to be three times the size to cover every aspect of the Zelda series, so it’s hard to be too critical. It’s rare to get such a comprehensive look at Nintendo’s notoriously secret creative process and Hyrule Historia only whets the appetite for more books covering their other franchises. Overall then, an essential purchase.