May 19, 2017
A few years ago, Hyrule Historia released and gave fans the chance to explore the official chronology of a legendary game series, at least partially as a response to fans creating their own timeline theories for years preceding. This framework upon which the series’ story lines going forth are founded has been met with criticism, good and bad, and even questioned as to whether or not it should have been finalized in the first place. Whatever the case, the timeline is official, and the illustrious theorists of old have little to do other than project possible placement of new entries. With all this considered, I ponder if what is now etched in stone is any more legitimate than any previous fan theory, and if the designers had ever considered putting an official timeline together before they saw a market for it.
Fan theories are now a thing of the past. From time to time, it is not uncommon to see a forum post presenting an alternate idea, but they are seldom met with the enthusiasm as they would have been pre-Historia. Place the Master Sword in the pedestal and rewind seven years, though, and every Zelda fan site I can think of had a specific sub-forum for timelines. Each topic would bring up a different point of view, and the ensuing dialogue would provoke thought from every party present, causing the theory to grow and develop almost as though it were a living creature. Every time a theory was posted it would affect the opinions of those who read it. Readers’ ideas would mingle with the new possibilities presented by the initial post, and their comments regarding the effects would change the original author’s view and possibly help develop their theory as well.
The debate has shifted now, and the large majority of discussion revolves around disputing the plot holes in the official timeline and focuses largely on negative aspects of what is now considered canon. The official timeline contains its share of plot holes, though I can scarcely think of a theory from the good ol’ days, or even another piece of fiction that is free of such a burden. Every theory had its flaws as well as its merits. The dilemma is that the discussion can no longer induce the evolution of the theory because there is a black and white order to games and anything else is fan-fiction. Since fans cannot just go talk to Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma to discuss it, this version of the timeline will never change or expand in the ways it would have in the past. That is reason enough to question the justification of this; it annihilated any and all extended discussion on the topic.
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So why did they do it? Did Nintendo have this plot running in the background since 1986? I do not believe this is the case. The first fan theories I remember reading came up around the release of Wind Waker. I have no doubt that others existed pre-dating this, but this time the game made it commonplace. Outside of direct sequels, this was the first time the Zelda series referenced any game directly within another. It was very clearly taking place some hundreds of years after Ocarina of Time, and the creators threw in many references to establish this. Or did they?
Breath of the Wild besieged gamers with endless Easter eggs and hidden references to previous titles. In fact, the official strategy guide lists sixty-one places named after a place or person in a past game. These references are so distantly related to their namesakes that there could not possibly be a logical explanation (even within the fictitious world) for how the two places are related. Take for instance, Mabe Village. This small village in Hyrule Field is naught but ruins when you explore it, but it takes its name from the central hub town in Link’s Awakening. Could the two be connected? Is Link exploring the ruins of a town that once lay on a beachfront of Koholint? It is preposterous to postulate so, as the latter existed only within a deity’s delusional dream who slumbered somewhere in the middle of the ocean. There is no way to explain this village somehow migrating hundreds (if not thousands) of miles and moreover, how did it become real? That combined with the other sixty places makes me seriously suspect it was all added for fun, and has no bearing on the timeline whatsoever.
Returning to the original thought, this concept is what I believe to have been the driving force behind the references in Wind Waker, and following it, Twilight Princess, and every game going forward until now. These references were made to give a nod to the giant nerds out there like me who would get a kick out of them, but we took it too far for its own good. We made an enormous deal out of timeline theories, Nintendo thought we would pay to further explore it, and they hit the nail on the head when they released a thirty dollar timeline tome. They put in massive time and effort into creating a cohesive story connecting their creations, but it was ironically only as a response to fans who often put in equivalent, if not greater, time and effort into the same arduous process, often coming up with ideas that regularly rivaled the cannon and at best bordered on brilliance. Nintendo put forth something that I consider to be a well thought out story, however in the process they murdered an ever evolving organism that resided only within community conversation.
Good rant? Do I need to give up my thirst for timelinery? Keep the conversation going in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter @spamomanospam.