Artbook Review: The Legend of Zelda – Hyrule Historia

21 Aug

When it was announced that a 25th anniversary art book for The Legend of Zelda was being released, I was dead set on getting it. From the start, this book was highly sought after and it was sold out on very quickly. I had a certain price limit in mind and I managed to acquire a copy from an eBay seller for a great price and free shipping.

I was on the fence about whether or not to review this because the book is incredibly text heavy. However, it was just recently announced that Dark Horse Comics would be translating this rare gem into English. I consequently decided that reviewing the Japanese version right now would be a great idea. Now you can all see what you have to look forward to!

Hyrule Historia dust jacket and obi strip.

ハイラル・ヒストリア ゼルダの伝説 大全: 任天堂公式ガイドブック or um, Hyrule Historia for short, is a hardcover 240 page Legend of Zelda guidebook released in December of 2011.

The book sans dust jacket.

The dust jacket itself is quite lovely, but the book itself is even more gorgeous underneath!

The first page.

始めましょう!Let’s get started!

Miyamoto’s introduction.

It wouldn’t be Nintendo if there wasn’t a heartfelt introduction from Shigeru Miyamoto himself. His child-like spirit and enthusiasm are so charming! He’s signed his introductory essay with “Thanks for 25 years” and a cute little sketch of Link and a fairy.

Here we are at the beginning!

The book starts off with はじまりの物語「スカイワォードソード」の世界 “The Beginning of a Legend – The World of Skyward Sword”, which takes place at the beginning of the Zelda timeline.

Link designs for Skyward Sword.

Zelda designs for Skyward Sword.

World designs for Skyward Sword.

These pages of designs for Link, Zelda and various areas of the world are just a very small taste of the Skyward Sword section of this book. I wanted to make sure I didn’t spend too much time focusing on the artwork for one game, so I chose to take more photographs of the sections that follow.

25th Anniversary Art

This piece of artwork will probably be familiar to you, especially if you’re a member of Club Nintendo and you managed to score a set of the 25th Anniversary Zelda posters with your club coins! The illustration is used to introduce the book’s next section.

The complete history of Hyrule awaits you!

The ハイラル全史 (Hyrule Complete History) section contains a very detailed timeline of all that happens in the Zelda world. This is the most text-heavy portion of the book, so I’m just going to let the pictures do the talking! You’re going to have fun reading this one, once it comes out in English.

The timeline begins!

The Minish Cap

Four Swords Adventures

Ocarina of Time

Oracle of Seasons / Oracle of Ages

Oracle of Ages / Oracle of Seasons continued.

Ocarina of Time / Majora’s Mask

Twilight Princess

Wind Waker

Spirit Tracks

I seem to have neglected to photograph any of the Phantom Hourglass section, but trust me, it has not been forgotten!

Concept Artwork

創造の足跡 アートワーク25年の記録 (Footprints of Creation – 25 Years of Documented Artwork) is my personal favorite section of Hyrule Historia, because there is such a diverse assortment of art and design from every Zelda game.

Artwork & level designs from the very first Zelda game.

Concept Artwork

Zelda II & A Link to the Past Concept Art

If you haven’t seen much of the artwork for the earliest Zelda games, you’re in for a treat here. There’s even sketches of  level designs from the very first game.

Ocarina of Time Zelda and Shiek designs.

Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask illustrations.

As we mosey on to the N64 installments, there are some pretty detailed illustrations for Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask.

Wind Waker concept artwork.

Remember what a big shock it was when we went from the N64 Zelda designs to “Toon Link” in Game Cube’s Wind Waker? I admit I wasn’t initially fond of the style, but once I played Wind Waker and saw how beautiful the animations were, I was completely sold on its charm.

Oracle of Ages / Oracle of Seasons Designs

More from the “Oracles” games.

My personal favorite artwork is probably that of the two Oracles games for Game Boy Color; “Oracle of Seasons” and “Oracle of Ages”. I love these games and I think the art style has a really solid ’90s anime look to it. It feels so nostalgic!

Twilight Princess designs.

We wrap up the game release chronology with art from Twilight Princess, one of the defining titles for the Game Cube console. How great is that chart of Link’s facial expressions?

Evolution of Link

Evolution of Zelda

Evolution of Ganon

After the concept art, and right before the game catalogue, there’s a few pages that chart the evolution of the designs of our three main characters. Once again, I’m really fond of the 2001-era character designs that were used in the “Oracles”  titles.

Game Catalogue

Hyrule Historia wouldn’t quite be complete without this full detailed game catalogue. Do you own every single Zelda game? Which one is your favorite?

Zelda manga.

Zelda manga in full color!

Young Link in full color.

In the usual tradition of Japanese art books, the end contains some short manga. We’re given a sample of  Zelda comics in both black and white and full-color. Young Link gazing skyward sure is the perfect way for Nintendo wrap up this treasured tome.

You may be hard-pressed to find the Japanese edition of Hyrule Historia at a decent price now, but if you’re a hardcore fan, and you’re willing to spend between 100 and 200 USD, you can definitely pick one up from eBay right away. Some import vendors were selling this book at $100 right from the get-go because of how popular it is, but if you looked hard enough you could get it for quite a bit less. As a fan of original Japanese books, I’m very happy to own the Japanese edition of “Hyrule Historia”, but for the majority, I’d definitely recommend waiting for the English version to come out. You’ll save a lot of money and you’ll also be able to read the text in English, so the wait will be worth it! The English edition is slated to come out on January 16th, 2013 and has a MSRP of $34.99, but you can pre-order it for quite a bit less right now on

4 Responses to “Artbook Review: The Legend of Zelda – Hyrule Historia”

  1. Julie August 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    I might have to put this on my Christmas list :3 nice to see a lower price point on the English version, too…

    • Riven August 21, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

      Indeed! The Japanese version and the English version both have about the same retail price, but of course the cost of importing almost always doubles it. Plus the English version won’t have such a limited run, I am sure. :D


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