Nintendo is releasing a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the Nintendo 3DS in 2013. As a huge Zelda fan, I was hit with a series of emotions. At first it was pure excitement, because anything related to Zelda is a milestone event for me as a fan and a gamer. It usually marks an important part in the lifespan of a Nintendo console, whether handheld or otherwise. Then I was hit with confusion. Why would they release a sequel to a 2D top-down Zelda game after all these years that takes place in that part of the timeline? Finally, I was hit with a pang of apprehension. A Link to the Past is often regarded as one of the greatest games of all time, with good reason, so does Nintendo really want to toy with that? How will they explain its inclusion in the timeline? Before I ask too many questions though, let's take a look at what we know so far.
Our friends over at GamesRadar break things down very well, so I'll be brief on the things I want to highlight for the purposes of this article for right now. As you can see in the video and article, it takes place in the same world as Link to the Past, it features top-down 2D-style gameplay, it will come out in 2013 and it will utilize the 3DS' unique capabilities. Now, based on these things that we do know for sure, I want to make some logical predictions...
Remember, these things have not been confirmed as of the time of this writing, but it's pretty logical. First of all, the game will be a sequel, not a prequel. This is governed by the fact that Link does not possess any real combat abilities prior to the start of the first Link to the Past, but is shown clearly in the knick of it based on the gameplay video above. The second hint for this, is that at 0:51 seconds in the video you can clearly see the sword shooting beams, which is a characteristic of only the Master Sword and its upgradeable variations in the series. However, it's stated that the Master Sword sleeps again..."Forever!"...at the end of the original Link to the Past, so this is a little confusing on how it could be in this game...and it makes my head hurt...
We can also assume that Ganon will not be in the game. At the end of Link to the Past, the Hyrule Historia indicates that, "Link, evading the power of darkness, succeeded in destroying him." Furthermore, at the end of Link to the Past when Link acquires the Triforce, its essence tells him that he has "totally destroyed Ganon."
Finally, Ganon is not resurrected until the end of Oracle of Ages/Seasons when the Twinrova witches sacrifice themselves to bring him back. After defeating him (when those games are combined together) Link sets sail to train and discover new lands which leads to Link's Awakening. At the end of that game, this particular incarnation of Link sets sail again and is never seen afterwards. Years and years pass before Ganon is resurrected again for the original Legend of Zelda game's placement in the timeline. Taking all of these things into consideration, in order for this game to happen and fit cleanly into the timeline, it needs to take place essentially right after Link to the Past 1, which means a world without Ganon.
Now that this is all out of the way, let's dig deeper into the timeline and understand why it could be a bad idea, from the standpoint of the lore, to release another game in the Link to the Past world.
Notice any gaps in story or development after A Link to the Past? Me either.
For the purposes of this lore analysis, I will of course reference in-game events, but also borrow heavily from the documentation available in the Hyrule Historia, as you can tell from the official timeline above.
A year ago, this would have never came up, but now that Nintendo have revealed the true and official Timeline for the entire series, it has to be taken into consideration. First of all, let me explain the split. At the end of Ocarina of Time (spoilers I guess? seriously though, just play the game already) the timeline is split into three separate universes. First, there is a timeline where Link failed to defeat Ganon, leading to him uniting the Triforce for himself. This puts the world on the verge of an apocalypse, but the Seven Sages are then able to thankfully seal him away. This eventually leads to the Imprisonment War or the Sealing War which is chronicled in the opening scenes of Link to the Past. Link to the Past takes place in this timeline - where the Hero of Time (Ocarina of Time Link) was unsuccessful.
Secondly, we have the timeline split. At the end of Ocarina of Time if you are successful, the timeline has a further split. There is first the world where Link is sent back in time after destroying Ganon and retains that knowledge and then the world where adult Link was successful and Ganon was sealed away, but after being sent back in time Link no longer exists in that universe. The events that transpire in each aren't relevant, but it's important to know how all the games take place in the split timelines.
Think about this logically - at the end of Link to the Past, darkness is destroyed and evil is eradicated. Immediately following the events that took place, Link is summoned to the land of Holodrum for the events of Oracle of Seasons and then Labrynna for the events of Oracle of Ages. If the game takes place before that happens, what will the plot be? There was no evil and the entire Dark World was fading away at this point.
"But wait, David," I hear you say. "The game could take place AFTER those two, when Link returns to Hyrule!" Well, young Hylian, that's not possible in the timeline either. At the end of those games, after preventing Ganon from being resurrected, Link sets sail on a boat to train more in another land, not Hyrule. This leads to the events of Link's Awakening, of which Link is never seen again afterwards. While the argument could be made that he returns to Hyrule after Link's Awakening, the Hyrule Historia clearly states his whereabouts were unknown, not that he returned to Hyrule. Secondly, there is still no premise for evil or plot development to exist in Hyrule - that's kind of why he was called away to tend to other things. The dude wasn't really needed around anymore.
Where does that leave this newly announced game? For the life of me, I can't imagine how the story could even attempt to be compelling given the limited timeframe they have to place the game within the same Link to the Past universe. It clearly takes place in Hyrule and even in the same overworld, as it appears in the comparison image constructed below.
These clearly take place in the same Hyrule...but how will they explain the purpose for this new game?
I'm not saying this game won't be great and I'm not saying I won't play it - I clearly will. However, what I'm saying is that this is not the Zelda game that Nintendo should be making right now, especially from a lore standpoint in the franchise. After releasing Hyrule Historia, the series is finally at a point where things are clear and have all been explained and fallen into place. Stuffing another game into the crammed timeframe this game is supposed to take place in will mean one of two things: 1) Messing up something that is established now, or 2) Creating a new villain of some kind that has no business randomly appearing in the middle of a timeline.
Granted, these are just my humble personal opinions, but I don't understand the logic behind choosing this as the world to focus a new original Zelda game. If they wanted to make a direct sequel, I have a whole list of other suggestions for you Nintendo:
Do you have any ideas on where they might take the story? Let me know in the comments below. I'm sure the game will be great and fun to play, I just don't understand the logic from a lore standpoint. I would love to know what you think!