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The Legend of Zelda Timeline - Angry Video Game Nerd - Episode 40

(Cold opening scene begins with James D. Rolfe on-screen explaining the introduction to the Zelda timeline, set in an old editing room where he worked there.)

James D. Rolfe: What you're about to see is an unreleased Nerd video from November 2006. Now, after I did my Chronologically Confused video about the bad movie and video game sequel titles, I thought it might be funny to do one on the Zelda timeline.

James D. Rolfe: Now, um, the Zelda timeline has been the subject of debate and GameTrailers already did their own retrospective on it, um, but what I wanted to do is, uh, do it my own style, go like, Angry Nerd on it. Um, but in the long run, it really didn't turn out that angry. Um, it was kind of hard to find things about Zelda to get mad about, you know without really forcing it, so I held off on releasing it for a while, and some new images were added in later, but now I think that the fans should see it. You want to see it, right? Yeah? So, just keep in mind, Phantom Hourglass wasn't out yet, Twilight Princess was brand new, the anger level's a little lacking in this one, and most important, just don't take it too seriously. Enjoy.

(Fan art slideshow accompanied by heavy metal version of theme.)

The Nerd (V/O): I want to bring you back to The Legend of Zelda. This game was released in 1986 in Japan and 1987 in the U.S. At that time, it was the biggest, most epic game ever. It was more than a game. It was an adventure. It captured our imaginations and immersed us into the fantasy of Hyrule. Link, Princess Zelda, the evil Ganon, and the Triforce would all become beloved Nintendo icons for generations to come. There was a sequel to this game, released the following year, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. But never would we have guessed that this would be the only direct sequel to come for the Zelda timeline would go backward, twist, split, or do anything but go straight forward. This left fans everywhere debating on what order the stories in the game take place. In fact, when Zelda started, nobody would have imagined the idea of such a complicated timeline. It's no easy feat to string together more than fourteen games that generally have very few story connections and continuations. I don't claim to know anything because nothing is absolute and Nintendo has no official timeline explanation. I just want to give you a basic overview of how confusing it is.

The Nerd (V/O): Originally, as we all know, on the Nintendo Entertainment System, there were only two Zelda games: The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. The timeline at this point was very straightforward. Zelda II was a direct sequel, taking place a few seasons later, starring the same character, Link, now a teenager or a young adult. However, the Zelda in this game was under a sleeping spell is reputedly not the same Zelda that Link rescued from Ganon at the end of the first game, as this Zelda has been asleep for millenniums.

The Nerd (V/O): While fans waited anxiously for a third Zelda game, there never was a Zelda III. But what we got on the Super Nintendo was a prequel, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. This game came out four years after Zelda II and it far succeeded our expectations. It went back to the original format, but made drastic improvements. Adding a new light world/dark world system and making the game's plot much more involved. For the first time in a Zelda game, we're told the history of Hyrule. In the beginning, three gods of wisdom, courage, and power create the land of Hyrule and leave behind a symbol of their power: the Triforce. It remains hidden away in a Golden Land where legends say anyone who finds it, all their wishes will come true. However, it's found by a thief by the name of Ganondorf Dragmire and because of his evil nature, it transforms him into the monster we know as Ganon and the Golden Land into the Dark World. While he rules this dark world, he also tries to take over Hyrule. But, seven wise men seal the gate to the dark world and trap Ganon inside. Now, that's all backstory.

The Nerd (V/O): Now, as the game begins, the evil wizard Agahnim has taken over Hyrule Castle and uses the Life Force of the Seven Maidens to break the seal to free Ganon. The Seven Maidens are the descendants of the Seven Wise Men and the last in line is Princess Zelda. The main objective of this game is for Link to defeat Agahnim and then go to the Dark World to rescue the Seven Maidens and ultimately face Ganon.

The Nerd (V/O): Now, on the Game Boy, we were given Link's Awakening, which was the first portable Zelda game. It seems to take place right after Link to the Past, treating it as a new series of games, or either ignoring the original two or, I don't know.

The Nerd (V/O): Now, let's move on to the Nintendo 64, the first 3-D Zelda game and the biggest, most anticipated yet: The Ocarina of Time. To my dismay, this game was another prequel. Upon release, it was announced as the earliest point in the timeline and this is where all notions of Link to the Past being the first were shattered. Shigeru Miyamoto, the man responsible for all these great games, did an interview with Nintendo Power sometime before the release of the Ocarina of Time. And this is what he said. "Ocarina of Time is the first story, then the original Legend of Zelda, then Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and finally A Link to the Past. It's not very clear where Link's Awakening fits in. It could be anytime after Ocarina of Time." Now, whoa! I'm nobody to argue, don't get me wrong. I wouldn't doubt the man himself, but how is Link to the Past the last? I had a hard time accepting that any game could take place before it, but now it's the last?! Well then, why's it called "Link to the Past"? If it was meant to be the end, why would it be called "Link to the Future"?!

The Nerd (V/O): Let's remember when there were only three Zelda games. The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and Link to the Past. Was there any doubt that Link to the Past took place before the other two games?! Even the back of the box says it stars the predecessors of Link and Zelda from the NES games. As the game begins, Zelda telepathically speaks to Link's uncle. While Link remains in bed, she says, "Please help me. I am a prisoner in the dungeon of the castle. My name is Zelda." By introducing herself in this manner, it seems to set the tone as a prequel. Link's uncle tries to rescue her first, but when he dies, he passes his sword onto Link and tells him basically that he's the new hope. It's easy to assume that this is Link's first adventure. But, with all the new games, it's all screwed up and open for debate. The title "Link to the Past" could very well not be not referring to the character Link at all, while undoubtedly it is a play on words, it could be totally referring to a link, as in a connection, a chain of events. So, what event from the past can it be linking to? The Ocarina of Time? Okay. Fair enough, but one problem. To believe that means to assume that they already had Ocarina of Time planned out, and that's playing a George Lucas. So, what right so I have to argue with Miyamoto? I don't. However, I can offer three explanations to why he says Link to the Past goes at the end. 1: he was being interviewed and he was caught on the spot, so it could have been a simple mistake. 2: Link to the Past WAS once a prequel, but its place in the timeline changed, so his quote is somehow correct. 3: it's just a game, so who gives a shit?!

The Nerd (V/O): So, let's get back to the Ocarina of Time. While it has to be a different Link and Zelda, it definitely seems to take place at the beginning. In fact, it seems to take place during to Imprisoning War during of the Link to the Past backstory and the origin of Ganon. During most of the game, he's in human form as Ganondorf. And at the end, he actually turns into Ganon right in front of you. In Link to the Past, Link is usually compared to the legendary Hero of Time, meaning that he's carrying on the old tradition of old Link from Ocarina of Time. Or, that could just be a legend. Whatever. Now, once I got over the fact that this is yet another prequel, it also involves time travel, which just makes it even more complicated! In a similar fashion to Link to the Past's Dark World/Light World system, Link here travels between his childhood and seven years in the future, where Ganondorf has taken over Hyrule. So, you get to both play as young Link and adult Link. Young Link basically skips through his childhood to become adult Link and defeat Ganon at the end. However, Zelda sends Link back to being young Link so he could have a chance to live the skipped seven years of his childhood.

The Nerd (V/O): Now, a second Zelda game for the Nintendo 64 was released: Majora's Mask. This one is a sequel to Ocarina of Time. But, wait! Not a sequel to the end where adult Link defeats Ganon, no! It's a sequel to young Link after he got sent back! So now, any speculation of Nintendo ever making a sequel to Zelda II is deader than shit. They can't even make a sequel that follows in consecutive order. Instead, they just keep going back, and then maybe taking a small step up again, and then back again! We have a sequel to the original, a PREQUEL to the original, a sequel to the prequel, a PREQUEL to the prequel, and a SEQUEL to the young Link of the prequel's prequel! WHAT THE FUCK?!?

The Nerd (V/O): At this point, if you want to try and make any sense out of this whole thing, then you just go right ahead! But not me! At this point, I really didn't give a shit! So, eight years since the last game on a handheld system, Link's Awakening, two new Zelda games were released for the Game Boy Color: The Oracle of Seasons and the Oracle of Ages. These games, depending on the order in which you played them, took place immediately after each other. On the first playthrough, the villains of each game were General Onox from Oracle of Seasons or Veran from the Oracle of Ages. But, if you play through each game a second time and entered a series of passwords from the Link system, you can get the real ending and actually fight the revived Ganon. These games, however, can take place after nearly any Zelda game. Some fans speculate they took place after Majora's Mask because of the similar characters. Some say that they came in between Link to the Past and Link's Awakening. And some believe them to take place at the very end of the timeline. Still, others felt it was another Link entirely.

The Nerd (V/O): By that time, the timeline had changed. No longer was it constant among fans. But, no matter where you wanted to place the Oracle games, the whole theme of the series remained true. The Ocarina of Time era, then the Link to the Past era, and finally, the Legend of Zelda era. It's kind of weird to think that the early 8-bit games are now actually taking place at the end, but whatever. That was before this whole timeline thing happened.

The Nerd (V/O): But then, it got even more fucked up. The Gamecube Zelda, called The Wind Waker was about a young Link on the Great Sea who has to rescue his sister along with the help of a pirate girl named Tetra, who's later revealed to be this game's Princess Zelda. This game was supposed to be a sequel to Ocarina of Time. Wind Waker's back-story told how after adult Link had defeated Ganon, Ganon returned, but Link, he's now non-existent because he was sent back seven years where he lives his childhood as young Link and Majora's Mask picks up. So, he basically disappeared from the present time. But, now that Ganon's back, but with no Link to fight him, the three goddesses of Hyrule flood the land, sealing Ganon and the kingdom beneath the Great Sea. So, this is our big problem. Hyrule is flooded, so this game would have to be the end. Nothing could happen later if Hyrule's still flooded, unless somehow it gets un-flooded again.

The Nerd (V/O): So now, when debating the Zelda timeline, you usually believe in either one linear timeline or a split timeline. There's no generally accepted splitist or linearist theory, and yes! People who believe in a split timeline are called "Splitists" and people who believe in a linear timeline are called "Linearists". Sort of like Trekkie and Trekker, except even more nerdy.

The Nerd (V/O): A year before Wind Waker was released, another game was made in the series as an add-on to the Game Boy Advance remake of Link to the Past. This was the first multiplayer game in the franchise: the Four Swords. At this time, some fans believed that because the game was so radically different from the others, it didn't count. However, the idea it didn't count was quickly debunked on the grounds that it was nothing but an excuse not to think. Since this was largely a sub-game and the map was really just a basic setup of land with no true meaning other than to separate the three levels, most fans didn't consider it an important part of the timeline and that it could go anywhere, although it was largely believed to either take place sometime before the Ocarina of Time or after Wind Waker. However, its significance greatly increased when in 2004, a second game in the Four Swords subseries emerged: Four Swords Adventures for the Gamecube. Although the Wind Mage, Vaati was the primary villain in these two games, Ganon made an appearance at the end of Four Swords Adventures, having been reincarnated. This was when the timelines really took it in the ass as many more possibilities were opened.

The Nerd (V/O): Then, The Minish Cap, also for the Game Boy Advance, is involved in the Four Swords saga, as well. It tells of the origins of Vaati and the Four Sword, and is mostly believed to take place at the beginning of the timeline. That's right. Another fucking prequel! How far backward could we possibly go?! Maybe eventually, it'll go back to Link and Zelda being the Adam and Eve of Hyrule or it'll go back to the creation of Hyrule when the only life forms were microscopic. Micro Zelda. Maybe we'll make that game. Although I'm being sarcastic, many fans agree that it is hard to accept another prequel. Many are resistant to a game taking place before Ocarina of Time as I am with any game taking place before the only one with "Past" in the title. Many other theories place Minish Cap at the end, and still some others clump it together with the other Four Sword games somewhere near the middle of the timeline. Others speculate that the Four Swords are their own separate series. However, most believed The Minish Cap is likely the first game in the entire saga as its geography seems to be most similar to that of Ocarina of Time than any other game and takes place in a time without many of Ocarina of Time's species being prominent, suggesting that the kingdom has not yet united all the races. That and the lack of the Temple of Time suggest that it falls several generations before the Ocarina of Time. Not to mention, it explains how Link first got his hat. But, like any theory, somebody always finds a flaw. For example, Moblins are in the game. And Moblins are the pig-like soldiers that Ganon created in his own image. No Ganon, no Moblins. Or, is it possible that Vaati's capable of creating Moblins? Hmmm. Well, this one's up in the air, like dog shit shooting out of a cannon. Now, Twilight Princess, the latest Zelda epic on the Wii, seems to have no obvious spot in the timeline, but it kicks so much ass; it makes you forget about it.

The Nerd (V/O): Everyone has tried very hard to understand how these Zelda games can be logically and chronologically connected. And I swear, some of you have memories better than Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. It's true. Zelda fans can recall countless character quotes, game prologues, and instruction manual text to back up their arguments. That's impressive. The fans clearly have a love for Zelda. And that's what drives all these theories about the Zelda world. Because the games are so good, it makes people care so much. But, let's stop for a moment and look at all these games as a whole, mainly the earlier ones.

The Nerd (V/O): If there was some sort of a concrete storyline, a planned-out, logical order in the Zelda universe, it would be there, clear as day. The creators of Zelda didn't think about a timeline. Now, because of pressure from the fans, Nintendo sometimes tries to inject things from previous games into newer installments, attempting to tie some of them together, but there isn't a sturdy foundation to do so. It's a puzzle that can't be solved. Look at it! It's a gang raped, bitch-slapped, broken down, fucking mess of a timeline! No matter how hard the fans try to piece it all together, a new game comes out that just defies everything.

The Nerd (V/O): Zelda started out at just a little elf kid running around stabbing bad guys and it was a classic little adventure game, but today it's a juggernaut. It has a cult following that's out of this world! That's why we've seen Zelda characters in Soul Cailbur and Super Smash Bros. Where does Super Smash Bros. Melee fit in the mix?! Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf are in the game, so why ignore it? It doesn't count, right?

Link: "WELL, EXCUSE ME!!!"

The Nerd (V/O): What about the cartoon? What about the games on the Phillips CD-i? There was Zelda: Wand of Gamelon, Link: The Faces of Evil, and Zelda's Adventure. And, hey! Princess Zelda actually plays a bigger role in those games. So, why don't you count those?! Maybe because they suck diarrhea shit from an asshole fountain? But, that's beside the point.

The Nerd (V/O): The main point is that the true heart of the Zelda games is the gameplay. If you can't enjoy playing the game, you won't enjoy the story and characters anyway. The end goal is that the game is fun, challenging, has some unique twists, and it has a satisfying experience. So, instead of looking at all the Zelda games as a whole, you have to look at each one separately. After all, that's the way they were developed. It's not as though Zelda is like Lord of the Rings. Each Zelda game is a different legend and a different experience. You don't have to play the first one to get the story of the third one or even the thirteenth one. And that's really lucky for those who haven’t been able to play them all, which is the case for most people. Zelda games are not meant to connect right down the line. They're not meant to tell the story of Hyrule. They're meant to be single, fun experiences. Now, I know it could be really fun to work on this puzzle -- and it shows creative thinking, which I commend a lot of you for -- but hey! Don't sweat it. It's not something that deserves a loss of sleep. So, just enjoy the fucking games and have a great day!

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