Hyrule Weekly #4: The Fallen Hero Theory for Breath of the Wild

– This post was originally published on 11th February 2017. It is being archived and updated here, which is why sections may seem out of date. For more info read here! New entries in this series of articles are on the way… –

It’s getting rather close to the release of Breath of the Wild. We’ve waited years, but now we are less than a month from the launch of both the game and the Nintendo Switch on March 3rd. Yet, somehow, we don’t know many concrete facts about the story – or do we? That’s what Hyrule Weekly will be getting into right here, now that we have more to analyse – for example, the very cinematic trailer from the Nintendo Switch presentation in January:

So, it’s time to try and connect the dots a little bit. Previously Hyrule Weekly has theorised that Breath of the Wild could be set in The Imprisoning War; can we make a different, more informed assessment with what we know now? The objective of this is to give you more rock-solid information about the game, as well as theorising what it means.

Hyrule History

Let’s start with the wider setting first. In that prior Hyrule Weekly, we made some strong points for why Breath of the Wild has to be in the Fallen Hero timeline after Ocarina of Time. This is where Link failed in his quest to kill Ganon and save Hyrule, and goes on to be the setting for A Link to the Past. What we’ve learned since June last year actually backs up a lot of this.

This could be the aftermath to Link and Zelda failing to defeat Ganon

Take GameInformer’s rapid-fire interview with Zelda‘s creator Shigeru Miyamoto and producer Eiji Aonuma. Check out this exchange, plain as can be, for whether or not the new Zelda takes place after Ocarina of Time or not:

GameInformer Senior Editor Ben Reeves: Does Breath of the Wild take place before or after Ocarina of Time?

Eiji Aonuma: After.

That’s that cleared up in a no-nonsense fashion, then. It gets a bit more tricky when trying to 100% confirm whether the game is set in one specific timeline, however. Again, to go back to The Imprisoning War theory, we established a few reasons for why the process of elimination points to the Fallen Hero timeline. Firstly, the Wind Waker/Phantom Hourglass/Spirit Tracks line results in a flooded Hyrule and a discovery of a new land, and Breath of the Wild is definitely set in the land of Hyrule. Also, the Sheikah – so prominent in the footage we have seen of the upcoming game – have only ever appeared before and in Ocarina of Time or in the Fallen Hero timeline.

What’s Changed

Now, there’s some really huge information that has come out in recent times that gives us important backstory for Breath of the Wild. There is a certain “Relic of Hyrule: Calamity Canon Tapestry and weather-worn map” item (catchy, eh?) that comes with both the Special and Master Editions of the game (the Master Edition that is not available in Europe… why Nintendo, why?) that has unwittingly exposed said backstory.

A view of the Sheikah text (via IGN)

After the aforementioned Nintendo Switch presentation, there was a Treehouse stream showing off the console and the games on it. When discussing Zelda, this item was shown off; while the map was impressive in its size and detail, the other side had Sheikah language that was brilliantly decoded in the Discord chat of the Zelda YouTuber Zeltik. The video showing off the work is below:

The tapestry reads like this in English – bear in mind there is always room for slight error, as it is translated from Sheikah to Japanese to English: (via Eurogamer):

“Hylians pass stories of a destined time long past where multiple races lived and worked together in harmony. The Sheikah Tribe’s blue aura breathed through the land and this mutual prosperity continue until a cataclysmic disaster struck. The Hero and the Princess attempted to seal the terror which became known as the Calamity Ganon. Divine Beasts awoke from four directions and deployed a mechanical army which made the King and his people fearful. They fractured Ganon’s power and sealed him but the Shiekah were banished from the land ever since.”

When you read through this with the events of the Fallen Hero timeline in mind, multiple elements match up. Let’s go through it in more detail.

A Fallen Hero

For starters, you may think that the description of a scenario in “harmony” doesn’t really make sense. If Ganon won, how can the world be in harmony? The secret is that we may be thinking of this all in the wrong way. This backstory doesn’t start AFTER Ocarina of Time; it starts during that game. The period of harmony is before Ganon managed to gain access to the Triforce in that infamous cutscene midway through Ocarina of Time – in other words, when “a cataclysmic disaster struck”. Still with me?

Zelda protecting Link

The backstory then continues to describe what we know from that timeline. “The Hero” (Link) and “the Princess” (Zelda) are described as trying but failing to stop this threat. Doesn’t that sound very familiar? It’s all fitting into place for the Fallen Hero timeline, and The Imprisoning War takes over to match up from here. To fully catch up on this part of Zelda history, do check out the theory article linked earlier or the Zelda Wiki page on the subject.

The Imprisoning War tells us that Ganon was then sealed away by the Seven Sages in the absence of the Hero and the Princess. Our information on this period came from A Link to the Past‘s manual, which confessed that that part of history was “”obscured by the mists of time, and became legend”” (via ZeldaInformer). Even so, the general events of Breath of the Wild‘s backstory and The Imprisoning War have a stark similarity to them.

Guardians of Hyrule

The creations of the Sheikah used to try and defeat Ganon were turned against their owners by Calamity Ganon’s corruption, as stated in Zeltik’s video. In The Imprisoning War, residents of Hyrule were corrupted by the Dark World Ganon was sealed in, becoming monsters in his army. This army then set upon the land, where the Knights of Hyrule managed to protect the Seven Sages until they could seal the Dark World once more. We may have actually seen this very sequence in the recent trailers, where we see the turned Guardians – of Sheikah creation – destroying the civilisation of Hyrule.

Calamity Ganon attacking from the Dark World?

The successful resolution of the Knights of Hyrule and the Seven Sages has such little known about it, and it’s very possible that we could be seeing the true events of that time in Breath of the Wild. With the failure of their creations to save Hyrule from Calamity Ganon, the Sheikah could look to a dormant, hidden Link (who fell against Ganon in Ocarina of Time) to help them retake the four main Sheikah protectors on the “Relic of Hyrule…” from earlier. Unbeknownst to Hyrule history and Ganon, Link and Zelda may have teamed up with the Sheikah to rally against Ganon and support Hyrule’s battle against Calamity Ganon. Only this way can Link and Zelda still complete their destinies to defeat this incarnation of Demise from Skyward Sword.

In addition, this would make sense as the dungeons of this open world Zelda game, with the corners of the map each holding on dungeon. The final boss could be the Shiekah protector, and defeating it removes the corruption in order for it to help you in your final battle against Ganon. This theory works for both the story and the gameplay, which lends it a bit more believablity; it even fits with Zelda’s inclusion. If we treat Link as the version from Ocarina of Time, waking from a 100-year sleep, then Zelda could also have been conserved in this way. As part of the Sheikah, she may wake up to see their attempts to save Hyrule backfire horrifically and only help Ganon’s murder of the citizens of Hyrule – Zelda’s citizens. This seems like a good justification for the distress we see her in in the Nintendo Switch presentation trailer.

Is this the result of the Shiekah’s failed attempts to save Hyrule?

The further we get into the areas of the timeline that don’t have games to explain them, the murkier connections get. However, there are clear similarities that potentially link (ba-dum tish) Breath of the Wild to the Fallen Hero timeline and, subsequently, The Imprisoning War. It’s a notable event that leads to A Link to the Past, and honestly it’d just be a brilliant, epic setting for a Zelda game. Let’s get that bit of history cleared up, yeah?

It’s all just a theory, though. Maybe Ganon is secretly Tingle. Calamity Tingle is behind it all! March 3rd is so close, so we’ll know very soon!

It was a very story-heavy Hyrule Weekly this time around, and we’re going to go in an opposite way next week. A community article is on the way! See you next Saturday, when we will be one more week closer to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Nintendo Switch and Wii U!

Hyrule Weekly #3: Breath of the Wild is a Breath of Fresh Air

– This article was originally published on 4th February 2017. It is being archived and updated here, which is why sections may seem out of date. For more info read here! –

Seriously, how has that headline not been used more? Nevertheless, it’s true – after getting a taste of the vast expanse that is the world of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at the Nintendo Switch Premiere Event in London, there’s a feeling that the series will never be quite the same. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine Eiji Aonuma and his team stepping back to the more restricted areas we got used to in Skyward Sword.

Zelda is different now. From the oh-so-brief 20 minutes supplied in the demo, the Ocarina of Time gameplay formula – dungeons, main event, more dungeons, finale – seems to have been torn apart and replaced with something fresh. The Wind Waker brought massive visual change, but Breath of the Wild is more seismic in how it changes the inherent structure of the game.

It’s evident in the first few minutes. Link wakes up from his cryogenic-style pool, naked but for the shorts (calm down, girls), and you’re put in control from the off. These first few rooms brilliantly teach you some of the core changes Breath of the Wild makes to the Zelda series. You’re introduced to the Sheikah Slate (which is suspiciously like a Wii U GamePad…), which will act as a multifunctional tool to help you around the brutal open world (think map, waypoints, and so on). You pop open a couple of chests, and see how the gear affects your stats in much more of an RPG fashion; yet, more important is how you get out of these initial rooms. The core way you move through the environment has been dramatically changed with the introduction of jumping and climbing techniques.

Jumping? In Zelda? What is this?! In all honesty, using the X button to jump feels a little unnatural at first. Games have often taught us to use a lower button for jumping, and so having it at the top of the ABXY diamond takes getting used to. Furthermore, the climbing – which is limited by a meter, not the surface – is a really nice way to give an extra feeling of freedom in the open world ahead. To the player, the limitations seem to be only what you can traverse yourself, rather than any route laid out to you by the developers; if we look back to Skyward Sword, we saw the beginnings of this there. The meter used for sprinting and other physical tasks has been fitted into an open world, subtly pushing the idea of exploration further.

It really is an impressive and typically Nintendo introduction. By the time you majestically run out of those secluded rooms onto the cliffside, you know the basics of how the controls have changed and how to move about this massive sandbox ahead of you. It feels like the first level of Super Mario Bros., or the introduction to The Legend of Zelda on NES. The gameplay has taught you, not a dull typographic tutorial; as players we are being taught anew what a Zelda game can be as we play about in the world.

What a world it is, too. Even if there is a rough route that Nintendo’s talented developers wanted us to follow, it’s indistinguishable. The open world spans in all directions, with the mystery of each pulling you around. The 20 minute demo barely allowed us to get accustomed to it, but one thing that came out of that was how exciting the prospect of getting the full game is. Just in that 20 minutes alone I had genuine stories to tell my friends about afterwards, whether it was managing to acquire a sword, meeting the old man who is so reminiscent of the King of Red Lions in The Wind Waker, exploring what appears to be the ruined Temple of Time or, er, getting one-hit by an enemy.

Yeah, that last bit didn’t go so well for me. It’s refreshing, though, to have a game take the training wheels away and push you out on your own. In the case of my humbling Game Over screen, I was methodically taking down a cave of Moblins until their leader, with a particularly lethal-looking weapon, got tired of my acrobatic moves and swiped all of my hearts away. It’s a strong callback to The Legend of Zelda on NES, when half of the time you are walking into unknown environments and getting wiped out. Yet, there isn’t frustration in either Zelda title – my anticipation to get Breath of the Wild in a relaxed scenario and not only wreak justice on that cave, but also explore what is beyond it, is palpable.

Before I end, a couple of more technical things. My demo was played half on a TV, half on the Switch’s own screen. On the TV, there was some notable frame issues when – for example – encountering groups of Moblins, but we were assured by the staff that this was an earlier build and these would be fixed in the final edition. On the Switch itself, the game ran much better, though this may be down to the 720p quality it transitions to (on the TV, Breath of the Wild outputs at 900p). On that point, 720p on the smaller screen was very impressive; the stylistic art style was stunning on a crisp, small display at that resolution. The Switch’s buttons are much smaller than those on the Pro controller, but I am confident that these will be easy to accustomed yourself to.

Breath of the Wild is great in leaving you alone to work things out, but things like the aforementioned X to jump are a bit unusual. I found a bow in my demo, just through exploration, but wasn’t able to use it because it wasn’t immediately obvious to me how to equip it. It wasn’t listed as one of my weapons (like a sword or axe is), and in the time limited environment of the demo I couldn’t find it easily. This may well be less of a problem when learning all the button inputs at home.

Combat itself is one of the major areas of change, with the swords, axes, and similar weapons having a wear rate on them. This means you are constantly thinking about your supplies, giving the game a bit of a survival feel. Engaging enemies has a Wind Waker vibe, with rolls and dodges helping you to dance around opponents and slow-mo really making certain attacks satisfying. This area of the demo was one of the best for me, and spin attacks with the axe became a move of choice in my short time. Watch out, though, as big attacks like that can leave you vulnerable; there is a distinct strategical element to the combat. The only reason I survived so long against the Moblin leader was because of evading and chipping away, but when he managed to get a hit in? Yeah, that was the end of me.

At least I didn’t nearly burn all my hearts away in a fire of my own making (Josh). Or, y’know, drowned (Dem).

Overall, Breath of the Wild is shaping up to be a masterful reinvention of the series loved by so many. There’s so much we don’t know about the world (despite the many reveals for the game) and that’s tremendously exciting. Who knows what secrets Eiji Aonuma and the many other developers behind this game have left for us to discover? Oh, and the story looks epic and emotional on another level from what Zelda has done before – but more on that next week…