The land of Hyrule is the setting for nearly all of the games in the popular Legend of Zelda videogame series. But even though the setting stays the same, the world looks different in every game. Many regions and towns appear again and again in the Zelda games, but their locations move around. Some places expand and take on new importance, while others disappear altogether. And some games alter the world so much that it becomes completely unrecognizable. Wind Waker, for example, is set in a flooded world of scattered islands, while much of the action in Skyward Sword takes place on floating islands in the sky.
Why does the world of Hyrule change so much from game to game? It could be due to the fact that each game in the series is set in a different generation, with a new Link becoming the hero in each one. Maybe events that occur in between games cause the topography of the world to change and towns to be relocated. But more likely, the creators of a new game in the series just want to remake the world so the experience feels new and interesting. As much fun as the Zelda games are, it would eventually get boring to play in the exact same world again and again.
Anyway, today I want to compare the maps in two different Zelda games: A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time. A Link to the Past came out in 1991 for SNES, and Ocarina of Time came out in 1998 for the Nintendo 64. Technology changed quite a bit in the intervening years. Ocarina of Time moved the franchise from 2-D to 3-D, allowing bigger, more complex worlds. For the first time, Link could explore the world at his eye level, rather than the top-down view of A Link to the Past.
The graphics in A Link to the Past would be primitive by today’s standards, but the game is undoubtedly a classic due to its creative gameplay. Hyrule is in fact split in two between the Light World (seen above), and the Dark World. Link can travel between the two worlds to solve puzzles, finding that the shape of the land is generally the same, but there are important differences between them. For example, where there is a desert in the Light World is a marsh called Misery Mire in the Dark World.
And now for the map from Ocarina of Time, which shows a very different Hyrule:
Notice that many of these places are familiar, such as Lake Hylia, the Lost Woods, and Hyrule Castle. However, they have all moved their location and changed their appearance. There are also new places which didn’t exist before, such as Gerudo’s Valley in the West, although it somewhat resembles the Desert of Mystery from A Link to the Past. The Hyrule of Ocarina of Time is more expansive, and for the first time, Link has the ability to ride a horse across the central field to get between locations. The evolution of the world from game to game has also given Link access to a boat to sail between islands in Wind Waker and a bird to fly between floating islands in Skyward Sword.
That will be all for our videogame cartography lesson today… stay tuned for the next installment!