Heroes and Villains: The Legend of Zelda Encyclopedia

In this week’s Heroes & Villains  we’ve got one of the most comprehensive video game tomes ever assembled!

Epic Tome Alert!

The Legend of Zelda Encyclopedia
Dark Horse Comics

It should be somewhat telling that I had to tear myself away from Breath of the Wild to complete my column this week. Nintendo has been producing amazing Zelda games for well over 30 years now and Dark Horse Comics has taken all that amazingness and produced The Legend of Zelda Encyclopedia. 

As a bit of scene setting, I’ll take you back to just about 30 years ago to a Christmas when I got my first NES and along with it the most desirable of all Nintendo cartridges: The Legend of Zelda. I was aware of Zelda from having seen it at a friend’s house and was instantly enamored of the game based only on the fact that it looked like a brick of gold.

Once I got my hand on the game, things somehow got even better. The world was vast in a way that video games hadn’t been for me up until that point. The game had an internal battery backup so you could save your progress. Clearly we had reached the pinnacle of gaming.

I did my fair share of questing in the game and even toted around the instruction manual for when I couldn’t plant myself in front of the television for hours upon hours. To my eternal shame, I never finished the game and I still haven’t. Of course there was a friend of a friend who had, or a kid that went to another school, or that one kid in your class who had beaten every game for the NES. Twice. That last kid was a liar of note, I’d like to point out.

This encyclopedia feels just like going back to that instruction manual for me just more epic in its scope. It was fascinating to look at  as a lifelong video game fan, albeit a casual one. I can trace my history with the franchise in its various iterations as I came and went from the Nintendo platform (When the 16-bit revolution hit, my junior high school was a Sega Genesis school. If you had an SNES you were terminally uncool and had to change schools. It was the law). In fact, I spent many, many years away from Nintendo only to be lured back by the siren song of the Game Boy Advance and GameCube.

The deluxe edition of this book is clearly where it’s at. Remember the golden god of a cartridge I described up top? Well, it’s back… in book form! And it even comes with a slipcase that looks like the classic Nintendo cartridge sleeves. Whoever designed the book should be awarded the highest accolade the book design industry has to offer. Like whatever the Oscars are for book designs. A Design-y? Sure.

As an entertainment company, Nintendo traffics in what I like to call “weaponized nostalgia.” A short disclaimer: I believe that Nintendo makes great systems and great games. I was chief among the naysayers when the Wii AND the Switch came out and ended up loving both. Outside of the contents of this column, I should not be listened to for anything ever.

But I digress. Nintendo has the number of their long time fans in a big way. On paper, Mario shouldn’t work but the Super Mario games have been consistently entertaining for decades now. Not only has Nintendo thought outside the box, they’ve thought up a completely new box, filled it with their own stable of lovable characters and used them to innovate in ways beyond imagination. There’s a certain goodwill Nintendo has established with longtime fans and they know just how to work it so we turn out in droves.

What other company could create miniature version of an old system, fill it with a limited number of ancient games, and create a sales frenzy the likes of which hadn’t been witnessed since the original NES came out. Believe me when I say that at the height of the NES Classic fever I would have gladly parted with a finger, toe, or even kidney to get one. 

The book should be come with a parenthetical “Everything You Wanted to Know About Zelda But Were Afraid To Ask.” It tracks nearly the whole history of the game with one notable exception…the most recent game Breath of the Wild. This book was originally published in Japan during the years leading up to the release of BoW so it’s probably safe to assume an updated edition will surface in the future and, if the newest game is any indication, probably double in size.

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