Following up our latest entry in the “Two Sides To The Story” series, we once again take a look at the official Zelda timeline presented in Hyrule Historia. This time around we’ll be debating the placement of Four Swords Adventures. Now, before you grab your pitchfork and torch and demand to know who would dare challenge the official word of Zelda Series Director Eiji Aonuma, understand that our debate is not about the legitimacy of the official timeline. The Hyrule Historia timeline, although subject to change at the discretion of Aonuma, is unquestionably canon.
Instead, our debate is focused on whether or not Four Swords Adventures should be placed there. Is the game’s position right after Twilight Princess the most logical and practical spot, or would it function better somewhere else? Former Zelda Informer writer Dathen Boccabella once again joins us to argue in favor of the official placement, while Senior writer Ben Lamoreux suggests an alternate placement. As always, we debate the facts, and you make the decision!
By Dathen Boccabella
About the author: Dathen was a lead writer for Zelda Informer from 2009-2012. He left us for a professional position at the major sports-news website The Bleacher Report, but still writes here on occasion as a guest contributor.
With Hyrule Historia’s reveal of the official timeline, we now know that the “Twilight Era” of Twilight Princess is followed by Four Swords Adventures (hereafter “FSA”) and a time referred to as the “Shadow Era”. Many fans remain skeptical of Nintendo’s decision in this instance.
The skepticism is due to the title’s separation from both A Link to the Past—a game it shares many similarities with—and also the original Four Swords. This separation from Four Swords is where the controversy arises; which makes a great starting point for us as we uncover why Nintendo made the correct choice.
Debunking the Direct Sequel
In the past FSA was generally considered to be a direct sequel to Four Swords, despite the rather vague line of reasoning. FSA’s introductory story chronicles the events right back to The Minish Cap and it is the relative time indicators used in this backstory that were used as the argument for FSA as a direct sequel.
The events of The Minish Cap are referred to as taking place “long ago” with the period leading into Four Swords being given by the phrases “many years” and “ages flowed by”. The argument ran that these word choices indicated a significantly long period time, in comparison to the words used to describe the period between Four Swords and FSA.
Here the peace is said to have only lasted “for a time”. The context of the game’s introductory sequence also refers to the hero of The Minish Cap as a boy, whereas it names the characters in Four Swords as Link and Zelda. From this fans logically deducted that the same characters appeared in both Four Swords and FSA. It makes sense not to over-complicate the scenario with multiple characters bearing the same name, and so, theorists generally agreed that FSA was a direct sequel to Four Swords.
In reality, it was a logical assumption, but it was not definitive. The argument does not make it necessary for the two games to be directly sequential; it merely facilitates the possibility. With the official timeline we see the two titles separated, but this really is no shock. After all, Aonuma stated that FSA takes place “sometime after” Four Swords. There was never a need—or a convincing argument—that the titles were indeed direct sequels.
Before or After Ocarina of Time?
Establishing that FSA isn’t a direct sequel does little. It actually complicates matters by allowing the game to come anywhere on the timeline after Four Swords. We can; however, very readily eliminate the possibility of the title occurring between Four Swords and Ocarina of Time. For a number of reasons, FSA cannot logically precede Ocarina of Time.
First of all, FSA ends with Ganon sealed within the Four Sword. There is no way to explain Ganon escaping from this seal to appear as he does in Ocarina of Time. Furthermore, the Ganon in FSA was once a Gerudo by the name of Ganondorf. Why would he then become a male Gerudo again prior to Ocarina of Time?
The inconsistencies continue. The Ganondorf of FSA breaks the laws of the Gerudo and is renounced by the tribe. In Ocarina of Time, the Gerudo worship Ganondorf as their leader. If Ganondorf had already broken their laws, they would not now be worshipping him. Likewise, the King of Hyrule would not trust Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time if he had previously rebelled.
The most telling argument is that of Ganon’s title. In Ocarina of Time Zelda refers to Ganon as becoming the “Demon King”—the former title of Demise—when he touches the Triforce. Therefore, for Ganon to be the “Demon King” in FSA, it must follow his original encounter with the Triforce in Ocarina of Time. From all of this we can confidently conclude that FSA must come after Ocarina of Time.
One of the Three
The question that arises out of a post Ocarina of Time placement, then, is which of the three arcs does FSA occur on? Of the Downfall, Adult and Child Timelines, why is the Child Timeline the most appropriate, as Nintendo’s decision claims that it is? Let us start with the Downfall Timeline.
FSA’s incorporation of a Dark World that is accessible through the usage of Moon Pearls automatically connects it to A Link to the Past. However, the classics arc flows seamlessly from Link’s downfall in Ocarina of Time, to the Imprisoning War, through to A Link to the Past.
A Link to the Past, likewise, has to follow on into Link’s Awakening, The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II. Amongst the era of the Triforce-wielding Monarch, and Ganon’s eradication at the end of the arc, there is no room for FSA.
The next candidate is the Adult Timeline, where the only open position for it is following Spirit Tracks. FSA’s map is geographically conducive to a number of smaller islands banding together to form a new landmass.
Although this is the goal of the Koroks in The Wind Waker, Spirit Tracks reveals the New Hyrule as an entirely new continent. While connections between the two DS title’s and FSA’s usage of Force Gems can be made, the Adult Timeline chronicles an era without Ganon.
A post Spirit Tracks placement could work with some explanation, but the most logical placement was just as Nintendo selected: following Twilight Princess on the Child Timeline.
Child Timeline Connections
Moon Pearls and Force Gems aside, Twilight Princess of the Child Timeline actually has more connections to FSA than any other game in the series. In true Zelda fashion, these similarities are rather vague, but not unworkable. It once again falls to the fans to explain how precisely the elements of Twilight Princess and FSA connect.
The first parallel is the Mirror of Twilight and the Dark Mirror. In Twilight Princes, the Mirror of Twilight connects “light and shadow . . . [opening] the way to the Twilight Realm”. In FSA that duty is given to Moon Pearls; however, the Dark Mirror is said to reflect the evil in a person, and is used to create a race of Shadow Links. Hyrule Historia notes that the connection between the two mirrors is “unclear.”
It is interesting to note that Twilight Princess uses Shadow Links to portray the “Interlopers”. Perhaps there is a connection to be made here. FSA does mention a Dark Tribe in the past—which may also be the interlopers—who sealed away the Dark Mirror. It is also noteworthy that the denizens of the Twilight Realm are referred to as “mere shadows of Hyrule”, and in FSA people in the Dark World appear as shadows in the world of light.
There is also the parallels of the Dark World and the Twilight Realm. While the Dark World does resemble the corrupted Sacred Realm—another connection to A Link to the Past—the Triforce is never touched on the Child Timeline and the Sacred Realm is not corrupted. The Dark World, then, is likely the Twilight Realm. Especially if you consider how in FSA the world of light is partially engulfed by shadow, as in Twilight Princess.
The last major connection between Twilight Princess and FSA is that of Ganondorf. The Ganon in FSA—who is born when a new Ganondorf takes the Trident—is referred to as an “ancient demon reborn” that wields the “power of darkness”. This can only refer to the original Ganon. Twilight Princess ends with Ganon utterly defeated, which leads nicely into this rebirth in FSA.
The connections are not clear-cut, but Twilight Princess and FSA have enough parallels for the placement to be evidenced. Given that FSA does not have to directly follow Four Swords, and cannot precede Ocarina of Time, Nintendo did make the right decision in their placement of FSA on the Child Timeline.
By Ben Lamoreux
As a veteran timeline theorist who has spent years researching, formulating, and debating possible timelines, few people were more eager to dig into the official timeline at the time of its release than I was. With much of what we already believed confirmed, and the revelation and explanation of a second split, it was truly an exciting time for the Zelda community. For the most part, I found the timeline to be fulfilling and plausible. The one exception, which has me feeling slightly confused, as Link and Ezlo are in the image below, is the placement of Four Swords Adventures. The timeline places Four Swords Adventures ages after the Child Timeline ending of Ocarina of Time, and more specifically, as the next game to occur after Twilight Princess. While I respect the official placements and accept them as canon, this is one section of the timeline that doesn’t fit as well to me.
Twilight Princess features the Mirror of Twilight as a major part of the plot. Described as a cursed and dark mirror that was separated from the rest of the world for protection, the Mirror of Twilight is shown to spawn evil creatures and connect to another realm. Its purpose was to seal away an evil tribe of darkness that once invaded Hyrule. In the game’s ending, the Mirror of Twilight is shattered permanently by Midna. To anyone who played Four Swords Adventures, this all seems a little too familiar.
In Four Swords Adventures Ganon steals the Mirror of Darkness for his evil plans. The Mirror of Darkness is also described as a cursed and dark mirror that was separated from the rest of the world for protection. Like the Mirror of Twilight, it is shown to spawn evil creatures and connect to another realm, and was once used to seal away an evil tribe of darkness that invaded Hyrule. If we are to believe that Four Swords Adventures occurs after Twilight Princess, this presents a problem. Either these two mirrors with virtually identical descriptions, histories, and purposes are completely different items connected only by coincidence, or Four Swords Adventures contradicts the mirror’s destruction in Twilight Princess.
Something else that raised questions for me was the separation of the games in the Four Swords Saga. Minish Cap, Four Swords, and Four Swords Adventures form a story arc that all flows together smoothly and can even exist largely without the rest of the Zelda games. While nothing requires the games to progress uninterrupted, there are less contradictions if they do.
Any separation of the Four Swords Saga means that there is an unexplained shift of importance in swords used to slay evil. Why, after Twilight Princess, was the Master Sword seemingly forgotten in favor of the Four Sword? In examining the official timeline, this question persists throughout all Hylian history. From Skyward Sword to Four Swords Adventures there is a nearly constant back and forth pattern between the Master Sword and the Four Sword. Why do the various Links switch trusted swords almost every single generation? Wouldn’t it be more fitting if the Four Sword only came into play when the Master Sword wasn’t available?
So where can Four Swords Adventures be placed to avoid any of these questions and contradictions? If you consider the Adult Timeline, after the Great Flood and the events of The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks, everything comes together surprisingly well.
The Wind Waker ends with the Master Sword washed away underneath a vast ocean with no implications of returning any time soon. Phantom Hourglass introduces a new sword, but it’s already forgotten by the time of Spirit Tracks. Spirit Tracks also gives us a new sword, but it would be much easier to assume that, like the Phantom Sword, the Lokomo Sword was another “one game” sword, than to assume that the Master Sword was forgotten after Twilight Princess. So while an Adult Timeline placement still has one sword being shunned in favor of the Four Sword, it’s not nearly as significant as the Master Sword and Four Sword inexplicably switching places on three different occasions.
In The Wind Waker, knowledge of the Triforce has faded away to the point where it only exists in legend as “The Triumph Forks.” Once rediscovered, it is wished upon, and vanishes, leaving only Link and Zelda aware of its existence. In Spirit Tracks, its existence is only represented on Zelda’s dress, and it appears that it’s only remembered by the Royal Family. Throughout the three games of the Four Swords Saga we see a similar scenario. The Triforce is never spoken of in The Minish Cap, and is only displayed in Hyrule Castle Town and in the tomb of the Royal Family. In Four Swords Adventures, the only Triforce symbol in the whole game is in Hyrule Castle.
A final connection between the Adult Timeline and the Four Swords Saga is the prominence of Force. While the majority of the games on the Child Timeline and the so-called “Failed Timeline” all seem to revolve around the Triforce, the Adult Timeline focuses on the power of Force and Force Gems. Nearly every war in Hylian history has involved the Triforce, but in both the Adult Timeline and the Four Swords Saga, the Triforce is forgotten, and instead Force reigns as the ultimate power.
In Phantom Hourglass we see Bellum draining the Force out of the people, the land, and the Ocean King. Spirit Tracks sees Malladus sealed away by the power of Force, with its destruction leading to his freedom. Both games prominently feature Force in the crystallized form of Force Gems. In The Minish Cap, Vaati’s quest for power has him hunting after not the Triforce, but the Light Force. In Four Swords Adventures Vaati steals the Force from the land, and Force Gems are needed to defeat him. Meanwhile, Ganon seems either unaware or uninterested in the Triforce. This all makes more sense in a post-flood world in which the Triforce is no longer available and Force has become the dominant asset of the land.
The official timeline is a pretty good one, and there’s no denying its status as canon. However, Aonuma acknowledged that, due to the fact that the importance of the individual story always trumps the overall plot, it is not an infallible document, and that he reserves the right to make changes in the future if its for the good of the series. I believe that the Four Sword Saga could fit pretty snugly on the Adult Timeline, and it’s something that Nintendo could build off of. With the Triforce and Master Sword eliminated and Force being given a heavy emphasis, placing the Four Swords Saga on the Adult Timeline just makes sense.
There you have it folks. Did Nintendo make the best decision when it comes to Four Swords Adventures’ official placement? With both the connections and the inconsistencies of following after Twilight Princess, are you entirely content with the canon timeline, or do you still entertain alternate possibilities?
Whether post Spirit Tracks on the Adult Timeline, or post Twilight Princess of the Child Timeline, there are pros and cons to consider. For either placement to be consistent with the series we need to emphasize specific points and overlook others. Ben and Dathen have presented each of the arguments, and now you can decide.
Did Nintendo make the right choice in placing Four Swords Adventures? Share your opinion in the comments below.