Tag Archives: Skyward Sword

Turning Zelda into Art Nouveau

In 2012, I was enrolled in one of the most enjoyable courses I took in my college career. It was called “History & Principles of Design.” Essentially, it covered the history of graphic design. Each student was assigned to create a poster reflective of one of the great artistic movements in graphic design and advertises a product of that era.

I was limited to pick a product that existed during the Art Nouveau period. Lucky for me, Nintendo was founded as a playing card company in 1889.

I was assigned Art Nouveau. Naturally, I immediately started brainstorming of ways I could incorporate this project with my passion for video games. The result was “Nintendo Playing Cards.”

Erich_Schuler_Zelda_Art_Nouveau

Art Nouveau: A Brief Explanation

La Loïe Fuller (1893) by Jules Chéret

Art Nouveau, or “New Art,” is a major design movement from the late nineteenth century. It was largely influenced by the European introduction of Japanese woodblock prints and the desire to beautify an urban world shaped by the Industrial Revolution.

Art Nouveau pieces are defined by symbolism and sensuality, focusing much on expressive organic forms. Therefore, nature and floral forms are strongly prevalent. Curved lives and geometric patterns, known as arabesques, are common design elements. Idealized, young women were also a reoccurring subject for Art Nouveau.

Zelda’s fantasy world lends itself naturally to the aesthetic of Art Nouveau.

Even when advertising a product, emphasis was placed on the overall artiness of the piece.  This often made it unclear what the poster is about. Eventually this would lead to the rise of Sachplakat, a radically simplistic style.

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“Nintendo Playing Cards” was greatly influenced by the works of Alphonse Mucha. It also has a little taste of Jules Chéret.

Merging Nintendo’s Zelda with Art Nouveau

I was limited to pick a product that existed during the Art Nouveau period. Lucky for me, Nintendo was founded as a playing card company in 1889. Nintendo originally produced hanafuda (Japanese playing cards), but they did start producing western-styled playing cards in 1902.

Official The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Playing Cards from Nintendo.
Official The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Playing Cards from Nintendo.

Zelda_Skyward_SwordTaking a bit of modern liberty, originally, I was going to do a Super Mario-themed poster. Instead, I decided to go with The Legend of Zelda for the franchise’s access to numerous nature themes which were a common aspect of Art Nouveau. I am pretty fond of Zelda’s character in Skyward Sword, so I made her the predominate female figure, another notable Art Nouveau element.

Focusing on Skyward Sword, various parts of the poster’s design fell into place. There are many references. Can you spot them all? Some of them are more difficult to find than others. Here’s a list:

  • Zelda from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  • Deku Babas
  • Bamboo from Bamboo Island
  • Pumpkins from Skyloft/Pumpkin Landing
  • Gate of Time
  • Goddess Harp
  • Insignia for Din, Faron, and Lanayru
  • Clouds/Sky
  • Triforce Motif
  • Original Nintendo Logo
  • Nintendo’s Vintage Ace of Spades Logo
  • Card Suits from the Zelda 25th Anniversary Playing Cards

“Nintendo Playing Cards” was hand-drawn, traced with Adobe Illustrator, and colored with Adobe Photoshop.

Reflection

Combining this project with my love for video games made it a challenging, but enjoyable experience. Zelda’s fantasy world lends itself naturally to the aesthetic of Art Nouveau. There were many elements from the Zelda universe that I’ve considered using, but left out in favor of design or creating a unifying theme.

Although art and design is an never-ending process, I am satisfied with what I’ve accomplished. What do you think of it?

The True “Link” in Hyrule Warriors

Link has always been the starring protagonist in The Legend of Zelda series. Yes, Link, not Zelda. Link is the player’s connection to the land of Hyrule. Link is you. Well, that used to be the case. Now Link no longer truly represents the majority of the players and the player never had a choice. Hyrule Warriors changes that.

A Link Between Worlds

Although not the true origin of his name, Link’s name evolved to symbolic  of his status as a “link” between the player and the game world. Eiji Aonuma, the director for The Legend of Zelda series, has stated, “When a player is playing a Zelda game, my desire is for the player to truly become Link—that’s why we named him Link, so the player is linked to the game and to the experience.”

Blond, blue-eyed, traditionally left-handed, with a fondness for green, music, and animals, and tends to be reserved with words. This is Link.

Hyrule_Warriors_Link

Link has become more and more detailed with each Zelda iteration. He has evolved to have his own distinct characteristics and personality. Blond, blue-eyed, traditionally left-handed, with a fondness for green, music, and animals, and tends to be reserved with words. This is Link. As a result, Link is no longer representative of everyone who plays him.

There is nothing wrong with Link gaining his own identity. However, if his role is to serve as a representative catalyst for players to interact with his world, many people are left out of the picture.

Diversity in Hyrule

As Link has evolved as a character, so too has his world and the people who live within it. There are now a multitude of different races and cultures within the land of Hyrule: Hylians, Zoras, Gorons, Sheikah, Twili, etc.

Even Princess Zelda, the namesake of the series, has changed to be more than just a damsel in distress. She is capable of fighting and taking the lead too. Despite this, she is often designated to the role of a hapless maiden and never given any limelight, even when equipped with a sword.

The player is given no choice. No, you can’t play as Zelda. No, you can’t be a Zora. You will be Link. You will be a blond, blue-eyed, Hylian male. Hyrule Warriors changes all of that.

Player’s Choice in Hyrule Warriors

Hyrule Warriors is the love-child of Koei Tecmo and Nintendo. A mix between Dynasty Warriors series and The Legend of Zelda franchise. With this collaboration carries over a unique Dynasty Warriors element: a diverse cast of playable characters.

Players now they have the option to play who they please, whether that be a demonic sword spirit, a Goron sage, or the king of the Gerudo.

Hyrule_Warriors_Zelda

For the first time, Princess Zelda is playable as a main character that fights alongside Link as his equal. She’s not stuck in some tower waiting for rescue and she’s not some ghostly sidekick. She’s kickin’ butt and takin’ names. There’s also a variety of other female characters to play as: Princess Ruto, Midna, Fi, Agitha, etc.

Also, the player no longer limited to being Hylian. Players now they have the option to play who they please, whether that be a demonic sword spirit, a Goron sage, or the king of the Gerudo.

It is truly exciting to see Hyrule Warriors provide this choice. It goes beyond fan service. It allows players to pick who they want to be in the Zelda universe. This is a true “link” between worlds.

Hyrule Historia: The Zelda “Bible”

Hyrule-Historia-Header-ImageIf you know anything about me or if you have been following my blog to any extent, you would know that I’m a pretty big Zelda fan. This is an admiration that started during my childhood, when I was just an 11-year-old playing through my first Zelda title, Ocarina of Time. My love for the series continued to grow as I played other great Zelda titles such as Link’s Awakening, Majora’s Mask, The Wind Waker, etc. Even with the latest installments, such as Skyward Sword, I am floored by how much I find myself enjoying playing the role of Link in his various adventures.

For Zelda fans, 2011 was a great year. It was the year marking the Zelda franchise’s 25th anniversary. Nintendo was treating the Zelda fandom with all sorts of treats: a free Four Swords Anniversary Edition available for download, an Ocarina of Time remake on the 3DS (plus soundtrack if registered early with Club Nintendo), Skyward Sword on the Wii (originally released with a bonus soundtrack and gold Wiimote), plus the amazing Zelda Symphony! To top it off, Nintendo created what is essentially the Zelda “Bible” and it was published in Japan. This book was titled Hyrule Historia.

Link Concept Art
Having a glimpse at the various concept art for characters such as main protagonist Link was a huge selling point for me. Doesn’t it look gorgeous?

It is a 274-page (the English version is said to have more) book full of never-before-seen concept art, notes from various Nintendo staff (such as Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Zelda, and Eiji Aonuma, the Zelda producer), a special manga by Akira Himekawa, and the now infamous official Zelda timeline. Being the Zelda junkie I am, as well as an aspiring game developer and appreciator of art, this was a book I had to get my hands on. Anything that would let me have a sneak peak at the creative process behind games that I love and admire was something that I greatly wanted to be in my ownership. At the time, the odds of a English translation and Western release seemed slim, so I was quick to look at various online Japanese retailers. However, by the time I looked, the book was already sold out everywhere!

Special Zelda Manga
Akira Himekawa’s special manga included in Hyrule Historia is the precursor to the story of Skyward Sword. This is one of many things in Hyrule Historia I look forward to seeing translated in English.

Determined, I turned to a friend familiar with ordering Japanese goods for advice. With her guidance, I was able to claim my Japanese copy of Hyrule Historia, something I probably would not have been able to do otherwise unless I dished out money for one on eBay… I was pretty ecstatic to see it arrive in the mail; however, there was one problem. Despite my limited understanding of the Japanese language, there was no way I could read the text, which was surely full of juicy details regarding my favorite video game franchise. As such, I was stuck with appreciating the art, until one day, perhaps, I could understand enough Japanese to actually be able to read it. I was content with this, however, because I owned a Zelda collector’s item that would never find its way to American shores… Boy, was I wrong! Dark Horse Comics announced that it was bringing Hyrule Historia to the West, which delighted many, including myself!

Although I already own Hyrule Historia in Japanese, I can’t wait to read all of the content such as the intro written by Shigeru Miyamoto or the various notes surrounding several pieces of concept art in a language I can better understand. Also, if you ask me, the green cover design for the North American version looks very nice and is better than the Japanese version. There is also a limited edition of Hyrule Historia being made by Dark Horse Comics. What makes the limited edition stand out from the regular is mostly aesthetics, having instead a faux-leather hardcover and gold guilded pages. Truly a book that, as Dark Horse Comics likes to put it, “looks like it could have been pulled off the shelf of one of the sages in Hyrule.”

The wait isn’t long now. On January 29, 2013, Hyrule Historia will have its North American release…or if you’re in New York, you could attend the special launch event happening at Nintendo World on January 25th. Nintendo World may be the only place you may find the rare limited edition now, because it sold out so quickly online. However, fret not, because the regular edition is still available for pre-order! Nintendo does not release special collector’s items like this often, so get one now before they’re all gone.