Untapped Potential: New Hyrule
This entry of Untapped Potential will examine the time between Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, when Link and Tetra’s crew of pirates sailed the endless seas of the Adult timeline in search of a new land to colonize. Though we see an established kingdom in Spirit Tracks, we never see the Link and Tetra from The Wind Waker/Phantom Hourglass actually arrive at this new land. With no solid specifics of what happened in the decades that separate the two entries in the series, there is a boundless amount of narrative and gameplay potential waiting to be explored. For Zelda fans eager for the series to return to its roots in exploration and a less intrusive narrative, this gap in the timeline is the perfect place to delve into that very important aspect of The Legend of Zelda.
What We Know
According to Hyrule Historia, Link and Tetra arrived at the continent that would become New Hyrule to find that the Spirit Tower had already been erected, with the Spirit Tracks spiraling outward to cover the landscape. We learn that in the distant past, this land was beset by the destructive onslaught of the Demon King Malladus. The Lokomo, a group of Sages sent from the heavens, managed to seal the Demon King inside the Spirit Tower and the Spirit Tracks were put in place to keep that seal in place, drawing power from the four temples scattered across the land. This seal remains in place right up until the events of Spirit Tracks, when the treacherous Chancellor Cole begins unraveling the barriers and unleashes the Demon King once again.
It is in this track-laden land that Tetra develops New Hyrule, building a new Hyrule Castle next to the Tower of Spirits and establishing the newest royal bloodline that endures into the events of Spirit Tracks 100 years later. The established areas of New Hyrule are mostly landlocked, barring the ruins of the Ocean Temple beneath the sea, and are themed in standard Zelda fashion (Forest, Fire, Desert, Ice/Snow). Within those realms are various villages and temples populated by principally humanoid tribes in addition to the Goron and Anouki tribes.
Most of the cast of The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass have passed on, leaving Niko the pirate as the only living reminder of the those series of events. Everyone else is a distant relative, with Princess Zelda being the great-great-grandchild of The Wind Waker/Phantom Hourglass’ Tetra and Link apparently having no relation whatsoever to previous games’ Link. The Lokomo tribe has been present since the first sealing of Malladus long before Link and Tetra arrived on the continent and linger to maintain the seal on the Demon King. Following the events of Spirit Tracks, the Lokomo tribe returns to the heavens, having apparently fulfilled their purpose.
What We Don’t Know
Though the origin of the Lokomo and Malladus is touched on during Spirit Tracks’ intro, the exact events are a mystery. Where did Malladus come from? Exactly how long ago did the initial sealing take place? Are the Lokomo connected to the other divine races from the Legend of Zelda Universe (Oocca, guardian fairies/spirits, etc)? Why is it safe for them to leave New Hyrule following the second sealing of Malladus? Mysterious stuff…
When Link and Tetra’s crew first arrive on the shores of what becomes New Hyrule, how much of the landscape is already populated? It’s not unreasonable to believe that the towns and populations that we see in Spirit Tracks are already well established prior to Link and Tetra’s entrance and subsequent settlement. It’s also a possibility that the only locales present upon their arrival are the temples put into place to maintain the seal on Malladus. The towns of Adoba, Whittleton, and Papuchia (and obviously Castle Town) may have not existed until Tetra’s lineage spread out over the landscape throughout the course of the 100 years between Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. If this was the case, the land would most likely have been undeveloped and required the working hands of an expanding population. Although, this gives rise to another problem; how was the population increased when Tetra is the only female present amongst her crew? Were there other indigenous humanoid tribes present aside from the Lokomo? If so, were they thriving, or was it the introduction of the pirate crew that allowed them to thrive? This would also explain why the majority of the towns in Spirit Tracks are occupied by humanoid residents, as opposed to the varying races seen in other Zelda titles. Since the Anouki and Goron tribes are shown to exist in The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass, it’s likely they did indeed inhabit the land prior to the arrival of Link and Tetra.
Though it’s stated that the royal line was continued through Tetra, we don’t know WHO helped out with that. Of course, the first conclusion many would jump to is that Link is the obvious candidate for that role, but given the historically platonic relationship Link and Zelda have had throughout the series, I’m disinclined to conclude that myself. Also, if the Link of Phantom Hourglass had a hand (er, other appendage) in continuing the royal bloodline, it is likely Hyrule Historia would at least hint at such a scenario. This unknown information is probably a bit to fan-fiction-y to delve into depth for my personal tastes, but it is something to ponder. Who is Spirit Tracks Zelda’s great-great-grandfather?
Speaking of Link, what happened to him? What was his role in helping Tetra establish New Hyrule? Did he remain in the newly established Hyrule Kingdom? Did he perhaps decide to return home after helping Tetra set up New Hyrule?
Where We Can Go From Here
With 100 years of unused time, we have a TON of potential for both narrative and gameplay material waiting to be exploited. On the narrative side of things, we have an entire cast of established characters that have an unknown continent to explore. We know that Link, Tetra, and the pirate crew eventually establish New Hyrule, but HOW the new kingdom was established is unknown. As such, there are at least two interesting possibilities that come to mind;
One, Tetra and her crew find the continent mostly undeveloped, and go about setting up locales across the landscape unencumbered. In this scenario, we might see Tetra establishing small hovels that eventually turn into the villages of Adoba, Whittleton, and Papuchia. For each of these towns, Tetra might leave one of her pirate crew members in charge, acting as a mayor of sorts to oversee the expansion of each respective locale. In this, we would see the landscape change from mostly unoccupied space into thriving human ecosystems over the course of the narrative. During this time, Tetra would likely be opening dialogue with the indigenous Lokomo sages and the Anouki/Goron tribes in order to establish a new Hyrule Kingdom and build a new castle next to the Spirit Tower. This would involve a level of negotiation, most likely, as Tetra would need to convince the indigenous peoples that they’d benefit in some way from this new Kingdom’s establishment. Tetra and her crew would need to find ways of increasing the level of comfort and stability for both the Gorons and Anouki, as well as justify their enterprise to the Lokomo. In this, we would see a more intricate plot being presented than we’ve come to expect from the Zelda franchise, with a greater focus on the complex mechanisms of politics and economics forming the backbone of the narrative experience.
Two, it turns out that the continent Tetra and her crew eventually turn into New Hyrule is already inhabited by several indigenous tribes. Perhaps the Anouki and the Gorons, relegated to two areas of the map in Spirit Tracks, originally held dominion over a far greater area. It’s even possible that other tribes seen in the Zelda series once had established provinces before the events of Spirit Tracks. In this case, we might see an even more involved diplomatic process take over the narrative, as Tetra travels the landscape to discuss her plans for a new kingdom with the existing villages and tribes…
We might see the menacing pirate side of Tetra emerge in full force, as she systematically brings about the subjugation of the existing population by means of brute force. Starting in one corner of the map, Tetra and her crew might decide that instead of being ambassadorial (let’s face it; Tetra’s crew isn’t exactly an intellectual group of diplomats), she’d engage in a brutal conquest of the nation, slowly building an army of loyal followers and forcibly supplanting herself as the ruler of the new nation. This would also lend itself to ongoing conflict as neighboring provinces attempted to resist Tetra’s march across the landscape, or towns/villages attempted to rebel against the oppressive regime. This might seem out of character for the Zelda Universe, and certainly for little Miss Tetra, but remember that Tetra was a PIRATE captain before it was revealed that she was Princess Zelda. Also, we know that Nintendo is not above giving Hyrule patches of unsavory history, as was hinted in Ocarina of Time when Link tackled the Shadow Temple. Not only would this provide a stark contrast to the generally squeaky clean image we normally see in Hyrule’s royal family, it would show that Nintendo is not afraid to take risks with the series’ narrative. We would also get to see a more sinister side to a traditionally benevolent character in the series (perhaps in two of the series’ characters, if Link joins Tetra in her conquest).
An interesting prospect to consider when examining these two scenarios is the idea of being able to choose between the peaceful or violent paths, or a grey area in between. In this, we could see more interesting psychological interplay between the core cast of characters; perhaps Tetra’s band of pirates push to have Tetra steamroll through New Hyrule, pillaging towns and suppressing denizens, while Link urges her to pursue the more peaceful path with benevolence and diplomacy.
Each of the above scenarios is flexible in that they could potentially take place over the course of the entire 100 years between Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, or a smaller period of time that would allow for other major events to take place within those 100 years. Perhaps New Hyrule was established in a few brief decades, and peace reigned in the Kingdom until the events of Spirit Tracks. Or, in a more interesting direction, New Hyrule was beset by a great famine or demon invasion following its establishment. Hell, the map we see in Spirit Tracks might be completely different from the empire Tetra established early on. It’s almost completely open-ended in that respect, when you consider that a plethora of significant events can take place in the span of 100 years.
As for Link…the possibilities are SO open-ended, whatever narrative scenario you could think of is a possibility. Since The Wind Waker/Phantom Hourglass’ Link doesn’t appear to have any significant impact on the events of Spirit Tracks (outside of inspiring the color scheme of Hyrule’s knights), he could be out doing anything. This massive amount of potential leads me to conclude that another blog entry is required to fully explore the exciting possibilities such open-endedness could afford…so, yeah, stay tuned for that.
In the event that Tetra’s colonization endeavors between Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks became a full-fledged game, it seems somewhat unreasonable to expect traditional Zelda gameplay to capture the scope of such a concept. 3rd person action-adventure wouldn’t lend itself to managing the large scale I had in mind. Instead, this period of time in Zelda history ought to be approached using the grand scale mechanics seen in games like Sid Meier’s Civilization or the Total War franchise (similar to what I suggested for the Imprisoning War). This would not only allow for a grander scope, it would allow Nintendo to tell a story that doesn’t focus on Link or any singular character in particular. In the beginning of the game, players would have a blank map to fill in, which would either fill itself out as the players explore/discover more of the continent. Players would take control of Tetra’s small band of pirates and Link as they arrived on the continent, scout about the landscape in search of resources, build a small base of operations, and work towards expanding New Hyrule in each direction until the map resembled what we see in Spirit Tracks. This could be accomplished with ease in either the peaceful, diplomatic approach described in my first scenario, or the more violent approach of the second scenario. In the case of the former, battle would be less-prevalent, as players would spend most of their time gathering resources and increasing the population.
Combat scenarios would be relegated to fending off aggressive packs of ferocious creatures or hostile groups of bandits/unfriendly tribes. In the latter scenario previously described, warfare would be the primary gameplay focus as players concentrated on constructing an army capable of subjugating their future Kingdom and building a sprawling empire.
Another gameplay mechanic that I’d like to see used in this hypothetical game would be the Spot Pass feature seen in the recent 3DS RPG Bravely Default. In that game, players could increase the population of their ruined home village by either downloading uploaded player data or by passing them using Street Pass. With an increased population, restoration of the city sped up and players were rewarded with more shops and better items. I found this mechanic to be an ingenious inclusion in Bravely Default, and I would like to see it implemented in other games. It would be perfect for this theoretical Zelda game, where towns/areas on the map continue to manage themselves in the player’s absence.
This is getting pretty long, so I’ll stop here. You get the idea. As I mentioned earlier, the span of 100 years is in itself a goldmine of gaming potential. It’s almost overwhelming, really, and the ideas detailed in this blog are just a few among countless I’ve pondered, and no doubt an even greater amount that never crossed my mind. I’ve no doubt those of you reading this have come up with some ideas of your own.
Props to Zolaida for that badass Zelda picture, which I added a filter to.