The biggest buzz of E3 2016 is that surrounding The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Completely shattering the traditional Zelda formula, this title will let Link loose in a massive version of Hyrule said to be the size of twelve Twilight Princess overworlds put together. But what if it’s even bigger than that? What if Link can also travel to a second version of this Hyrule, as it existed a century ago? Even with what little we know about Breath of the Wild, there may be more evidence supporting this possibility than you’d imagine.
First off, Zelda fans know there’s a strong precedent that would make time travel a likely mechanic in this game. All five 3D console Zelda titles released to date have seen Link travel to the past in one way or another. Ocarina of Time had Link journey to and from versions of Hyrule in two different time periods, while Majora’s Mask had him repeatedly go back to the first day of a three-day cycle. The Wind Waker saw Link visit a portion of Hyrule that had been suspended in the past for centuries, and Twilight Princess had a dungeon that could only be accessed by taking a step into the past. Finally, Skyward Sword featured two elements of time travel in the Timeshift Stones and the Gate of Time. Breath of the Wild would be the only exception to this rule if it doesn’t have Link go back in time, and although that may make sense for such a deviant title in the series, this theory doesn’t stop here.
While Nintendo has been tight-lipped on story details, one of the E3 showfloor demos has given us a very basic idea of what Link’s role is in this title. As he begins the game, Link awakens from a 100-year stasis, setting out to fulfill his destiny in defeating the looming threat of the Calamity Ganon. This new form of Ganon was also sealed away in Hyrule Castle 100 years prior—following a conquest of Hyrule which led to the land’s current, ruined state—and is also just now breaking free of its seal. This is everything yet divulged to us as far as story goes, and so far all the plot is pointing to the past playing a strong role in this Zelda title.
Another, bigger hint may have been featured in the demos. It would be no stretch to imagine there might be some significance behind the Temple of Time being placed immediately next to the game’s starting point. This building has been host to important story events in each game it’s appeared in, and it would be odd for it to be no more than just another piece of scenery in Breath of the Wild. It just may be that the temple will once again act as a hub for Link to travel to and from the past.
In fact, there’s a chance we might have already seen the past version of Hyrule. While both E3 demos have shown that Hyrule Castle becomes engulfed in the Calamity Ganon right from the beginning of the game, we’ve seen plenty of footage wherein the castle is clearly unobscured by this swarm. It could be that the Calamity Ganon escapes from the castle at a key story point, but given both the heavy implication that Link’s goal is to defeat this entity and Aonuma’s own confirmation that Link can reach his final goal right from the beginning of the game, this may not be true. Perhaps a more likely explanation would be that the scenes sporting a swarm-free Hyrule Castle are actually showing Hyrule 100 years prior to the game’s opening, before the Calamity Ganon wreaked its havoc on the land.
Hinting toward this conclusion is the fact that the only fully operational overworld Guardians we’ve seen so far appear in footage with a clear Hyrule Castle, while in the E3 demos the Guardian enemies are all in various states of disrepair. This is even further supported by a curious comment made by Aonuma himself. While discussing the inactive state of the Guardians, he stated, “There must be some sort of a time lapse.”
Some of the game’s remaining mysteries can also be explained by the existence of a time travel mechanic. For example, Aonuma has avoided talking about villages because “they’re interconnected to the story and overall world.” Considering that the demos present Hyrule as a kingdom in ruin, it may be that these villages can only be accessed in the past, explaining Aonuma’s caution. Another great mystery surrounds the Master Sword. Its chipped and weathered state in this game seems to imply that Link might need to repair it, but perhaps he’ll really just need to retrieve it from the past, before it had degraded.
Do you believe time travel might return in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Perhaps you’ve spotted your own evidence, or maybe you even have a good counter argument. Please feel free to add to the discussion in the comments section below.