The Zelda timeline is a convoluted web of plot threads, so it’s not immediately apparent to all that Twilight Princess is an Ocarina of Time sequel.
If there’s any video game franchise that’s notorious for possessing absurdly convoluted timeline strings across multiple universes, it would have to be The Legend of Zelda. One would expect the original game released back in 1986 to be the start of the series narrative, but it’s actually located towards the end of one specific branch of the timeline. Such is often the case for Zelda games, and because of this, it can be challenging to keep up with how they connect to each other. For example, Twilight Princess is a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, even though this isn’t readily apparent just by playing through both titles.
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Ocarina of Time’s plot stars a Link who is the Hero of Time, perhaps the most iconic and frequently referenced incarnation of Link in the series. In his quest, he traveled forward seven years in time so that he can become old enough to wield the Master Sword, but Ganondorf obtained the Triforce of Power while Link was unconscious and took over Hyrule. With the assistance of Princess Zelda and the Seven Sages, Adult Link sealed Ganondorf away in the Sacred Realm by the end of Ocarina of Time, and Zelda sent Link back to the past so he could relieve his lost childhood.
The final scene of Ocarina of Time is where Twilight Princess’ backstory begins. Link approached Zelda after experiencing the future to warn her about Ganondorf’s plan. After informing the King of Hyrule, Ganondorf ended up getting prosecuted for his crimes and gets sentenced to death. As seen in the corresponding flashback sequence from Twilight Princess, the execution was botched due to the Triforce of Power’s influence, and he was banished to the Twilight Realm as a final resort. The Ganondorf from Twilight Princess is the same individual as the one from Ocarina of Time, only after he escaped the Twilight Realm with Zant’s help.
How The Hero’s Shade Completes The Narrative
Even though he’s an integral piece of connective tissue between the two titles, Ganondorf is actually not the only character from Ocarina of Time to make a full return in Twilight Princess. Throughout his quest, the new Link encounters a character known as the Hero’s Shade who teaches him advanced sword techniques unobtainable elsewhere. It has been revealed through Nintendo’s Hyrule Historia book that the Hero’s Shade is actually the spirit of the Hero of Time himself. Since his victory against Ganondorf happened in the timeline he left behind, the Hero of Time was never remembered for his heroic deeds, and he carried that regret into the afterlife.
The Hero of Time, now known as the Hero’s Shade, passed on his swordplay techniques to the new hero to ease those regrets, but their relationship goes deeper. Twilight Princess’ Link is actually a distant descendent of the Hero of Time, which crumbles multiple fan theories. For example, certain fans guessed that the Hero’s Shade appears skeletal because he has turned into a Stalfos after getting lost in the Lost Woods after the events of Majora’s Mask. However, Since the Hero of Time is Twilight Princess Link’s ancestor, he must have survived so he could raise a family back in Hyrule and begin the bloodline of the hero. The Legend of Zelda’s Hero of Time tale isn’t quite that dark, but his story arc carries over Ocarina of Time’s somber and tragic themes into the main plotline of Twilight Princess by placing his legacy on his descendant’s shoulders.
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