Its clear that Ocarina of Time was set up in such a way that Nintendo would continue to have the freedom to make Zelda games as they so choose without having to worry about continuity. But with so many games in the franchise, they were once again running out of room for creative license. Here enters Skyward Sword. ...and boy did they give themselves room for opportunity!
The time travel in Skyward Sword makes Ocarina of Time look like a chump. There is a grand total of 5 time-lines in this game with only ONE of them being the twisted one that we already know and love. But lets not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? Let's start at the beginning...
The time-line that you start out in is sort of like the “Hero is defeated” one from OoT. I say that because in this one, Link and Zelda both vanish off of the face of the earth. Demise breaks loose as Link isn't there to reinforce the seal and VOILA! we already have a fresh new time-line for future Zelda game's to fall in!
Now, the first split occurs when Zelda and Impa use the first Gate of Time. This new time-line is actually the old one that already has games attached to it. Why this one, you ask? Because in this one, Zelda (the original Zelda) is still sleeping. Although apparently Demise gets free anyways, neither Link nor Ghirahim ever appear to disturb Zelda from her sealing slumber. That's an important fact for a little game called The Adventure of Link.
Now, those of you familiar with Zelda II might want to point out that, according to the manual, Zelda was put to sleep by the prince's magician. But it also says that this is the legend of the "first" Zelda... meaning the sleeping Zelda is the original one. Skyward Sword makes it clear that we're seeing the first Link and Zelda. So we have an issue here. Either Nintendo is lying about Skyward Sword being the beginning (not out of the question), it was a simple oversight and she was intended to be the same Zelda from Adventure of Link, she gets the spell cast on her later in life, or (what I believe) the legend is so old for the Hylians of Zelda II that it no longer tells the tale accurately (in other-words, Nintendo wanted to tell a different story).
Nonetheless, the Link of Skyward Sword never sees that time-line, though (which is why you don't see Zelda in the Sealed Temple until later). He goes on adventuring through the original time-line... at least for a while. The next split occurs when Link uses the second Gate of Time. This is where (or rather when) he is tasked to collect the Triforce. Now remember, although going back in time always creates a new time-line, going forward in time doesn't. So, this is the time-line in which Link uses the Triforce to crush Demise. Chances are that the baddy finds a way to eventually bounce back and, thus, we are given yet another time-line for future Zelda games to utilize.
The third split (getting overwhelmed yet?) comes by the hands of Ghirahim. He sets Demise free in the past, causing a rift in the future. This is a sad one, though, because not only is Demise set loose but Zelda dies in the process. I'd love to see a game take place in this time-line. I mean, people are always asking for a dark Zelda game and man, would they get one!
But wait! There's more!
Link creates yet another time-line by going in after Ghirahim to put a stop to his shenanigans. This is the one you're in when you finally beat Skyward Sword. It also has tons of new possibilities, since Demise promises to return to battle Link's descendents (like he does in the time-line that we're already familiar with).
This means that with Skyward Sword everything has been reset for Link's battle with Ganon (cough cough, I mean Demise) in 4 all new separate time-lines.
Cool, isn't it?
Alright, well, there it is. I hope you enjoyed this fairly lengthy 2-part discourse of mine. Hit me up in the comments and tell me what you think. Did it make sense? Do you agree or do you think that I'm completely off base? Maybe I missed something important. Let me know!
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