One of the most central, interesting and important aspects of the upcoming Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is that it is a prequel. We can thank Skyward Sword's producer Eiji Aonuma for this particular information:
"Yes there is a master timeline but it's a confidential document. The only people to have access to that document are myself, Mr. Miyamoto and the director of the title. We can't share it with anyone else, I have already talked to Mr. Miyamoto about this so I am comfortable in releasing this information, this new title takes place before Ocarina of Time. If I said that a certain title was 'the first Zelda game', then that means that we can't ever make a title that takes place before that. So for us to add titles to the series, we have to have a way of putting the titles before or after each other." - Eiji Aonuma, Official Nintendo Magazine (emphasis mine)
The fact that the game is meant to delve into the origins of the Master Sword supports this timeline-placement. Now, if you are one of those people who pay attention to the Zelda timeline (and I feel sorry for any of the poor saps who do), and you happen to be of the belief that Ocarina of Time was the first game in the timeline, Skyward Sword will then scoop in right before it and potentially become the earliest Zelda game in the timeline.
There are several interesting questions that arise from this notion. One thing that prequels tend to do is to explain origins of certain elements. Ocarina of Time explained the origins of Ganon and the Triforce. The Minish Cap delved into Vaati and the Four Sword. So while keeping this in mind, let us take a look at some elements that Skyward Sword might, or should, tell us more about.
The Master SwordLet's start with the no-brainer, the one thing we know will appear; the Master Sword. More importantly, we know what it will be initially called; the Skyward Sword. You know, it's kind of funny to think about; the Master Sword has been a significant part of the Zelda series since A Link to the Past in the early 90s, and this is the first time it's been included in the title of a Zelda game. Finally getting the recognition it deserves, says I.
That the Skyward Sword becomes the Master Sword is something we learned very quickly after Nintendo's E3 conference in 2010:
"How many people remember the scene where Link dives off the cliff in the trailer? That's a very important point for the storyline. This time around, Link is born and raised in a land called Skyloft, a land floating above the clouds. It may sound unique for someone to live on a floating land, but Link finds it ordinary. A land beneath the clouds is discovered, it's ruled by evil forces, but Link is forced to go there. Link has to travel between the two lands in this adventure. The Skyward Sword is his driving force behind his traveling between lands. That mysterious figure in last year's art is the Skyward Sword. People suspected this to be the Master Sword... but spoiler alert, the Skyward Sword becomes the Master Sword." - Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo Developer Roundtable as covered by IGN (at the 6:45 mark)
This information also raises a question; how will Skyward Sword carry over to the next game to feature the Master Sword, Ocarina of Time? After all, the Master Sword plays a very important part in Ocarina of Time's plot.
Skyward Sword might not address this concern on its own; it might leave that particular issue untouched, maybe so another game can come and delve deeper into it. But for now, let's just assume that this will be addressed in some way. Skyward Sword will then have to show how the Master Sword came to be known as the Master Sword, how it becomes the final key to the Sacred Realm, and potentially even delve into the prophecy about the Hero of Time who is said to take up the Master Sword against evil.
But it doesn't stop there. If Skyward Sword will delve into how the Master Sword ended up behind the Door of Time, it will also have to deal around the building in which the sword resides; the Temple of Time. And let's not forget the Spiritual Stones that grant access to the Master Sword's chamber, or the magical Ocarina of Time with the added Song of Time. Gosh, at this rate it's as though we're envisioning the Zelda version of the Star Wars prequels.
The Kingdom of HyruleWe now leave the realm of facts to dive deeper into obscurity, possibility and improbability. The Master Sword origin story is just one key to the puzzle about how Skyward Sword will relate to the rest of the series - namely its direct follower, Ocarina of Time.
Something that has been made clear through interviews is that there are two different worlds - one above the clouds, and one beneath. We have learned that the world above the clouds is called Skyloft, and it sounds like a new concept for the most part. I know people have attempted to draw a connection to the City in the Sky from Twilight Princess, but for some reason I just can't envision Link living side by side with little human chickens.
Anyways, we were made aware of something a little more interesting later on; the land beneath the clouds is none other than the land of legend, Hyrule. What is so interesting about this is that Hyrule has been infested with evil, and is now ruled by it.
So that clearly begs the question of whether there is a Royal Family yet and if so, who and where they are. What we can say for certain is that princess Zelda is going to appear.
"Seeing that it is The Legend of Zelda, we can't have a game without Zelda! So I think it's safe to say we'll be seeing her." - Eiji Aonuma, some issue of Nintendo Power
It's important to note that just like in The Wind Waker, Zelda might appear under a different persona, and/or might not be an actual princess. The mere fact that she will appear, however, supports the idea that the Royal Family of Hyrule exists and therefore, so does the kingdom. This in turn suggests that the kingdom has been attacked and potentially overrun by the invading forces of evil. For a picture of how that might look, think of Ocarina of Time after traveling seven years into the future and finding the once-peaceful country completely overrun and scattered.
In the scenario that no kingdom exists yet, that opens up another possibility - will Skyward Sword delve into the foundation of the Kingdom of Hyrule? It's almost too ambitious to dare hope it. But at the same time, it's suggested that the kingdom was united shortly before the events of Ocarina of Time, which greatly lowers the probability of any such event being shown in Skyward Sword.
There are so many uses for this!
The TriforceI know what you're thinking:
"But A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time already dealt with the origins of the Triforce, you moron! There's no need for another origin story; even Twilight Princess mentioned it briefly. You're so silly!" - You, in your silly little head
That much is true. However, consider what we know about Skyward Sword for a second. The Master Sword is called the Skyward Sword and has not yet been put into the Pedestal of Time. Ergo, it does not protect the Sacred Realm, where you will find the Triforce waiting in all its shiny glory. So if the Master Sword is not protecting the Triforce, what is?
Consider also that Hyrule is besieged by evil forces. Why? Could the Triforce be playing a part in this? Considering the inevitable fate of the Skyward Sword as the future Master Sword, and the game's status as a prequel to Ocarina of Time, the Triforce will undeniably play a role in the story. Indeed, the evil forces might be on the look for this golden power - that's the only reason I can think of for why anyone would want to lay siege to Hyrule specifically. Haven't we seen through the repeated attempts of conquest by Ganondorf (and his alter pig-ego, Ganon) that evil is drawn to Hyrule because they seek the sacred power that the land governs?
The mere fact that the Master Sword is not there, raises the question of what that means for the Sacred Realm and the Triforce. Maybe there is something else governing the Golden Triangles from the greedy fingers of evil. Questions... so many questions...
Everything ElseFrom here on, it's truly just gonna be speculation. What little we know about Skyward Sword's backstory is enough to suggest a handful of things when it comes to elements like the Master Sword, the Triforce and the Kingdom of Hyrule, but everything else is left in the dark. Anything could show up.
Allow me to take a guess at what we'll be seeing the most; references to Ocarina of Time. There's a reason why I've been mentioning that game so often, and it's really very simple - as the only game confirmed to take place before the Nintendo 64 classic, Skyward Sword is unique. But not only that - it will also be the only game in the series that features the Master Sword to take place before Ocarina of Time. This binds the two games even tighter together.
So if Skyward Sword is going to connect with Ocarina of Time, what might we lay our eyes upon? I think one good guess would be the different races. I don't think we'll be seeing any Kokiri children running around (unless the developers feel like throwing Zelda fans a nostalgia-bone), but what about Gorons? Zoras? The Gerudo women? Or, hell, what about the mysterious Sheikah tribe?
Speaking of races, there is one aspect that the series recently touched upon. It involved a group of dark sorcerers attempting to establish dominion over the Sacred Realm using powerful magic. The Dark Interlopers were only recently brought into Zelda's backstory, and they were supposed to have existed long before Ocarina of Time ever took place. I think it's not without merit that these figures might appear in Skyward Sword, be it in person or simply being mentioned in passing.
Twilight Princess also brought up another aspect of the land of Hyrule, one that we know has existed since before the era of Ocarina of Time; the Light Spirits. While it's strange that these beings of light were missing from the tormented land of Hyrule in Ocarina of Time (maybe Ganondorf snuffed them out off-screen), Skyward Sword is in an excellent position to delve deeper into just what role these spirits play in the grand scheme of things. Especially considering that Hyrule is, as we know, infested with evil. If the light spirits do appear, they'll be sure to appear in the kind of helpless state that Twilight Princess put them in initially.
Let's jump back to Ocarina of Time again. As Skyward Sword is a prequel to this game, and Hyrule will be appearing in Skyward Sword, it is logical to expect that we will be revisiting some familiar locations like Lake Hylia, Death Mountain and so on. This might lead to some recurring elements from these locations, such as - indeed - Gorons and Zoras. Hell, the possibilities are endless - remember how Volvagia was said to have been defeated once before by a legendary Goron hero? Well, wouldn't it be cool to witness this? Hey, what if that legendary Goron hero turned out to be you?
Playable Goron's been done before
Of course, now I'm getting way in over my head. It just goes to show, though; anything could pop up. I wouldn't be surprised if this game somehow had Tingle in it. Going by the fabulous design of the only character from Skyward Sword we've seen who's not Link, Tingle suddenly doesn't seem so out of place anymore.