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Link or Zelda: Whose Legend Is It Anyway?

Posted on Tuesday, May 6 @ 14:30:00 PST by ryanbates

History repeats itself, they say. While we see some examples of that in our daily lives, some things simply by their nature are cyclical. The tide goes in, the tide goes out. The middle of the day is the hottest, the middle of the night is the coolest. The economy rises, the economy falls, and politicians point fingers. Even in microcosms, some events are cyclical. For the Whovians out there, any time Doctor Who prepares to regenerate, there's a cycle of grief for the old doctor, anticipation for the new one, anger and gnashing of teeth after the reveal, then utter adoration after the first few episodes. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Now, E3 2014 is almost upon us, and Nintendo has promised more information on a game which, after so long, has become borderline-vaporwarethe game codenamed Zelda U.” This, too, will be a cyclical event, as most Zelda releases have been: fans of the series will wait with anticipation while Nintendo doomsayers will bemoan the death of the company and cry out that the once-dominant corporation is out of ideas and should dismantle and sell, then Nintendo will reveal demos, possibly playable at E3, and journalists will tell the haters to wait on their doom prophecies, then the game will come out and everyone, nearly universally, will love the game. If you need proof, look back at the reveal/release cycle for The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

There's one thing that strikes me differently this time around, though, and that's the codename. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the upper-ups at Nintendo have always referred to new games in this lineage as new “Legend of Zelda” games. But even executives this time are referring to the game as "Zelda U." Normally, I try not to read too far into these type of minor details, but I can't help but be intrigued. The conspiracy-theory part of me wonders if this could mean that the Legend of Zelda game designed for Wii U could feature as a playable protagonist who isn't Link, but the Princess of Hyrule herself, Zelda!

It's not an unheard conceptdigging around in the muck of the dark world of the Zelda series produces the horrific Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon and the equally-bad-if-not-worse Zelda's Adventure for the dismal Phillips CD-i, both of which featured Zelda as the playable character. Aside from the fact that the CD-i was a heinous attempt at a game system, these games featured a Zelda that no one really knew.

Understandably so, as these games were released in 1993, but until 1998's
Ocarina of Time, Zelda was truly not much more than a damsel-in-distress. Only in the adventure for the Nintendo N64 did we see Zelda actively get involved, especially disguised as Sheik, Link's sometimes-guide to the future version of Hyrule in the game. Since then, some iterations are more involved than others, such as Zelda's alter ego on the waves of the Great Sea, Tetra, but all iterations since Ocarina of Time's Zelda has been in some way involved with Link's adventure.

These days, we know that Zelda can wield magic fairly well, a skill she carries over in the Super Smash Bros. series. She also knows a modicum of hand-to-hand combat, and as Sheik or Zelda has knowledge with light projectiles, such as kunoichi daggers and throwing stars. If her abilities in Super Smash Bros. Brawl are to be recognized as canon, Zelda may not be particularly fast, but she's nimble, with the ability to teleport short distances. And, as her stint as Tetra showed, she's fully capable on the seas as well as on land.

The great thing about presenting a playable Zelda is that, ultimately, this is not about “girl power” or emasculating men or anything of the sort. This is about what Nintendo does well in every Zelda gametaking traditional elements found in nearly every game, shaking them up with a fresh spin, and adding just enough new stuff to create something legendary, while providing a strong, independent heroine that all types of gamers can get behind.

Maybe I'm reading too far into this codename, but even if I am, a playable Zelda would breathe new life into the IP, and would serve as a huge shake-up on the E3 show floor that would be impossible to ignore. Plus, we can finally purge the idea of the CD-i games defining a playable princess of Hyrule.


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