Nintendo revealed the next-generation look of a brand new The Legend of Zelda game at E3 during the company's streaming presentation and while many were confused as to whether the hero of the trailer represented a male or a female Link, franchise head Eiji Aonuma, responsible for many recent Zelda games, seems to suggest it's up to fans.
Kotaku spoke with Aonuma and two producers on Hyrule Warriors at E3. When pressed to better define The Legend of Zelda's responsibility to include female gamers by offering a female hero to play as, Aonuma pointed to Hyrule Warriors as a test for that kind of option in a mainline Legend of Zelda game, namely the one coming to Wii U in the next few years.
Kotaku Editor Jason Schreier: Mr. Aonuma, have you ever thought about that, and whether it'd be more inclusive to female players if they could play as someone of their own gender?
Zelda Franchise Producer Eiji Aonuma: Is it that simple—that creating a female character means bringing more female users into the world?
Schreier: I guess what I mean is, when I'm playing and I see a man—in response to what you said about Link being a representation for the player, and the player being the main character—when a man is playing, he can feel more represented by the player character than a woman playing might.
Aonuma: So there are actually many female characters you can play as in Hyrule Warriors. We've introduced Midna, we've introduced Princess Zelda, and Impa as well. So if that connection needs to be there—I'm not saying that it does—let's see what happens with Hyrule Warriors, if as a result of there being more female protagonists, more women pick up the game, I'm all for it, so I've decided to see what happens with this title.
What do you think? I'd have no trouble accepting a female hero as a lead in a Zelda game. I think it would be a daring change for Nintendo to make, but the creators and developers who've developed this beloved franchise for decades seem to know what they're doing and we've never been able to choose the character in a mainline Zelda game before.
What sense does it make to change what's become a staple of the franchise for so long? It's like asking Princess Peach to strap on some overalls and here, take this plunger, it's your turn. That doesn't make sense, but adding Peach as a playable platforming hero did in the more recent Mario games.
I'm excited to play as different characters in Hyrule Warriors, but I can't say I'd like the option of choosing my hero's gender in an epic adventure series like The Legend of Zelda. To Aonuma's point, I don't think the Zelda franchise struggles to reach female gamers even though the company has come under fire lately from the LGBTQ community.