For as long as the Legend of Zelda franchise has been around, players have only had one choice as to who the main protagonist was going to be — and as misleading as the name is to scores of casuals, it’s not Zelda.
Link has long since been the fated Hero of Time. It’s up for debate as to exactly how many unfortunate blonde man-children there are, but we’re pretty certain that we’re constantly dealing with an iteration of the same Link family. He’s been sent on a countless number of ill-fated journeys, traversed far too many ridiculous temples (lookin’ at you, Water Temple), and worn one too many masks in the 28 years he’s been around. But each journey has always had one defining goal: save the princess.
Although the Legend of Zelda series often suffers from the damsel in distress trope, it’s still a shining light in an industry long-since troubled with sex, race, and gender issues. That being said, there’s been a massive outcry from an innumerable amount of fans pleading that Nintendo finally spice up the long-running Zelda series with a fresh female hero — or really anyone who’s not Link.
With the recent Legend of Zelda Wii U announcement, fans have taken to the web to share their love and appreciation for the series, as well as to gossip about the state of Link’s beautiful face. It’s no secret that over the years, Link’s gotten pretty. Like, really pretty. With each entry into the Zelda franchise, Link seemingly becomes more and more feminine, and the recent Zelda Wii U trailer shows him at his most feminine yet. So much so that it begs the question: is this even Link?
Here in the industry, we’ve all gotten used to just assuming things, especially when it comes to long-running franchises. So when the news of a new Zelda game hit, many of us collectively screamed and asked “so what’s Link up to this time?” But according to Eiji Aonuma, the game’s front-man, assuming does make an ass of you and me:
“No one explicitly said that that was Link.”
Could it be possible that Nintendo has heard the countless number of pleas from fans, or are they just playing a sneaky PR game? It’s tough to say this early, considering official news of the game is only a day old. Regardless, it’s prompted myself, along with an entire community of Zelda fans, to investigate deeper into the short reveal to see if this really is — or isn’t — Link.
Speculation is fun, isn’t it? From the looks of things, it really is hard to tell whether or not this is Link. Through the years, Link has looked so different that it’s really not a far stretch to believe that Zelda devs simply changed his appearance once more. But let’s say for a minute that this isn’t Link.
The wider hips could be a dead giveaway for a female-identified protagonist. In comparison to other iterations of Link, they do appear to be noticeably wider and more feminine. We also should examine the lack of, er… breasts. Thanks to the shoulder strap our supposed non-Link is sporting, it’s pretty clear that there’s a severe lack of cleavage. Of course, this can’t be used as a solid argument, seeing as there are a plethora of reasons why they’re not noticeable — from Sheik-esque binding to simple genetic build.
Facially, this protagonist does seem to be incredibly feminine. While still not another solid argument due to Link’s evolution through the years, the shape of facial features combined with noticeably bluer eyes and thinner eyebrows does open the door for speculation. The ears are a lot more elongated than anything we’ve seen on previous Links, and there’s also the matter of the hair. Although Link’s sported a variety of different hair colors through the years — lest we not forget his pink ‘do — this hairdo is a slightly different variation from anything we’ve seen before. We can see noticeably longer and more feminine side burns accompanying a head of chestnut hair. The addition of a ponytail is certainly an interesting design choice, but as for anyone will long hair will attest — ponytails are the only option. Ever.
As far as clothing is concerned, I’m not entirely sure we can make a true argument there. While this character isn’t sporting the traditional green tunic, we must remember that not every Link started out immediately wearing the tradition garb. Think back to Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, and even Wind Waker — the game that this wardrobe most resembles — Link had to acquire his tunic, it wasn’t just his normal clothing choice.
There are of course many arguments over the most obvious addition to demo we’ve seen, and it’s one I can automatically debunk. If you notice, when our character goes to fire off an arrow — or whatever the hell that… thing is — they’re shooting it right-handed. It’s a common known fact that for most of the Legend of Zelda entries, Link is a natural-born leftie. But remember, in the Wii installments of the franchise, Link was switched to right-handed dominance in order to better suit a majority of players with the wii motes. This could be a case of continuity for the new generation of Zelda fans, so it’s best not to automatically jump to conclusions where this is concerned.
There’s also the matter of the horse — one in which many fans are saying is not Epona. While I don’t consider myself a horse scholar, I can attest to the differences seen in this new steed. Seeing our new, much scrawnier Link-but-not-Link riding it does make me wonder if it’s our Hero of Time.
If you need a comparison guide, here’s a handy little chart to help you decide (at least a little):
In the end, it’s tough to say whether or not this is Link or an entirely new hero. It could be that we’re playing as a child of the famed hero — a concept that we’ve already seen — or this could just be yet another new build on the already established character. Arguments can be made for both sides of this intrepid debate, but a winner can’t truly be declared until an official statement from Nintendo is made.
Regardless, what are you thoughts? Is this a new hero Zelda fans have been screaming for, or are we gearing up for yet another installment of Link? Sound off in the comments!