I Love The Legend of Zelda. Here's Why It Needs More Zelda.


Awesome Zelda-fronted concept art by Aaron Diaz

The Legend of Zelda
 has been a beloved game for over 25 years. One of the world's most popular video games, the tale of the Zelda series revolves not around the titular Princess Zelda—who demonstrates time and time again an overwhelming tendency to get kidnapped—but around young pointy-hatted hero Link's attempts to save his magical kingdom of Hyrule from the evil clutches of the desert brigand Ganon. 

After spinning that basic story into 16 distinct Zelda games, series overseer Eiji Aonuma recently entertained the idea of finally giving the iconic Princess Zelda her very own game. This would grant her fully playable protagonist status for the first time in—well, ever. There are few video games with female protagonists, but this isn't just an issue of equality. A Zelda-focused Zelda game would be an excellent idea even if the market had plenty of women-centric games.

Gamers have been discussing the idea for years, but in light of Aonuma's comments, many fans are showing their support through petition campaigns, submitting concept art, and even pitching fleshed-out stories like Aaron Diaz's Clockwork Empire (above). 

I'm a big Zelda fan myself. Here are four reasons why I think a Zelda-focused Zelda game is a great idea. 

[Spoiler Alert: This post contains some minor plot details from the Zelda series.]

1. Zelda is a complex character who would make a great protagonist.

Zelda is often referenced along with her colleague Princess Peach as an example of the ever-present "damsel in distress" trope used in countless video games and other forms of media. Nintendo actually gave Peach the opportunity to front a game for the first time in the long line of Mario titles back in 2006, but it would be kind to say this effort fell flat. This isn't exactly Peach's fault—your game would probably struggle too if your only defining qualities included a "stubborn, but cute, appearance" and an affinity for the color pink—but I'm confident that Zelda would not meet Peach's same dismal fate. 

Where Super Princess Peach banked solely on the appeal of a role reversal to carry its damsel through her own game, Nintendo has already given Zelda more to work with than the one-dimensional identity that confined Peach; Zelda isn't just a male protagonist's love interest and end-game incentive for following through with his quest.  

As the series' title implies, Zelda is an integral character both to the games' plots and the mythology of Hyrule, which casts her as a significant figure from the get-go. Her most renowned trait is wisdom, which she exercises at length throughout the series and the games' backstory when devising, in multiple instances, the best way to carry out her responsibility as the kingdom's ruler and protect the people of Hyrule.

She also has more of this trait in stock than the current protagonist—Link tends to identify mostly with the "courage" aspect of the Triforce.

2. Zelda's awesome abilities and fighting skills would be fun to play. 

As the descendent of a goddess, Zelda is imbued with interesting powers and abilities that would easily make her a skilled adventurer of her own journey. Her mystical powers include telepathy, prophetic visions, time travel, and communication with spiritual guardians. That would make for a rad hero, right? 

Zelda summons the Light Spirits in Twilight Princess.

She has also assisted Link in combat, saving his green-clad butt a number of times. In Ocarina of Time, she uses magic to restrain the Evil King Ganon long enough for Link to finish him off. Three games (Twilight Princess, The Wind Waker, and Spirit Tracks) display her knack for archery when she fires Light Arrows at the enemy. 

Zelda firing a Light Arrow.

3. Zelda's point-of-view is super interesting—and underdeveloped in the plot so far.

While she's an influential characters, Zelda's actions have so far been brief. The series has mostly allowed Zelda to be at her most active when disguised as someone else. As the agile and wise warrior Sheik in Ocarina of Time, Zelda appears throughout the game to teach Link valuable lessons to prepare him along his journey. In The Wind Waker, Zelda plays a similarly mentoring role in the form of a young pirate captain named Tetra. Both characters are knowledgable and impressive, but neither of them is Princess Zelda.   

Zelda as Sheik in Ocarina of Time.

As Feminist Frequency points out, the minute Zelda returns to her true form in both games, she's quickly kidnapped. It's as if all of her skills are forgotten the minute she dons a dress and she's forced back onto the sidelines so Link's story can resume. 

Zelda's Ocarina of Time kidnapping featured in Feminist Frequency's Tropes vs. Women part 1.


The series has a thing for rendering its princesses less important as soon as they regain their feminine identity, as was shown in a less Zelda-heavy installment, Twilight Princess, which features Midna, the princess of the Twilight Realm. After accompanying Link for the duration of the game as a rather unattractive impish creature, Midna ultimately transforms into a beautiful princess just moments before she's forever banished to the Twilight Realm. The trend of keeping action and femininity more-or-less mutually exclusive could afford to retire from Zelda's repertoire. And it could do so without even disturbing the game's continuity--or rather, its attempted continuity. 

Zeldas across time and space as captured by EligibleMonster.

4. There is plenty of room for Zelda's story in the series' complicated plotline. 

Speaking of which, the Zelda franchise is notorious for its convoluted timeline. Nintendo released an official guide to the Zelda timeline last year to help clear things up, but it's still pretty far from comprehensible. The official timeline splits off into three possible paths after N64's Ocarina of Time, and spans over several generations' and alternate universes' worth of Links and Zeldas. On the one hand, the timeline is admittedly frustrating to follow. But on the other, it presents a perfect environment in which to launch a very special version of Princess Zelda in all of her active, agency-filled, adventuring glory without doing her the disservice of shuffling her off into a game that's separate from the core series (as happened with creating a side-installment like Super Princess Peach as opposed to, say, Super Mario Bros.: Peach's Revenge). Zelda taking center stage would more likely enhance the series than detract from its long, complicated history. 

Zelda's been there to guide and motivate us for years as we grew with Link from inexperienced nobody to seasoned adventurer. It's high time Zelda fans fight with their princess rather than for her.  

 

Required reading: The recent Bitch article Gaming the System digs into how video game companies squelch games with female protagonists plus check out our recent blog eries on gender issues in gaming


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Comments

4 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Zelda!

For about half a minute, I really did believe Nintendo had created a game in which Zelda was the main character last year; when a faux promo poster hit the internet.
Hell, I would buy a Wii U or whatever system hosted it just for that game!
C'mon Nintendo! It's 2013!

Ever Hopeful

I just hope I'm not too old to learn how to work the controller when all the female-badass-hero games hit the market.

For years, I thought Zelda

For years, I thought Zelda WAS the protagonist (no Nintendo in my house) and that she was running around having adventures. I was crushed when I realized you played as Link and saved Zelda (with her occasional help). Having played Skyward Sword, there's no reason they couldn't retell that game from Zelda's point of view.

To point out a minor

To point out a minor inaccuracy there actually have been Legend of Zelda games where you play as Zelda. Wand of Gamelon and Zelda's adventure which were for the Phillips CDi. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CD-i_games_from_The_Legend_of_Zelda_series

Zelda fans don't like to mention them because they were terrible. Sadly, this is also why some people use this as an excuse for why a Zelda game starring Zelda won't work.