For those of you unaware of what has transpired recently regarding the highly anticipated The Legend of Zelda title for the Wii U, I’ll fill you in quickly. Emily Rogers, who leaked the announcement of a Paper Mario game coming to Nintendo’s current home console, has said three things about Aonuma’s latest game. One being that it will be ported over to the Nintendo NX, and another was that there would be voice acting (apart from Link). The one that has everybody interested, or curious about at the very least, is the supposed fact that you can be either gender for your playable character. So I thought it would be good to set down my opinion on the situation on the topic of a Link that can be either male or female.
Link has always been male since the franchise’s début on the NES 30 years ago. And naturally, a change would be quite nice. But this is more than just a change. Link has now become an iconic character in the gaming world, and so to change his gender is quite important in my eyes. I have seen Link as a heroic man that saves the kingdom, sky, ocean, what have you. But I feel saving Zelda is always my top priority, if not one of them, when playing through one of these adventures, and so to remove the classic ‘boy saves girl’ trope would be kind of alien to me, in terms of a Zelda game, when Zelda is actually in it of course. One of the reasons I love Skyward Sword (so much so that it is my favourite) is the story, and I feel that the romance between Link and Zelda was a key component to the experience. However, that’s not to say I don’t want Link to change gender. The key thing with Link is ‘hero’, and so that can apply to either sex. One of the reasons I love Samus, despite not playing any Metroid game in my life (sorry!) is that heroic aspect she holds, and that it proves women can be just as cool in video games as male leads. I support Link being a girl more than I would be against it, as it would put an intriguing spin on the Zelda formula we have all become acquainted to, which can be fitting for the original game’s 30th anniversary.
It’s worth pointing out that Ms. Rogers didn’t say that Link could be either gender, just a ‘playable character’. So we can be seeing something along the lines of what has happened in Hyrule Warriors Legends with Link and Linkle. Whilst I like the concept of Linkle and the fact she gets her own story, part of me doesn’t like how she’s separated from being Link. I like Linkle, but I thought that the idea of having a gender-swapped version of the hero was to just give a spin on the character, not to create a whole new persona. And that is my fear with this upcoming instalment. If this turns out to be true, I just want both Links to still act like each other, with their heroic nature, good heartedness, and (at times) goofiness in tact. I don’t want differing characters that could result in an unexpected different experience for the player, as I feel that the playable character will now become less established in the world.
And whilst we’re on the subject of this specific rumour, it does give me fear that we can be seeing a customisable Link for the next title. As Josh Thomas from The Bit Block has said, Link is a character, and always has been. And I certainly agree. Sure, the name was decided to connect to player and the person on the screen, but when you see that green tunic you know who it represents. Even if you were to change is hair colour, I feel it would no longer be Link. Adding to what I have said earlier, Link is a young, courageous, and heroic spirit that always manages to save the day from a demon king or a falling moon. This can apply to a female Link to, and so having the option to choose between either sex is welcome. But allowing us to customise the protagonist, essentially making him/her reduced to an avatar, will take away what Link is to the franchise as a whole, and thus ruining the experience of this hopefully grandiose adventure. That is my problem that has arisen from this rumour, and I hope Nintendo take the right action and make Link, regardless of gender, the hero he has always been. Not us, but the young, courageous, and heroic spirit that has always been Link.