Well, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you by now that the interwebs are buzzing like a hive of fangasming hornets about the plethora of reveals made at E3 so far. Gamers around the globe have been inundated with so much new information that many folks can’t even pick a topic to squeal about, which I quickly noticed when a friend of mine IMed me as soon as I got online and covered three different topics in a single sentence.
Among the many reveals Tuesday was Nintendo’s announcement of a new collaborative spin-off for the Legend of Zelda series. Partnering with Tecmo Koei, Hyrule Warriors offers a departure from the typical LoZ dungeon crawl and keeps a much tighter focus on the combat. Between the Dynasty Warriors-esque gameplay style, the abundance of playable female characters, and Link’s decision to partake in the trend of protagonists sporting rad new scarves, there’s been a lot of chatter in the last 48 hours.
Leaving that much vital chest area exposed doesn’t seem very wise for the person the holding the Triforce of Wisdom.
Zelda in particular has been getting a lot of the attention. While this isn’t the first time she’s been playable, one would think that the series’ title character would’ve had a lot more active roles by now as opposed to spending the bulk of the last 25 years as the proverbial carrot on a stick. Furthermore, the only two games in which Zelda is actually the protagonist are sorta… well… they’re not quite… they… okay they suck. For this reason, many a fan is celebrating the news that we’ll all be able to assume the role of the iconic princess without having to bother with possessing phantoms, entering a fighting tournament, or obtaining outrageously rare hardware and software that isn’t even fun to play.
But perhaps the bigger news is the fact that we’ve all played as Zelda plenty of times before without even realizing it.
(Note: The following may be NSFW, depending on where you work.)
Even if you’re new to the Zelda series, you probably have a rudimentary understanding of its fifth game, Ocarina of Time. When it released in 1998, OoT was hailed as one of the greatest games of all time, receiving perfect and near-perfect scores from dozens of gaming magazines and websites. The fan following remained so strong for so long that the game was re-released in 3D over a decade later. Many continue to see it as one of the best games in history, or at least the best game in the franchise.
Like many LoZ titles, Zelda is absent for the bulk of the game. In the beginning, we see her briefly via dreams, sneaking into the Hyrule Castle courtyard, and upon her escape from Ganondorf’s coup. The game then spends a lot of time talking about her and referencing her, but without actually… well… allowing her to participate. It’s only toward the end of the game that Zelda reappears and informs the player that she had disguised herself and acted as Link’s mentor, Sheik, the entire time. (And then she gets kidnapped by Ganon within minutes, because… that’s what princesses do, I guess.) At the final showdown, Zelda emerges again to aid Link’s escape from Ganon’s crumbling castle, then offers a few words of encouragement and an energy beam so he can secure the death blow. All in all, she doesn’t get a lot of screen time, right?
Many years ago, when I was a wee little Leedzie, I discovered the secret truth — the real legend of Zelda, if you will. And it was all because of the game SoulCalibur II.
The Soul series is a fighting game franchise that has a penchant for including guest appearances from outside games. It’s more than just an Easter egg cameo; the guest characters are fully-integrated playable fighters, regardless of whether or not they mix with the established game aesthetic. In Soul Calibur II for the GameCube, Link appeared as the featured guest fighter. It was 2002, and Ocarina of Time was still fresh in the minds of gamers — which Namco clearly intended to bank on, as Link was directly featured on the GameCube edition’s cover.
Even though it was OoT Link’s second time on the GameCube (as Super Smash Bros. Melee had come out the year before), being able to play in a more consistent and less zany environment offered its own reward as well. It wasn’t long before screenshots of Link circulated the internet, rapidly spreading among gamers like wildfire.
And that’s when I discovered the truth.
I’m sorry, but that is clearly a vagina.
Of course, I said to myself, perhaps it was a fluke. Maybe it was the pose, or the lighting, or just a random glitch in the model that coincidentally appeared at the time of that screenshot. But when I checked other images, I realized it was completely consistent.
The images were unmistakeable. Link had been a female this entire time!
In a way, I supposed it made sense; after all, women have such a difficult time getting a foothold in games (or at least without being sexed up to high heaven), so perhaps this young warrior posed as a man so she would be taken seriously by her peers, a la Mulan. Or maybe it had nothing to do with womanhood at all, and this young man was trans and this was his expression of gender identity. Either way, it seemed that he or she had missed a step when getting ready for the tournament and forgot to guard against camel toe.
But then it hit me: We’re already familiar with someone in Link’s life that crossdresses to control their identity. Someone that knows how to handle themself in a fight. Someone with hair that’s the same color as Link’s and tends to be the same length as his hood. Someone the damn series is named after.
The Legend of Zelda is all a one-man show. And Zelda herself is that man.
“But wait!” I hear you cry. “There are scenes where Link and Zelda appear together at the same time! How is that possible?”
It’s possible because the entire theme of Ocarina of Time is time travel. If we learned anything from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, it’s that you can always go back and set up events to play out the way you want them to so long as you come out victorious. Every time Zelda and Link share screen time, it’s actually Zelda talking to herself, just at different points in her own timeline.
“Be excellent to each other. … When you regain consciousness.”
“But Leedzie,” I hear some of you gasping, “what would be the point of all this? Why would Zelda go to such lengths to put on this massive charade?!”
Come, friends, let me weave you a tale.
Let’s think back to the 80’s, when video games were really taking off again after recovering from the crash of ’83. Rescuing damsels in distress was all the rage (bonus points if those damsels were princesses!), and it put a lot of games on the map. The rescue-the-princess model spawned a lot of amazing adventures… Mostly for the hero, of course, but one could argue the hostage had an interesting experience as well. Everyone wanted in on it.
And then, there was Zelda: An extremely smart and highly skilled princess who could not only take care of herself in the face of potential kidnappings, but furthermore could probably get away on her own if her assailants were actually successful. There were no adventures to be had by Zelda — and even if there were, she certainly didn’t want to be the pretty face at the finish line. It would be far more exciting to be the one fighting monsters and exploring the world… if she were a man. If she had someone to save.
I like to imagine Zelda getting perturbed when hanging out with other princesses as well. Perhaps other princesses of gaming, like Peach and Daphne and Prin-Prin, whispered about Zelda because she was too strong and independent to be kidnapped. Did that make her less of a princess? Do only “real” princesses get kidnapped and rescued?
Eventually, Zelda had enough. She wasn’t going to let society’s standards or her snickering peers dictate her life. Zelda decided to take her fate into her own hands! If she wasn’t given an adventure, she would make an adventure! She would make the greatest adventure that anyone had ever seen! She would create the most awe-inspiring adventure about a princess of all time! She would become, dare I say…
“But why would she go through all this for nothing?!” I can still hear you asking. “Zelda and Link are the only ones present in all of these scenes! There’s no witnesses around to tell the story! …Actually, forget that point; this entire argument is stupid! They’re VIDEO GAME CHARACTERS! You’re writing as though they’re actors playing a part, you freak!”
Okay, first of all, stop wrecking my fun. Secondly, I am shocked — SHOCKED! — that you would ask such a thing! Zelda doesn’t just do all this for herself; she’s also doing it for us, the players!
Whenever we play LoZ, Zelda’s adventures become our adventures. We fight our way through dungeons and battle foes through her. We meet interesting people and we help those in need or in danger through Zelda’s hands. We put in the patience and effort to conquer her trials and tribulations, and when we finally find victory, her satisfaction is our satisfaction. That is Zelda’s gift to us, her loyal gamers. Did you ever hear anyone rave about the way Adventure Island made a deep impact on their life while trying to rescue Princess Leilani? No, but we all know that Robin Williams was so moved by Zelda that he named his daughter after her.
“Okay, fine, Zelda’s ‘doing’ all this for us,” I sense you just conceded, “but that really only explains Ocarina of Time at best. What about all those games that didn’t involve time travel? What about the versions where they don’t both have blonde hair, or when we see Link without his hood and it’s obviously really short? What about in Twilight Princess when Link took off his shirt to learn wrestling and we could clearly see he doesn’t have breasts? What about in Spirit Tracks when Zelda’s aura was separated from her body and she had to possess phantoms to be able to do anything at all? What about–“
Mage magic, bitches.
Almost every incarnation of Zelda has had some form of magical powers. It’s been one of her defining characteristics over the years, especially since she’s usually used as an assist character in the final showdown battles. If she’s powerful enough to manipulate the forces of the world and repeatedly seal away the greatest evil in history, I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to intermittently change her appearance with more than wigs and costume changes.
Furthermore, The Legend of Zelda is the epitome of history repeating itself — which is probably so Zelda can perform as many variations as she wants without turning any heads. After all, each time she performs her one-man show, everyone in the previous audiences are either long since dead or haven’t even been born yet. Ocarina of Time begins and ends with the titular instrument in Zelda’s custody, and that means she can turn up anywhere in the overall timeline she wants at any time she desires.
Besides, if anyone could outsmart the masses, I’m pretty sure it’s the person infused with the Triforce of Wisdom.
“Well if that’s the case, why stop there? Does that mean that Zelda is playing Ganon, too? Hell, why don’t we just say she’s also Epona somehow?! Is Zelda the ONLY person in Hyrule and just has a ton of free time on her hands?!”
Well, I wouldn’t take it that far, but…
I suppose you never know.
Obligatory Legal Crap
Zelda, The Legend of Zelda franchise, Hyrule, and all other related characters and concepts are the property of Nintendo.
No, I don’t really think that Link is Zelda in disguise. It’s just a joke I’ve perpetuated since I was a kid. …Although if it were true, it’d probably be the biggest gender reveal in gaming history since Samus Aran first took off her power suit.