Nintendo out-of-the-blue announced Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity for the Nintendo Switch, a sequel of sorts to Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U and a proper prequel to Game of the Year 2017, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. As soon as this announcement came out, my friend texted me with the question, “Soooo can they bring in Linkle for the new Hyrule Warriors?”
We laughed and laughed and even referred to her as “The true hero of Hyrule” and “The one Hyrule needs”. But little did I know that this comical conversation would lead to an idea that many might lynch me for, and that is…
Linkle is the hero Hyrule needs right now.
Okay. Not necessarily Linkle, but the idea behind Linkle. You see, The Legend of Zelda series has been around for nearly 35 years, and the formula has not changed drastically from the beginning: Bad guy does something bad, Zelda tries to stop bad guy, bad guy freezes/kidnaps/traps Zelda, and Link journeys to save Zelda. With some very minor exceptions here and there, this is the basic Zelda format.
“But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” some of you may say, and I hear you. The Legend of Zelda works. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t have nearly 20 titles expanding over numerous platforms. It is one of Nintendo’s most profiting franchises, and the sales numbers and success of Breath of the Wild only further strengthen that fact. So why would changing the formula be a good thing?
Well, let me use another franchise as my one and only example why; Super Mario.
The Super Mario Bros series is Nintendo’s flagship. It is the most lucrative series in the company’s history, and there are very clear reasons for this. The Super Mario Bros series is not afraid of branching away from its core series to try something new. Think about it, and let’s not get too caught up in the extracurricular activities like kart racing, sports games, and Mario pretending to be a doctor.
I am talking about story driven games that star characters other than Mario himself. For example, Yoshi took the front seat in Yoshi’s Island on the SNES in 1995, shortly after Super Mario World came out. We saw Luigi become a star in Luigi’s Mansion on the Gamecube in 2001. Princess Peach became the hero in her own story where the roles were reversed in Super Princess Peach on the Nintendo DS in 2005. Even Toad no-jumped his way to victory in the alarmingly cute Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker when it initially released in 2014.
It was not a matter of trying to create new Super Mario titles, but Nintendo genuinely, in their best efforts, tries to expand the Super Mario Bros universe in such a way that side characters became important and interesting in their own way without having to depend on Mario being front and center. Because of this approach, a branching franchise like Luigi’s Mansion proved itself mighty and has sold nearly 10 million units across three titles.
But again, “Why Linkle?”, you may ask. Well, Luigi’s Mansion is why.
To this day, The Legend of Zelda series has only released one game that did not star Link at the center (That was produced and developed by Nintendo), and it was an excellent game that starred everyone’s favorite fairy, Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland.
Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland was a bold move by Nintendo, and it actually worked. The problem, however, was that no one really cared about Tingle that much, and Nintendo did a very poor job promoting this game. For what it’s worth, though, Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland is the best Zelda game out there that does not star Link, by default, and that should be a clear sign that things need to change and why we need to give ideas like Linkle an honest chance.
Fans are clamoring for change, too, and Eiji Aonuma, project manager of the Zelda series, was feeling that pressure heavily after the teaser trailer for Breath of the Wild 2 debuted in June 2019. People truly thought that teaser trailer hinted at Zelda being a playable character, even salivating at the idea of a cooperative experience. As cool as that would be, it still isn’t enough. The series needs to expand itself, and with its three timelines and numerous generations, why not have different Links, Zeldas, and Ganons to mix things up?
Why can’t the next Link be Linkle? I mean, I know the name is a bit ridiculous, but imagine a Zelda generation where Link is a girl, Ganon is a handsome young man, and Zelda is a diabolical Queen. The storyline possibilities are huge, and it is a bit mind boggling that Nintendo has not at least attempted a different direction for just one generation on the three timelines.
Nintendo does not need to stick with certain gender norms either. Nothing is really forcing them to keep the Link = boy, Zelda = girl, and Ganon = man approach. Bring in a creative writing team and let them change things up a bit.
What if the previous generation of Link and Zelda become corrupt in their older age, and the next generation Ganon has to take the helm of the hero and save Hyrule from the very people who saved it in the first place? Because the Zelda formula has never veered too far away from pretty standard tropes, each passing entry is going to depend too heavily on the supporting cast instead of the main three characters.
As it stands, in its current state, The Legend of Zelda franchise has a lot of room for growth. Maybe Linkle is not exactly the answer, but a change in the blueprint. If we want to give Link, Zelda, and Ganon more substance in their own universe, then we need to move away from the overly simple Link = good, Zelda = good, and Ganon = bad approach.
Characters need qualities like growth, vulnerability, and empathetic backstories for us to genuinely connect with them. Some times, it is even powerful to go into great detail about a villain’s background just to make defeating them in the end feel emotionally difficult.
In the end, Zelda fans will be satiated by any new release for the franchise, so releasing the age-old formula will guarantee a couple million units sold. But what are the possibilities of changing the story up and doing something more bold and daring? How many reluctant fans would return to the franchise thanks to a fresh adjustment? How many non-fans will try the series out for the first time just because of some character and world reconstruction?
We will never know until Nintendo tries something out. But in the meantime, I will stand by my initial bold statement…
Linkle is the hero Hyrule needs right now…
Or at least someone else to give us something different to chew on in a future Zelda title, please.
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.