Concept Factory: Legend of Zelda: Zelda’s Awakening
It’s been over 25 years since The Legend of Zelda debuted, and in just about each iteration of the series, Link has had only two jobs: saving the Kingdom of Hyrule (or some other population in peril), and saving Princess Zelda. A lot.
With a few exceptions (most notably in Ocarina of Time, the Wind Waker, and the animated series and Valiant Comic depictions) Zelda has been your run of the mill, damsel-in-distress princess. Her only saving grace is that she occasionally helps Link out on his quest, which is more than what peers-in-peril do (I’m looking at you, Peach). but it does makes you wonder why the games haven’t been renamed the Legend of Link: Saving The Princess, Yet Again. I mean, what’s so “legendary” about a princess who does absolutely nothing important? Ever?
So what I’m talking about is a huge departure from the typical formula, and it only takes one change to make it happen.
What if Zelda had to save Link?
Imagine this: within the confines of the Zelda series timeline, there does exist a loose continuity (or three) that tie together each and every game over the span of eons (and should be further detailed in the upcoming book, The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia, due to be released in January). The one constant that unites them all is the idea that Ganondorf, Link, and Zelda are bound together in the power of the Triforce, in a reoccuring cycle of conflict and rebirth.
In just about every game, Ganondorf–with the Triforce of Power–lays siege to the Kingdom of choice; Zelda kidnapped by Ganondorf for her power with the Triforce of Wisdom. Whether it takes days, weeks or years, Link–with the Triforce of Courage–usually braves several dungeons, gathers an arsenal, and defeats Ganondorf. After saving Zelda and purging the land of Ganondorf’s darkness, Hyrule is once again safe–largely thanks to Link and partially due to Zelda–for years to come.
Until Ganondorf is resurrected and does it all again.
The idea that this is the same Ganondorf continually resurrecting or breaking free of confinement just to rinse, wash, and repeat made me think: wouldn’t Ganondorf get tired of that? Wouldn’t be tired of being bested by some little brat with a stupid green elf hat and the medieval version of your 5th grade recorder?
If in each generation there’s some mysterious orphan boy named Link whose destiny is to save the Zelda of that time from Ganondorf, it’s a surprise Ganondorf hasn’t gone King Herod on Hyrule and order the deaths of any young blond haired (or possibly pink haired) boys named Link. Hell, look him up in the Hyrule telephone book and send him a killer octo for his birthday. Problem solved.
But assuming he couldn’t kill Link until he got the Triforce power from him, what if, for this one game, he actually found Link and kidnapped him instead?
This puts us in a familiar premise but wholly different circumstances. And it’d do the franchise justice to try this, and here’s why:
It Drastically Changes the Princess-in-Peril Dynamic
Zelda would be less Lois Lane and more Lucy Lawless, a warrior princess who is casting herself out of the familiar and into unknown territory for the sake of her people. And not only would this be a good step for the Zelda series, it’d be a positive step for the industry as a whole: Zelda would join the ranks of women–like Commander Shepard, Lara Croft and Aveline de Grandpre–who can “save the day” just as well as any man.
More Than Gender: Social Role Swap
Not only is Zelda a woman, but she’s a princess. Silver spoon-fed, graceful, noble, clean. Link has always been on the unfortunate side of things: a noble heart, but with mysterious or bland origins. While the regular joe-becomes-warrior hero theme has always been a staple in games (and movies and literature), we’ve seen the story a million times before.
Gamers are living in a time where the entire world has been affected by the economy in one way or another. And this is a time where it’d be an interesting concept to see a reversal of the rags-to-riches story, now a riches-to-rags-to-riches story. It’s something that initially reinforces the so-called frailty of the female gender, especially in a pampered princess, but then utterly crushes it when she rebuilds herself as a capable and courageous warrior.
Symbolically this is the story all gamers need: a person who–even when everything is ripped away from her–keeps trucking, keeps moving, keep living. Seeing her overcome her many obstacles would be a stellar example of what a strong, capable woman is for both males and females alike, and would be a great example for how to take what life throws at you and then throw it right back.
It’s Something New:
As much as we love Zelda, fans have pretty much seen the same set up for two decades. And hell, it’s a good set up. It works. It’s the classic knight-in-shining-armor story. And in between such installments, Nintendo switches things up here and there with games like the Four Swords, Link’s Awakening, Oracle of Ages/Oracle of Seasons, Wind Waker, and Spirit Tracks. But this is something simply and completely different, a fresh approach to an age old formula. And unlike Ocarina of Time, Zelda’s role wouldn’t be regulated to a supportive one, but for once would be the main star of her own series.
Don’t let all of these socially conscious ramblings worry you. There’s no reason that the Zelda franchise needs a grim and gritty Nolan-esque reboot, which gamers can get through the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot in 2013. The whole point of the Zelda franchise is the magic. Magic behind exploration, behind discovery, behind problem-solving, and behind the characters. A Zelda-driven Zelda game should still retain all of the charm, innocence, humor, horror, and beauty of your typical Zelda game, just from a new perspective.
Gameplay should be innovated and expanded upon as usual, but also specifically made to suit Zelda and make her feel like a different kind of hero than Link. Since Zelda is the bearer of the Triforce of Wisdom, she is the perfect model for a thinking hero. She should be the Odysseus of Hyrule. A hero who–perhaps more so than Link–uses her intellect and imagination to solve puzzles, defeat enemies, and explore dangerous new realms.
In keeping with her past characterizations, a Zelda-driven game would probably involve more magic than weapons: but that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t have her own set of weapons and tools to aid her in her journey. Besides using spells, fairies, and items (like perhaps the Lens of Truth or Hookshot), how awesome would it be to see Zelda rocking her own bow and arrow (with spell-empowered ammo), or even more, to see her with her own Master Sword?
And perhaps having Ocarina of Time’s Sheik-like agility, and resources like Wind Waker’s Tetra, would make her a truly well-rounded character, in a truly expansive, immerse experience never felt in a Zelda game before.
There’s no doubt a “Legend of Link: Zelda’s Awakening” game wouldn’t be a hit success financially and critically, if done right. And no matter what, it would make waves in the industry that would have fans and developers alike talking for ages. Again, Zelda with a Master Sword is all I need to make me happy. And putting a new spin on an old formula for one of my favorite franchises would be a treat.
Nintendo, hear my plea, and give us a Zelda-driven Zelda game. You won’t regret it, and neither will we.
If you agree, disagree, or have ideas of your own, please let me know in the comments section! For more game ideas, please subscribe to chaosmechanica!
Also, check the link below for a father who recently turned Link into a female for his daughter!
More exclamation points!!!