"Whoever it is you fall in love with for the first time, not just love but be in love with, is the one who will always make you angry, the one you can't be logical about."– Jeanette Winterson
This week, amid E3 hype, reveals, theories, and arguments, the above quote has never rung more true. I certainly can't forget my first love. When I was only seven years old I fell in love with a taciturn young man with an angelic face and a determined gaze. He could conquer any challenge and adapt to any situation life threw at him. He was my hero. To this day, talking about him can still reliably get my jimmies rustled. All these years later, he's the one I can't be logical about.
I'm talking about Link. Specifically the Hero of Time, but every iteration of the Zelda series contains a bit of what I first fell head over heels for. It's a common complaint that Link has no personality. Maybe it's because I was a child with an overwhelmingly wild imagination, but Link has always been a fleshed out character to me. Not a blank slate, not a proxy for myself, but someone with feelings, motivations, and a personality all his own. Because I can't be rational about Link, I genuinely feel sometimes that I carry a lonely burden of treating him with the gravitas he deserves. This is none more apparent than in the wake of the E3 Wii U Zelda teaser.
In the gorgeous teaser for a Zelda that's coming in 2015, a badass but rather epicene figure was shown. Link, right? Well, Nintendo's Eiji Aonuma coyly remarked "no one said that was Link." And the internet went crazy. Aonuma has since confirmed that yes, it is Link, but he explained that he didn't want viewers to get too hung up on the character since "Link represents the player." The most popular theories before this reveal were that if this blue-clad hero is not Link, than he or she is either Link's kid or a version of Princess Zelda. A friend (ok, it was Steve) brought up the possibility of future Zelda games having a female protagonist, or even character creation. I promptly flailed in protest.
First of all, Link's kid could still be Link! If we've learned anything about Hyrule, it's that they aren't very creative in naming their blond haired boys of heroic lineage. That said, I hoped the hero was Link, and really hoped the figure in the teaser was not Zelda. I am very in favor of more games having well done female leads, so what's my issue? My issue is with the possibility of an androgynous, "badass" Zelda. You see, Zelda is already a badass. In Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, and Spirit Tracks, she more than holds her weight. Wind Waker's Zelda is a sassy tomboy who commands her own pirate ship. I would even argue (and argue, and argue) that Ocarina of Time's Zelda was a total BAMF. Obviously she was super cool when she was Sheik, but many people criticize her perceived weak character in princess form, even though her strength and helpfulness didn't diminish.
In most of the games, Princess Zelda is a calm, caring, wise, and strong person. She's also very feminine. She stands with some of my other favorite female characters like Terra Branford and FFIX's Princess Garnet in that she has a quiet strength and determination. Nintendo has already developed a good foundation for a dynamic character with Zelda. I really resent the idea that a character must present traditionally "badass" or "tough" visual cues to actually be a badass. I would love to play as Princess Zelda someday, but I want to play as the smart, collected, and yes, a little bit girly character I love and have looked up to since childhood. (side note: the character design for Hyrule Warriors seems to strike a good balance between portraying Zelda as a warrior and keeping true to character)
As for Link, he means too much to me to see him get the open-ended character treatment. Character creation and wider interpretations have been the way many, if not most games are going these days, and that's fine. It's a well-documented opinion of mine that I have no interest in putting myself in a game, thus I prefer "pre-boxed" characters. Although Link was certainly designed to mean different things to different people, I can't help but feel that through the Zelda games themselves, other in universe media, and certain bits of Hylian lore that a character too deep to simply be a blank slate has emerged. Take Ocarina of Time's and Majora's Mask's Link. A lot of people don't stop to think about just how depressing Ocarina is. The Hero of Time gave up his childhood to save Hyrule, and once done, wasn't able to keep any of the relationships or share memories he made over the course of that adventure. He likely went to Termina because it was simply too painful to stay in Hyrule. Official canon even states that this Link spent most of his life lonely and regretful that he was not remembered as a hero. Despite not speaking, we saw a sensitive Link with a bit of a star-crossed love story in Twilight Princess, something like the classic anime protagonist who only cares about the happiness of his childhood friend in Skyward Sword, and a lovable little punk in Wind Waker.
My opinions are probably old fashioned, and definitely a bit selfish. Playing Zelda games is one of my most outstanding memories growing up. I used to save Link seats at the movie theater or restaurants. As I got older and a better grasp on reality, I stopped talking to fictional characters, but some of my love for Link has always remained. Older me grew to sincerely appreciate him as a character, his quirks, and his struggles. Like Princess Zelda, Link is a guy who is worth looking up to, and a girl could do worse for her first big crush. So even though it's selfish, I want the hero of the next Zelda game to simply be Link. I want to fall in love a bit all over again.