Or perhaps that headline should read “I think Nintendo could make a Legend of Zelda series with Zelda as the hero,” because while I was playing Skyward Sword earlier this year in preparation for my review of the Hyrule Historia, I noticed that the game had left an interesting back door open that no one seemed to catch. A back door that, probably unintentionally, allows Nintendo to create an entire Legend of Zelda series of games featuring Zelda as the heroine.
Spoilers for Skyward Sword ahead.
The Legend of Zelda game series has always featured the young (sometimes really young) elfin Link as the hero that the player controls. And this is no accident. Series creator Shigeru Miyamoto designed the game with the intent of recreating the feeling of exploration he had experienced as a young boy, searching through the forests and foothills around his home. Towards that end, he named the hero “Link” to signify the literal link that the hero provided between the gamer and the world of The Legend of Zelda.
So although Link is based on a young boy, the character is ultimately supposed to be inclusive of anyone playing the game. But while the intent is pure, the choice of gender does sometimes get in the way of an intrepid woman’s desire to reforge the Triforce of Wisdom, or seal the Golden Power away, or prevent that huge scary moon from smashing into Termina. Animator Kenna W. felt that way, and went so far as to swap the characters in the first Legend of Zelda game so that Zelda is actually the one rescuing Link. Here’s how she did it, and how you can do it yourself.
She’s not the only one wishing for a Zelda-centric game. Aaron Diaz, creator of popular webcomic Dresden Codak, created a pitch, complete with amazing art, for a Skyward Sword-style Zelda-centric adventure titled The Legend of Zelda: Clockwork Empire.
Although I can’t speak to how marketable a Zelda-centric Zelda game is (i.e. would such a game sell enough copies to justify its existence) the desire to see it certainly seems to be growing. Nintendo itself has never been shy about introducing radical new elements to the Legend of Zelda series, either. Zelda herself became an apocalyptic (though unplayable) ninja hero in the late 90s in Ocarina of Time, a pirate in the early 2000s installment The Wind Waker, and a reincarnated goddess knight in 2011’s Skyward Sword. These aren’t even the biggest changes the franchise has undergone.
Given this history, Nintendo seems amenable to making Zelda an active participant in the series. And I think the events of Skyward Sword and the timeline established in Hyrule Historia pave the way for a Legend of Zelda video game series.
The timeline in Hyrule Historia shocked a lot of fans of the series, for two reasons. The first being that all of a sudden all the games were in an ordered timeline and all took place in the same world. The second being that this timeline eventually splits into three distinct timelines thanks to a paradox resulting from the events in Ocarina of Time. Apparently the series creators were taking the rules of time travel in this fantasy world very seriously.
What’s interesting about the timeline splitting into three is that it does so by taking all possible actions into account. In Ocarina of Time, the series’ villain, the evil Ganon, succeeds in his mad quest when Link is a child, so Link is sealed away until he becomes an adult and therefore is able to defeat Ganon. Adult Link does so, and as a reward is allowed to travel back to the era of his childhood and live out his days naturally in a now Ganon-free world.
This results in two timelines. The one where Ganon took over but then was defeated, leaving Hyrule devastated in his wake. And the one where Ganon never took over at all and Link lived a happy little life. In either case, Ganon is defeated. A third timeline apparently exists where Link was defeated by Ganon, allowing the evil demon king to run rampant until finally halted by overwhelming opposing forces.
The mechanism that allows for different timelines in the Legend of Zelda series is the fact that Link time travels from present to future and back again in this one game. Interestingly enough, this mechanism also appears at the end of Skyward Sword. The Link of the present era succeeds in re-sealing the demon king Demise, the game’s villain, but is then forced to travel back into the past to outright destroy the same demon king, moments after he was sealed away the first time. Link succeeds, then travels forward in time to a peaceful present day.
The ending of Skyward Sword presents the events as a single timeline, ignoring that the game just created the same paradox/timeline-split that Ocarina of Time did.
There are now at least two timelines after the events of Skyward Sword:
1.) Demise is initially sealed hundreds, perhaps thousands of years ago, then begins to re-emerge but is re-sealed by Link brandishing the Triforce. Demise still exists in this timeline and the cycle of rebirth that Link, Zelda, and Ganon constantly go through in the Legend of Zelda series is not established.
2.) Demise is initially sealed hundreds, perhaps thousands of years ago, is unsealed by his minion from the future but then destroyed shortly thereafter by Link. He returns to a present day timeline where Demise does not exist. The Link/Zelda/Ganon rebirth cycle is established.
Timeline #2 is what we see in the epilogue to Skyward Sword, and this is the timeline that eventually leads to Ocarina of Time and the resulting games. But what about Timeline #1? What adventures spring out from those circumstances?
We don’t know, which makes it a perfect opportunity to make it a timeline where Zelda becomes Hyrule’s action hero savior.
Even better, Nintendo could create two strains of Legend of Zelda titles, one where Zelda is the hero and one where Link is the hero, and just release them concurrently. Sure, they could have done this years ago, timelines be damned, but doing so now and making it so devoted fans could trace it all back to a single point in the timeline would create a larger sense of authenticity.
All in all, Nintendo doesn’t need an excuse to make Zelda-centric Zelda games. But it kind of gave itself one anyway.
Chris Lough is the production manager of Tor.com and thinks the timeline where Skyward-Sword-Link failed probably has Tingle as the hero and is therefore something we should never see.