Link, the Hero of Time. One of the most iconic video game characters next to Mario. So many tales told of wielding the Master Sword to save the Princess Zelda! Editor in chief of Polygon, Ben Kuchera, believes Nintendo should make a game featuring the Hylian hero with a pair of breasts.
Genderbent characters aren’t unusual in media, really. We’re not talking your parents Bugs Bunny in a wig trying to outwit Elmer Fudd; there are dedicated artists who partake in rule 63. Unless you are new to the Internet or still somehow innocent enough to not know, rule 63 is slang for “let’s draw established characters as the opposite gender!” These characters can be from comics, cartoon shows and yes, video games.
Rule 63 should not be confused with rule 34. While rule 63 doesn’t have to necessarily mean something explicit is involved, rule 34 is, uh, “adult stuff” of absolutely everything you hold dear to your heart. Not even anthropomorphic toasters are safe. Seriously, stay away from that. When properly done, a character being represented as the opposite gender can be pretty awesome. Case in point, popular cartoon Adventure Time features an alternate universe where genders (and species!) are swapped to the tune of success amongst fans.
The reason Fiona and Cake are a success with fans is because no one is being replaced. It’s lighthearted alternate reality stuff that gives the fans something special, unique. Kuchera argues that some players want game characters that at least superficially resemble them. He doesn’t mean a carbon copy of the player per se, but superficial in the sense that a female gamer would be able to play a female lead. This same logic can also be applied to ethnicity. While not everyone cares if they resemble the main hero or heroine, some do consider this a means to form a stronger connection to the main character. Maybe one day Nintendo will allow you to create your own Hylian. Add a Fable-esque good & bad side option and you may be onto something.
Another point that was brought up is that some hardcore Legend of Zelda fans may become upset if Link were suddenly changed to female. A hero since the mid 80’s, Link established as male has long been imprinted into the minds of gamers. After all, the basis of many Legend of Zelda titles was a retelling of the classic hero saves the princess story. To suddenly bring his gender into question could end up angering some fans. I believe the real cause of any backlash isn’t necessarily just because Link was always male, but why is he suddenly female? Gamers don’t tend to fond of having politics mixed in with their beloved franchises they’ve grown up with. Of course, I could be wrong. This is simply my speculation behind why there would be anger as a fellow Zelda fan.
Remember, fans react more positively when you’re not drastically changing something just because you can. Have fun with these ideas! Instead of focusing exclusively on changing an established male character alone, take the whole Zelda universe into consideration. Could female Link actually work? I’d say, yeah! This all depends entirely on intent. Having a female Link for the sake of it as the sole basis, you’ll get opposition. It’s actually disingenuous to suggest female gamers are the reason. Why? This is why.
The Zelda universe already has a powerful female character; one that has no problem going toe to toe with Link. Hyrule’s very own princess. She isn’t exactly a helpless damsel in distress, especially when she’s Sheik. If lack of a strong female character in Legend of Zelda was the push for a female Link, maybe the focus should be redirected. Admittedly, it would be a novel idea to play as female Link, riding on top a stallion to defeat Ms. Ganon and rescue the prince of Hyrule. Granted, rule 63 characters should probably have alternate names to match. Ms. Ganon sounds so wrong. Actually, an original storyline would also be nice.
What would also be awesome is a spin-off Zelda title where you play as the princess herself. No, the Philips CD-I game doesn’t count, it never happened. We’re talking a real game. If Sheik were re-designed to appear more feminine, more power to Nintendo. An omission of Link’s character entirely would actually open up doors for story development – a different perspective. Nintendo’s creative team could develop a well thought out meaningful story with Zelda and the history of Sheik. Imagine the premise of the Hero of Time never being reincarnated within a timeline, Hyrule in turmoil. The evil Ganon plotting his attack on the kingdom only to be beaten into submission by Sheik. Along the path to saving your world, you discover the secrets of the Sheikah in greater detail than ever before. Sounds pretty sweet to us.
There are several ways to take risks with minimum backlash. Males and females, many people worldwide, enjoy the Legend of Zelda series. A game taking place within the Zelda universe where you play a female lead is entirely doable. There are various methods to do this that wouldn’t offend hardcore Legend of Zelda fans. If you’re going to do it, please make her a well developed character, that’s all gamers ask.
Even if we cast aside everything mentioned, we must keep in mind that not every Link is the same. One of these heroes could have been born a heroine in one of the many multitudes of timelines. Zelda lore will allow for this to work, and it wouldn’t hurt to try this for one game at least. Keep in mind, cult classic Wind Waker received hate when it first hit the scene for being different and now it’s considered a great game in the series.
This is my take on the subject, what are your thoughts?