Imagine if Zelda was a girl. How wild would that be? See how much money he gets now, and just think how much MORE he could get if he was a badass girl wielding a sword and shield. I would still love Zelda whether he was a boy or a girl.
….Now before you send me your angry comments, let me just clarify that I may have baited you into clicking on this blog post thinking I was actually some stupid fool who believed Zelda was Link. Then again, you could also be annoyed at the whole “If Zelda were a girl” meme, but at least it’s not as annoying as some of the other gaming memes that are out there. Regardless I’m going to do my best to make this not turn into a 15-minute wall of text to read because there’s so much to cover for such a staple Nintendo series such as this.
February 21st, 1986 was the day The Famicom Disk System was released in Japan and its launch title was ゼルダの伝説 (Zelda no Densetsu-The Hyrule Fantasy, or The Legend of Zelda). It was just another action title where you were a hero saving the princess, but in order to do so you had to collect 7 pieces of the Triforce in order to battle the final boss and save the princess. Because of the sheer length of the game, this marked the first time a console game included a save battery so that you could save your progress and continue at a later time. It was truly an adventure that everyone fully enjoyed from start to finish, and if they were really up for a challenge they could play the game using the name “ZELDA” to start the 2nd quest, a more challenging version with items, locations, and secrets switched around as well as stronger enemies. The game went on to sell over 6.5 million copies worldwide and followed up with the 1987 sequel: Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
Zelda II took on a hybrid of RPG and Action platforming elements which worked out pretty well for the game, although not as successfully as the full action RPG elements of the original game. This time Link sets out to place 6 crystals in statues all throughout the land in order to access the Great Palace which contains the Triforce of Courage. The Triforce of Courage is needed to awaken an eternally sleeping Zelda who rests inside the North Castle. Ganon is not present in this game however, because well...you killed him in the previous game, remember? However, his minions are still out there formulating a plan to resurrect him.
It would be 4 years later before a new entry in the Zelda series would be released for the Super Famicom system titled, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The 16-bit action RPG adventure was leaps and bounds greater than Zelda II, as it not only returned to its action RPG elements of the original game, but also in glorious 16-bit color and stereo sound. The series had never looked so good, and the improvements over 8-bit were too many to count both in graphics and sound. Link was also given the ability to swim for the first time using certain items. In previous games Link needed to find a raft in order for him to cross rivers. This was the first time in the series that jumps back to the past before the events of the original Legend of Zelda. Ganon was currently sealed away in the Dark World, and Link faces off against a wizard named Agahnim, who is revealed to be an avatar of Ganon, used by the King of Evil to infiltrate the Light World. Zelda is held captive in Agahnim’s castle dungeon. Of course in order to save Zelda, Link must embark on a treacherous journey to retrieve a bunch of stuff which allows him to enter the castle, beat Agahnim, and save Zelda. You can sort of see the theme that this series follows by this point. The game went on to be one of the best selling games on the SNES with over 4.61 million units sold worldwide.
A follow-up to the game released in 1997 on the Super Famicom’s Satellaview peripheral exclusively in Japan was called BSゼルダの伝説 古代の石盤 (BS Zelda no Densetsu: Inishie no Sekiban or “The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets”). The game was a digital-only release, being broadcast through a Japanese satellite service. It was more of a spin-off to A Link to the Past and was split into 4 episodes, each lasting roughly an hour long. A new episode was released every week to the service. The game included a narrative voice over to talk players through the story as they played the game. The game did NOT star Link, but rather you played as your Satellaview avatar that you created when you first joined the service. There was never a physical release, and is often called the “lost game” in the serires.
Speaking of the Satellaview, there was also an updated version of the original Zelda no Densetsu that was also broadcast known simply as “BS Zelda no Densetsu”. The game contained 2 maps, each 4 episodes long and the initial broadcast of these episodes only aired once, so at whatever time this game started playing you had to be there and ready to play, otherwise you would miss out until the reruns which happened shortly after the original releases. Players who played every episode and got a high score would be entered in a drawing to win prizes.
There was also a third Zelda game for the Satellaview titled “Zelda no Densetsu: Kamigami no Triforce” (The Legend of Zelda: Triforce of the Gods), but it was pretty much a digital-only version of A Link to the Past which only gave you a 5-play limit of the game before it locked you out.
In 1993 Link went on his first portable adventure on the original Game Boy, titled “The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening”. This had a similar play style to A Link to the Past but also included short 2D platforming sections in various dungeons. The story centers around Link as he is washed ashore by a violent storm and is visited by a mysterious owl who tells Link that he must awaken the Wind Fish in order to leave the island and return home. This obviously means he must collect a bunch of stuff (in this case, magical musical instruments) to awaken the Wind Fish, but must first battle the last evil foe of the game. This time it is shadow known as “Dethi”. This creature takes on a variety of forms of enemies from Link’s past, including Ganon. After defeating the final nightmare you are free to awaken the Wind Fish and find out about the secret of the very island that you are standing on. 5 years after the game’s initial release, an updated DX version was released for the Game Boy Color. It was not only a fully colorized version of the game, but it also included new features and an additional dungeon to explore.
1 month prior to Link’s Awakening DX was the most anticipated and biggest Zelda title to release on the Nintendo 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It was the first game in the series to be fully 3D and really push the limits of the N64’s graphical power. The game had nearly 30 hours of adventurous and memorable gameplay. After completing Ocarina of Time, work was in progress for a version of the game for the 64DD, which was a 64MB memory expansion drive for the N64 which you could use to play games that would exceed a standard N64 cart using specialized disks. However, due to the lack of sales for the 64DD, Ura Zelda (“Another Zelda”) was put on hold and was later released on the GameCube in 2003 under the title: Zeruda no Densetsu: Toki no Okarina GC Ura (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Master Quest). The game was a more difficult version of Ocarina of Time with altered dungeons, and added content that was cut from the original N64 version due to storage limitations. In 2011 the game was remastered for the Nintendo 3DS and titled Ocarina of Time 3D. This version included not only updated graphic details, but also new boss rush modes and alternate dungeons much like in the Master Quest version of the game.
After the year 2000 the Zelda franchise took off releasing new games nearly every year on a variety of Nintendo consoles. With each new game release, hardcore fans were piecing all the storylines together into a definitive series timeline of events which brought out a certain wrench in the theoretical timeline that fans had dubbed the “split-timeline theory”. The base of this split happens during the Ocarina of Time where there are 3 possible endings to the game which lead off into future (or past) titles being created and following the flow as a result of each possible ending. One ending to Ocarina of Time can lead off into the start of A Link to the Past, another ending can lead into the more direct sequel Majora’s Mask, and another ending can set up the lead for The Wind Waker. In 2011 The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia was released. It was a 247-page hardcover book containing in-depth information on every Zelda game up to Skyward Sword (the latest game when it was released). It also contained the official timeline to the Zelda series, which confirmed the split-timeline that was theorized by fans.
So for those who’ve played the latest entry in the series: Breath of the Wild, you might be asking yourself “Where does this game fit in the timeline?”...well, it’s up for debate. There're 2 theories going around currently. One is that the game takes place as a sort of “resolution” to the entire timeline. Various fortresses and locations are nothing but ruins and at the same time the atmosphere has a sort of peaceful aura to it as well. Another theory, while not quite as popular but has been hinted at by series producer Eiji Aonuma, is that the game is its own story entirely and has absolutely no connection to any previous title in the series. In fact, the new theory goes that every title in the Zelda series is its own folktale revolving around the Hero of Time (Link). Aonuma is quoted as saying:
“We realized that people were enjoying imagining the story that emerged from the fragmental imagery we were providing. If we defined a restricted timeline, then there would be a definitive story, and it would eliminate the room for imagination, which wouldn’t be as fun.”
Another thing to note is Zelda is not the same person throughout the series. She has multiple reincarnations, but every one is a member of the Royal Family of Hyrule. Zelda has been depicted as a child, a teenager, a young adult, having blonde hair or brunette, and even having alter egos in a few games. So while the games themselves may either have tie-ins to each other or not, I actually wonder if maybe the series could be multi-dimensional? While Link’s characteristics may never change other than his age, Zelda is portrayed much more differently with each game. As a Hero of Time, Link can travel within time itself, but if you’re familiar with time traveling, you know that there are risks such as altering time dimensions based on actions that take place. This is of course obvious with the events that conclude in Ocarina of Time. But imagine jumping to other dimensions as well. A dimension where Zelda was a brunette instead of blonde. A dimension where she trained to be an incredible fighter throughout her childhood and concealed her identity when going out into battle as she got older. A dimension where she was a helpless Princess. They’re things to think about, but like the rest of the fandom, it's all speculation that can only be solved when more games of the series get released.
To wrap it all up, the Zelda series is about as memorable of a Nintendo series as Mario. While it may not have the biggest spotlight, it shares that same level with Mario as being the most definitive series in gaming. While the series may have an extended timeline that may or may not tie every game to each other, Nintendo makes sure that each new game is a brand-new experience for both veteran players and new players just getting into the series. Each game has a simple introduction to the story, an evil villan that must be stopped, and a conclusion to the story. With each game there may be a small backstory told about events prior to the game you are currently playing which may most likely reference a previous (or future) game in the series. A good example of this is A Link to the Past references story elements from Ocarina of Time in its prologue. Being an RPG series with countless hours of exploring, puzzle solving, and sword swinging action, it would be no surprise to me if few people have ever sat and played through every game from start to finish. So here’s to another 15 years leading up to the great 50th anniversary that will happen in 2036, and hopefully we’ll have more of a story to tell about the legendary Hero of Time!