With all the hype surrounding the newest entry in the Legend of Zelda franchise this E3, there have been several blogs, articles, think-pieces, and of course – angry tweets – about an argument that apparently exists where people think there should be an option to play as a female Link. So, the question is… Should we have that option
No. And the reason is simple. Canonically, Link is a male character. That’s it. There literally isn’t anything else to the argument. Sure, Link has been transformed into Zoras, Gorons, like-likes, Moblins, wolves, rabbits, octoroks, ghosts, and tons of other strange alternate-reality versions of himself… But at the end of the day, Link always comes back to being himself – a male.
This argument is reminiscent of the controversy facing the Assassin’s Creed franchise for many years, where fans of the series clamored for a female lead-character option. That prophecy was eventually fulfilled, but is much easier to do when the protagonist is a different person from a different historical era in almost every installment in the franchise.
This frustration among certain fans might not be completely out of left field, as we were teased with a female character oddly reminiscent of Link in the 3DS spinoff of Koei Tecmo’s “Hyrule Warriors”, known as “Linkle”. Though Linkle wasn’t officially stated to be the alternate-universe Link by Nintendo, she was described as a dual-crossbow-wielding fighter who hailed “from a small village filled with Cuccos”… So you can kinda guess what Nintendo was aiming for with her.
Don’t get me wrong – everybody knows that The Legend of Zelda has some of the most convoluted canon in the history of video games (I’ve read the “Hyrule Historia” five times and still can’t keep all of the storylines straight), and yes – I absolutely feel idiotic arguing for the consistency of the franchise’s canon. But regardless of how fucked up Zelda’s canon is, Hyrule Warriors isn’t a part of it, and neither is Linkle, so she can’t be a protagonist for a canonical installment in the franchise. These are all the same reasons why Lara Croft will never appear in a reboot as a male protagonist named “Lars Croft” or something. It is what it is.
Miyamoto himself touched on this question while talking to the folks over at GameRant, stating:
“Some people might wonder… Why isn’t the protagonist a female character? But really, to me, The Legend of Zelda, the main series, Link is the protagonist. So if you look at something like Hyrule Warriors, where there are multiple characters, then you know you can use different types of characters… For me, I think for the main series Link has always been the protagonist.”
And there you have it. Do I have a problem with a female representation of Link in a non-canon spinoff? Absolutely not. Go for it, Nintendo, do your thing. And honestly, I’m happy that there are people passionate enough about the franchise to suggest changes to it. I am a strong believer that characters with static canonical genders should stay that way, but anything is possible in the future. If we change a storied character’s gender just because some people want it, it could detract from the character’s established personality. Let’s not promote changing things just to change them. Let’s promote innovation and progression instead, and create new, incredible characters to begin their own stories, or enrich existing ones. Would I ever want to see a female version of Wario? Absolutely not. But would I like to see a “Mario Sisters” game where a pair of female plumbing cousins in badass overalls go on their own journey to save a kingdom? Sure, because that would be awesome.