Nintendo is without question one of the greatest — if not the greatest — creative forces in gaming. This has been true for decades and continues to be true today, when it wowed E3 with a first look at the new Legend of Zelda. But while doing some interviews to promote the announcement, longtime Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma made some comments that show just how limited Nintendo’s thinking can be.
Both GameSpot and Kotaku asked Aonuma about the possibility of a Zelda game led by a female Link, something that many hoped was in the cards after seeing 2014’s game trailer. Aonuma’s response was basically that Nintendo — again, one of the greatest creative forces in gaming — can’t think of a way to do it.
“We thought about it,” Aonuma told GameSpot through a translator, “and decided that if we’re going to have a female protagonist, it’s simpler to have Princess Zelda as the main character.” But that idea was shot down because “if we have Princess Zelda as the main character who fights, then what is Link going to do?”
I cannot think of a simpler plot hole to solve. Nintendo has been making Zelda games where one of its two most famous characters is kidnapped and / or is off doing their own thing for three decades now. To solve this problem, you literally just need to flip the characters around.
In recent years, Nintendo has even done a better job of making Zelda a strong character with agency. She’s often influenced the plot through her actions and helped Link with his own journey; in Wind Waker, for instance, she’s in disguise as a pirate and is responsible for kicking off Link’s story. Switching the two characters wouldn’t even require Link to be completely absent — he could simply be the other character, who is off doing their own thing. You know, as Nintendo has been doing.
Aonuma gave a separate reason to Kotaku for why simply making Link a woman wouldn’t work. “You know there’s the idea of the Triforce in the Zelda games we make,” Aonuma told Kotaku. “The Triforce is made up of Princess Zelda, Ganon, and Link. Princess Zelda is obviously female. If we made Link a female we thought that would mess with the balance of the Triforce. That’s why we decided not to do it.”
This makes no sense and isn’t even canonically correct. The Triforce isn’t composed of Zelda, Ganon, and Link; it’s a representation of three traits — wisdom, power, and courage — left behind by the goddesses who created Hyrule. Zelda, Ganon, and Link each hold one of those pieces and embody its respective trait, but the Triforce is not in any way reliant on them and can theoretically be held by others in Hyrule. They just happen to possess it again and again as time repeats itself.
As for the claim that the Triforce has to be held by two men and one woman, that’s just bewildering and completely ignores that gender isn’t binary and also really any degree of logic. The Triforce was created by three powerful female gods; I strongly doubt that they build their world such that it would forever be defined by two men fighting over one woman. There is nothing about the Triforce or its constituent parts that relates to gender (unless Aonuma is suggesting that power and courage are male traits and wisdom is a female trait, which would make this comment all around much worse).
All of this is to say that I’m sure Nintendo, of all companies, could think up a compelling Zelda title based around Zelda herself or a female incarnation of Link. Given that the Hero of Time is continually reborn and forced to live through another incarnation of their fate, making Link a woman in some games wouldn’t even change an established character. It’s just a new incarnation of her. The character design works. And look, Link isn’t even a real name — no one’s going to question it.