[A lot of big issues are finally coming to the fore in the Nintendo world. They seem to be pushing to create new ideas and develop older concepts more than they have before. However, something has been bugging me about the debate involving a playable Zelda, not that I’m against it, I’m 100% for it, but there’s a pretty big pitfall in the idea that I want to address. Shut your eyes and relax your facial muscles...I’m about to blow my load and I don’t want to cost you your eyesight. Goggles will not be provided...sorry]
So here’s the thing, Zelda. People want to play as her, they want to see what a game series would be like from her perspective. And I agree with them on that. But there’s something we have to be aware of, something fundamentally wrong with the title of ‘Zelda’, and something that, through an examination of a pivotal point in Wind Waker, becomes disturbingly clear about the actual name, versus the character: Zelda is a title that immediately gives way to a disempowering of the character.
I know people might not agree, after all, Zelda helps you in several games, including the Wind Waker during the final boss fight. The issue is this; in this game, Zelda wasn’t always Zelda...Zelda was Tetra, and Tetra was awesome.
Tetra’s first appearance shows her as being one of the strongest, most assertive and downright badass iterations of the character we’ve ever seen. She stands as a character who isn’t just on par with Link, she’s more than a match and somewhat more likeable than the Hero of Time. See, she commands and entire pirate crew, all of whom are afraid of her because she’s a force to be reckoned with. She’s got a temper and a sword, she’s powerful and commanding, right from the off. Hell, she outright saves Link. She inherited ship and crew from her mother, yet still earned the place of leader despite her age. Though she seems pretty self-interested, she’s actually a kind-hearted individual, so what isn’t to like about her, really?
You see, Tetra aids an inexperienced Link in assaulting the forces of Ganondorf when his attempt fails. She rescues him over and over again, and does it all using her power as a leader, not of a kingdom that, let’s face it, can’t keep her safe to save their lives, to help Link...and then this leads to the very moment where I found things take an odd turn. Zelda, as a series, had featured the game-titled character many times, but this time around, with Hyrule sunk and the kingdom in ruins, I didn’t think they’d pull the ‘Zelda-card’ quite as poorly as they did here. See, during her rescue of Link, we learn that Tetra is, in reality, a descendant of Zelda. As such, she’s the heir to the Hyrulian family...which is pointless, given the fact that the family is all but dead, and has instead used their talents to become pirates, which is a cool and interesting new take on the world in which the characters are living. However, this discovery leads to the utter and complete sidelining and disempowerment of Tetra, as she is magically transformed into Zelda.
No, I don’t just mean she’s wearing the classic, recognisable clothes...her personality is shattered as a result. The small expression voice clips become more timid, the dialogue becomes more refined and ladylike, her attitude changes to a more, albeit unnecessary, regal air. Why? Because shut up, that’s why. She becomes the old-school Zelda, despite the kingdom not existing anymore, the royal line being irrelevant and the triforce being the only connection to the family lineage that’s left. For all intents and purposes, Tetra is dead, wiped clean by the curse of Zelda...which contradicts what the game told the player: that she is a descendant of Zelda, a member of the royal bloodline, not the actual character. Which leads me to my point: a character who is a descendant of an important character, as hard as it is to believe, is not that character, especially when they’ve been shown to have more individual traits than a generic doll.
Tetra is an independent leader of sorts, to a gang of pirates through succession, as they followed her mother, who passed away, only to be moved under Tetra’s control. They’re her subjects, her army. While the setting may be drastically different, the same basic points apply. Her kingdom is her boat and the seas she moves upon. So why then, did the writers feel they had to shoehorn in the ‘character’ of Zelda, in place of Tetra, and effectively bungle their own message?
Well, as a person who rips on Nintendo any chance he gets, I’d say it was classic Nintendo, being as creatively bankrupt as possible, and shoving in the uninspired character because, hey, it’s the name of the series right? And this character is a descendent right? So that means, though the transition of properties, that Tetra IS Zelda...right?
Wrong. This is why the series needs to change. This is why a playable character, a descendent of Zelda, would be pretty awesome; because Nintendo couldn’t cop out and move the player’s character into a state of non-agency. They’d be forced to make an interesting character, develop her, and not just make her another ‘Zelda’, through some pretty shoddy reasoning and magical crap that isn’t fooling anyone. You see, Link is the easy-way-out. He’s a blank slate, sometimes he has a family and friends, but he’s always the same, always with the same fate; to rescue the princess and stop Ganon or the equivalent evil-doer. This also makes him predictable, shallow and unappealing. We see Dark Link, but what does he really represent? How evil Link could be? How did something like this come to be? Does Link, as a character, have doubts about his fate? Does he, at times, feel cheated that his life is taken away so he can fulfil some frigging prophetic fight with an unkillable demi-god? We never know, just that there is a Dark Link, and he’s bad, and because of...stuff.
That last example conveys precisely what I’m talking about here. Nintendo think players want a blank slate character because it makes them imprint personally on the story...but after dozens of Zelda games, who actually buys into that anymore? This is archaic thinking, it’s creatively bankrupt...it’s playing it safe. The same can be said of Tetra’s sudden and somewhat insulting character change. She simply becomes another person altogether, she doesn’t retain her traits, she becomes Zelda. This is not how you write a story, not matter what angle you’re using, eliminating the character’s personal traits and replacing them with familiar ones because you, as a writer, aren’t able to expand on an original idea is nothing short of playing it safe, and conveying how poor your writing skills truly are. Instead of moving the story forward with the new character they had, Nintendo flipped the default setting and made the game too familiar...and familiarity is doing more harm than good to fantastic characters and concepts.
So in summation, I hope that we get to play a Zelda game where the title character is the protagonist...so long as they don’t act like Zelda. Something akin to Tetra would be acceptable, but I think it’s time we let the stereotypical Zelda characteristics rest for a while. The series almost got it right with Wind Waker, for the time at least, and if Nintendo could just make a game where the descendent of Zelda, not some generic princess character herself, could be the protagonist, I think we’d be onto a winning formula. They’ve admitted that they need to change or die...this is the best way they can do it, by avoiding the pitfalls of the previous games, and making a character in the same vein as the character of Zelda, without resorting to pretty unappealing decimations of character traits that defined the character.