Nintendo made news on Friday at their Nintendo Direct broadcast, with some exciting announcements: An HD re-release of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (my favorite Zelda game, nearing its 10th anniversary!), Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow is headed to the 3DS Virtual Console, Final Fantasy’s Cloud joined Super Smash Bros., and Nintendo introduced Linkle, the female Link.
Since the release of Metroid, Nintendo has given us characters which are rather feminist. Samus Aran, one of it’s most popular leading characters, shocked gamers in the 1980’s when, at the end of Metroid, she took off her helmet and revealed that the galaxy’s foremost bounty hunter was a woman. Gamers regard her as a symbol of female empowerment. (For more on Samus’ impact, look here.) There’s also Super Princess Peach, which subverted the usual Damsel-in-distress set up of the Super Mario games by having Peach save Mario. And let’s not forget a character like Sheik, Zelda’s warrior alter ego. Nintendo has always strived to bring us strong female characters. (Edit, SPOILERS FOR WIND WAKER: I had forgotten about Tetra, a badass female pirate captain, who turns out to be the Chose one/Princess, another interesting subversion of the Princess motif.)
So, it was no huge surprise when Nintendo revealed a new character that would follow this tradition: Linkle, female Link. But is what we’re seeing here a revolutionary or important change? Or is it just a heavy-handed attempt to make the Hero of Time more accessible to women.
One of the clear objections amidst all this is the name. Linkle? LINKLE?! What kind of a name is Linkle?! Sure, it is a ridiculous-sounding name, but it also hinges this character’s new identity on the similarity she bears to a man. Arguably, the reason for this is that it fits in with the Zelda continuity: the notion that “Link” is not a character, but a mantel that characters take up throughout the history of Hyrule. But this one feels just a little too close to the character we already have; why does she need to be female Link, rather than a hero in her own right? Naming her Linkle gets in the way of her having her own identity.
Nintendo really loves their clone characters Mario/Wario, Luigi/Waluigi, Link/Dark Link, Link/Toon Link, Princess Peach/Daisy, Samus/Dark Samus, Fox/Wolf, various Pokemon, Toad/Toadette… Sure, Linkle isn’t the first genderbent character that Nintendo has produced, but Link is such a prominent character that this one carries greater magnitude.
Nintendo has noble goals of making enjoyable games with strong female characters, but some might debate if this follows the tradition that they’ve set up with characters like Sheik and Samus. Until Linkle expands from Hyrule Warriors and into her own game, this will be a gray area. Either way, I’m very excited for this new character. If you have any opinions on the matter, leave a comment, and we can start a dialogue about this new character.
Let me take this moment to say that my heart is with the corners of the world which have encountered hardship recently: Syria, Japan, Paris, Beiruit, and Kenya. I hope that in the coming years, we will see an end to needless violence such as this.