By Joshie Jaxon
Princess Zelda, much like Princess Peach has been around since the early days of the NES. Also like Peach, she was the damsel who needed to be rescued during her franchise’s inaugural adventure. Not to mention she was originally a brunette, or maybe a redhead, sprites are hard to identify. However, the similarities to Peach end there. We’re gonna explore how this princess took her destiny in her own hands. Let the geeks begin!
As anyone who played the original Legend of Zelda back in the day will tell you, there’s no real plot to the game itself. Without reading the manual, all you know about the game is that you’re a tiny green guy destroying monsters. Now, it’s true, you could watch the small opening credit if you let the title screen sit for a while, but without it, you don’t really have a clue that there’s a princess that needs rescuing. We’ll excuse any shortcomings of NES era gaming, as the games themselves were some of the best ever made, launching several enduring series. However, Zelda was an eight-bit character back then. Get it? Moving on. She spent all of the Adventure of Link asleep in the starting castle. Since Link doesn’t swing that way, I’m guessing the thought to kiss her never crossed his mind. As such, Zelda was a damsel in distress for her second outing, while Peach had been given temporary playable character status in hers. Don’t worry, Zelda is about to take the lead.
While she did have a better role than damsel in Link to the Past, it was Ocarina of Time that really allowed us to get to know Zelda and see her shine. Young Princess Zelda was suspicious of Ganondorf, and asked Link to look into it, teaching him her lullaby. However, just as kid Link returned from his initial quest, he gets to watch Impa ride off with Zelda as Ganon pursued them. She did manage to share her titular Ocarina on her way out of town. Link seizes the Master Sword and gets transported to the future, and learns of Ganon’s reign. The mysterious Sheik tells the young hero that Zelda is safe, but in hiding. At each dungeon/temple, Sheik uses his harp to teach Link a new song, and offer him information. Even as a teen, I wondered if they were going to show signs of a possible same sex attraction, but alas, Sheik was merely Zelda’s drag king persona; which confused the hell out of Link’s master sword, if you know what I’m saying. Anyhow, Zelda shows that she has the power of the Triforce of Wisdom, and is captured by Ganon. Unlike a standard damsel rescue, once Link beats Ganon’s first form, Zelda says she’ll help against the second. Skilled with a bow, and able to use the power of light, she allows Link the use of light arrows, and channels her power to hold Ganon steady while Link delivers the final blow. In the final moments of the game she sends Link back so that he can still have a childhood. How sweet of her.
Not really present in Majora’s Mask, Zelda did get to play a significant role in the events of the Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess. Once again we get a princess in disguise, in the form of Tetra. Tetra is a pirate, and takes Link on her ship in a quest to retrieve his sister. She loans him the use of her pirate stone, allowing him to communicate with her, and the King of Red Lions. Towards the end of Link’s quest, we discover that Tetra is actually Princess Zelda. Much like her incarnation in Ocarina, Tetra-Zelda has light powers, and is just as skilled with a bow. Once more, she assists Link, allowing him to stab Ganon in the head, turning him to stone. Can’t get her hands dirty, after all. Or can she? Twilight Zelda uses her power to heal a critically injured Midna, allowing Link to save not only his world but the Twilight Realm as well. Zelda reappears in the end, because let’s face it, these are her legends after all.
Skyward Sword gave us our greatest version of Zelda yet. Hear me out. Not only has this Zelda known Link since childhood, she has her own purpose in the story, rather than just being a convenient plot point. While Link is going through the game trying to stop Ghirahim, Zelda is with Impa trying to prepare and purify herself to be a vessel for the goddess Hylia. She’s actively questing to do what she can to help save the world. She’s not captured. She’s not asleep. She’s not in drag, or an amnesiac. What’s Peach doing? Being taken, again, playing go-carts, sports, partying, etc. Zelda is working to become a freaking goddess. Even though Zelda isn’t the exact same person in each game, the developers have worked very hard to make her different and unique as time passes. The Mario series seems to go with, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. The Zelda series takes risks with each new entry. They even killed her off, technically, in Spirit Tracks. Even without a body of her own, Zelda is useful, and required to beat the game. That entry was actually her legend. She’s the co-star, not just the female lead.
Now, like Peach, Zelda has stepped into the Brawl universe, and even brought her Sheik persona with her. This is one princess that kicks ass and takes names. I’ve not had a chance to play Hyrule Warriors outside of Best Buy, but I know that Zelda is at the forefront of the action. From her initial appearance in the NES days to now, Zelda has become a hands-on warrior princess, lookout Xena, willing to do whatever it takes to protect her land and people, and to me, that’s pretty glorious.