The Legend of Zelda series has always featured the young hylian Link as the hero that the player is in control of and this is no accident. Shigeru Miyamoto designed the game with the intent of recreating the feeling of exploration he had experienced as a child, exploring the forests and foothills around his home. Towards that end, he named the hero "Link" to signify the literal link that the hero provided between the gamer and the world of The Legend of Zelda.
So although Link is based on a young boy, the character is ultimately supposed to be inclusive of anyone playing the game. Honestly to call him a "link" to the player in this day is bewildering. He is a silent generic protagonist, whose appearance and actions story-wise we have zero control over.
Link is supposed to be a "link" between the player and game. For proper immersion, he/she should be customizable to an extent, players should have options to play around with different skin tones, hair colours/styles, eye colors and changes to their nose, eyes, lips etc.
Since The Legend of Zelda once made the bold proposition that players should be able to name their heroes, is it really so necessary for Link to retain his traditional usually-blond-but-sometimes-brown haired young man appearance? After all, today it's easier than ever for players to customize their own characters and change their avatar's appearance to the look they prefer.
Many will agree that gaming has evolved over time, Zelda has been surpassed in the "player-avatar" department, but at the same time, Link has remained fairly traditional - ever the silent protagonist - even as the games' stories grow more complex and engaging.
That's not to say that traditional Link has no place today but for those players who really feel that connection to Link that Mr. Miyamoto described, who find the act of naming their characters to be important to their Zelda experience, we feel that there can't be much harm in offering additional customization options. For the most part, these could be mostly cosmetic options for the character, skin, hairstyle and eye coloration, possibly build and stature, not the removal of the trademark green garb or anything like that.
Because let's face it, sharing a screenshot of Link decked out in his best gear, taking down a tough enemy or looking out over a fantastic view - that sounds awesome. But sharing a screenshot of our own personal Link in the midst of those same experiences... well, that sounds pretty awesome, too.
Eiji Aonuma once stated he doesn't intend to compromise that there's only one Link out there saving Hyrule. But as Mr. Miyamoto says, Link serves as a means of connecting many players throughout the world, each of whom names Link at the start of their adventure.
Eiji Aonuma Says He’s Tired of the Zelda Formula
In 2013, The Legend of Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma told LA Times..
"It's not that anyone is telling me we have to change the formula. I want to change it. I'm kind of getting tired of it. If I'm getting tired of it, then I'm sure other people are getting tired of it. There is an essential 'Zelda' I fell we need to stay true to. We are still testing things, exploring our options. We haven't landed anywhere at this point. We're still seeing what we can do."In an 2014 with interview, Eiji Aonuma told Kotaku that he was completely open regarding playable female characters in the next Zelda game for Wii U. Aonuma stated that there were already playable female characters in the form of Zelda and Midna in Hyrule Warriors, but if that lures more girls to play the game then it's something he may consider for the future Zelda title.
Aonuma finished by saying that his crowning goal is to have as many people as possible enjoy Hyrule Warriors as possible and then he will take things from there. Which opens the door not only for gender representation but much more, especially if Aonuma was sincere with his words.
Think of the faces of the gaming industry in terms of unforgettable characters; Mario, Donkey Kong, Samus, Kratos, Lara Croft, Crash Bandicoot. All these these characters are known by the entire gaming community based soley on their appearance, and Link is right up there with the most recognizable of them.
Either way, what if we desire to play as ourselves? What if we lust a plot where the hero is in reality imperfect. At this point some would debate, "Then play another game"/ but here's the thing: we don't want to play another game. We in fact want to figure out the riddles we know only the Zelda series can bring to the table, but as a avatar symbolizing us rather than the other way around.
Those who fall into this category realize that Link is an iconic symbol , and he can never be. nevertheless, as Link's visual aspect has transformed mildly throughout the franchise, why can't more options be made accessible at once to choose from? They will all match Link's look, but the insignificant details would be chosen to allow the player to conjure some individual creativeness into the character.
Those who fall under this ideology want the hero to embody themselves. They want to be immersed in a world outside of their own, but as themselves. They want to feel like they have the opportunity to be all of those things. Most, if not all, of these people understand who Link is as a character and aren't looking to completely alter him to their own appearance. What they are looking for is a chance to validate their own traits as something of worth.
In 2014 a Youtuber known as LasagnaPie made a pretty solid skin tone mod which was created in the Dolphin emulator for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The modification to Link's complexion just shows us how easy it to change a part of Link's visual aspect without affecting the default character, story or game in it's self. This is just one aspect of customization but already it gives you the feeling of personal identity which unfortunately Nintendo's biggest RPG franchise is lacking.
Link is you and it's time that The Legend of Zelda series started taking what that means more seriously.
What about a Female Link?
While The Legend of Zelda hero Link has always been a male character, Nintendo or perhaps Koei toyed with the thought of a girl variation of the Hero of Time in creating Hyrule Warriors. The potential character design was revealed in scans of the game's Japanese art book.
Most recently Nintendo missed the opportunity to give players deeper customization and gender options in their latest Zelda game. The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Force allows for as many as three players playable characters, but they are all boys because that's how Nintendo planned the story, said game director Hiromasa Shikata in an interview with IGN.
Tri Force Heroes is a multiplayer game which includes three different interpretations of Link, one in his long-standing green tunic, the others in red and blue. Up to three players can step into the boots of those Links and search dungeons together. The setup is akin to The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures on the Game Boy Advance and GameCube, respectively.
"The story calls for this sort of legend/prohecy where heroes will come together to help solve a problem," he told IGN. "And in that, they are male characters. So, because the game is set with that as the story background, you cannot choose a gender; you are a male character."
When further pressed on the issue, Hiromasa said, "we do have a lot of female staff members who are playing this game and enjoying it. It doesn't seem to be a big issue to them.. And to be honest Link isn't the most masculine of guys in the world, depending on who you project yourself into the character."Link is you and it's time that The Legend of Zelda series started taking what that means more seriously, because in the end giving players more options never hurt anyone.