Welcome to Breaking Geek, a column that just won’t go away, where uber-geek Nick Doll offers commentary, reactions, and theories regarding the most interesting news of the week (or whatever he feels like), using his expansive knowledge of all things geek! Today, from the perspective of an avid gamer and screenwriting major who tried to once adapt The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Why The Show Will ONLY Work Without Link.
It’s funny, I had to change my thesis and rewrite most of today’s Breaking Geek. Originally, I was writing about how a Legend of Zelda TV series could NEVER work, but then I had a discussion with a fellow Zelda die-hard, and he had an idea… the show could… maybe… work without Link. Though that is unlikely the show fans think they want, I’ll soon explain why you either want this, or you should want no series at all.
With last week’s news that there may be a Legend of Zelda series in development from one of the executive producers behind the beautiful Castlevania Netflix series, Adi Shankar, it’s time again to discuss how poorly video-games adapt into films, and how the Legend of Zelda is almost a no-win, worst case scenario… If you want to include Link, the main character of the game.
Do I want to lose my favorite video game character if the show is indeed developed? No!
Do I think the series can work with Link as the lead? No!
But, for reasons we will now explore, you can’t — you simply CANNOT — turn The Legend of Zelda into a video game franchise while maintaining Link, the Hero of Time, as your lead.
My Crack At An Ocarina Of Time Feature Film Script
One summer between semesters of film school, where I got my B.A. in Screenwriting, I knew I would be attending a Film Adaptation course as one of my next writing classes. I tried to find the perfect project all summer! While Rainbow Six (the book, not the games) was also on my mind that summer, I gave serious thought to what my favorite videogame, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, would look like as a 90-page screenplay.
The narrative is there. Though the graphics suffer today, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is my favorite game narrative and perhaps the most cinematic game of all time (certainly the most fun). It has key scenes and moments that would adapt easily to film, a killer villain, and was on an epic scale, but my planning stage always fell apart because of one aspect I couldn’t find a suitable fix for…
Link Doesn’t Talk…
I know. “No shit, Sherlock?” Right?
Like any great playable character from his era, Link doesn’t talk. He has a narrative, people talk to him and respond to his gestures, and he’s fed all the exposition. Before being able to tell narratives like the recently released and deep Red Dead Redemption 2 — where your character is quite the character — playable characters, especially those from Nintendo, were more of our avatar to that world. Not many character traits save for the gamer’s own desire, to be a hero, defeat Ganon, and save Princess Zelda.
Yes, Arthur Morgan is still our avatar in Red Dead Redemption 2, but he’s very different than the Link type. We are Link. Before The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you could name yourself whatever you wanted. I wasn’t Link saving Hyrule in Ocarina of Time, I was Nick saving Hyrule (though… I do select “Link” as my name). Even in Breath of the Wild with cinematics and other characters speaking in voices, not grunts and text, Link can still only grunt, yell, and scream.
So, do you make a TV show about a Link that talks, or do you try to make it with a mute character? Or, do you somehow avoid the Hero of Time all together?
These are one of three swords that Adi Shankar and his team must choose to fall on, because as I said, this is NOT the ideal video-game franchise to adapt, even with its sprawling narrative that has kept gamers glued to their Nintendo systems for over 25 years.
…And You Can’t Make Him
Well, you can. But that’s how we ended up with the live-action Super Mario Bros. Sure, you could give him a voice, but then he’s not Link. Not my Link. Not any Link I’m interested in. (Yes, I know an animated Mario film is in development from Illumination Entertainment, but now Mario talks in small phrases all the time. Link… still does not.)
Like I mentioned earlier, even Breath of the Wild gave Link no voice. This has been Nintendo’s decision for over 25 years – their biggest fault was letting him talk in Zelda CD-i games, actually (not to mention the 80s cartoon).
How do you give real personality to a character who is so beloved because we see ourselves as him? If the series were to be live action, even when I picture an actor I like playing him, such as Armmie Hammer (or your choice here), I’m still horrified. I don’t even know where to start with a pure voice actor because I don’t know what Link’s voice sounds like. And I never want to.
Giving Link a voice would instantly kill the adaptation for me, no question. And it’s my favorite video game series. Maybe, it deserves to be left alone as one.
Hey! Listen! It’s Me, Navi!
If Link can’t talk and you insist on including him, maybe, just maybe, you could get away with using a fairy like Navi to talk for him. It’s still a stretch, but one avenue to try. But I still feel a Legend of Zelda TV series just does not work with Link…
The Kid (Link) Doesn’t Stay In The Picture
So, what do you do?
Well, drop Link altogether, if you really must make this project.
Hear me out, because as I said earlier, I love Link too. But it feels like in order to avoid the whole “Link doesn’t talk debate” you must make the series set between the Heroes of Time.
I mean, Zelda is in the title, so why not focus on a Princess, a Princess who has proven to hold her own over the decades, even considering how often she needs to be rescued?
Make a Game of Thrones type show about Hyrule in the decline, with a young Gerudo named Ganondorf rising to power. Make it a prequel of sorts to Wind Waker or Breath of the Wild. In both games we start with a world that has already fallen, that needs saving before we even complete the tutorial. Or, make Ocarina of Time if the Hero of Time never showed, with Zelda having to save her own kingdom.
To be fair, this Legend of Zelda fan would rather see no series at all, because even with these ideas it still doesn’t work the same as the game. Is it Legend of Zelda without Link? Is it Legend of Zelda if Link talks? How do you make a series about a protagonist who doesn’t talk? I say, let it go! Move onto a game that screams film adaptation like Metal Gear Solid (which I do believe is still in the works)!
Maybe you disagree with this Zelda fan, but I’m telling you, I’ve given it over a decade of thought now. Trust me.