My very first Legend of Zelda game was Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. My brother got it from our neighbor at a yardsale for $8. I was about ten at the time and couldn’t beat the game no matter how hard I tried. Twelve years later, there are dozens of Legend of Zelda titles and I have beaten many of them (including Ocarina of Time!).
A lot is known about its non-titular character, Link. We know he’s the Hero of Time, that he has to rescue the princess Zelda and that the three of them, including Ganon, create the Triforce. But even the most die hard fan might be surprised by some of these interesting facts. Considering the game came out in 1986 and spans over nine consoles (excluding the Nintendo Switch, which I am STILL waiting on), it’s not that surprising. The Hyrulian Lore is pretty vast, and even after reading Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia, basically cover to cover, I still found myself surprised when I was getting into a bit of research. Turns out the ever silent Link has been holding out on us!
15 What’s in a Name?
Have you ever thought about why Link is called... Link? I mean half of us probably named him after ourselves or even a curse word, but the actual origins of Link’s name are pretty cool. Apparently, back in the concept phase, the Triforce was instead going to be made of electronic chips. It would still have the time travel we all know and love and the main character would be the link between them. It’s also useful when coming up with snappy titles. A Link to the Past, A Link Between Worlds, they certainly get their use out of it.
Here’s another little fun fact about names, Zelda was named after Zelda Fitzgerald! Although considering how that marriage went down…
14 Alternate Timelines
With so many games out there, it can get confusing as to what's taking place and when. But the creator has said that they do have a kind of show bible for the game, with how the games all fit together, as they want to keep the games focused on being good games, before worrying about how it all fits together.
The first games in the series actually take place towards the end of the timeline that we’ve seen in the past twenty years, with Skyward Sword being at the very beginning. The huge turning point, and where we get into alternate timelines, is with Ocarina of Time. That is where the timeline splits between victorious Link, who has defeated Ganon and saved the day, and the one in which Link fails and Ganon takes over. Although when you throw in Ravio from Link Between Worlds and an entire dark world to worry about it, does get pretty jumbled.
Surprisingly enough, for almost every game, Link is actually left-handed! The only time they’ve changed this is for the Wii version of Twilight Princess, which is a mirrored copy of the GamCcube version, so that it matches the more popular dominant hand. So, that was due more to ease the player than the fact that more often than not, Link is left-handed.
I was thinking this probably has a lot to do with sword-fighting and how it is much harder to fight a left-handed person (I fenced for a while and as a right-handed person I dreaded fencing a leftie). But in actuality, it’s most likely because Miyamoto, the creator, is a leftie!
12 I Do Believe in Hyrulians, I Do, I Do!
When you look at Link, you might think he looks surprisingly similar to a Disney character we all know and love. That’s right, Link was modeled after the Disney version of Peter Pan! Which I guess makes Navi Tinkerbell, right? Too bad Navi couldn’t be more useful than just yelling, “Hey Listen!” (Protip: set that as your ringtone and watch everyone lose it).
When Miyamoto was creating Link, he wanted a character as easily recognizable and iconic as Mario. Which is why they went in the direction of the solid green, pointy hat and elven ears. Although they did diverge later when giving Link the blond hair, in the earlier versions, he had brownish-red hair, looking even more like Peter Pan. When creating an icon, I guess it makes sense to go with the people known for their iconic characters. And hey! At least The Hero of Time doesn't look like Mickey Mouse!
11 Childhood Adventure
The Legend of Zelda series is derived from Miyamoto’s own experience as a child, so whenever you play as Link, you're kind of living his childhood. When he was young, his parents let him explore, alone, and he would often seek out adventures. Apparently, one day he found a cave and went back to his house to grab a lantern. I guess it makes sense why we needed a lantern in so many Legend of Zelda games, right?
Miyamoto found a cave system. I wonder if he expected to find a magic sword? Or maybe an old man (creepy) that was holding a sword and said that ‘It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this.’ Miyamoto has said that he wanted to capture that same feeling of adventure and joy he had felt that day. I’d say he succeeded in most games too, considering I get that childlike glee when I even hear about a new Zelda game coming out.
10 Hyrule Fantasy: The Legend of Zelda
The biggest question I get when I’m talking about one of my favorite game franchises is, “Oh Zelda? Yeah, I’ve seen the game. Although, isn’t Zelda a girl’s name? Why would the guy be named Zelda?” It’s a pretty reasonable mistake when you consider the fact that the games aren’t called “Legend of Link” and that Link is the main character. The confusion absolutely makes sense. But why would Nintendo set us up for that confusion in the first place? It turns out, when the first game came out in Japan, it was titled Hyrule Fantasy: The Legend of Zelda. As a title, Hyrule Fantasy makes a lot more sense. But for the American release, they dropped the main title and stuck with just the subtitle, The Legend of Zelda. It sounds pretty epic and mysterious, but the name stuck.
9 It’s Dangerous to Go Alone!
“It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this!” is probably one of the most iconic video game quotes of all time. You can get it on all kinds of stuff from backpacks to key-chains. But that iconic moment almost didn’t make it into the game at all. When they were play-testing it, players said that the game was too confusing. Miyamoto’s solution? Make it more confusing! Originally the game began with Link, sword in hand. To make it tougher, he made the gamer start weaponless and you would need to find the sword.
He wanted kids to talk and share their experiences and secrets, creating a camaraderie when playing it. Before Googling was even a thing, Miyamoto had kids talking about the game and helping each other. When I was first playing Ocarina of Time, we had that one kid who lived in our neighborhood that could beat the Water Temple, and only him. Before the internet, you actually had to talk to people for help! Imagine. Now I just use a walk through for the Water Temple.
8 The Wand of Gamelon
Many of The Legend of Zelda games are absolutely amazing (I’m not going to get into Skyward Sword), but there is one game that has been lost to time. I only recently learned of it thanks to the YouTube GameGrumps channel. It is also one of the only times we see Link speak! His first words were “I’m so hungry I could eat an Octorock!” Would that be like an Octopus you think?
Anyway, the game was made for the Philips CD-i, after Nintendo had cut ties with Sony and Sony made their own system (the PlayStation). It’s a pretty terrible game with controls that don’t make any sense and it was relatively a very low budget game. There are talking cutscenes that were animated by four guys that were flown in from Russia. It’s pretty hilarious and I’d suggest you look at these cutscene here. If that’s not enough and you want to see this hilarity in action, the GameGrumps has a pretty good run-through here. They don’t beat the game but instead have an intense rage quit.
This is a little easter egg in Ocarina of Time that really shows how much depth and time went into this game. We first see Grog as the child version of Link, as this punk looking guy in Kakariko under the tree. We find out he’s the carpenter’s ‘lazy’ son and he’s the Cucco lady’s brother. In the future, we find him in the Lost Woods and later he disappears from there too. One of the Kokiri, Fado, is there instead and that is when we learn of the origin of Stalfos. Grog became lost in the woods and has become an enemy Link must defeat later. I kind of wonder which one he is. Do you think the Hero’s Shade met up with Stalfos Grog? Then again, he’s in Majora’s Mask, so you have to wonder how much of what Fado is saying is true?
6 Please Speak into the Microphone
In the first Legend of Zelda game, the manual said that the Pols Voice creatures were affected by sound. Now most U.S. gamers though this meant the whistle or any other form of sound in the game. Nope, it actually had to do with the fact that in Japan, the Famicon controllers had microphones built into them. And we didn’t even get that in North America until the DS came out! Apparently if you yelled into the microphone, you could defeat the Pols Voice. Apparently it was lost in translation because no one thought to take that tidbit out of the instruction manual. My question is, why did Japan get the cool gadgets so much sooner than America? The feature does pop back up in Phantom Hourglass for the DS, but let me tell you, it’s really awkward being a sixteen year-old girl yelling at your DS and having your mom say, “What?”
5 Say What?
Link is notoriously silent, never saying a word during any of his many, many games. You’d think that maybe our little Hyrulian Hero was mute, but that’s not actually the case! As you can see in Wand of Gamelon and the ill-fated animated series, Link does indeed speak. You can even see other NPCs responding to him as if he was speaking. Why the silent treatment then? Miyamoto has said that he wanted to keep Link silent so that players could insert themselves and make it feel like they were the one’s in the adventure. You're The Hero of Time and no one was putting words into your mouth. When you do see him speak in anything it kind of ruins it, so I’m pretty glad they went with that choice.
4 Mario Easter Eggs
Between Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time, there are tons of Mario easter eggs. When you look into the window of Hyrule Castle when you’re first meeting Zelda, you can see photos on the walls of some of the most iconic Nintendo characters, including Mario and Donkey Kong. In Majora’s Mask, the mask dealer has a Yoshi in his wallet, which is never actually explained. Obviously it was just meant to be a little treat for the gamer, so you scream “It’s a Yoshi!” and nothing more. Same for the Mario mask that’s just chilling on the Mask seller’s bag. Can you imagine turning into Mario in the game? Hey, then you could jump! Wouldn’t that solve a lot of problems! Then again, I don’t think the cute little Mario would really look good against the backdrop of the moon’s gigantic terrible face.
3 Where Are Your Parents?
While there are many things that differ in each iteration of The Legend of Zelda series, the one thing that always stands true is that Link will be there and he doesn’t have parents. We have yet to meet 'The Parents of Time' in the past twenty-five years. His mother was mentioned in Ocarina of Time, having spirited him away to the Kokiri village to be raised by child elves. Instead of parents, Link is left with his Uncle in a few games, his grandmother and sister in Wind Waker and the Great Deku Tree (I guess??) in Ocarina of Time. I guess it makes sense, because there’s no way his mom would let him take up a sword and run into the woods. Although I guess they let the eleven-year-olds do it in Pokemon, so why not Link?
2 First Person?
Originally, Miyamoto wanted you to play all of Ocarina of Time from Link's first person perspective! The idea would be that it would stay that way until you went into a battle or to cutscene. But the creators of the 3D Link model took issue with that. They put so much effort into creating Link, that you can well imagine that they wouldn’t want you to spend the entire game not seeing him. This obviously set up a trend for the rest of The Legend of Zelda games and I, for one, am happy to have it like this! This also lead to a staple in the games, the Z-targeting. Z-targeting made it possible for the game to stay in third person, but still let the player effectively aim.
1 Lost in Time?
In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, we are introduced to the Hero’s Shade, a ghostly figure who is apparently Link’s ancestor and presumably The Link from Majora’s Mask. He looks awfully similar to the Stalfos, a creepy skeleton enemy we see throughout the series. The Hero’s Shade laments that he was never remembered as a hero, but teaches this new Link sword techniques. Now, if you remember Majora’s Mask, the moon was crashing down and it involved a lot of time travelling, so it makes sense that that Link would not be remembered as a hero. Now let’s link (pun intended) it back to Ocarina of Time, where we are told that Stalfos are made when a person gets lost in the Kokiri forest. Does that mean that Majora’s Mask's Link was lost in the woods and eventually died there? Maybe it was only his indomitable spirit that allowed him to stay so human.