From A Link to the Past to Ocarina of Time, the hero of Hyrule is the star of some of my all-time favourite games. However, for those of you who follow the nuances of Zelda lore, the Link you play as isn’t always the same guy. I’m most familiar with the more humanoid Link, while the Toon Link, as christened in Smash Bros., is largely alien to me. So why do I have a Toon Link instead of an adult one?
Before we get into that, let’s flash back to the 2000 Nintendo Space World event. Prior to the release of the Gamecube, Nintendo put out a tech demo showing off the system’s capabilities. Within it were demos for Luigi’s Mansion, Metroid Prime, and a tech demo featuring 128 Marios. All of those were cool, but the world went into a frenzy over the few fleeting seconds of Link facing off against Gannon.
Looking like an evolution of Ocarina of Time, I was super pumped for what this next game would be. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Nintendo quietly swept that tech demo under the rug and revealed the true Legend of Zelda game on Gamecube: Wind Waker.
History looks at that game with rose-coloured glasses now, but back then, there was a ton of outrage over this cell-shaded look. Nintendo, whether they meant to or not, anchored people’s expectations with that original tech demo. When Wind Waker wasn’t that, many were disappointed, including yours truly. I still bought the game when it came out, but didn’t spend more than three hours on it before abandoning the game completely.
Over time, people came to love Wind Waker. The things that made it different an upsetting to traditional Zelda fans of that time is what continues to make it compelling now. Most recently, Nintendo gave that game a new lease on life with Wind Waker HD. I have not played this remake yet, but I do have a copy of it sitting on my desk right now, begging for me to play it. I may have hated the art style at the time, though it certainly holds up much better now than that old tech demo ever could.
So I might not have an emotional attachment to this particular version of Link, but that doesn’t matter to me. When I see my Toon Link, I think about all of the great times I’ve had playing a Legend of Zelda game as the hero of Hyrule. Also, this particular figurine looks way better than the Smash Bros. version of Link, which features a garish yellow block that keeps him standing upright. Once they make more versions of Link that hopefully don’t feature those structural flaws, I’ll probably grab all of those too.
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