Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is (blissfully) just a few short months away from its March 3 release on Nintendo Switch and Wii U. In anticipation of its launch, series producer Eiji Aonuma spoke with Waypoint about Breath of the Wild and the Zelda franchise as a whole.
The entire interview is an interesting look at Aonuma's perspective on the series' evolution, but what's most interesting are his comments on the series' potential future. Specifically, the answer to a question about Link's gender might signal a slight shift in Aonuma's historically rigid stance.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: A quick history of the controversy surrounding Link's gender
If a conversation about Link's gender is news to you, let's recap.
When an early trailer for Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild came out in June 2014, the fandom ran wild with rumors that players might be able to choose between a male and female version of Link — or that the person in the reveal trailer was actually Zelda. After all, the character looked a bit androgynous and was missing Link's trademark tunic-and-cap combo, right?
Aonuma further stoked those rumors when he told VentureBeat: "No one explicitly said that that was Link" in the trailer.
Unfortunately, at E3 2016, Aonuma backpedaled and shot down any rumors of a female Link — or that Breath of the Wild starred Zelda — with some pretty tone-deaf comments in an interview with Gamespot.
"We thought about it and decided that if we're going to have a female protagonist, it's simpler to have Princess Zelda as the main character ... If we have Princess Zelda as the main character who fights, then what is Link going to do? Taking into account that, and also the idea of the balance of the Triforce, we thought it best to come back to this [original] makeup."
Ah, yes, what will poor Link do if we can play as Zelda?
Lots of outlets were quick to characterize Aonuma's explanation as silly. For example, Polygon's Ben Kuchera wrote:
— Just trade places with Zelda and wait to be rescued.
— Hang out and play Lego, he could make a nice house.
— He could learn to do some sleight of hand, which takes a lot of practice and could really kill time.
— Are you serious you have so many amazing, imaginative people and this question has you stumped?!
Just admit you didn't want to do it and move on."
Over at Forbes, Erik Kain rightly pointed out that Zelda already spends a great deal of time in the Legend of Zelda franchise not doing much of anything, which doesn't seem to be a problem for Nintendo. Also, you know, Link is a fictional character and can be whatever Nintendo says he is.
Well, while the option to play as Zelda or a female Link in a mainline Legend of Zelda game is still a faraway dream, Aonuma made comments in a new interview with Waypoint that might signal a softening in his rigid stance.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Aonuma seems to soften stance on Link's gender
Besides saying he regrets making those vague comments about the trailer perhaps not portraying Link at all, Aonuma told Waypoint it is possible future Legend of Zelda games might play with the conventions of the series a bit more.
"Regarding the future possibility of us taking a Zelda title in a new direction, perhaps with Link as someone different, or with a new protagonist altogether who's radically different from what we've seen before, on the Wii U there's already Hyrule Warriors. In that you've got Princess Zelda herself as a playable character, and a real assortment of playable characters including numerous female ones. So, that title exists already. But in the future, regarding doing that sort of thing again and changing what you expect from Zelda characters, I'd say yes, it's a possibility."
Aonuma didn't specifically say it might be possible to play as a female version of Link in a main Legend of Zelda game, but his comments about "changing what you expect from Zelda characters" were in response to the question of Link's gender. So, it's possible.
But then again, he also said, "I have to be really careful with what I say, because there's always the possibility of, even when you don't quite mean what you've said, it can be taken differently, and become this big discussion." So, it's also possible I'm reading too much into what he's saying — yet again.
At the very least, I'm just glad he didn't try to explain away the question with more nonsensical Zelda lore.
More Nintendo news, update, tips and tricks
Hungry for more Zelda news? Check out the latest trailer for Breath of the Wild, read up on the amazing Master Edition, dive into the new game's secret backstory and check out our hands-on review after playing it on the Switch.