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Feature: Zelda and Link's Romance in Skyward Sword

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Zelda likes the silent type

It’s that time of year again, when couples around the world buy each other chocolates and tacky heart shaped gifts. Soon it will be Valentine’s Day, the most loved-up day of the year, and it’s got us thinking about The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: a worrying indication that our priorities aren’t matching the romantic occasion.

Skyward Sword is still very much on our minds, however, as it’s such a memorable gaming experience. While much can be attributed to the MotionPlus gameplay, terrific art design or the sweeping orchestral score, it’s important not to forget the role of the storyline. The basic plot isn’t exactly revolutionary, but its delivery, arguably, sets new standards for the franchise, with well-directed cut-scenes and some of the most expressive character animations seen on a Nintendo console. These beautifully animated facial expressions contribute to a key part of the story: the innocent friendship between Zelda and Link.

We say friendship, but the developing relationship between them could easily be interpreted as something more intimate. Even the opening scenes of the adventure emphasize that they've known each other their whole lives: Zelda is protective of Link and our hero, it must be said, brightens up whenever he’s around his oldest friend. For those of you who haven’t played this epic title – go and play it now — we’ll avoid spoilers, but it can be safely said that Link will go to any lengths to rescue Zelda.

We say friendship, but the developing relationship between them could easily be interpreted as something more intimate.

In fact, in this respect Skyward Sword forges new ground in terms of Link’s motivations: his priority doesn’t appear to be saving the world or Zelda through a sense of duty, but rather because he can’t contemplate a world without her. Your actions in the adventure lead to the usual acts of collecting relics, powers and defeating evil, but Link is driven by a need to be reunited with Zelda: it’s a bond that he cannot bear to be broken.

In comparison to other major titles in the series such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, this is a different approach to storytelling from Nintendo. In both of those titles, for example, the relationship between the two characters is portrayed as a friendship brought together by fate: their two paths intertwine and they help each other in a quest to save Hyrule. Even if we dive into handheld titles such as The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, the relationship is based on trust and, to an extent, mutual dependency: we’d argue that romance doesn’t necessarily come into the picture.

There have been hints of romance for Link before Skyward Sword, however, particularly in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. In this title Link spends some time with Marin, who he appears to mistakenly believe is Zelda at the start of the game, and there are moments where romance isn’t far away. There are occasions of words not quite spoken, a confession from Marin that she wants to know everything about Link, and an iconic scene where the two characters overlook the sea. Both characters are young, but there is genuine friendship and empathy between them that arguably moves beyond a normal fate-based relationship.

It’s against this backdrop of limited relationships in the Zelda franchise that the portrayal of Link and Zelda in Skyward Sword becomes all the more relevant. In fact, looking beyond the Zelda franchise, there are very few occasions where first-party Nintendo titles explore themes of romance. When looking for other examples we actually struggle, as the continual cake-sharing between Mario, Princess Peach and the lovelorn Bowser doesn’t quite fit as a genuinely romantic story. There are perhaps undertones in Metroid: Other M, but that’s a storyline that is far from being universally loved.

There are multiple reasons why Nintendo stay away from these themes. On the one hand a lot of its major franchises are pure video-gaming fantasy that make the idea absurd. The concept of characters such as Donkey Kong or Wario portraying serious feelings beyond retrieving bananas or gold coins is unfeasible. DK may occasionally be tasked with rescuing another character, but it’s nevertheless all about the gameplay, with the plot being secondary. Nintendo has always been in the business of producing fun gaming experience above all else, with little focus — apart from series such as The Legend of Zelda and Metroid – on developing complex stories or lore. Romantic themes can be found in titles published by Nintendo but ultimately developed elsewhere, such as Xenoblade Chronicles, but the big N rarely does this itself.

Perhaps the trouble with Other M, as an example, and the relationship between Samus and Adam Malkovich, was that it wasn’t absolutely clear whether it was paternal or more intimate. Many were possibly too distracted by the voice acting or style of the elaborate, space-opera cut-scenes. This title was the definitive example of how to divide a loyal fan-base, and in the arguments about gameplay, storytelling and a particular scene with Ridley, not much attention was paid to Samus and Malkovich’s relationship.

It’s in this respect that Skyward Sword bucks the trend, and shows ability within Nintendo to portray a serious theme while maintaining innocence and clarity in the storytelling. As we said earlier, the main goal is still to defeat evil and save the world, but the reasons are different. While fate makes its appearance in the plot, the reasoning for Link to risk his life is simply to rescue and be reunited with his friend. It’s a closeness that resonates throughout the whole game, giving key moments an emotional impact that is memorable. It also helps to move Link and Zelda away from what have, arguably, been stereotyped roles as the silent, indefatigable hero and the noble, brave Princess. It elevates Skyward Sword to a new level of storytelling, something that we’d like to see more of in the future.

If any of you think that we’re over-analysing the idea of love between these characters for the sake of Valentine’s Day, then maybe we can convince you that this has always been on the cards. We’d simply like to mention the ending to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. It’s not much of a spoiler in the overall scheme of the game, but as the curtains fall on the final screen the two characters make a definite move towards each other as if to embrace. What’s going on? Early signs of Nintendo moving the two characters closer together, romantically?

Either way, we’d love to hear your thoughts about Link and Zelda’s relationship in Skyward Sword, or any other romantic storylines that you remember from Nintendo titles. Keep your eyes peeled on 14th February, also, as we have a special Valentine’s Day feature on the way.

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User Comments (50)

JustAnotherUser

#1

JustAnotherUser said:

Great article, I love the romance in Skyward Sword. I've still yet to complete it, I'm taking my time with it :) (Plus I get very little time to play it).

ueI

#2

ueI said:

You forgot to mention Link's relationship with Zelda in Minish Cap. They were childhood friends, similar to in Skyward Sword.

Gamma

#3

Gamma said:

@ JarvanZheitk I have the same condition as you do, I don't like rushing games, and I'm still not done with Skyward Sword yet lol.

ThomasBW84Admin

#5

ThomasBW84 said:

@ueI - You're right, that was worth a mention, though as you say they were childhood friends and not necessarily as close as in Skyward Sword. It's a good example though, and in many ways shows how SS takes that friendship onto a different level. The relationship between the two is one of my favourite parts of the game, without a doubt.

CrusaderCC3488

#6

CrusaderCC3488 said:

There's also the scene at the beginning of the game RIGHT before the tornado where Zelda tells Link there's something she needed to talk to him about.....

FonistofCruxis

#7

FonistofCruxis said:

I haven't played this game yet but it was still a very good article. Here are my favourite couples in gaming in order with the first being my favourite:
Luke and Tear from Tales of the Abyss
Travis and Sylvia from the No more heroes series
Shulk and Fiora from Xenoblade chronicles
Lloyd and Colette from Tales of Symphonia
Wario and Mona from the Warioware series (I know that one may seem weird to some but I think they make a good couple and there have been hints at a relationship between the two in the Warioware series).

WingedSnagret

#8

WingedSnagret said:

I'm not sure if this technically counts, but how about Pit and Palutena? In the best ending of Kid Icarus she kisses him and cherubs carrying hearts fly overhead. That and (some of you haven't heard this line yet) this piece of dialogue from Uprising. Palutena: "So you better not be thinking about anything naughty." Pit: "What how did you..?" Palutena: "I'm just kidding, seriously?" Pit: "Oh, right. I was.. also kidding" Palutena: "Sure you were!"

WaLzgiStaff

#9

WaLzgi said:

@uel: Except in Minish Cap they were still children, so it's tough to say whether they were romantic or just close friends.

Powerglove

#10

Powerglove said:

I don't normally comment on this site, but I had to for this one. In Metroid Fusion, the game makes the nature of Samus and Adam's relationship ambiguous so I can see how some people think otherwise, but their relationship in Other M is strictly paternal. The game gives absolutely no hint of an intimate relationship. Samus frequently admits she viewes Adam as a father figure so anything to the contrary is just a figment of the imagination.

Ernest_The_Crab

#11

Ernest_The_Crab said:

About the article, Xenoblade is developed by Nintendo and published by Nintendo. Monolith Soft is 96% owned by Nintendo meaning it's a first party studio. This happened approximately 3 years before the release of Xenoblade.

Well some of Nintendo's games have involved brotherly love (at least on the part of Luigi). I mean he did go into an obviously haunted house to find his brother (whom always leaves him in his shadow).

Didn't Super Paper Mario involve themes of romance, lost love, despair, etc? It wasn't Mario obviously but a lot of these things could be attributed to the main villain.

eviLaTtenDant

#12

eviLaTtenDant said:

Once again we're shown that Ninty needs all the Monkey Island it can get on its consoles. The relationship between Guybrush and Elaine is one of the very best in gaming ever. :)


Anyway, great and inspiring article, Thomas. It makes me look forward to finally play Skyward Sword even more. It really seems to make one sympathize with Link's motivation and Zelda's character more than ever before. Less hero, more human.
Guess the only interesting thing about their relationship left is a scene that shows how they met the first time. (Maybe in the new Windwaker 3DS game ? :) )
Also laughed about the Zelda II part.

While i think PS360 owners could crave for Metroid on the WiiU if it had an epic storyline focussing on why Samus became a bounty hunter i don't want anymore romance in it.
The only idea 'bout a love centrered Ninty game i have right now would be to play a guy that only goes on an adventure to be loved by a prissy girl that always teases him but never actually let's him be close to her. (Maybe Wario ?)
The other one i see wouldn't be love the Valentine's Day way. It would be about a boy that gets to met a puppy with special powers right after his parents get kidnapped. Both set out to rescue 'em. (Loving how Kirby cares in the show.)

Anyway, i hope they continue to support games like the Rainfall RPG's and Disaster so that we'll get some more Ninty games with heavier emphasis on story

Morpheel

#13

Morpheel said:

Who's this Princess Peace Mario and Bowser are so interested on?

I loved these little "moments" on SkywardSword, but it somehow ended up in a love triangle with the girl from the bazzar for me XD Link you dog.

Radixxs

#14

Radixxs said:

Having yet to have finished Skyward Sword, I think their relationship is one of he best things about the game.

Angel_Fur

#16

Angel_Fur said:

Really enjoyable article! Made me smile. I think Thomas is quite quite mad, of course, but mad in a nice way! :)

SMW

#20

SMW said:

What about Chibi-Robo on GCN? Its all about making people happy and there are a few love-struck characters. The whole game is practically about repairing relationships! Chibi-Robo just oozes charm.

ThomasBW84Admin

#21

ThomasBW84 said:

To all who spotted the Princess Peach typo, thanks and it's now fixed.

I imagine that if she was called Princess Peace, Mario and Bowser would have shaken hands and stopped fighting many years ago :)

killer6370

#24

killer6370 said:

If looked corectly all Nintendo Charakters have a girl they like or a guy like samus Mario has Peach,Luigi loves Daisy,Samus an Adam,DK loves Candy,Diddy and Dixie,Toad and Toadette,Yoshi and Birdo^^ and even wario shares something with the leader of the sirup pirates the only left alone is Bowser but who the hell is the Mother of Bowser jr and the 7 koopalings ?

But the best love story still remains(even if its not an Nintendo game) FFVII with Cloud and Aerith

FluttershyGuy

#25

FluttershyGuy said:

About Peatrice, the Item Check Girl, I thought that gratitude crystal side quest actually exposed some of the ugliness of human nature, society, and romance.

Of course, there can only be one outcome: Link & Zelda together. It would alter the nature of the series the way it's been from the beginning if it were otherwise.

Still, it reeked of classism that you can get "involved" with Peatrice, but it can't go anywhere. There's not the possibility of something more with a lowly item check girl. Because of that, in the end, Link is simply using her (that is IF you want the gratitude crystals to turn what's-his-face to human form). Either Link keeps leading her along until he gets the gratitude crystals (and leaves her waiting, broken hearted post game), or he breaks her heart to satisfy the father and get the crystals from him. Either way, Link is the mighty chosen hero. Someone from a social class below him can only benefit him to a degree. Him ultimately ending up with Peatrice isn't even a possibility. Her being broken hearted is the only emotional eventuality from the entire thing.

It WILL be pretty boy Link and Zelda, who is Headmaster Gaepora's daughter (and SO MUCH MORE) in the end. Same as what's drilled into us from the time of middle school. Only the quarterback and head cheerleader can be involved. And it continues all through life, right up until we depart this mortal coil. Geez, can't even escape classism in a video game!

I think the concept of romance is more romantic when it's possible and available for everybody. Not just the prince and princess. Maybe it's bourgeois and 99% of me, but I am the 99% and I guess I felt sorry for Peatrice. And I guess I'm still upset that Parker Posey ignored all my love letters. :P

Just playing devil's advocate: What if a hero/heroine and commoner made for a star video game couple one day (excuse me if there's one I've forgotten)?

EDIT: I guess you can count Mario and Princess Peach. Or not, since not all plumbers are Superman with a mustache and overalls.

FluttershyGuy

#27

FluttershyGuy said:

@Gamesake
I know he doesn't and "technically", they're friends, but there is chemistry and we don't know what happened after the cameras stopped rolling (since It's kind of presented in a Hyrulian "Adam & Eve" way). And Link is no prince, but he ultimately is the chosen hero, and at the start of the game close friend of the headmaster's daughter, putting him up there in the social hierarchy. "Prince and Princess" was just an example, saying it's only acceptable for members of the upper class to be involved with each other romantically.

Gamesake

#28

Gamesake said:

He may be a hero, but Link is still just Zelda's toadie. They'll never be grind buddies.

Fang

#29

Fang said:

Samus and the infant Metroid. It wasn't a romantic, Valentine's Day kind of love (that would have been weird), but still. I just wanted to point that out. Other than that, the only love relationship I can think of that someone else hasn't already mentioned is Pete, Pelly and Phyllis' love triangle from Animal Crossing.

Ichiban

#30

Ichiban said:

The begininng of Skyward Sword was magical, the chemistry between Link & Zelda was adorable. It knocked my socks off, I was almost getting teary eyed. I loved it.
But....as the the game dragged on.......and on........and on, it felt like watching Twilight in that I just wanted it to end!

Morpheel

#31

Morpheel said:

Actually, I think Peatrice has at least as much chances with Link as Zelda, with her being a goddess reincarnated and stuff. But I don't know... They do seem all lovey dovey at the end.

But Link is not a higher class being, he's about as important as Peatrice and Beedle's pet bug in Skyloft...

Noire

#33

Noire said:

It's Samus and Ridley, haven't you guys been paying attention? They're together forever. Even death can't tear them apart. It's ... it's so beautiful ...

TeeJay

#34

TeeJay said:

@PlatinumGamerX
They mentioned Spirit Tracks. Didn't you read? Although I didn't agree with the article in that regard (I believe there was something more there), Spirit Tracks was mentioned.

Dodger

#36

Dodger said:

This article put into words what I've been thinking since I started Skyward Sword. Part of the reason Skyward Sword feels so different (apart from a pretty art style, new puzzles, creative items (even if a couple were stolen from Minish Cap) and overall not feeling like Ocarina of Time but worse like Twilight Princess did) is because your motivation as a player is completely different then most Zelda games. Let us take Ocarina of Time as an example since it is considered the best in the series. You see Zelda at the beginning and you see Zelda at the end. You don't really know her before and you never see her again after in that timeline. You don't care much about saving Zelda (Princess Peach has more character then her, especially due to the Mario RPGs), you want to save Hyrule. The funny gorons, the fat King Zora, Mido, the bully, the deku tree scrub that totally doesn't look like a really fat pikmin, Etc. You want to save the places you've been and the people you've met.

Skyward Sword completely flipflops this. There isn't that much to love about the surface world despite being well designed and fun to play through. You see likeable characters in it but it still isn't a place that you love. It doesn't even have a name (unless you count Grooseland). You know what the Surface World becomes anyways. Skyloft would be a place worth saving but you aren't fighting to save Skyloft. You're fighting to save Zelda. Right off the bat, Zelda is full of personality without really being that annoying (or at least she is less annoying then most high school girls). It isn't hard to make you like a character in the first 10 minutes of a book/movie/game/story of any sort (Twilight never figured this out and I still didn't care either way if she got eaten at the end of the book, but I'm off topic. It could be a video game topic but this isn't about Twilight: Scene It) and Skyward Sword has it down perfectly. They give the two of you an hour to bond and it was quite enough to make me want to rescue her for the other 59 hours.

Besides, on an island where the only girls that look close to Link's age are Karane, Zelda, the waitress whom I can't remember the name of and Peatrice. Karane and Pipit can become a couple, the kid who hangs out at the bar all day finally gets the attention of the waitress and Zelda only wants you so if Peatrice just waits a little while until the other male students are marrying age, she probably will be a bit more popular.

That reminds me (last point, I know this is really long but this is a subject I've thought about before this), Link has the worst class ever. It consists of the silent protagonist, the school bully and his two cronies and the weakling who gets bullied. Zelda isn't a student, I think so she doesn't count. And then only one student moves up to the senior class a year? Given how that class consists of Pipit and Karane and I know Pipit won the year before the game takes place, that seems to make sense. Considering how all the knights do is catch somebody who falls off Skyloft every once in a while, it seems silly that they have so many of them anyways. Don't even get why they need sword skills.

Gamesake

#37

Gamesake said:

I ruined Pipit's chances with Karane, because I knew she also had feelings for Link.

FluttershyGuy

#38

FluttershyGuy said:

@Phoenixborn
What I can't believe is that nobody has mentioned Birdo & Yoshi's romance! Come on, guys, no love for Birsh (or Yordo)? :p
@Gamesake
Forgot to mention: Good thing Sephiroth never got wind of Cloud getting dolled up for Don Corneo, or Cloud would never hear the end of it. :p

And it's always fun to hook Cawlin up with the toilet paper ghost, hee hee!

Usagi-san

#40

Usagi-san said:

huh? Zelda is a girl. Do you mean what if Zelda was an average girl and not a goddess?

Knuckles

#41

Knuckles said:

Can you please keep the SPOILERS out of this! Not all of us have played Skyward Sword, and your ruining the story for some readers. So the spoilers ive read here have me wondering, since i dont truly believe any spoiler i read, so if i told you zelda was a goddess, it would be the equivalent of me telling you zelda is shiek right? Hope that clears up my opinion on spoilers. Would you have wanted to know that back when you were playing though Ocarina of Time? Remember your favorite game being spoiled for you the next time you want it spoil it for someone else.

Usagi-san

#42

Usagi-san said:

Sheesh, don't get your knickers in a bunch. I did know that back when I was playing Ocarina of Time, but it didn't spoil anything for me. To be honest I hadn't even thought about my comment spoiling the story. Sorry.

Morpheel

#43

Morpheel said:

@knuckles: sorry, shouldn't have mentioned that Zelda is actually the reincarnation of Nayru and the original Oracle of Ages, who plays the lyre to travel back and forth through time several times during the game and who you find as an old lady near the beginning of the game.

Knuckles

#46

Knuckles said:

Thank you to those who understood what i meant. I just didnt want you guys to ruin the story for other people. The only reason i spoiled OoT, was because the game is going to be 14 years old opposed to Skyward Sword being almost 4 months old. Thanks

Masterjoe116

#47

Masterjoe116 said:

Skyward Sword was perhaps the only Zelda game that literally had me emotionally connected to Zelda. It's a very good point laid out in the article that the game flips the script a bit, changing the focus of "saving the world" because IT IS YOUR DESTINY to just wanting to save your lady. I've beaten the game and it was brilliant but I can distinctly recall being motivated to travel to each dungeon as quickly as I could not to try to stop the bad guys from doing stuff but to try to catch up and reunite with Zelda. As a core gamer I really should know better because there's always a script, but I honestly felt like if I just get there fast enough, maybe I can save her at the next dungeon, which in my opinion says a LOT for how well they engage the player into the storyline through the relationship between Link and Zelda.

Jade773

#50

Jade773 said:

aint played skyward yet but i can honestly say im not turning to nintendo for romance in a game

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