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The Legend of Zelda: Clockwork Empire
April 18, 2013 4:16 PM   Subscribe

Inspired by Anita Sarkeesian’s Video Game Tropes vs Women, internet cartoonist Aaron Diaz of Dresden Codak (Previously) wanted to pitch a Zelda game where Zelda herself was the hero, rescuing a Prince Link. The Legend of Zelda: Clockwork Empire is that pitch.

There's a FAQ with more info.

Direct links to the full-size images from the tumblr:
Cover art
Prince Link and Ganondorf
Calatian Empire, Foglands, and Hylian Ruins
Combat, weapons, and outfits
The Gauntlet of Gamelon and magic
Schools of magic example images
posted by laconic skeuomorph (22 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

On the one hand this is cool and seems like a lost Zelda game from the OoT-timeline and I would totally play it.

On the other, the only difference is what is essentially a palette-swap Link-for-Zelda. Yeah, you could play a Zelda game where Zelda is the hero as long as it plays exactly like existing Zelda games (unless that's the point that I'm missing?)

Windwaker was more interesting in making Zelda something other than a princess to be saved. (The DS sequels mucked that up though).
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:24 PM on April 18, 2013

“Thank You Zelda, But Our Heteronormativity is in Another Castle”
posted by Fizz at 4:33 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by Artw at 4:36 PM on April 18, 2013

What's with the noses? Are they chipmunks?
posted by ReeMonster at 4:37 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

a Zelda game where Zelda herself was the hero

At least two already exist: Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon and Zelda's Adventure. However, both are very obscure, released only on the Philips CD-i system. By reputation, both are poorly designed.

Zelda's due for a good game.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:42 PM on April 18, 2013

The good part about Diaz' redesign is that even though it was really half-hearted and kind of dumb (and really doesn't live up to the "feminist" take he himself labeled it with), I've gotten to see dozens of really good designs in response that don't sacrifice Zelda's femininity in order to make her the hero.

I'm going to try to see how many I can dig up, but it's really hard to find stuff on Tumblr after a week.
posted by flatluigi at 5:53 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ganandorf should be a woman too.
posted by michaelh at 6:10 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

On the other, the only difference is what is essentially a palette-swap Link-for-Zelda. Yeah, you could play a Zelda game where Zelda is the hero as long as it plays exactly like existing Zelda games (unless that's the point that I'm missing?)

A couple actually. From the FAQ:

Why is Zelda dressed similarly to Link?

Although there are notable differences (coloration, hood, shape of the tunic, and obviously the magic gauntlet) I’ll be the first to point out that Zelda’s outfit is more similar to a “Link outfit” than a princess’s dress. I’ve done this for a simple reason: Zelda is not a princess here, but an adventurer. A large amount of the imagery associated with Princess Zelda is the fact that she’s a princess; flowing gowns and elaborate patterns and jewelry just don’t fit with her backstory, nor are they practical for a wandering protagonist. There’s nothing wrong with that type of dress or imagery, but in context it’s as appropriate as Link wearing a simple green tunic if he’s supposed to be a monarch.

What makes the character of Zelda distinct from the character of Link?


Obviously both Zelda and Link possess wisdom and courage, but the play style of Link is a direct sword-and-shield approach, as he is the quintessential “heroic knight” protagonist. Solving puzzles and using your brain is essential to all of Link’s adventures, but if we were going to distinguish him from a Zelda-protagonist play style, I would say that Link stands his ground and marches into danger, while Zelda would take a more thoughtful approach. Link is scrappy and fearless, while Zelda is cunning and patient.

Both are heroes saving the day and crawling through dungeons, but their dispositions and skills change the way their adventures play out. While Link carries a shield, Zelda has a magical gauntlet representing her connection to the more mysterious elements of the setting. While Link finds just the right tool to help him through a dungeon, Zelda works out a spell or mystery. Link isn’t there to figure out how the world works, while Zelda is.
posted by nooneyouknow at 6:23 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes, just making the hero of the story female doesn't make something feminist, in fact quite often the opposite. I understand the idea that making Zelda anything other than a copy and paste of Link will make the game not a Zelda game.

Also, I have always had a irrational dislike for bad Steampunk in general and Diaz' taste in particular so this rubs me so hard in the wrong way. This is a shame, because this kind of thing is exactly what the franchise needs.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:27 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Aaron Diaz Zelda pitch has some interesting ideas, and (naturally, given Dresdan Codak) beautiful art and world design... but the core idea seems flawed. Why introduce a new playable hero, only to have the look and play almost exactly like Link? Why redesign Link as a posh nobleman when it's completely inconsistent with Link's character and history? Why does Link need to be rescued? I understand the impulse to flip gender tropes, but surely there's a better plot device than just 'hey, rescue that guy?'

As a character, Zelda brings an interesting mix of abilities to the table. She's more magically-inclined than Link, and she spent years training man ninja skills as Shiek. On the other hand, she's more physically fragile.

Zelda could use her magic and agility to solve puzzles, stun enemies, and reach hard-to-reach areas. She could have Prince of Persia-esque climbing abilities, the ability to sneak up on enemies, and spells that freeze enemies in place. The game could focus less on combat and dungeons, and more on the overworld and the kinds of puzzles that Majora's Mask introduced. Or something. But making her play exactly like Link is just lazy.

On edit: whatnooneyouknow said.
posted by Green Winnebago at 6:28 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

While Link finds just the right tool to help him through a dungeon, Zelda works out a spell or mystery. Link isn’t there to figure out how the world works, while Zelda is.

So...Aquaria, then?

(Also, I love this. Aaron Diaz's redesigns are always fun.)
posted by lumensimus at 6:40 PM on April 18, 2013

No no no she's a princess who turns into a queen, she manages stuff, so a grand-strategy game with the different races and macro management. The point of her being Sheik was that she was pulling Link along the whole time and pushing him in the right direction, as if here were the knight on the chess set that is Hyrule. Hyrulia Universalis!
posted by dubusadus at 7:05 PM on April 18, 2013

Hey Green Winebago...
You did see that whaynooneyouknow posted was directly from the FAQ of the pitch we're discussing, right?
posted by elr at 7:26 PM on April 18, 2013

I've never been a huge fan of Diaz' redesigns, and fairly often I feel his changes miss the point of a character for the sake of going for a look that he likes (see his take on Cyborg, for example). I really don't think this take on Zelda adds much to conversation about her as the subject of tropes, instead just being essentially a palette/gender swap of Link from Twilight Princess.

(Seriously, tell me this and this aren't remarkably close in look and feel.)

However, on the flip side, I really liked Morbi's attempt to reimagine Zelda into a main character. Annalandin's was also particularly good, especially his/her look at the problematic racial stuff around the Gerudo
posted by themadthinker at 8:30 PM on April 18, 2013

I really, really don't like his Doctor Strange.
posted by Artw at 8:49 PM on April 18, 2013

I like this. Yes, the main purple costume is just a palette swap of Link, but as the creator points out, dungeon clothes are going to be pretty much the same regardless of gender (although I don't think the hat should be pointy). And there's different outfits mentioned, which don't necessarily have to be androgynous.

I'm imagining Zelda as quiet, mischievous, and manipulative, unlike Link, who is loud, straightforward, and kind of hapless. (I think the contrast shows up best in the early parts of Wind Waker, with Tetra. Also to an extent in OoT, esp. given that Shiek manipulates Link the whole time.) It works with the different gameplay style too: I can imagine the Zeldas from others games really enjoying sneaking around and dodging past their enemies. That would also change how the player relates to their avatar. I root for Link because he seems to be struggling and terrified. I'm not sure how I'd respond to a confident avatar who seemed to be enjoying herself, but I can imagine it really working, especially if the character was presented as out of her depth but cocky and optimistic anyway. (I'm imagining like, Zelda laughing at her enemies during a fight when Link would be shouting "HAAA?!" instead.)

I don't see how this pitch necessarily sacrifices Zelda's femininity -- it wouldn't be too hard to make the character "feminine": just give her recognizably female mannerisms, the way Link has his boyish yells and rolls and amusing facial expressions. Unless the idea is that it should be possible to make a game where the hero is a stereotypical princess, wearing a dress and very domestic, but she isn't condemned for that or made helpless. Which I can get behind, I guess, but it seems like it couldn't have much fighting or dungeon exploration without sacrificing the whole concept anyway, at which point it's not much of a Zelda game IMO.

On preview: I like those other redesigns a lot, particularly the first, where Zelda is like a cloak-wearing wizard. Zelda-in-a-battle-dress is a pretty great design, although I still prefer the purple tunic (I guess I just don't think the gender-neutral outfit would necessarily make the character seem androgynous.). On the other hand, the idea of Link as a trickster makes him a completely different character: he's kind of supposed to be the goofy straight man.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:57 PM on April 18, 2013

I've got to say: I'm fine with a pallet swap. Why can't little girls play the same games little boys can, but with female heroes? I mean, when someone swaps Link into a girl for his daughter, people applaud, and when someone swaps Pauline and Mario people applaud, whey not just make the game with a selection at the start?
posted by Canageek at 9:41 PM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

2bucksplus: "Yeah, you could play a Zelda game where Zelda is the hero as long as it plays exactly like existing Zelda games (unless that's the point that I'm missing?)"

Well, OoT was pretty much the best game ever, so I can't really see the point of messing with success just to be original. I mean, insisting that Zelda as a hero should play / be different than Link as a hero seems to emphasize rather than minimize gender differences. And yea, Prince Link may feel like a cop out, but the original Zelda's plot device was equally uninspired.

New idea: Zelda gameplay, with Nahoko Uehashi (Seirei no Moriboto) writing the plot. In fact, I'm trying to figure out what it says about Japanese culture that this hasn't happened yet.
posted by pwnguin at 10:05 PM on April 18, 2013

What I really want is to play the flip side of Ocarina of Time and find out what Zelda was doing behind the scenes for the last six years. It seems like a sure win on all counts.
posted by darksasami at 2:22 AM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

> I'm imagining Zelda as quiet, mischievous, and manipulative, unlike Link, who is loud, straightforward, and kind of hapless.

Yes! Link always seems comically surprised by the fact that stuff continues to be dangerous on his adventures. I see Zelda as more stoic and willing to do what needs to be done than manipulative, but at the very least I bet her reaction to yet another door slamming shut behind her would just be a pause and an inward sigh.
posted by lucidium at 3:27 AM on April 19, 2013

there's already a Zelda style game starring a woman with a magic gauntlet
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:48 PM on April 19, 2013

Watch This, Please: GDC’s #1ReasonToBe Panel
posted by homunculus at 4:43 PM on April 23, 2013

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