Playable Zelda likely isn’t coming in Breath of the Wild 2. I’ve made my peace with that eventuality, even if it could help push the series forward in some truly meaningful ways. When all is said and done, Link is the hero of this story – the Hero of Time if you haven’t heard – and his presence is more than enough to carry an open world adventure we’ll spend hours being enamoured with when it arrives in 2022. Another mystery protagonist could be waiting in the wings, but whether they are related to Zelda remains to be seen.
However, the recent gameplay trailer has me concerned about Princess Zelda’s exact role in the story, and whether she will once again act as a passive heroine who finds herself trapped in Hyrule Castle until Link can muster up the power to save her. Breath of the Wild saw Link venturing into Hyrule Castle to rescue Zelda, who had been holding the evil of Calamity Canon at bay for 100 years. Her power was fading, and she required Link’s help to prevent her kingdom from falling into an inescapable state of ruin.
Breath of the Wild 2 seems to follow a similar trajectory, except Hyrule Castle is floating in the sky this time. See, it makes all the difference. Except it doesn’t really, and I can’t help but feel that potentially relegating Princess Zelda into the role of a helpless damsel in distress once again does a disservice to what is easily the best iteration of this character to date. In many ways, Zelda is the star of the show, especially in the previous game’s flashbacks where her struggle with accepting royal power and the inevitable loss of her friends becomes a crux for the unfolding narrative.
Link can’t speak, making Zelda the emotional core of a story in desperate need of one. Our protagonist can only stop and stare, providing the occasional nod or grunt to ensure he is with Zelda regardless of whatever circumstances might greet them. Given that so many of Breath of the Wild’s strongest moments are fragmented flashbacks and snapshots of Link’s own memories, it told a wonderfully coherent story of bittersweet heroism. Sacrifices are required to save the world, and Zelda is fully aware of the need to step forward and face the music even if it means giving herself up. She does this, but Link is able to save her, and Breath of the Wild 2 should explore their new lives and the inevitable threat that has the potential to wipe them out once again.
I’ve touched on Breath of the Wild’s ending before, and how it’s an almost perfect example of melancholic hopefulness. The evil is vanquished, and now Link and Zelda are tasked with forming a new life together, with rebuilding Hyrule and comprehending what’s next after hundreds of years away from home. Hyrule is both keenly familiar and an unknown quantity, with so much changing over the past century while many of its core fundamentals remain the same. Now they need to move onward and figure out what to do next, carrying all of their past losses on their shoulders while adding further responsibilities to the pile.
The final moments still make me tear up, acting as the perfect distillation of why these characters are so excellent. Zelda is steadfast in her resilience, but willing to fall victim to her emotions when it really matters. She’s vulnerable, but in a way that simply serves to make her stronger as she moves proudly into the future. Breath of the Wild 2 presumably takes place in the present, with Link and Zelda exploring alongside one another as they rebuild the region into an image they can be proud of. This inevitably leads them to investigate some unusual occurrences beneath Hyrule Castle. Because they’re the unluckiest duo in the world, this releases yet another ancient evil as Zelda is yeeted into a pit and Link finds himself adorned with a bad case of neon zombie arm. Time to save the world again, I guess.
We only see Princess Zelda fall into a pit in the trailer, presumably descending deeper into the castle’s inner sanctum. Can’t she just climb back out, or is she stuck there until we fish her back out once the final boss is dealt with? I sincerely hope it’s the former, or Nintendo is throwing us a red herring and the true circumstances of the narrative are being cleverly hidden from view. The company has said it’s holding the true title back for Breath of the Wild 2 in fear of spoilers, and the skyward version of Link only ever being framed from the back has convinced me it is another character entirely.
But could it be Zelda? I’m unsure, partly because one outfit would leave her breasts completely exposed. I know Nintendo is daring these days, but not that daring. I reckon it’s an alternative version of Link or Zelda from another timeline, or a new face entirely who was awakened beneath Hyrule Castle. The possibilities are endless, and I hope their true identity serves the story of our main duo instead of taking away from it. The debate is fierce across our editorial team right now, and I adore how such a small trailer has sparked such an intense discussion.
Whether it’s Link, Zelda, or something completely out of left field like Waluigi – I just hope the Princess isn’t left to gather dust as a prisoner beneath Hyrule Castle. As I mentioned earlier, Breath of the Wild’s timeline now exists in the present, offering a level of dramatic agency that simply isn’t possible with flashbacks. Our emotions will react to an ongoing story we’re an integral part of, instead of pondering on flashbacks whose participants have long since met their end. Princess Zelda is the strongest character of the whole lot, and pushing her aside purely so Link has a passive damsel to save is woefully archaic writing this series could do without. Who knows, I still have a feeling she’ll be playable. Or there will be time travel. Screw it – do whatever you want, Nintendo.
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