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Untapped Potential: Child Link

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    *THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT Hardcore Casual Gamer*

For the first entry in this series, I decided to start with the topic I’m most interested in.  All this talk of Majora’s Mask recently has turned my thoughts toward private inquiries that have materialized in several online comments and discussions.  Following Ocarina of Time in the Child Timeline, we see our hero traveling about in seemingly aimless fashion in search of Navi, only to get wrapped up in the plight of a doomed land in a parallel reality beset by the machinations of a trouble-maker possessed by the spirit of a malevolent entity.  After traveling back in times countless times and disposing of Majora, Link makes his way beyond the outskirts of Termina, rides into the sunset, and then…what?   Between Majora’s Mask and the next canonical entry, Twilight Princess, there are hundreds of years that pass in which some events are mentioned, but never featured in a Zelda game (notably, the capture and banishment of Ganondorf).  In those hundreds of years between Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess, Link’s exploits after the events of Majora’s Mask are unclear and oft debated in the community.  This entry will examine the possible exploits of Link leading up to his eventual death, after the events of Majora’s Mask and before the events of Twilight Princess.

What We Know

In the English translation of Hyrule Historia, it has been confirmed that the Hero’s Shade that teaches Twilight Princess’s Link his sword techniques is indeed the Hero of Time, existing as a lingering spirit.  In the Japanese edition of Hyrule Historia, however, this confirmation does not exist.  For the purposes of this entry, I will assume the former, and accept that the Hero’s Shade is the Hero of Time.  With this in mind, we know that following his exploits in Majora’s Mask, Link did indeed linger on and somewhere along the way met his end (assuming Link is subject to the painful realities of mortality).  We also know, based on the dialogue featured in Twilight Princess and the information in Hyrule Historia, that Link died carrying heavy regrets revolving around the Era he lives in not being able to recognize his accomplishments as a hero.

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When Link returned to the Child Era after defeating Ganon in Ocarina of Time, his heroic deeds were merely a tale told by a young boy, taken at face value by a similarly young Princess Zelda.  Though he and Zelda were able to convince the King of Hyrule that Ganondorf was indeed a threat against the peace and prevented the King of Thieves from ever entering the sacred realm, Link’s legacy as a time-traveling Hero who essentially saved the world was a mere fairy tale in an Era where none of his adventures ever took place.  Without that reputation, Link was just another kid in the eyes of the rest of Hyrule.  With this being the case, Link decides to leave Hyrule in search of his fairy companion, Navi, who apparently suffers some kind of dissociative fugue after returning to the Child Era with Link.  Then, of course, the events of Majora’s Mask occur in which Link stumbles into a parallel dimension and saves that realm from a bad case of heavenly bodies colliding.   Link rides Epona into the sunset and then…

What We Don’t Know

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The first thing to keep in mind is that it’s never made clear whether or not Link is able to leave the realm in which Termina exists.  Hyrule Historia makes it clear that Termina is a parallel world, and that Link’s whereabouts following his departure from Clock Town are unknown (a direct quote from Hyrule Historia: “The Hero took his leave of Termina, and his whereabouts after that are unknown”).

While this could be taken to mean that Link somehow did leave the parallel realm and return to the land of Hyrule, it’s a bit of an assumption.  One piece of evidence that exists to support the idea that Link returned to his own realm is the fact that the Hero’s Shade exists in the Hyrule Kingdom featured in Twilight Princess.  Of course, matters of spiritual beings and parallel dimensions don’t really follow the laws of reality or logic, so we can safely assume just about anything in this case.  I like to think that Link did manage to return to Hyrule, through the same means he found himself in Termina in the first place.

Did Link ever find Navi?  His main reason for leaving Hyrule was to reunite with his fairy companion (the other reason being Zelda enlisting Link to safeguard the Ocarina of Time and get as far away from Hyrule/Ganondorf as possible), and it stands to reason that at least some of his time spent after the events of Majora’s Mask was spent in search mode.  How would Link even go about finding Navi?  It would make sense to ask the Great Deku Tree, whom Navi had a close relationship with, but unfortunately the Guardian of The Forest is suffering from a bad case of petrification.  Link can no longer return to the Adult Timeline using his old methods, having left the Master Sword in the Temple of Time to safeguard the Sacred Realm, so asking anybody from that era is ruled out.  Whatever Link’s methods in his search, finding Navi or not remains an integral part of his journey after Majora’s Mask.

Once Link finds Navi, or abandons his search should it prove fruitless, what then?

Though we know Link died somewhere in between Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess, the circumstances of his death are a mystery.  Was his passing away untimely, or did he simply fade slowly into death as time marched on?  We can assume that he died without having accomplished anything comparable to his exploits in Ocarina of Time, or he would not have died with the regrets he carries as the Hero’s Shade.  Had he become a hero once more, the realms would no doubt recognize his accomplishments and honor him in ways befitting a savior of the realm (this is evident in the Adult Timeline, where Link’s heroic legacy as the Hero of Time is honored and passed down through the ages).

Where Can We Go From Here?

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The narrative direction I have in mind centers on Link searching for Navi by scouring the realms searching for clues hinting at her whereabouts.  This would involve Link riding from town to town, dungeon to dungeon, talking to NPCs, poring through documents, and beating information out of enemies/unsavory characters.  This would lead to Link either finding Navi, or discovering that she has indeed disappeared for good.  Depending on the outcome of his search, the rest of the tale told would feature a Link reinvigorated and ambitious at having reunited with his old friend, or melancholy and pensive at having to cope with the loss of a valuable friend and attempt to move on.  Upon finding/not finding Navi, Link would then have to find a way to occupy the rest of his days…

According to Hyrule Historia, the capture and execution of Ganondorf (seen as a flashback in Twilight Princess) takes place after the events of Majora’s Mask, though it’s not clear exactly HOW long.  Could Link have assisted in the capture of the Demon Thief?  It’s certainly possible, as Link knows firsthand the grave threat Ganondorf poses to Hyrule.  In this arc of the tale, Link would pursue Ganondorf as he fled from capture, chasing him through the various landscapes of Hyrule while cutting down his minions and eventually coming face to face with the Demon Thief in an encounter that resulted in the successful detainment of the notorious villain.  Twilight Princess tells us that after Ganondorf caught wind of the King’s decision to have him imprisoned, Ganondorf let his true colors show as he fled, tearing across the land and laying waste to all those in his path.  As Link pursued the villain, he would be subject to the aftermath of Ganondorf’s rampage, watching as towns burned and citizens cried out for abetment.  This would play out in a manner similar to Link’s search for Navi, as he made his way through the realm in search of Ganondorf, perhaps obtaining information/items essential to the arrest of the Demon Thief.  Now, it would be one thing to have Link perish during this encounter (which might explain why he wasn’t present for Ganondorf’s execution), but that would also lend itself to Link being remembered as the brave hero that gave his life in order to bring Ganondorf to justice.   However, I envision something a little different…

Once Ganondorf had been brought to justice, Link would have to find another way of keeping himself busy.  One might argue that Link retired quietly and lived the rest of his days in peace, but that wouldn’t be a very fun game, would it?  Instead, I see Link employing his impressive skill-set in a life of adventuring and mercenary, acting as a sort of hero-for-hire.  He’s obtained an absurd amount of weapons and items throughout his lifetime at this point, so why not put them to good use?  In this, we would take control of Link as he wandered the land of Hyrule in search of quests, perhaps plundering ruins as he has done countless times before, without the ‘I gotta do this to save the world’ connotation.  Additionally, Link might find himself in a position to bring ne’er-do-wells to justice for rewards and riches.  Through this scenario, we’d see Link grow from a young man into a hardened adult, a warrior/adventurer of unparalleled caliber.

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Despite this measure of success, in keeping with canon, we have to assume that Link adventures in a manner that isolates him from the rest of Hyrule.  The Hero’s Shade makes it clear that Link believes his legacy was lost following his death, as he passes along his sword-fighting skills to the Link of Twilight Princess.  Some have suggested that after Majora’s Mask, Link joined Hyrule’s military forces.  I don’t believe this fits well into the canon, as that would afford Link countless opportunities to teach other warriors his sword skills (though one could argue that nobody in Hyrule’s army could master Link’s skill-set, despite his best efforts, I am disinclined to believe that).  Instead, I see Link continuing to traipse about the land in search of adventure, reaching old age without taking on a prodigy or recording his knowledge, perhaps out of negligence or even indifference.  By the time Link realizes that he will have no lasting legacy, he may have journeyed too far away from those he knew in order to return, or has alienated the realm in a way that causes them to treat him with disdain or grudging respect instead of honor and admiration.  Link then passes on into the spirit realm without having left a real mark on the world as he had done in alternate timelines and dimensions he left behind…sniff

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The most fascinating prospect when looking at Child Link’s legacy following Majora’s Mask for me is the psychological changes that might occur in our young hero as he journeys to his inevitable demise.  In addition to the implications of Link finding Navi or not (see above), imagine the impact of living in a world where no one knows/believes that he literally saved the world from slipping into darkness, or chooses not to acknowledge that based on lack of evidence or apathy.  Though Link is noted for his heroism and courage, it’s not outside the realms of possibility that this current state of affairs would embitter the young Hylian, effectively placing a chip on his shoulder and adding an edge to a character we could have called a Boy Scout in Ocarina of Time (or even Majora’s Mask).  On the flip-side, it’s also easy to imagine Link carrying on with his head held high, ever the steadfast hero with nothing but honor and nobility to straighten his spine and carry his feet forward.  As Link grows into an adult and eventually an old man, we could see the once-proud and noble hero being ravaged by the onslaught of passing years, growing more weary and forlorn as time marched on.  Perhaps the regrets we see the Hero’s Shade lament only took hold of Link in his final hours, while pondering his legacy and waiting for death to take him.  Watching this psychological progression take place across Link’s face as he grows older is something I would love to see in the digital medium of a full-fledged Zelda game.

Due to the nature of the first two narrative elements described above, the gameplay would be mostly linear in the same vein as Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker.  Though the idea of having to investigate and explore each area Link visits in his search for Navi/Ganondorf lends itself to a certain level of immersion, it does relegate the game’s narrative largely to linear progression (unless players were allowed to employ a trial-and-error method of investigation in which they had absolutely no indication as to where Link’s search should begin).  In contrast to that, the third portion of the tale lends itself more to open-endedness, letting Link explore the world at his leisure without much of an end-goal in mind.  In this regard, putting this tale into game form would combine the two elements that seem to divide the Zelda fan base.

In my blog detailing my thoughts on what Nintendo could potentially do with The Imprisoning Wars, I suggested that approaching the event with RTS gameplay elements in mind would be the most effective way to present it.  In the case of exploring Child Link’s exploits after Majora’s Mask, it seems to me that the best choice in regards to gameplay would be to stick with the traditional, 3rd person action-adventure formula seen in most console Zelda games, or the overhead style of TLOZ, ALttP and the handheld titles.  With the investigative nature described in the first two story arcs, it might also be interesting to bring back the dousing mechanic seen in Skyward Sword, or even introduce some of the exploratory mechanics seen in Metroid Prime or even the detective elements of Batman’s Arkham series of games.  It would also make sense to have some sort of method for keeping track of the clues Link has obtained, which would also lend itself to keeping track of active missions that would be the focus of the third story arc.  Perhaps the Wii U’s Gamepad/3DS Touch Screen could be used to keep hand-written notes in a journal/map? Hmm…

That about wraps it up.  I would have liked to explore some of the individual elements presented here in more depth, but I didn’t really want this to turn into a bloated chore of a read.   Next time, I’ll be taking on untouched narrative elements from a different timeline in the Zelda lore.  See ya then!

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