Untapped Potential: The Hero of Winds
It’s been a while, but here we are with only the fourth entry into this series of blogs conceived to dig deeper into the existing narrative lore present in The Legend of Zelda franchise and explore what the future might hold. In the same way I examined the hypothetical exploits of Child Link from OoT and MM, I’d like to take a look at the Hero of Winds. For the uninitiated, The Hero of Winds refers to the Link featured in The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass. The Wind Waker has long been my favorite game in the franchise (indeed, my favorite game period), and the aptly-named Toon Link has been my favorite Link within the franchise. To me, he perfectly encapsulates the themes of childhood innocence and unadulterated courage overcoming the powers of darkness, which I consider an integral part of the Zelda charm. As such, I’d like to see Nintendo revisit this Link and show us just what happened to him following the bizarre events of Phantom Hourglass.
My last entry in Untapped Potential was a bit long, so I’ve kept this one a little brief…briefer.
What We Know
The Hero of Winds begins his adventure as a young boy living a quiet life on Outset Island in the care of his Grandmother. Link and his sister Aryll appear to live relatively carefree, taking pleasure in spying on mailmen and disturbing their elderly neighbors from time to time. It isn’t until after Link rescues Tetra atop a forested mountain and witnesses the kidnapping of his sister that he decides to leave the island and take up the mantle of adventurer. After a series of whimsical events involving a talking boat, flying postmen, tree people, and a visit to the drowned land of Hyrule, Link is declared the Hero of Winds and chosen to wield the Master Sword for the purposes of defeating Ganondorf once and for all. The Hero of Winds is not directly descended from the Hero of Time (at least, according to The King of Red Lions), and his claim to the Triforce of Courage is a little unclear…was it simply a matter of proving his worth to the Gods, or is he indeed the Hero of Time reborn as Ganondorf claims before their final encounter? Whatever the case, The Hero of Winds is the first recorded hero within the Adult Timeline, and holds a very important place within the annals of Hyrule’s history.
After Link and Zelda/Tetra defeat Ganondorf at the conclusion of The Wind Waker, they sail off to find a new land reestablish the Kingdom of Hyrule. Along the way, they are swept up in the events of The Ocean King, in a game-length dream sequence that only takes up ten minutes of Link and Tetra’s real-world time. After sailing for an undetermined amount of time, they discover a new continent and establish New Hyrule, where the events of Spirit Tracks take place approximately 100 years later.
What We Don’t Know
Most of what we don’t know regarding The Hero of Winds after the events of Phantom Hourglass was already touched on in a previous Untapped Potential entry.
Essentially…we don’t know anything.
After Link and Tetra discover the continent that would become New Hyrule, what exactly happened that led to that establishment? Did Link and Tetra work together to build a new kingdom? Did they go their separate ways? If Link did stick around, what exactly was his role? If Link left Tetra’s side before/during/after New Hyrule was established, where did he go/what did he do? As an adventurer, does it make more sense for Link to continue exploring uncharted territory beyond the horizon, or to settle down within the newly established kingdom and live out the rest of his days quietly? What about Link’s family back on Outset Island? Has he left them for good, or does he pine for their company while sailing an endless ocean?
Where We Can Go From Here
Since there’s virtually no official information regarding The Hero of Winds’ exploits after Phantom Hourglass, there’s a plethora of narrative potential waiting to be tapped into. The Hero of Winds is a proven adventurer and sailor, effectively making him free to go and do whatever he pleases and allowing Nintendo to go and do whatever THEY please. The answer to all the speculative questions regarding Link in the previous paragraph is “it could happen.” So, we could hypothesize just about anything and it wouldn’t be outside the realms of possibility, no matter how outrageous. Link could be the Demon King Malladus, for all we know.
…however, to keep things within the realms of Zelda tradition, I have settled on something not quite so outlandish…
Here’s what I was thinking: As a sailor, I believe it would fall more in line with Link’s character to see him continue sailing the Great Sea, even after he and Tetra discover and establish New Hyrule. The spirit of adventure takes hold of our young hero, and the sea beckons him to ride the waves of discovery once more. For the scenario I have in mind, this wanderlust could occur immediately after Link and Tetra find New Hyrule or after the New Hyrule Kingdom had been established. It makes no difference. Also, looking at the cast of characters in Spirit Tracks, it appears that only two of the original pirate crew from The Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass remained in New Hyrule (Niko and Gonzo). It’s possible that while those two remained in New Hyrule with Tetra, the rest of the pirates shipped out with Link and became his crew. I love this idea, and it sets the stage for where I’d like to see Nintendo take Toon Link.
After taking on a crew and getting a bigger ship, Link leaves New Hyrule in order to do nothing as grand as save the world. Rather, he’d simply be exploring. Sailing the vast seas and going wherever the hell he wanted to go, visiting islands or plundering enemy ships like any true free-spirited captain would do. During his travels, Link could be swept up in the plights of indigenous island people, or discover treasures untold from the depths of the Great Sea. All in the name of…nothing in particular. If this sounds familiar, it’s because I pretty much just described Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. I admit to not really liking Black Flag, or any AC game for that matter, but the times I DID enjoy Black Flag were when I was allowed to explore the world at my leisure. Ideally, this hypothetical Zelda game would take those elements of freedom and put them unequivocally in the spotlight. Everything accomplishable in the game would be done through exploring an undiscovered world.
Some people hated the sailing in The Wind Waker. I loved it. It was superior to the tedious sailing in Phantom Hourglass and contributed to what I consider the most expansive spirit of adventure seen in a Zelda game. In the game I have in mind, sailing once again plays a big part in the overall gameplay. However, a few tweaks and additions here and there would work to improve the very simple mechanic seen in The Wind Waker. Once again, I call upon Black Flag for reference. With a larger ship and a crew, players would be tasked with keeping track of ship maintenance, wind direction, tides, etc. I would hate to see things get TOO complicated, but I would also hate to see the sailing be completely unchanged from The Wind Waker. This adventure would be bigger than the one featured in The Wind Waker, and as such, the sailing mechanics ought to be more developed and involved.
In my vision, Link would not be restricted from visiting any of the islands included in this hypothetical game. He and his crew could stop wherever they wished, restocking supplies and interacting with the locals in whatever capacity they wished. Some islands would be teeming with life and activity with a plethora of side-quests and mini-games for Link to engage in. Other items might be completely devoid of life and activity, serving no purpose…at least, at first. In the The Wind Waker, there was a side-quest involving Traveling Merchants that required Link to trade items between four purveyors of rare items, essentially acting as a currier. In my hypothetical game, Link would once again employ his business savvy by negotiating trade deals with merchants, perhaps in the same manner as was seen in The Wind Waker. Completing trade deals would afford Link better deals at shops, or perhaps access to Black Market items. Those uninhabited islands I mentioned? Perhaps after discovering and laying claim to them, Link could rent them out to various businessmen attempting to expand their businesses.
Classic Zelda elements could exist in this capacity, as some islands might be home to traditional Zelda dungeons to be plundered and bosses to be crushed. By doing this, Link could obtain items to upgrade his ship or outfit his crew with better equipment. Hell, there could even be a core story present throughout all this. However, the most important thing I’d like to see present in this hypothetical game is the pure spirit of autonomous adventure. The Hero of Winds should be seen as the embodiment of such a thing.
The best thing about this hypothetical game is that the possibilities are completely open-ended. The Hero of Winds does not appear in Spirit Tracks, so we aren’t tethered by time or place requirements with regards to Toon Link himself. He could sail off the edge of the world and it wouldn’t be breaking any canon laws within the currently established lore. There are tons of races within the Zelda franchise, and they could all be given their own islands within this hypothetical game. Nintendo could even introduce new races to the mix.
Of all the Untapped Potentials I’ve done so far, I would have to say the ideas presented in this entry are the most plausible in terms of ever becoming a game. I speculated after last E3 that Zelda U (still hate calling it that) might be another sequel to The Wind Waker, partially thanks to Link’s blue duds and Nintendo’s decision to use a brighter color palette again. Time will tell, but I would be thrilled to see the franchise focus on The Hero of Winds again…