The Evolution of Link | Yellow Spandex #27 | NowThis Nerd

Hello, Hylians, I’m Andrew, and with 'Smash' right around the corner, this episode of 'Yellow Spandex' is all about the legendary hero from Nintendo’s Zelda series He’s been called by many names, depending on what you title your save game, but until Nintendo makes ‘MY DUDE’ canon, you probably know him best as Link

So hang on to your hookshots, and tune up the band, because this is The Design Evolution of Link Let’s start with Link’s origins in The 2D Era Link debuted on February 21, 1986, in ‘The Legend of Zelda’ for the Famicom Disk System, which released on the American NES a year and a half later Woah! NICE GRAPHICS! I'd like to get my hands on that game! You mean you haven't played it yet? Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto is a big fan of classic animation, so he had a simple request for sprite designer Takashi Tezuka: He wanted Link to look like Peter Pan as he appeared in Disney’s 1953 film The green tunic, long hat, and pointy ears are all tributes to JM Barrie’s beloved character, as are the fairies that flutter around Hyrule

I don’t know where those sideburns came from, but Link’s look was pretty much locked, and every game up to and including ‘Breath of the Wild’ would iterate on the same basic design One element that was quickly dropped, however, was the giant cross on Link’s shield, because Judeo-Christian iconography doesn’t really jive with Hylia’s holy trinity When it came time for the sequel, the slightly taller Link stuck with the same design, just with some brown pants to cover up his grown-up legs Both of these portrayals would influence the short-lived animated series version of Link, although here he’s less of a silent, spritely elf, and more like an extremely annoying grown-ass man doing his worst Steve Martin impression Well excuuuuuuuuse me, Princess! The series took a break for a few years as Nintendo transitioned to the 16-bit era, and when Zelda finally debuted on the new Super Nintendo in 1992, it came with a brand new Link

Or rather, a new old Link, since ‘A Link to the Past’ was set years before the two NES classics The SNES link doesn’t stray too far from his 8-bit ancestors, he’s a little taller, a little more stylized, and for the first time, his hair is portrayed as a dirty blonde rather than a dark brown, at least, in the official artwork Link’s ingame sprite, on the other hand, is rocking a purple-pink mop beneath his hat The discrepancy has never been addressed, although most theories attribute it to the SNES’s palette limitations, and Link’s transition to a fluffy pink bunny in the Dark World Either way, much like Samus’s green hair, the cotton candy look never became canon, not even in the horrendous CDI Zeldas from around this time, MAH BOI! This peace is what all true warriors strive for! I just wonder what Ganon's up to! and he returned to a more traditional look for his debut in The Third Dimension In early test footage for what was then called the ‘Ultra 64,’ Nintendo showed off a polygonal Link that looked a lot like his NES predecessors, complete with big sideburns, brunette hair, and brown undergarments

But when 'Ocarina of Time' finally hit the scene years later, we were treated to not one but two new visions of the Hero of Time: There’s the Kokiri cutie known as Young Link, and his hotter, older self Yeahhh Artist Yoshiaki Koizumi was in charge of Link’s design, and while he originally toyed with making the character even more cartooney, with a big, Mario-esque nose and sideburns that would make Don Mattingly jealous, Mattingly! Get rid of those sideburns! What sideburns? You heard me, hippie! at the suggestion of his wife, he turned adult Link into the handsome hunk we’re all familiar with today, a Hylian Leonardo DiCaprio complete with sharp features and hip blue earrings that somehow appeared during his years of hibernation in the Temple of Time Don't you hate when you go to bed and you wake up and you've just got earrings now? Koizumi didn’t want to make him too cool, though, that wouldn’t be very Nintendo, so he gave him some long, white underwear to dork him up a bit And, so you can give him a wedgie

It's a glitch A little secret Easter egg

Give him a wedgie The sequel ‘Majora’s Mask’ focused primarily on Link’s younger self and used the same basic models and character designs from ‘Ocarina,’ although we did get some variety through Link’s transformations into various Hylian species, not to mention his edgelord-tastic turn as a Fierce Deity After the masterpiece that was ‘Majora,’ and the pretty awesome ‘Oracle’ games, Zelda fans were fiending to find out what a next-generation Link would look like, and they got their first taste in the year 2000, at the now-defunct Spaceworld expo

To hype their upcoming Gamecube system, Nintendo showed off an infamous demo that featured 14 seconds of Link and Ganondorf dueling it out Fans were intrigued by the dark tone, down-to-earth design, and realistic rendering, but the game they eventually got was about as far from grim and gritty as it gets Imagine seeing 14 seconds of 'The Dark Knight,' and getting 'Lego Batman' Director Eiji Aonuma hated the Spaceworld showing He thought it was too derivative of ‘Ocarina’ and everything that had come before, and didn’t give them any room to improve on the aesthetic

Then, out of the blue, artist Yoshiki Haruhana showed him a simple drawing of a cute, stylized, cartoon Link, that invigorated the entire crew and set them on a bold new course But when they debuted the new look at the next year’s Spaceworld, it was met with a mixed reception Remember, Nintendo has always battled with the perception that their games are strictly for kids, and a lot of people were hoping that the darker, edgier Link would earn some respect from their console peers who were busy blowing people away in ‘GTA 3’ Word? Can I borrow that? You got a Playstation 2? Naw, I got Gamecast Well, there's Gamecube and there's Dreamcast, what you got? I said I got Gamecast, man, damn, I can't afford it! They mockingly called the game “Cel-da,” after its use of cel-shading that gave the flooded world of Hyrule a flat and colorful look, but once ‘The Wind Waker’ released, it turned out to be A Breath of Fresh Air ‘Wind Waker’s’ brilliant aesthetic has helped it age a lot better than most games of its era, and its adorable incarnation of Link became an icon of his own right

From his adorable lobster pajamas, the first time we see Link in his civilian clothes, to his simplified but still stylish tunic, tights, and hat, Toon Link has become one of the longest lasting looks in the whole franchise, appearing in ‘Four Swords,’ ‘Minish Cap’ and a bunch of DS Games, and as his own separate character in ‘Smash’ When it came time for ‘Twilight Princess,’ however, Nintendo walked back their bold decision and decided to give fans what they thought they wanted: ‘Ocarina of Time’ with better graphics and a more “realistic” presentation And, after spending way too much time in Link’s villager attire, we get a new version of the traditional design that is indeed more practical than any that came before It’s got layers, depth, and a level of detail that we’d never seen in Link’s costume, but still grounded in the classic design, with one huge exception: Thanks to a last minute Wii conversion that threw in some waggle controls, this is the first game where Link isn’t portrayed as left-handed And if you want an even more radical departure, you can always turn into a wolf, where the only remnants of Link’s trademark look are his little blue earrings, or you can dig up the Ancient Hero, the Link from ‘Ocarina’ who died and came back wearing armor that would look right at home in ‘Skyrim

’ 2011’s ‘Skyward Sword’ tried to walk back the realism a bit, with a slightly stylized look, and a less desaturated costume complete with poofy pants Unlike most Zeldas, this Link isn’t some random elf-boy or villager, he’s a knight in training, an idea that cool details like chainmail really help to sell ‘Hyrule Warriors’ gave us an even more badass version of Link, with plated shoulder armor and a flowing blue scarf, and ‘Triforce Heroes’ was literally built around dressing our boy up in all sorts of kooky costumes, But if you want a truly radical take on the time-honored classic, look no further than ‘Breath of the Wild’ Link’s latest adventure was seen as a throwback to the open-ended exploration of the very first ‘Zelda,’ but his design was a drastic departure from the past Link actually starts the game naked, which shocked the heck out of me, and you have to clothe him yourself with whatever you can unearth across the vast plains of Hyrule Link’s wardrobe choices go beyond simple pallete swaps of your plain green tunic

There are dozens of different outfits, hats, and accessories with which to adorn the hero, and you can dress your Hylian Champion as anything from a Sheikah warrior to David Foster Wallace The ‘canon’ outfit appears to be the Champion tunic, a bright blue number with no hat that is a drastically different default look But if you’re a stickler for tradition, completing 120 Shrines will get you the classic Tunic of the Wild And if you’re a lazy stickler for tradition with some money to burn, you can just buy a bunch of Amiibos and unlock a ton of classic outfits Over the last 30 years, Link has evolved from a simple sprite into a style icon, and no matter what timeline you accept, or what incarnation you idolize, if there’s one constant across the entire the Zelda series, it’s that Link is looking good

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