Nudity, whether it be partial or brief, is not uncommon in the Zelda series. When nudity is depicted in a Zelda game, it is never overly explicit, thus, the ratings on any one game are not higher than they are. Though it is definitely present in the series, and it is not a new aspect, beginning as early as Link’s Awakening. This can be a somewhat controversial topic, as people all have very different ideas on what nudity adds or takes from the Zelda series, whether or not it is necessary, and if it should be continued in future games or not. Various aspects and depictions of nudity will be utilised as I further discuss the positives and negatives of nudity in the Zelda franchise.
I’d like to start by saying that the idea for this editorial first came from finding the following image on the internet:
I saw this and immediately thought, “What about the half-naked Great Fairies?!”. This then led to me to do some research and find out the history of nudity in the Zelda series, and to ponder on why Nintendo included it in a series which they had, so far, aimed at a young audience.
The first, and most notable, example of nudity is the Hippo Model in Link’s Awakening. While this was removed in the US and English versions of the game, in the original Japanese version of the game, the Hippo Model is posing semi-nude for the artist, Schule Donavitch, in a house in Animal Village. She is holding a towel to cover her lower half, but exposing her breasts. When Link enters the house, she immediately sits down and pulls up the towel to completely cover herself, and angrily tells Link to leave. Link’s Awakening is the fourth game in the series, which, as aforementioned, is aimed at a younger audience, so you can’t help but wonder why Nintendo would include it?
Did the team in charge of characters create this cheeky character just for laughs? It’s not an impossible idea, as the team in charge of translating the game to German added in some suggestive remarks and innuendos. Did Nintendo decide to educate kiddies a little bit and plant in their minds the idea of being embarrassed and angry when somebody walks in on you naked? Whatever their motivations were, the character exists, and began a long (and partially sexist) line of depictions of nudity in the series.
The next example is undoubtedly the most well-known: the Great Fairies in Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. Back in the 19th century, and early 20th century, it was considered inappropriate if a woman showed any skin except her face and the top of her neck. A woman showing her hands was tolerated, though gloves were preferred, but if a woman showed her ankle (or if she was being really cheeky, her knee. That’s right! Her knee!) it was considered sexually suggestive. Luckily, Nintendo covered that up with some pretty high boots… and then revealed almost everything else, keeping the main body of each Great Fairy covered with leaves. Some of them even lay in suggestive positions, too, with half of them lying on their sides in mid-air occasionally patting their thigh!
In Majora’s Mask, Nintendo fixed the positioning problem, having each Great Fairy lay with their chest down and crossing their arms, and then not using any angles that would expose the body of the Great Fairy. Though they kept the leaves-as-clothing idea. They had a cut-scene in which a Great Fairy manually positioned Link to properly perform a spin attack, but that wasn’t used, most likely because it did expose the body of that particular Great Fairy.
Other, less objectionable, examples in Ocarina of Time include the Gorons, though they’ve got nothing to hide; the appearance of the Golden Goddesses in the intro, though that’s very brief and doesn’t show anything; and the Zoras, primarily Princess Ruto, though, in Ocarina of Time 3D, Nintendo chose to give her abnormal chest fins because she appeared naked in Ocarina of Time. Nintendo decided that while they were humanoid, they weren’t human enough to give clothes. Though seeing as they’re a race that like to swim, for one reason or another, clothes would be a bit pointless. This would then technically count as the first depiction of male nudity in the series, as Gorons aren’t, strictly speaking, male. The naked appearances of the Zoras and Gorons soon came to define them, and when Gorons are seen wearing human clothes, it is seen as perculiar, though most (if not all) Gorons in Twilight Princess can be see wearing loincloths for one reason or another…
Twilight Princess has the record for most depictions of nudity in a single Zelda game. Firstly, there is a shirtless Link who wrestles with a shirtless Mayor Bo, though that’s only partial nudity. Secondly, there are now partly distinguishable male and female Zoras (the males wear helmets, and are most likely down in Zora’s Domain, while females have barely-visibly larger breasts than the males, and typically reside up in Zora’s Fountain), while Queen Rutela has quite visible breasts, which Nintendo didn’t cover with abnormal chest fins, most likely due to the illusion of clothing that her fins give her. Then there’s the Great Fairy, which is technically impartial nudity, as everything is covered, but its more the fact that she isn’t wearing descent clothing, using only what could be called a loin cloth covering her lower half, and hair covering her breasts, as can be seen in the opening image of this editorial.
Atop the throne in the Throne Room of Hyrule Castle, the three Golden Goddesses are depicting wearing only flowing gowns, and exposing their breasts as they possess each of their respective parts of the Triforce. There is a reason why I find this acceptable, but I’ll go into it later. The final depiction of nudity in Twilight Princess is the entire Twili tribe. There is a theory that are not naked, and are wearing shadows as clothes, and I agree with this theory, but shadows aren’t a physical material, therefore the Twili are naked. The theory that they are clothed in shadows is furthered by the fact that in the case of common Twili, the shadows (or simple dark patches on the skin, if the theory is not correct), they are in the form of a partial toga (a full toga is a large section of cloth use to cover the body completely, commonly worn in Ancient Rome) and in the instance of Midna, in her true form, it can be seen to primarily cover her breasts.
Another minor depiction of nudity is Ghirahim’s third form, in Skyward Sword, though this only counts as nudity due to his lack of clothing, as he is not exposing any parts of his body that are, in our modern society, considered private.
Having found all the depictions of nudity in the series, we can now discuss what it adds to, and takes from, each game, and the series as a whole. As I said before about not minding the nude depiction of the Golden Goddesses in Twilight Princess, it goes back to Ancient Roman statues of the Roman Gods and Goddesses, always depicting them with a degree of nudity. Back then, nudity was acceptable, to say the least, and was seen as beautiful, and that’s why I don’t mind the nudity when it comes to the Golden Goddesses, Great Fairies, and, to a lesser extent, Midna in her true form, as it is used to depict them all as beautiful, and this, I find, adds to the series, giving it that extra bit of aesthetic.
The Hippo Model in Link’s Awakening, however, I feel takes from that game, and the series, as it is simply nudity for the sake of nudity, which I think is fairly immature. In the case of the Zoras and Gorons, that is what I call practical nudity, as they have no practical reason for clothing, so why have clothing? The Twili are humanoid in appearance, and their shadow clothing suggests the idea that they have a sense of shame not unlike our own, and their partial nudity is also a matter of aesthetic, in the appearance of the race.
Concept art for Fi, from Hyrule Historia, as seen to the left and right, shows her as having a much more feminine, or stylized physique. Knowing that they had that idea in mind for Fi makes me disappointed in the end product, as her earlier designs, and having the frame-of-mind that nudity is beautiful, would represent Fi as being a beautiful, and pure, representation of the Master Sword. It also would have related to Ghirahim’s third form, in which he, as aforementioned, is essentially nude. That design with the whips of shards was also to have an attack for Fi, which would have made her more useful in battle, but no, the end result of Fi was slightly more plain, maybe to help present her as a cold and calculating figure, despite the human emotions she comes to understand in the end. With this in mind, I can’t help but wonder about the future of nudity in the Zelda series?
So what do you guys think? Do you feel nudity adds or takes from the series? Is it necessary to represent the beauty of certain characters or objects, or an unnecessary indulgence in sexual stimulation in the games? Do you find it sexist due to more common depictions of female nudity over male nudity? Let me know in the comments.