Posted on December 14 2014 by Nathanial Rumphol-Janc
Link has been rocking a Green Tunic in the Zelda series ever since the very first game came out on the Famicon in Japan during 1985, when the game was titled Hyrule Fantasy rather than The Legend of Zelda. It is classic in all the right ways and it truly signifies both in games and in marketing that this is the iconic hero from The Legend of Zelda series. Yet despite all of this, its importance to both the series lore and to making a Zelda game be… a Zelda game seems rather insignificant.
In the first title in the series Link is more at home when he finally attains the much more powerful White Tunic, signifying his increased strength. In other games he has swapped it out several times for tunics that actually help him do something in the game, while more often than not the color of the tunic, or the tunic itself, is shoehorned into the title out of this perceived notion that a Zelda game isn’t a Zelda game without it.
Zelda U is the most recent example, at least in terms of its presentation so far, that maybe the Green Tunic isn’t a required feature to make a game feel like a Zelda title. We got to watch some Zelda U gameplay at The Game Awards and I didn’t see anyone coming away from it saying “man this doesn’t feel like a Zelda game without the Green Tunic”. Link has done nothing but rock a black cape and hood combo combined with a blue style t-shirt of sorts since the game was revealed back at E3 2014. This got me thinking about the series and why or why not the classic look matters. Surprisingly… it doesn’t, and I don’t think the Zelda series needs it.
In The Wind Waker the Hero’s Clothes are something boys wear on a certain birthday to signify a sort of coming-of-age moment in a child’s life, where they turn a corner. You could argue that the comparison in our world to this would be when we enter our teenage years. This sort of significance that brings the green tunic to the forefront of the game is there due to tradition based on what we presume the Hero of Time wore back when he defeated Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time.
In Ocarina of Time the green tunic feels organic in a sense. It’s not that it’s so much a part of the series in that game, but it’s a part of the forest, specific to the Kokriri. Because Link grows up as a member of the Kokiri it makes sense for him to wear those clothes. In Skyward Sword his garb is because he is a protecting member of the Skyloft community, where they all wear that style of clothing. Why his is green seems to be completely unexplained, so the classic iconic look is mostly shoehorned in.
Other games don’t necessarily give a reason, he just starts out in those clothes and that is that. This is despite the fact that most of the characters are not related to each other or a new incarnation, so there is no specific reason for the character to wear the Green Tunic outside of developer tradition.
There has been some debate on whether removing Link’s classic clothes in Zelda U, which is unlikely but possible, would affect the integrity of this game or make it feel inauthentic to the Zelda mold. Honestly I don’t find this to be the case because I never played a Zelda title because Link is wearing green. Honestly, it’s the least important part of the series, and this is a series where games exist without Princess Zelda being involved, and her name is in every title. The tunic to me has always been a rather insignificant measure of what makes Link who he is, and if the garb we have seen in Zelda U is any indication, I would much rather have Link wear something suited to what he does. Is he more of an archer than a swordsman this time around? Then he should wear attire, as he has so far, that is more apt to that sort of combat.
This isn’t to say I don’t like the Green Tunic or would be upset if it is included as most suspect, but would Zelda U feel like less of a Zelda title if it wasn’t included? I just don’t think so, because his garb has been rather insignificant from day one. Traditions can and should be broken, especially if you want to give off a different vibe. Maybe this Link isn’t the Link I grew up with in the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s… and that’s perfectly okay. Link himself has been due for a true character overhaul with his minuscule personality for some time.