In my book Zelda’s kind of a series of archetypes. It’s a fantasy world and story that, initially, was really only that. In the first Legend of Zelda game, the series had just been born and its debut wasn’t a plot-focused game in the slightest, so there wasn’t any lore to build off. What the first game built off, instead, were archetypes! Link himself is the best examples of this, as his character is nothing more than an archetype: He’s the fantasy hero out to save the princess. Any more character he has is meant for the player to fill in. Oh, he’s developed his own personality over time, but at his core he’s still the same archetypical hero.
And there are tons of other examples, including archetypical characters like the star-crossed lovers Anju and Kafei from Majora’s Mask and the fretful teacher figure of… “Teacher”… from Spirit Tracks. From the sleazy falsely-polite merchant Rupin from Skyward Sword, to the bratty princess Ruto from Ocarina of Time. And, of course, Ganon and Zelda themselves follow archetypes just as Link does. But it’s not just characters, either. Locations and items can follow archetypes, and many plotlines or events can be cliches as well. The bully-turned-hero, Groose, or the mysterious companion or ally who is revealed to be a princess, which is seen in both Midna and Tetra. The Temple of Time is a sacred, holy place like you seen in so many stories, and even looks like a church, whereas there’s a village of thieves in A Link to the Past, despite the social problems that tends to create.
I might complain at times about the series having a lot of cut-and-dried characters and stories without enough detail or original touches, but that’s not always the case. A lot of Zelda’s characters are unique and charming; there’s nothing inherently wrong with archetypes, cliches, and tropes, because essentially nothing is wholly original. Originality is always about combining things together into something fresh, never about inventing something brand-new from scratch (which is rarely even possible), and Zelda does manage those unique combinations a lot of the time. Either way, this post isn’t meant to talk about the pros and cons of having archetypes, but rather I’m pointing out how much the series relies on them while asking a question:
What kind of archetypes do you think would be cool to see in future games? Which ones that have already shown up are some of your favorites?
Me, I’ve loved a lot of the stuff Zelda has used for its villains and creepy elements. The hordes of evil undead, the evil yet chivalrous knight-like character seen in Demise, even the stereotypical alien abduction seen in Majora’s Mask, or its apocalyptic villain. I’ve also loved the shady merchant types or bad-attitude goodguys for their humor, and I’ve talked before about how one of my favorite joke in the series plays off the “when I’m old enough I’m going to be your wife” cliche.
As for new archetypes or cliches that I think it would be cool to see in Zelda? I’ve always wanted a stereotypical haunted mansion as a dungeon in a Zelda game, and I’d dig some kind of fairy-world surreal wilderness areas or spooky dark woods. I’d also like to see a slightly more political Zelda story where the royalty and the kingdom’s politics are a bit more involved, possibly both an ally and a hindrance at different times in the story. But most of all what I’d like to see is a character who might be well-intentioned but uses harsh methods to accomplish their goals. It could be a hero, sort of like Batman, it could be an antihero, or even the villain of the game. But I’d still love to see that kind of character; it’s one of my favorite archetypes in fiction.
But what about you? What kinds of archetypes and cliches would you like to see? Which ones interest you the most, whether they’ve been explored in the series yet or not? There’s tons of archetypes beyond even the huge amount Zelda’s already used, and it’s fun to think about what else the series could do. Tell me your thoughts in the comments!