Originally posted 09/02/15 via Alternate Dimensions
HEY! LISTEN! The last time 1Up Culture had reason to talk about Nintendo, it was to look at the rumours surrounding the Mario/Sony Pictures collaboration. While a Mario movie would naturally be big news, the information revealed something more intriguing. It seemed that Nintendo were finally willing move on the from the disaster of the 1993 Super Mario Bros movie to license out their franchise characters into other avenues of entertainment. The other franchise I noted as being a potential heavy hitter for Nintendo in this field was the Legend of Zelda. And here we are, a few months later with the news that Netflix is apparently in the early stages of a live action Legend of Zelda television series.
Netflix has become something of an institution by now. Starting out as an On-Demand streaming service in 97, it has since managed to etch out a spot in our pop culture lexicon. Much like how ‘to Google’ something has replaced our phrasing ‘to search’, Neflix has become synonymous with legal streaming and is only continuing to grow in power and influence. While plans are in place for Australia to get a slice of Netflix, it already has over 50 million subscribers across the world. But the company hasn’t been content to just stream existing media, it has also been producing programming of its own. They’re responsible for programs like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black which have already gained critical and popular acclaim, as well as the final season of Arrested Development and future Marvel television series.
Now, it seems Netflix have their sights set on one of Nintendo’s premier franchises. From the mastermind of gaming genius Shigeru Miyamoto, the Zelda franchise began on the NES in 1986 and has since spawned 17 official titles across virtually every console and handheld the company has released. The Nintendo 64 title Ocarina of Time is constantly ranked among the greatest video games of all times with other fan favourites like A Link to the Past also receiving immense critical acclaim. Link, Zelda and the rest of Hyrule have been a cash cow for the company and represents the vision of the company much like Mario does.
To casual observers, the series follows the same basic premise that the Mario series does. The main protagonist Link has to go on an adventure to save Zelda and the world from the evil villain, which in this series Ganondorf is the Bowser analogue. Some of the games follow a different pattern, maybe with a different quest or bad guy (Majora’s Mask is the most notably unique), but the framework of the stories surround the typical hero’s quest. Truthfully the series is far more complex than it initially seems, with a timeline convoluted enough to require in depth explanation in the official Hyrule Historia book that spans three different branching sections depending on what happens in Ocarina of Time.
What this allows for is creative license when building the story the creators want to tell. The attitudes and personalities of Link and Zelda, while still remaining their own, vary somewhat from game to game, just as the story and situations at hand do. While all RPG’s at heart, the theme, tone and feel of the games are different enough to cater to a variety of tastes. Unfortunately, this makes any form of mass media adaptation of the world that much more complicated. Especially when you factor in that Link is notably mute throughout the series, and it is a tall order to make an interesting lead protagonist who is silent aside from some ‘Hyaa!’ cries as he swings his sword. It is guaranteed that no matter what approach Netflix go with, someone somewhere will decry that the show has ruined their favourite character. The likely course is for an amalgamated world, drawing from events and characters and themes from each of the timelines and adding some unique television only circumstances to build their own version of Hyrule.
The writer at The Journal who broke the news stated that Netflix is aiming to give the adventure series a “Game of Thrones for a family audience” vibe, which is a bold but exciting approach to the franchise. If you ignore the endless amounts of blood and sex, the story of Game of Thrones is a compelling political and multi-personal saga that spans a range of lands and leaders. And while the Legend of Zelda games mainly focus on a select few protagonists, the world itself is rather grand and ripe for exploration.
In narrative concept such as that, Zelda herself would perhaps be the most important character to the story. Her role as Princess would be paramount in any political conflict, and her alter egos of Sheik or even Tetra could make for an interesting seasonal arc during darker times in the story. Meanwhile, Link may end up on a more traditional hero quest which could incorporate Wind Waker style sea missions, potentially even leading to a homage to Link’s Awakening. There would even be room for the more supernatural moments from Twilight Princess given there is a precedent. Since many of Link’s adventures change up an aspect here or there to keep the games special, there is a lot they could do with his arc if they want to mash the more traditionally LOZ hero story with a politically charged Game of Thrones-esque narrative
The Triforce would be a likely plot driver. The three pieces of the Triforce are commonly associated with the three main leads in the universe (Triforce of power to Ganondorf, Triforce of Wisdom to Zelda, Triforce of Courage to Link), and the powers and desire to combine the three serves as plot points to many of the stories. It is a fairly simple concept with complex undertones that could easily serve as the main overarching storyline. Over the course of a couple of seasons the balance of good and evil could tip back and forth as further mythology is gradually revealed. There are plenty of pieces for the creators to draw from, but it would also require plenty of television specific plotting and provide creative freedom for those working on the story.
In all of this excitement, it is important to remember the reveal has come in ‘very early stages’ of the show’s conception and development as is far from locked in. Nintendo’s wariness of television and movies aren’t a secret, and a series like Zelda wouldn’t be cheap to make either. But the news lines up with Nintendo President Satoru Iwata’s comments last year that the company was looking to “actively expand our character licensing business.” While Mario is the obvious big name attraction, The Legend of Zelda is a close second. And the property itself is far better designed to support this type of media output.
We’ve seen both Mario and Zelda in an animated series back in the late 80’s, but if you transpose the world of Hyrule to to the type of high concept, deep and progressive storytelling that many recent television shows have been delivering, then the franchise could place itself firmly in the heights of the pop culture spectre. And given Nintendo’s concern in the past in licensing their franchise characters off onto ventures such as these, it is a safe bet when they finally let one of their dogs off the leash, be it Mario to Sony for a movie, Zelda to Netflix for this series or something else, it won’t do so unless the finished product will be worth watching. The only downside is their apprehension may also put a stop to any of these possible projects before they can become something to watch.
Regardless of what happens though, I’m going to keep myself content with the numerous fantastic stories we already have at our fingertips. -Inserts Ocarina of Time into the 3DS-