The Legend of Zelda: Clockwork Empire [ ARTICLE ]

Aaron Diaz, the creator of Dresdan Codak, has put together a proposal for new Legend of Zelda game where Zelda is the hero sent to rescue Prince Link. Here’s what he says on the topic:

Clockwork Empire is set 2,000 years after Twilight Princess, and is not a reboot, but simply another iteration in the Zelda franchise. It just so happens that in this case, Zelda is the protagonist. I’m a very big Zelda fan, and worked hard to draw from key elements in the continuity and mythos.

This concept work is meant to show that Zelda as a game protagonist can be both compelling and true to the franchise, while bringing new and dynamic game elements that go farther than being a simple gender swap.

Here’s my question: If Link is now the prince instead of the hero, wouldn’t this game be The Legend of Link and not another installment in the Zelda series?


  • Xuncu


  • Idiot

    One detail that wasn’t mentioned but caught my eye: unlike Link, Zelda appears to be right-handed. Just saying.

    Will Nintendo go for such a daring new direction? Remember that this is the same Nintendo that licensed Metroid to some sexist morons who made Samus less cool and more “girly-girl.”

    I hope against hope that Nintendo buys this proposal and doesn’t screw it up like “The Other M”. After spending the entire history of the franchise as a damsel-in-distress, Zelda deserves to take the spotlight in something other than some awesomely craptastic CDi game.

    • Blip

      Sorry to burst your bubble right there a bit.

      Link was always left handed, except for the Wii games Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. Zelda never showed any(!) sign of either being left handed or right handed. So why bother? We are back to gamepads again.

      Else, I’m cool with the idea. More than cool actually. I don’t know which game that was that offered a similar gameplay (other than Bioshock Infinite and to a certain extend also Star Wars), but I like the idea of the left hand (gauntlet) being shield and force, and the right hand for sword play.

      This makes the game more agressive, you have to think before you act. Much like Prince of Persia with “Forgotten Sands”, though here it was total BS towards the mid-end of the game, where you are so overpowered it’s not even funny.

      Regarding “Other M” being funked up by a sexist… I don’t think so. I do not consider Samus as the “ultra hard” and emotion-less soldier. In the end, she’s human after all, raised by the Chozo. So her fears had to crack through eventually (though I agree, this part was overdramatic, but fitting for the game), and the rest… well… loyality and love. At least “she” was the heroine, even though a sad puppet, in that particular game.

      But back on topic.
      I don’t think Nintendo will pick this up. Due to several reasons:
      – no damsel in distress – which sells
      – parallel universe might not sell well (see DS games and Majoras Mask)
      – it’s from an outside source, so it will be considered as “dojinshi” (like many other stuff)
      – certain gameplay elements are copied, which is not a bad thing, but Nintendo wants to do sh*t themselves

      At least they’re not like Square Enix, that hunts down every fan creation on the planet (someone remember CT:Resurrection?). But I don’t see this thing being pulled off. Though I would(!) play it as continuation to Twilight Princess.

      The Artwork by Diaz’ alone is outstanding. And like his Superhero reboot article, he’s proven a point.

      • Xuncu

        Now, we do see Zelda wield a sword (for about 30 seconds) in Twilight Princess, in the cutscene/flashback when Zant invades Hyrule Castle.

        However, in Skyward Sword, Link holds the bow wrong: I do archery, I’m right handed, and (for me and other righties) the bow is held with the left, while the right hand draws (pulls back) the string and sets the nock (non-pointy end) of the arrow onto it. (while in Twilight Princess, either GC or mirrored Wii version, he holds it correctly)— point being, dominant hand, which would hold the sword, while other hand actually grips the bow.

        Twilight Princess, GC version, Zelda holds her sword in her right hand, and shoots with a right-handed grip (again, bow itself held with the left hand)
        Wind Waker, hard to get a good camera to see, but seems Tetra shoots with a right-handed grip

        TL/DR – in every time where we know a hand dominance, only Link in SS holds the bow the wrong way

  • MindTricked

    I would be all over this game. As for your question, I was actually considering that as I read through, but nah – the franchise name is what’s tops, here. Also, it might actually be a fully-accurate title, for the first time in its life.

  • Zelda

    Well EXCUUUUUUSE ME, Prince Link!

  • Ooze

    This is basically just a genderswap with the edition of a powerglove, also how come that when Link is the royal prince he’s naive and clueless and is good for nothing but when Zelda is the princess she’s wise, powerful and always helps out.
    Besides why would Zelda wield the master sword, why not give her an identity of her own, in many other games she’s been wielding a bow, why not focus the game on a combination of archery and magic, that would be alot more original then just changing Links tunic to purple and raping the lore abit.

    • Zeldite

      I think the reason Zelda is wise while Link is naive and clueless has more to do with the Triforce affinities more than anything else. Zelda has always been a wise ruler because she is associated with the Triforce of Wisdom. And while Link is great, he is associated with the Triforce of Courage, meaning that he isn’t afraid to take risks. I think in this game those roles would stay, and Link’s role could be focused more on Courage in a different sense, like taking a stand against Ganondorf’s tyranny, or enduring some kind of torture…something along those lines!

      And while I think the bow should be in this game, I can see how the “Avatar Gauntlet” could be used in much of the same way. I’m more pissed off about the lack of a shield!

  • DarkLink

    Great idea, love the attention to detail needed to be canon. Only one thing bugs me, and that’s the how they are going to break up the triforce’s ‘courage’, ‘wisdom’ and ‘power’ attrubutes through the characters if Zelda is supposed to represent courage this time around? Having Link be naive counters the winsdom aspect that would have to be placed on him in order to keep the balance. Again, this is a character/story tweak, the rest of it is awsome!

    • hydrocow

      The part about the gauntlet implies that she is the hero of wisdom and that link is still the hero of courage. If the game play was set around this then I could see Zelda being sneaky and out maneuvering her opponents and maybe focusing on bow combat instead of hand to hand.

    • Idiot

      I agree with hydrocow in that Zelda would be the heroine of wisdom. Link doesn’t have to be up to “hero” standards to represent courage. He is, after all, sneaking away from his naive, sheltered, privileged life. Let “wisdom” save the day for once.

      Now that hydrocow mentioned it, this is starting to sound like a steampunk Metal Gear Solid, but with LoZ flavor and a female PC. Holy crap! This game needs to be made. If Nintendo won’t do it, Diaz should come up with original characters and background mythos and hand it off to an indie game developer.

      It would take an M Night Shamalan level of FAIL to make this as bad as Skyward Sword.

    • Michael

      The Triforce Part is one thing. I get it we need more female VG-Heros, ok. But why does the villain need to stay male? What we have less in VGs than female Heroes are true evil female Endgame Bosses.

      Even the Queen of Blades (massmurderer of millions) is a victim who fights her opressors…

      • Darchias

        I don’t think they should toss out Ganondorf as an antagonist. He is too tied to the lore. At best, have a female character play sort of a harbinger like role, like Zant played in Twilight Princess. Ganondorf should still be the end boss.

  • ThinkingStone

    This should be a thing. This looks awesome!

  • Ryu

    “I’m surprised no one mentioned how Ganondorf isn’t like Link or Zelda. Every Ganon/Ganondorf is the same character. I wouldn’t mind seeing a Zelda game where Zelda was the primary character, but I would keep closer to the lore.”

    “Let the game take place in the Twilight Princess Timeline, and maintain the Zelda/Sheik change-up (the Sheik design from Brawl is designated as the Twilight Princess version of Sheik, making this a semi-recurring theme with her already). This would allow for an interesting back and forth transition between ninja/stealth/melee combat element, and her ‘sorceress/princess’ incarnation.”

    “I’d make Link a Knight, since Zelda is meant to be a part of the Hylian ruling family. Have Link fall trying to protect her when Ganon(dorf) takes over Hyrule Castle, and Zelda is whisked away to be trained by the Sheika and rescue Link.”

  • Painstream

    Take all my money. o_O This is an absolutely awesomely-written proposal.

  • Meiczyslaw

    How about an actual _Princess Zelda_ game?

  • James

    It hurts that I can’t play this right now.

  • URB

    Zelda is far from the archetype of the damsel in distress. In most of the “Legend of Zelda” games, the only reason she is captured is because she is known by the enemy (as a princess and wielder of magic) while Link is underestimated until it’s too late. But both of them is equally a hero.
    Anyway, have fun with your whole sexism tantrum. Trying to prove the feminists wrong by doing a “The Legend of Link” would be the worst reason possible for Nintendo to do it.

    As a matter of fact, the design looks cool. Remove the Zelda IP, do you own game, prove that game are done because they are good, not because of some external pressure.

    • Idiot

      What the…? Zelda isn’t an archetypal DiD because she’s better than that, and thats why she keeps getting into trouble and needing rescue? Really?

      What a lame rationalization.

      No matter how you try to spin it, “Link saves Zelda from something” describes virtually EVERY SINGLE GAME IN THE FRANCHISE! One would think that with all her magic powers, she’d learn to take better care of herself by now. Its a mentally lazy cliche. And who the hell doesn’t realize that?

  • URB

    Yes, the man save the woman. I just was pointing out that it wasn’t just free and because she is a woman, but because the enemy knows she can be a threat. In the end that’s just a construction to keep the stereotype, if you want, but there is still this construction of scenario which at least prove there are not just lazily reusing stereotypes.
    But yeah, my remark was flawed and it is still a damsel in distress. Even if at no point Zelda is depicted as clueless or weak.

    (Zelda do learn, even if it is not so same person in every game, she is harder and harder to capture as the serie goes. Still, the ennemy is supposed to be powerful, so if he can’t capture one person…).

    Also, the role of Link and Zelda, as respectively “the hero with the sword” and “the holy sage using magic”, is set in time as an unbreakable cycle, due to a curse. More or less, open to interpretation. Still a construction to justify the stereotype? Yes it is.

    So in the end, why the man save the woman? Because it is logical. Men are stronger than women. Men fights while women take care of the house. This is how nature intended it. True, this does not apply to our society anymore since with have now overcome our nature, and men and women should be treated as equal (which by the way means that they are interchangeable, so if you want to fight real sexism, try the people opposing the homosexual marriage). And yes they are not treated equally, in every work sector, and its sad and should be fighted. Thankfully, it is getting better every year.

    But when you write a story (and that count for movies, video games, books, …), you want the spectator of it to be able to identify, to feel like the character exists and are not just pure construct of your mind. For this reason you keep in his expectation, at least a little (of course you then deviate to create some originality, or you do a Hollywood movie in which case you don’t). And so if you create a story happening in some sort of medieval setting and from the beginning you tell me the women are trained warriors, you begin to hurt my suspension of disbelief. You clearly establish: “we just made it this way to make a point, the story is not important”.
    Also, changing radically an established series as the Legend of Zelda is dangerous. Just look at the uproar any tiny little change to the Sonic franchise causes. When players buy a Zelda, they are expecting to play Link.

    So I am still standing by my original point: Nintendo shouldn’t change its franchise just because of some external pressure. And if you want to make a game with a woman character which correspond to your expectation, do it, you don’t need other peoples IP.

    • Idiot

      URB: So what if Nintendo is just recycling the same stereotype countless times? They ONCE came up with an excuse for it, therefore its not mentally lazy.

      Me: **facepalm**

      URB: Hee-hee, its funny to jab at feminist tantrums about stereotypes. What? Someone jabbed me back? Well, tantrum Tantrum TANTRUM!!!

      Me: **facepalm again**

      URB: Men are stronger than women. So this stereotype is believable, and thus identifiable with audiences.

      Me: 4 things about that.

      1-This ain’t medieval times. If strength is the most familiar gauge for plot/character believability, then there might be something wrong with you. Speaking of believability,

      2-LoZ universe is swords & sorcery fantasy. In this context, “believability” doesn’t mean a whole lot.

      3-So what you’re ultimately saying is that its not really Nintendo’s fault because fanboys keep buying the same old crap? Don’t blame the system for sucking, blame the sucky public for complacently supporting it? Interesting point.

      4-If all you want is the exact same male empowerment fantasy over & over again, then save your money and go watch some porn and/or Dragonball Z(ing).

      Sorry. Couldn’t resist the pun. It was that, or “Dragon Ballz.”

    • Dartania

      Games are rarely historically accurate. They are a scifi/fantasy flavor overlaid on a social mirror of our present world. They reflect what we think and we learn from them.

      How people are treated in real life stems from how they are treated by our role models. If what we see and play has women only being the reward/DiD, never the hero, how can we learn to treat women as people instead of goals? This isn’t the only culprit, but if LoZ gets with the program, the rest the VG industry may follow suit. If video games stop being misogynistic, maybe movies will, too. And maybe it will trickle through to voting, as well.

      Also, please learn to use proper English grammar.

  • David

    I dunno, I’ve never thought of Zelda as someone who exists to be saved. Zelda’s strength is in wisdom where Link’s is in courage so the dynamic of the existing games fits. To me it seems like the better way of empowering her is to highlight her actual strengths rather than give her artificial strength by putting her in the ‘male role’. This proposal has her take Link’s power rather than developing power of her own. Also the idea can’t be repeated for continued Zelda games, so any overcompensation it does to Link folds back onto Zelda in the next game.
    Although the biggest pitfall of all seems to be that a lot of fans aren’t going to be happy about the change. It’s like gay Superman. If they made that change countless fans of Superman would go ballistic. Not because they’ve got anything against homosexuals but because they don’t like their characters being messed with. Especially when it’s perceived as being motivated by an outside groups agenda. This idea for a Zelda game is bound to provoke a negative reaction from a ton of people who don’t even have anything against female protagonists (I’d say there’s a pretty big crossover between Zelda and Metroid fans).

    If I were to do something like this I’d have Zelda and Link as dual protagonists. Throughout the story you switch between playing as Zelda, Link or both together (possibly even Ganondorf to create a full Triforce representation). The team up/multiple perspective aspect creates the hook for the game. Both (or all three) play like traditional action based Link, but they all put their own their own spin on it based on courage, wisdom and power. Encounters where Zelda takes lead are won via strategy and using your environment, where encounters led by Link are won by diving right in and thinking creatively. If Ganondorf was playable he would use overwhelming force and intimidation.
    At some point in the story each of their Triforce roles would stand alone and fail (I’d probably even make it a running theme that when something goes wrong, it’s because they’re not working together). Link would find that courage alone could not win the battle. Zelda would find that wisdom alone could not win the battle. This would continue on with the games main theme of unity and team work.
    The majority of Zelda’s story would revolve around her desperate need to return to her people to lead them through trouble (the journey obviously helping her grow better at that like Link grows better at his job). The goal would be to play up her status as a princess and a leader. Not to push her back into a girly role, but to take the player behind the scenes to show that her role is just as heroic as Link’s. Hopefully the insight Zelda provides would elevate the opinion on princess role characters without the player even realising. While it may not change their views of all princesses, at the very least this way when the next game comes along and Zelda returns to her traditional role she can retain the empowerment given to her in this game.
    Hopefully that would also make it clear that in the previous games she’s not just a damsel in distress, she’s a leader using her wisdom to hold a kingdom together and make Link’s role possible.

    And there you have it. A rough pitch for a Zelda game that permanently empowers Zelda while completely side stepping clumsy, transparent gender issue lectures that create friction. All by simply addressing the issues from a less sensitive pro-teamwork angle that highlight a simple truth – Zelda is, and has always been, a vital part of the equation.

    • Darchias

      Now, I really like this game pitch in general. That being said, the switching play idea I quite like. I will have to say that the only way having play go to Ganondorf is a good idea is if Ganon is still the end boss. Alternatively, if Demise is the end boss, but if the three of them defeat Demise that would kind of end the curse and thus the series in general, and I don’t see them ever not making more Zelda games.

      • David

        Yeah, not sure how it’d work. It’d be nice since the three of them have this overall connection, but it’d clash with a lot of the other aspects to much to do. You could try and make his journey run along side there. Maybe cover how his quest starts and why he does it, since that’s not really covered that heavily, but the beginning of Link and Zelda’s story sort of requires Ganondorf’s story to be near the end. I guess you could do it through flashbacks but it’s stacking another gimmick on which might be too much.

        • Jao

          Maybe going the Fou Lu route and play some events (probably fewer gameplay sections than the other characters) that lead Ganondorf to the state he is when you confront him.

        • URB

          I quite like your idea David. Even if in term of gameplay, I’m not sure how to make it. A three person team? Wouldn’t the two AI controlled character be a bother in the platform-and-puzzle part of the game? One at a time, depending of the part of the story? But isn’t one of the major point of The Legend of Zelda the possibility to come back to already visited place at any point in the story?

          In term of why Ganondorf would team with the others, I could imagine Ganondorf trying to take over Hyrule, once again, smashing the Triforce in three pieces, again, but in the process doing something awfully wrong and putting in place a series of events leading to the complete destruction of Hyrule.
          And since one of the most interesting trait of Ganondorf is that he really love Hyrule (just see how devastated he his in Wind Waker to have brought its destruction), he would clearly do whatever it takes to protect it. If it means taking side with the two pesky teenagers, he would do it. And if there is a possibility to betray them around the end to regain control of Hyrule, he sure wouldn’t mind…

          • David

            Thanks. I know there’s no chance of ever actually getting own Zelda game, but I just love thinking about game mechanics.

            I’d imagine mechanically the AI would be limited to a blind follow by default with commands to move to a specific position, hold the position and attack the target. The AI will offer basic combat support at all times but their input is a bonus rather than something you have to rely on (so if the AI is thick as a plank and stuck running into the side of a rock it’ll never slow you down). The AI doesn’t use a health bar so there’s no need to protect it (although it can easily be overwhelmed, so you can’t just sit back and let it do all the fighting). Since you can switch characters at will (in scenes they’re present) most of the puzzle work is done like the team-up sections in Wind Waker.
            You move a character around, get them to stand on switches, use their shield to reflect something, etc then switch to the other character and do the second half of the puzzle. Likewise there are special combo actions they can only do as a team. Ie, lifting each other to gain access to higher platforms, pushing/lifting heavier items, carrying each other, etc. It should all work out so that the team up abilities handle just like any other tool item in the previous games. Only instead of gaining access to the Boomerang which allows you to flip a switch across a gap, you’re gaining access to Zelda’s teleport which allows you to place her at a previously unreachable shrine so you can play the song of unity at two shrines at once, opening up the door.

            I’d like to include some sort of magical mind link instrument that allows a player to use the item to enter a ghost mode to ‘record’ their basic actions for a limited time (with slots for four recordings) and then switch to the other character and play them back at anytime via quick command, but I think that may just over-complicate things. Ie, there’s a dark hallway full of monsters that are afraid of the light that requires you to use Zelda’s light bubble to pass through. You ‘record’ Zelda crossing, switch to Link, play the recording and stay inside Zelda’s light bubble.

            Working Ganondorf in is probably more trouble than it’s worth. Having him work with them is hard to pull off, and ultimately it’d warp the message of team work since he has to betray them by the end. If it’s through flashbacks and they’re sort of following the path he originally walked as part of the effort to thwart him that sort of works, but it keeps his story at arms length from there’s which sort of defeats the purpose.
            Having the player control Ganondorf as he attempts to destroy the temples (years before Link and Zelda show up) is cool but sort of pointless. It’s more like a bonus you’d get for beating the game. No matter how I approach it I’m not satisfied. I think it’s because it would require a lot of plotwork to make his sections significant to the players story and I’m sort of trying to change as little as possible.

  • Yue

    Would be nice if Nintendo did this. A nice “spin-off” to bring in the female audience who wants to play an epic quest as a woman and not just an effeminate man.

  • Tustin2121

    I love this idea!! I wish it were made!

    But Nintendo will never pick it up because that’s how Nintendo works. So, if the Zelda aspect were stripped out of it, it would be sellable! Unfortunately the Zelda aspect is half the appeal of the idea. So I hope a good or better replacement story, or a just-different-enough allegory to the Zelda mythos, could make it just as appealing.

    And then, I hope that, on play test, the battle system is actually fun, and the weapon switching thing works on player preference (ala Bastion) rather than what works best.

    Enthusiastic realist here. :/

  • Jim

    Don’t care whether it’s Link or Zelda as the protagonist; I just want to play a Steampunk Zelda game.

  • kentheoni

    This brings up the question if Zelda were to be the main character in this game will their dialogue between her and other npcs.

    • David

      Or more importantly dialogue between her and the now NPC Link.

  • Dartania

    My only thing against the 2-character idea the comments is that boys have gotten their own games for decades, and it’s like you have a problem with girls getting the same. That said, it would be awesome to have a 2-player game where you and a friend get to play Zelda and Link side by side in campaign mode(the only real LoZ mode). For single player, the parts where you’re separated could be done one a time, and the fighting bits could be either AI or scaled down.

    Remember how in the final battle of Twilight Princess, you controlled the horse while Zelda shot arrows? I always wanted to be the one shooting arrows. Well with 2-player mode, problem solved.