In case you missed the news, Netflix is set to make an original television series out of The Legend of Zelda. While Nintendo + Netflix sounds like a great combination, there's a few things in the way of this show being any good whatsoever.

 

1. The Legend of Zelda has no plot

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The Zelda series has a lot of lore, so much that Nintendo was able to justify Hyrule Historia, a massive tome that includes an insane branching timeline straight off of Doc Brown's chalkboard. But while there's dialogue and sometimes backstory exposition in Zelda games, there isn't much of a "plot", per se. Some things happen here and there, events unfold, but thankfully, the vast majority of Zelda games involve playing a video game. You could have that infernal time-thief of an owl explain the basics of a Zelda series in about 10 minutes. 

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Almost every time, the plot can be boiled down to "Link must stop Ganon from using the Triforce and/or kidnapping Zelda." It's a classic setup that's worked for games forever -- it's basically the equivalent of "Mario saves the princess from Bowser" But that's just the thing: These formulas work because there's so much raw gameplay to hold up the flimsy narrative. Playing Nintendo games for the story is like playing Telltale games for anything other than the story.

Not one Zelda game has a plot that could sustain a 12-episode season of a TV series. At best, the Zelda games have great premises for overarcing story, but there's no meat on those bones -- certainly not enough to sustain what Netflix wants, which is, no joke: "Game of Thrones for a family audience."

A season following Young Link and Old Link in different timelines could be neat, and an arc with an evil world-ending moon hanging over the skyline would be awesome. But what do you do between the season premiere and the finale? 

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And then comes the real problem: When faced with a lack of plot, the showrunners are just gonna make one up. While that sounds like the logical thing to do with the cards they're dealt, it creates an issue of perception -- what if this series becomes what the Zelda name is most associated with? Putting it on Netflix will certainly give Zelda a whole different kind of high profile.

Marvel saw this coming with Wolverine and headed it off -- after years of spinning their wheels, Marvel decided to make an origin story because they feared that if they didn't, Hollywood was going to take care of that for them. And there's a lot of story gaps that Netflix could potentially fill; right now, Zelda is still an ambiguous legend. To get the attention of a binge-watching audience, Netflix will need to make a story-driven saga of Zelda.

If this endeavor is a success, we could be looking at a world where Nintendo retrofits Zelda to make it more like the TV show. There's an argument to be made that Zelda should change with the times, but Nintendo should probably have control over where it's going.  

 

2. Link is not main character material

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We've long since graduated from the silent protagonists of Half-Life and Grand Theft Auto III, but Link has remained the exception. Aside from some grunts and guttural yells, Link is without language. It's an antiquated design choice, but one Nintendo has had a hard time changing. Even back when The Wind Waker came out, they felt hamstrung by how ambiguous the character was.

"One other thing that we've tried to do is that since people have played Zelda over the years, they have their ideas of how Link might sound. If we were to put a voice in there that might not match up with someone else's image, then there would be a backlash to that. So we've tried to avoid that."

So up to this point, Link could be anything to anyone. Every version is correct.

Okay, almost every version.
 

Giving Link a voice means giving him a personality. Should Link be aloof and graceful like Legolas from Lord of the Rings? Should he be the strong man of few words, like Aragorn in Lord of the Rings? Or should he be naive and playful, like that short guy with the hairy feet from that Bedict Cumberbatch dragon movie? These are all valid interpretations of Link, but they will all be destroyed when they cast Channing Tatum. 

Like the plot problem, any version of a talking Link, cast as an actor, would by default become the dominant version of the character according to the vast majority of the populace. And Nintendo just won't be able to ignore that -- they'll have to tailor future versions of the game towards that expectation. Can you imagine if the old Zelda cartoon show was so popular that Link carried the "Excuuuse me, princess!" catchphrase through to Twilight Princess and beyond?

Man, that old Zelda cartoon...