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Back in March of 2017, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild took the gaming world by storm, heralding the era of Nintendo Switch. Now, the Switch is set to get its biggest game yet in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
The Legend of Zelda is one of the few enduring franchises that’s been on every Nintendo platform short of the Virtual Boy, and as you might expect, it’s been an important part of the Super Smash Bros. series since the beginning. Let’s take a look at how the Zelda series has been represented in Smash, from the N64 era to the modern day.
Super Smash Bros. (1999)
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time released in 1998
- One playable character: Link
- One Stage: Hyrule Castle
- One Item: Heart Container
The Legend of Zelda’s representation in the original Super Smash Bros. is primarily derived from the N64’s Ocarina of Time, and in fact, both games were developed simultaneously. Much of Link’s actual moveset came from a more unlikely place, however— Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. While oft-regarded as the series’ black sheep, Adventure of Link is one of the only Zelda titles to contain side-scrolling gameplay, making it an ideal source for a platform-fighter like Smash to draw from.
Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001)
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask released in 2000
- One returning character: Link
- Four newcomers: Zelda, Sheik, Young Link, Gandondorf
- Two Stages: Temple and Great Bay
- Two Items: Heart Container and Bunny Hood
The Zelda series got a major boost in Melee, with four new playable characters. That’s more newcomers than any other series represented in the game! While Zelda and Sheik featured totally original movesets, Young Link and Ganondorf were clones of Link and Captain Falcon respectively (the latter proved to be an unpopular decision amongst some fans). In addition to Ocarina of Time’s continued representation, Majora’s Mask received some love with the new stage Great Bay. Sakurai’s unusual affection for Zelda II also continued, with the Temple stage taking cues from that game’s design and music.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008)
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess released in 2006, Phantom Hourglass in 2007
- Four returning characters: Link, Zelda, Sheik, Ganondorf
- One newcomer: Toon Link
- Three Stages: Bridge of Eldin, Temple, Pirate Ship
- Three Items: Bunny Hood, Heart Container, Deku Nut
- One Assist Trophy: Tingle
Brawl took away one Zelda character and swapped him in for another—Toon Link from The Wind Waker replaced Young Link as a lighter, smaller, and faster incarnation of Link. The other Zelda characters had their Ocarina of Time duds swapped out for new Twilight Princess-inspired threads. Both of the Gamecube-era Zeldas are also represented with new locales: Pirate Ship and Bridge of Eldin.
While it was disappointing for some Zelda fans that the game didn’t feature a true newcomer, it’s totally understandable considering that Sakurai and his team added so many in the previous game. Surely the next game would be the one to satisfy those fans…
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U (2014)
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword released in 2011, A Link Between Worlds in 2013
- Five returning characters: Link, Zelda, Sheik, Ganondorf, Toon Link
- No newcomers
- Seven Stages: Gerudo Valley, Spirit Train, Skyloft, Bridge of Eldin, Temple, Pirate Ship (DLC), Hyrule Castle (DLC),
- Eight Items: Beetle, Bombchu, Cucco, Fairy Bottle, Gust Bellows, Bunny Hood, Heart Container, Deku Nut
- Four Assist Trophies: Ghirahim, Midna, Skull Kid, Tingle
When it comes to Zelda series representation, Smash 3DS and Wii U gave us lots more of everything… except playable characters. In fact, the returning characters from Brawl were largely the same, with Link and Zelda keeping their Twilight Princess appearance despite the more recent Skyward Sword sporting new designs for them.
Despite this, it’s impossible to argue that Sakurai didn’t show the series any love when all the work put into new stages, items, and assist trophies shows otherwise. In the 3DS version, Spirit Tracks and Ocarina of Time 3D got new stages, while the Wii U version represented Skyward Sword with the Skyloft stage. Assist trophies ran the gamut, giving nods to games as recent as Skyward Sword as well as venerable classics like Majora’s Mask.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018)
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild released in 2017
- Six returning characters: Link, Zelda, Sheik, Ganondorf, Toon Link, Young Link
- No confirmed newcomers (yet!)
- Nine confirmed Stages: Hyrule Castle, Great Bay, Temple, Bridge of Eldin, Pirate Ship, Gerudo Valley, Spirit Train, Skyloft, Great Plateau
- Six confirmed Items: Beetle, Bombchu, Cucco, Fairy Bottle, Bunny Hood, Heart Container
- Three confirmed Assist Trophies: Moon, Midna, Ghirahim
Breath of the Wild is undoubtedly the new hotness, and to no one’s surprise, it’s receiving plenty of love in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, with a new stage (The Great Plateau) and a brand new design for Link. What is more surprising is that Sakurai and his team seem unafraid to pull out elements from the series’ past as well. For the first time, the core Zelda characters represent different games in the series, with Zelda herself repping A Link Between Worlds and Ganondorf sporting his Ocarina of Time design once again. Ultimate has also pulled Young Link out of retirement, allowing all three incarnations of Link to clash swords on the battlefield for the first time.
While these are all exciting things, one piece of news that tempered Zelda fans’ collective expectations is the fact that Ultimate is set to include fewer newcomers than any previous Smash Bros. title. If you’re counting, we haven’t seen a Zelda series newcomer with a completely original moveset since Melee, a full 17 years ago. Now, after not being deemed a priority in Brawl or Smash 3DS and Wii U, Zelda newcomers are fighting for an even smaller number of spots.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. With the inclusion of characters like Ridley and King K. Rool, Ultimate seems to be prioritizing old fan favorites over up-and-comers. This is good news for characters like Skull Kid, a popular fan choice who nevertheless hasn’t had a prominent role in a new Zelda title for almost two decades. The introduction of Echo Fighters also gives a glimmer of hope to characters like Impa and Hilda, who share similar designs (and potential movesets) to existing fighters.
Will our Zelda newcomer be a present-day champion, a link to the past, or nothing at all? Only time will tell, so someone hurry up and play the song of double-time! The wait is getting unbearable.
Author’s Note: Do you think we’ll get a Zelda series newcomer in Smash Ultimate, and if so, who will it be? Personally, I’m leaning toward Skull Kid. Sound off in the comments below!