For those of you who listened to our latest Dualcast, you probably remember a good portion of our time being spent discussing the practicality, as well as aesthetic value, of the costumes in video games. Specifically, there was much arguing over The Legend of Zelda‘s own Link and his costume, with focus on his Twilight Princess version. The “condom hat” comment in particular should stick out.
Being a cosplayer myself, especially one who has poured her heart and soul into a Twilight Princess Link costume, mocking the design agitated me a little. So, rather than ranting at certain stubborn editors more than I already have, and considering we will soon be celebrating the release of Skyward Sword (in which Link is wearing a very similar costume), I figured I’d at least attempt to make an interesting article out of it, and compare two of his better-known designs. Yevon knows I’ve spent long enough peering at references to know the design inside and out.
First up: DISCLAIMER ALERT. I have played Ocarina of Time (GameCube version) but I have not finished it. I have watched my friend complete it, and logged many hours on my file, but never completed it myself. I have finished Twilight Princess. Regardless of completion status, I have more than enough experience with both to talk about character designs.
Not only have I played both games, I have made both costumes. As I mentioned earlier, I have made a complete Twilight Princess version of the costume for myself. It is constantly being fixed and updated, as things break through convention wear and tear as well as adding to my weapons cache. The photo below was taken by Eurobeat King at Otakon 2011. Also, I made the tunic and hat from Ocarina of Time for a friend of mine last Halloween. (Pictured below.) I know both costumes in-game, as well as each real-life counterpart.
Now, one of the main complaints of one of our glorious editors was that Link’s Twilight Princess costume is not practical in terms of defense. First off, dear readers, I ask you compare it to the Ocarina of Time version of Link, and its defensive usefulness. So what do we have? Plain, bright green tunic with a full skirt, perfect for pulling an accidental Marilyn Monroe. Either very tight white pants, or white tights. A pair of brown boots that are both much larger and much heavier than they need to be. Bulky leather gloves with padding in odd places, a skin-tight white shirt that could possibly be connected to the pants, a couple of belts, and a pointy green hat. (If that looks anything like Italian condoms, remind me to stay on this side of the Atlantic). All in all, not a whole lot of smart decisions. Heavy boots, large gloves that most definitely hinder fine motor skills, and not a hit of true armor anywhere. Not to mention I highly doubt Hyrule has discovered spandex yet, so those pants must be rather confining. The color scheme as well is rather bright, making it harder to blend in to the surroundings of forest and field. On the other hand, the Twilight Princess version seems much more practical from the get-go. Muted colors are more natural, and allow for blending into the surroundings better. The leggings have been traded for looser, tanner pants. The boots are slimmer, lighter weight and more flexible, allowing for faster footwork and better mobility. Under the tunic, which has been split up the sides and laced together to preserve the range of movement we see a chain mail tunic: our first real piece of armor!
It was argued in the podcast that wearing a tunic over chain mail is both pointless and hindering, both of which happen to be incorrect. From a practical standpoint, wearing a tunic over mail lessens the amount of shiny surface area that can give the wearer away (especially with historical bright steel mail, rather than Link’s dull brass-colored shirt), but it also dampens the inevitable soft sound made by the pieces of metal as the wearer moves. But let’s continue, shall we?
The bulky full gloves of the past are replaced with supple fingerless gloves and leather gauntlets, allowing for the same protection without loosing fine motor skills. On his left arm Link wears his second piece of armor: a heavy leather bracer. This piece helps protect his vulnerable sword arm (remember folks, before the Wii came along he was left-handed) without hindering his fighting style. Besides some useless but aesthetically pleasing details, the rest of the outfit remains more-or less unchanged. You’ve got the under tunic, the belts (with added storage space, mind you) and the pointy hat.
Compared to Ocarina Link, Twilight Princess Link is certainly winning the safety contest, with two pieces of armor to zero. Somewhere near the Mediterranean Sea we hear protests that more armor is all well and good, but it’s not enough for a fighter and dead slower is still dead. HOWEVER. There is more than one style of fighting. There’s a reason why the final battle of Twilight Princess was such a let down, and it’s this guy right here. Look at that full suit of gorgeous, heavy armor, being worn by that huge hulking man-brute. The battle was boring because all Ganondorf did was stand there and let you swing at him while he blocked you with his giant sword. Until, of course, you quickly dodged around him to slice him in the back.
That, my friends, is the reason why Link’s defenses are his chain mail shirt and a small shield. Link’s fighting style is based on his small, lithe build, and his costume reflects that. There’s a reason why some of the best Link cosplayers are female – he’s relatively short (watch the ending scene again, he and Zelda are roughly the same height, and Midna towers over them both) and while I’m sure he has a swimmer’s build and a fair amount of muscle, it’s all hidden under loose clothing. Link is a fighter who relies on speed and agility to keep him safe, as well as finding and utilizing the enemy’s weak point. Just look at the fact that he has as many dodge moves as he does, yet only one block. You don’t need to have the heavy armor necessary to deflect a blow if you’re not there to receive it in the first place.
Therefore, Link’s outfit, Twilight Princess version especially, really makes complete and total sense in terms of the best choice for his character. I can’t convince you otherwise if you just think it’s ugly, no matter how much I disagree myself. And I still cannot come up with a good response to the condom comment, besides incredulous disbelief.