Alright, Netflix. You did a pretty great job remaking House of Cards. Bojack Horseman ended as a much more interesting character study than I would have guessed from watching the pilot. Orange is the New Black is always engaging, even if it’s definitely not a comedy and, no, dramedy doesn’t count as comedy.
But this isn’t just some lily-livered Kevin Spacey vehicle you’re making now. This is the Legend of Zelda. Netflix, still seeking writers, has described the project as a family-friendly Game of Thrones. Nintendo, meanwhile, has replied with a very mysterious “We will not comment on the rumours or speculations.”
With more than 20 games released in the series since it appeared in 1987, fan expectations are enormous. To help the suits at NetTendo avoid screwing up the nostalgia development deal of the year, I’ve compiled a master list of 20 essential ideas and elements that will ensure the Zelda television series is an enormous success both critically and commercially.
1. “Excuse Me, Princess!”
The timeless catchphrase that catapulted Link into the zeitgeist has only grown in popularity since its introduction. Introduced when the original Zelda TV series launched in 1989, it wasn’t long before the phrase had entered the lexicon permanently. When George Bush Jr. declared “mission accomplished” in Iraq, it was Colin Powell’s classic “Well excuse meeeeee, princess!” that broke the awkward silence that followed. Fidel Castro uses the phrase regularly, both to confirm Cuba’s commitment to communism and as a subtle stab at the USA. Bart Simpson himself used the line on three separate episodes of The Simpsons, every use accompanied by a wink from Maggie and a Triforce hidden in the background. These are the words written on Nelson Mandela’s tombstone. We wrote it on the moon.
Leaving this classic quote out would be a grave error.
2. NO MORE HOOKSHOT
Widely reviled by true fans of the game, and considered the most useless and uninteresting item available by far, the hookshot was a stillborn gadget played out long ago. It offers no new avenues of exploration for players, is completely ineffective in combat, and its use-animation usually freezes the game or randomly deletes save files. There’s many a player who hopes never to see this nightmarish “tool” again.
3. A Zelda Who Isn’t a Ditzy, Buxom Blonde
When the series started, Zelda was a paragon of virtue and wisdom in desperate need of a hero to help her save her kingdom from the forces of evil. However, the Zelda character has long since devolved into an air headed stereotype and (even worse!) inefficient government administrator. Her anti-vaccination policies paved the way for Ganon’s invasion during the age of plague, her anti-immigration policies allowed the sorcerer Malachi to ensorcel the Zora, and under her fiscal policies Hylian debt has TRIPLED since taking the throne.
Her “antics” constitute a low-point in almost every instalment of the series. Most notable? Absent-mindedly leaving the Triforce of wisdom beside an apple pie cooling on a windowsill in Hyrule castle. Of course the Triforce and pie were then stolen by opportunistic pie-thief Ganon, setting off the entire events of “Minish Cap“. We remember a Zelda who was more than sex appeal and bubbly laughter. What happened to her?
With full apologies to all buxom blondes not running their kingdoms into the ground.
4. Less Violence, More Conflict Resolution
This is an inventory screen from the SNES game Link to the Past. Look at all the tools Link has at his disposal. Butterfly nets. Glass jars. A book. Now glance down at all the actions he has available: lift, read, talk, pull, run, swim… I could go on. There is never any need to use violence in these games, for anything. Not really.
The suits at Nintendo think swashbuckling and sword-swinging adventures against the forces of evil are the big draw of the franchise. They’re wrong. It’s the razor-sharp dialogue, laced with political and personal intrigue. And yet the series protagonist, Link, rarely speaks at all. Why not have him debate his way through problems in the Socratic tradition? Ganon can just as easily be defeated by a long, philosophical debate as he can by sword and shield. Finally, a chance to hear the raspy, deep-throated Brooklyn accent we all imagine Link has.
Put down the sword, Link. Use your words.
5. Epona Should Talk
Speaking of characters who should talk, what character would have more to say about this world than Link’s horse, Epona? Nobody, that’s who. This is the number one point-of-view the series needs established to succeed, and that includes Link himself. Epona should talk before Link does, and often. Preferably with a lot of sassy-one liners that will have the audience rolling in the aisles. Talking animals have always been a long-lasting ratings booster, use this device early and often.
Bonus: You already have BoJack Horseman, why not cast Will Arnett? Then you can squeeze in some sly cross-promotional references everyone’s sure to love.
BONUS Bonus(!): What if Epona said the line “Excuuuse me, Princess!” to Link? If you weren’t sold before, you are now.
6. 1990’s Top 40 Soundtrack
From it’s soaring and instantly recognizable overworld theme, to the magical earworms of the ocarina, music is one of the most popular elements of the series. Anyii Composers like Koji Kondo, Hajime Wakai, and Kenta Nagata are just a few of the artists who have expanded the musical scope of the franchise. Nintendo’s commitment to excellence has created a wellspring of original music for the program’s creators to draw on, or in this case ignore entirely.
You heard me: take your beautiful and varied tunesmiths and toss them in the gutter. Because I’ve never seen Zelda and Link kissing to Janet Jackson’s Together Again. Never lost myself in the Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony as Gorons tumbled after each other in their annual avalanche festival. I’ve never even dreamed of seeing Link’s first encounter with Ganandorf playing out underneath Collective Soul’s World I Know.
“So I walk up on high / And I step to the edge / To see my world below.”
Need I say more.
7. An Actual Timeline
Nintendo: Enough with the endless cycle of legend and myth. The continuing death and rebirth of the hero, his world, and his story? We get it. You’ve got fractured and deeply layered history of Hyrule and it’s hero-gods coming out of your tailpipes right about now. Stop hinting at a larger world beyond the edges of our perception. Just tell us exactly what happened, when it happened, and why it happened. My imagination don’t get paid for working overtime, capiche?
Our recommendation? Why not have your comic relief or your mentor character deliver an expository monologue once or twice an episode? It doesn’t matter how long it is, the audience will always wait patiently for background information that might flesh out the plot. Just make sure it lays ever piece out in perfect order, and keeps us one step ahead of you as story tellers. Audience attention spans are getting shorter and we do not abide mystery.
8. Simple Dungeons
Find keys. Beat monsters. Find tools. Retrace your steps across an entire dungeon just to find the one piece of a map you missed. Enough, already! We get it: dungeons are perilous and full of surprises. But episodes are going to have to speed through this back and forth if you actually want anything to happen!
Besides, those complicated tombs aren’t that well-loved. In a recent poll, 57% of Zelda fans admitted they’d be happier if the dungeons were 15 minute encounters consisting of two puzzle rooms and one boss fight. While we’re at it, how about less puzzles and more mini-games?
The people have spoken again – stick to dialogue, dial back the adventure. Streamline, Netflix. Don’t get bogged down.
9. Holiday Mash-Ups/Crossover Specials
Why stop at making Link and the gang live-action? There’s plenty of room to bring in other beloved Nintendo IPs for holiday and crossover special episodes! To get your creative team started, here are some really, really good ideas for free.
- Christmas takes a turn for the wacky when a couple of hirsute plumbers with strange accents (the Brothers Mario) tumble through a magic portal.
- Some fleet-footed prankster is leaving Easter Eggs all over Hyrule. Is it a plot by Ganon? Guess what: It’s Sonic the Hedgehog.
- Samus, Zelda, and Princess Peach turn Valentines Day on its head by stealing the Galentines Day idea from Parks and Recreation.
10. Link Gets Hooked (on Drugs)
This week, on a very special Legend of Zelda: Bottled fairies. Magic potions. Bombchu residue. Link cannot stop using, forcing his friends and family to stage an intervention. Ganon shows his softer side, opening up about his past abuses of Triforce magic and bonding with his nemesis in the process.
11. Lon Lon Ranch Girl Gets Teen Pregnant
Malon, that’s her name. Malon.
12. Episode Sponsored by Baptist Church
In a very special episode, brought to you by the Westboro Baptist Church, Luke and Zelma (wink!) will recommit themselves to their vows of chastity and abstinence in Hyrule’s grand temple of light. Ganun will finally go too far with his devil worship, and realize he’s bit off more than he can chew. Tingle will learn to control the raging fires of his sexuality before it can destroy him and his immortal soul.
13. Kakariko Kidz!
If there’s anything we learned from the multi-Emmy award-winning series Muppet Babies, it’s that kids are cute. And kid versions of characters we recognize are even cuter! Why not cast a room full of precious tots as the Hyrule gang? The laughs will write themselves as these adorable scamps pal around in a magical kingdom.
14. Put Skull Kid in a Wheelchair with ALS
I haven’t seen a single wheelchair ramp since I started playing Legend of Zelda, though I have seen at least one wheelchair.
The discrimination ends here.
15. Explanation of Loose Rupees
Whether he’s carving his way through bushes with the master sword, casually tossing pots around a small village, or gut stabbing moblins, Link is up to his elbows in loose rupees. The question of where exactly all this gemstone currency comes from is not new, but it has yet to be answered. Who’s leaving all this money out?
Netflix: There is at least an entire season arc available in this one dangling thread. You have the chance to finally wrap up the greatest enduring mystery of the series. Fans are clamoring for definitive answers, we’ll take just about any answer at this point. Don’t be afraid to dig in and give this plot point the attention it deserves.
16. “Pardon ME, Princess!”
No resting on your laurels, Netflix! We’re thrilled that you’ve already committed to bringing back the genius “Excuse me, princess!” catchphrase, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add your own spin as well.
What if Link is crossing a hazardous river – on his portable raft – to reach Princess Zelda. He makes it across several hazards – octoroks, swirling rapids, etc – only to slip on a loose rupee at the last second and plunge into the drink. His fall splashes the princess Zelda – oh no! But before she can even think of responding, Link emerges from the river, and humbly says “pardon me, princess”. Hold for laughter, hold for applause, fill time with reaction shots.
(Twist: Link only utters this ‘pardon me’ line when he is GENUINELY remorseful.)
17. Kill the Secret Moblin
Moblins are not to be trusted, and this Moblin is the least trustworthy of any of them. Sure, it looks like he’s aiding Link, but looks can be deceiving. Where is he getting these rupees in the first place? Raids on innocent villages, probably. Bring this character back, just so he can get the just desserts he never got in game.
18. Black Link
Long and unjustly overdue.
19. Introduce Links Parents
Link’s mother receives an offhand mention in Ocarina of Time. Link’s father is only alluded to in the manga accompanying that game. What kind of an orphan could really have an interesting story to tell? We read Oliver Twist, and it was just blah-blah-blah. Don’t repeat the sins of Charles Dickens here, Legend of Zelda writers (whoever you end up being). Give Link a background we can relate to:
A doting, if overbearing, mother who can’t help but clash with Link’s curmudgeonly, though wise, father. Throw in an older brother jealous of Link’s career as an adventurer and sportswriter, yet forced to live at home due to a bitter divorce. Link could be married to Zelda by this point, with several adorably overwhelming children. They live across the street from his parents around Hyrule Park, and are constantly getting under each other’s feet. It’s never been done, and can’t miss!
20. Our Dream Cast
Casting anything less than all of these stars will be an automatic failure.
- Link: Idris Elba
- Zelda: Jessica St. Clair
- Ganon: Ian McShane
- Impa: Kenneth Branagh
- Navi: Chelsea Peretti
- Sage of Light: Alan Thicke
- Sage of Forest: Hugh Dancy
- (Super) Mario: Paul Giamatti
- Keymaster Sage: Paul F. Tompkins
- Epona: Matthew Perry OR Will Arnett (voice)
- Darunia of the Goron: Patton Oswalt
- Bomb Shop Jones: Christopher Lloyd
- Tingle: Wallace Shawn
- The Otter Sultan: Michael Keaton
- Gerudonna: Tara Reid (voice)
- Boss-Moblin Max: Jason Alexander
- Zora Queen P’athar: Hannibal Buress
This deal is still in the earliest stages of development, and could be quashed at any time, but there you have it Netflix. Take these fan-friendly hints and we guarantee you will satisfy even the prickliest audience member.
Ignore me at your peril, seasoned executives and showrunners.