Released in North America in 2005 for the Game Boy Advance, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap was the twelfth entry in the Zelda series but easily ranks as one of my personal top favorites and I can’t wait to share the joy of it with my baby daughter once she’s old enough to play it. Although the game allows the player to input their own name for Link and become the hero in an immersive experience, all of the characters in the game still refer to the player as male, which I see as a “bug” that needs fixin’.
Last week, I released my gender-neutral patches for The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past, igniting somewhat of a firestorm on social media and gaming blogs like Kotaku and Zelda Informer. An assistant editor with The Mary Sue interviewed me to find out why I thought this was important.
Gender-neutral hacking The Minish Cap took a bit longer than A Link to the Past mainly because The Minish Cap contains about five times more text to crawl through. The gendered pronouns weren’t always so easy to replace — especially since I forced myself to stay within the same number of characters to prevent “breaking” the game while hacking it — and I found several instances where I had to slightly rephrase a sentence while still retaining the tone of the dialogue.
My rule of thumb as I went through all of the lines of text in the game was “Do No Harm” to the game or to the intended style of speech for each of the in-game characters. I kept all of my changes as minimally intrusive as possible. For example, when Zelda first enters Master Smith’s home to ask permission to bring Link to the Picori Festival, she says:
Where’s Link? The whole town is bustling for the annual Picori Festival! I thought he and I might go together. Would you mind terribly?
In my gender-neutral patch for A Link to the Past, I was able to replace instances of “he” with “ye” because those were in the context of an expression where “ye” made just as much sense as “he,” usually when a character (or signpost) was talking to Link about Link. But in this case, the phrase, “I thought ye and I might go together,” doesn’t work because Zelda is talking to Master Smith about Link. I think the best way to reword that particular line of dialogue without specifying Link’s gender — and keeping the same number of characters — is, “I was thinking that we’d go together,” where the “we” is implied to mean her and Link (not her and Master Smith) since she was just asking about Link.
After using one of several methods to extract or “dump” your own The Minish Cap GameBoy Advance game cartridge (specifically, the 2005 North American release) into a ROM file, you can then apply my gender-neutral patch of The Minish Cap as a .vcdiff patch file using the free xdelta utility which outputs a modified ROM file. You can play the modified ROM using a GBA emulator or you can play it on an actual GBA using any method that allows custom ROM files to be played on the GBA.
For my next gender-neutral Link patch, I have my next favorite Zelda game in mind, but let me know in the comments section below which Zelda game is your favorite and which one you would like to see gender-neutral!