Zelda jumped from 2D sprites to 3D worlds in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, released in 1998 for the Nintendo 64 console with much fanfare and critical acclaim. It has since been ported to the GameCube, Wii, Wii U and 3DS, but the original N64 version remains at the top of many “best games of all time” lists.
Like the other games in the Zelda series, the in-game text of Ocarina of Time refers to the player (Link) as male even after allowing the player to input their own name into the game. I’d like to be able to play this game with my daughter and not have the game calling her a boy, so I hacked a gender-neutral version that replaces all of the male pronouns with gender-neutral language wherever it refers to Link.
Does this mean that some of the relationships depicted in the game — all of which are notably unrequited since Link never responds to any romantic advances — might not be strictly heterosexual? Sure. Why not? I don’t see any reason why the fantasy land of Hyrule couldn’t include some diversity just like the real world. The only two female characters in the game that are mentioned as potential partners with Link are Ruto (the Zora princess who presents Link with the Zora’s Engagement Ring for rescuing her) and Malon (whose father, Talon, jokingly asks if Link wants to marry her). Link’s relationships with the other female characters, including Saria and even Princess Zelda, are loving but strictly platonic friendships.
What about the all-female tribe of the Gerudo which Link must infiltrate? Aren’t they suspicious of Link because he’s male? No, not necessarily. The Gerudo are suspicious of all newcomers regardless of gender. They don’t allow anybody to enter Gerudo Desert without their approval. Link only has to pass a few of their trials to prove that Link is a hero worthy of their respect and to gain permission to roam freely through their territory. Link’s gender doesn’t really have anything to do with it.
After using one of several methods to extract or “dump” your own Ocarina of Time N64 game cartridge (specifically, the 1998 original North American release) into a non-byte-swapped Z64 file, you can then apply my gender-neutral patch of Ocarina of Time as a .vcdiff patch file using the free xdelta utility which outputs a modified Z64 file. You can play the modified Z64 file using an N64 emulator or you can play it on an actual N64 using any method that allows custom Z64 files to be played on the N64.
This project is an ongoing work in progress, but here are the gender-neutral patches for the games in the Zelda series that I’ve completed so far and have made freely available:
- The Legend of Zelda (NES)
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
- The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (GBA)
- The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX (GBC)
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (GC)
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GC)
- The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (GC)
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)