Don't Retcon Link's Left-Handedness, Nintendo

Don't Retcon Link's Left-Handedness, Nintendo

Left is right for the Hero of Time.

Earlier today, Nintendo announced Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, a hack-and-slash Musou prequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Age of Calamity will walk us through the days leading up Calamity Ganon's release and the subsequent ruination of Hyrule. In other words, we're going to see a lot of characters die. Hooray! There's nothing as life-affirming as a light, friendly Legend of Zelda story.

I'm not the world's biggest Musou fan, but I'm sure Age of Calamity will supply us with some cool new Breath of the Wild story content. It seems we're a long way from hearing anything new about Breath of the Wild 2, so I'll get my fix of bright, windswept Hyrulian landscapes wherever I can find them. Besides, 2020's not a bad year for just losing myself in a game where the object is to carve hordes of Moblins into piggy nuggets.

When I watched Link wield the Master Sword in the trailer for Age of Calamity, however, an old irritation rose up my belly: Link swings his weapon with his right hand, same as he does in Breath of the Wild. That makes sense, since we're playing as the same iteration of Link across both games, but Link's right-handedness in the Breath of the Wild timeline bugs me.

I'm mixed handed. That means I use my right hand for some tasks, and my left hand for others. This quirk is also called "cross dominance." It shouldn't be confused with ambidextrousness, which refers to people who can use both hands with equal skill for any task. That's not me; I don't function with anything that can be regarded as "skill." Most days, I feel like a puppet some demented child cobbled together with random parts strewn around their playroom. My left eye is my dominant eye, but I can only write with my right hand. I open jars with my left hand, and I cut food with my left hand, much to the chagrin of my table manners-obsessed mother. Any sports that involve swinging—baseball, hockey, golf, etc.—I exclusively play left-handed. But I catch, throw, and serve with my right hand. I once had a gym teacher give me hell for "trying to be special." Talk about a convoluted way to get attention, but whatever.

Representation in media matters, and even though I'm not a full-on lefty, I still feel a bit of pride about Link's left-handedness. Obviously, having a left-handed hero isn't nearly as important as the industry's dire need for more BIPOC creators and more BIPOC heroes. I'm not angry or disappointed over Link's new right-handedness; my feathers are a touch ruffled, that's all. I like having a Lefty Link. The official player's guide for The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past even goes to the trouble of explaining why Link's suddenly right-handed when his sprite flips:

"Link will swing his Sword with his left hand except when he's facing to the east. No one is exactly sure why Link employs this right-handed technique when he faces east. Some say it is a boyish superstition that makes Link hold his Shield toward Death Mountain when battling a foe to the east or west. Link is sure that the evil power is originating from Death Mountain."

Pictured: Link just told Revali he's opening a left-handed store, and Revali is thinking of ways to sabotage it. | Nintendo

Link's lefty rep is also nice because lefties and mixed handed people still face unique challenges. The world is built for right-handed people. Even modern PC games sometimes forget to include comfortable control options for lefties. Left-handed children are still penalized in school, even if it's done subconsciously. Children who are mixed handed like myself are at greater risk of experiencing learning disabilities than kids who prefer one hand or the other. As someone who did indeed struggle in school, it's nice to know Nintendo has a hero who's like, "Yeah, being a little different can be troublesome at times—but don't let that stop you! (Just don't drop your shield when you're near Death Mountain. You'll totally die.)"

It's a small comfort, yeah. But even small comforts and slight nods of solidarity are nice.

Eiji Aonuma, the producer for the Legend of Zelda series, explained that he made Link right-handed in Breath of the Wild because doing so jives better with the game's controls. That's usually the reason behind every instance of Link's right-handed retcon. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess started development as a GameCube game, but it was subsequently flipped on the Wii so right-handed people can control Link's with the Wii remote. It's the same story for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which puts even more emphasis on using the Wii remote as a weapon.

"It's an email from a Prince in Termina who says there's a million rupee inheritance waiting for me if I just give him my bank account number. I'm gonna do it." | Nintendo

Obviously, Aonuma isn't on a quest to put down left handed people or erase them by making Link right-handed. He's just thinking about clean game design. In any case, right-handed Link is here to stay for a while since we're hanging out with the same reincarnation of the hero across Age of Calamity and Breath of the Wild 2.

I'm not mad. I'd play a Zelda game even if Link had to control his sword with his butt. I'm just a little sentimental, I suppose. If you're part of the 10% of the world who's left-handed, or the 1% who's mixed handed, I say to you: Hello! We might not share company with Link anymore, but we can still hang with his mixed-handed dad, Shigeru Miyamoto.

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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