If you’re ever having a bit of an off day, may we recommend looking through old Zelda key art? Whether you have a few manuals from the old games lying around, or you just want to browse the Zeldapedia galleries, it’s something that always cheers us up.
Back in the ’80s and ’90s, the concept art and the key art supplied as promotional materials, or art for the game guides, took its inspiration from the likes of children’s choose-your-own-adventure books, and it was all the more charming for it.
Looking back on these artworks in a time where everything Zelda-flavoured is meticulously made with the same craftsmanship that you might see from a chef tweezering microgreens onto a plate, it’s just lovely to see how janky Zelda once was, and how things were before Nintendo really started cracking down on the Link Style Guide. Remember when his hair was pink?!
We use a lot of these images in our pieces, largely because they’re a lot more fun to look at than boring old screenshots (especially of the really old games), and they usually exist in much higher resolutions than NES and N64 screens do. Damien’s particularly fond of the creepy Zelda II art, which makes Link look a bit like he’s throwing a fit at a Starbucks, and Zion and Gavin are quite partial to the chaotic Majora’s Mask art in which Link is looking directly at the camera, presumably while the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme plays. Plus, that iconic Ocarina of Time 3D piece is always a favourite, and with good reason.
But the greatest of them all is the art we’re affectionately calling “Wide Link”: an appealingly chibi version of our Hero, who looks more like a kid who just found a massive Toblerone than the saviour of the world. This Link is found in the Japanese Famicom manual for the original Legend of Zelda, a scanned copy of which Zelda Dungeon had kindly uploaded to the internet, so you can peruse it for yourself.
Wide Link is the Fat Pikachu of The Legend of Zelda: a long-forgotten, but much-beloved version of the series’ mascot, before he got trim and subject to a million artistic stipulations. And he’s beautiful. He looks more like a child half-heartedly auditioning for a role in a low-budget fantasy film than a hero. He could be a character from Pigeon Street with those chunky little hands.
Cor, we’ve written a lot of words just to tell you all that Wide Link is the best, haven’t we? Well, he deserves it. He should get his own amiibo. He could be in the Breath of the Wild sequel, while we’re at it. If Fat Pikachu can reappear in the latest Pokémon, we say: why not?
Please leave your love and adoration for Wide Link in the comments below, or tell us about your favourite Zelda key art. Do you have any of the old manuals? Ancient posters? Game guides? Janky art commissioned for ’90s magazines? Let us know!