Zelda: Skyward Sword Joy-Cons a Blow to Left-Handed Link Fans

The debate over whether Link should be left-handed or right-handed has been reignited by the reveal of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword's Joy-Cons.

The Legend of Zelda Link
Photo: Nintendo

While The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD for Nintendo Switch was arguably the biggest game revealed during Nintendo’s recent Direct presentation, it’s hardly a surprise that the internet is losing its collective mind over the also recently revealed Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Joy-Cons. I mean, just look at them:

The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword Joy Cons

The colors alone make these controllers a winner, but the real joy they inspire comes from the fact that they’re modeled after Link’s most famous pieces of equipment. The right Joy-Con is designed to resemble the Master Sword while the left sports a design similar to the one typically featured on the Hylian Shield.

Much more than just a wink and a nod to the franchise, the layout of these beautiful controllers will offer an additional layer of immersion for Zelda fans who want to feel as if they’re truly swinging the Master Sword and holding the Hylian Shield. Is it all very nerdy? Yes, but considering that Skyward Sword infamously relied on motion control integration, the time feels right to release Joy-Cons designed that further enhance the sensation of actively participating in that game’s combat.

As incredible as these controllers are, though, it has to be acknowledged that they throw fuel on the fire of one of the great debates in the nearly 35-year history of The Legend of Zelda franchise. Yes, I’m talking about the neverending (and often confusing) argument over whether Link is left or right-handed.

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As a logical person of the world, you’re probably wondering why there is a debate over this subject. Shouldn’t you be able to just look at Zelda games of the past and simply note whether Link is holding his sword in his left hand or his right hand? That’s a fine idea, but that method is actually the source of this problem. For example, check out how Link holds his sword in The Wind Waker and Ocarina of Time:

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Ocarina of Time

Those photos (and images of Link from the original Zelda games) would seemingly close the book on this subject, but before you make up your mind, take a look at how Link holds his sword in Skyward Sword and Breath of the Wild:

The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword and Breath of the Wild

Given the timeline of those examples, you may think that Nintendo eventually just decided to swap which hand Link uses at some point during the franchise’s evolution. However, this situation is remarkably more complicated than that. For instance, Link holds his sword with his left hand in the GameCube version of Twilight Princess but uses his right hand in the Wii version of that game. Skyward Sword Link uses his right hand, but the Link featured in handheld adventures released after that title uses his left. Even Super Smash Bros. doesn’t offer a clear answer to this dilemma as different versions of Link hold their swords in different hands.

The  Legend of Zelda Super Smash Bros. Links

That photo actually lends a little weight to the idea that the various versions of Link throughout the Zelda timeline simply use different hands. While that makes sense (and isn’t necessarily inaccurate), there is a somewhat official explanation for this swap that actually has nothing to do with lore.

See, the original version of Link was indeed intended to be left-handed. However, the nature of 2D sprite processing and animation means that you’d sometimes see Link appear to use both hands during combat sequences in early Legend of Zelda games. Still, most of the character art from that time showed Link holding his sword in his left hand. His leftie status was seemingly solidified by the first 3D Legend of Zelda game, Ocarina of Time.

The first notable in-game appearance of right-handed Link can be found in the Wii version of Twilight Princess. While Link remained left-handed in the GameCube version of that game, Nintendo decided to essentially mirror the tile for the Wii port so that Link held his sword in his right hand. Why? The thought at the time was that a right-handed Link would better visually convey the motions of Wii players who performed combat actions using the Wii Remote in their right hand. That philosophy carried over to Skyward Sword which relied even more on the sensation of using motion controls to recreate the feeling of swinging a sword.

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The idea that Link’s right-handed incarnations were reserved for the series’ motion control-focused releases was seemingly supported by 2009’s Spirit Tracks, 2013’s Link Between Worlds, and 2019’s Link’s Awakening remake which all featured a left-handed Link. However, a “breaking point” for this debate occurred when fans discovered that Link uses his right hand in Breath of the Wild despite the fact that the game’s motion controls aren’t nearly as extensive as they were in the Wii Zelda titles. Here’s what producer Eiji Aonuma has to say regarding the decision to make Link right-handed in Breath of the Wild:

“In terms of right-handedness of things, when we think about which hand Link is going to use, we think about the control scheme. With the gamepad, the buttons you’ll be using to swing the sword are on the right side, and thus he’s right-handed.”

It should be noted that Aonuma has also stated that he believes Link to be ambidextrous and that the team generally doesn’t care how he is portrayed. At the same time, he noted that the Wii changes were inspired by a desire to “change and adapt to the majority of players.”

That explanation was met by confusion from some fans who noted that they had been inputting actions on the right-handed side of Nintendo’s controllers for years while the on-screen Link remained left-handed. The reveal of these new Joy-Con controllers has inspired a similar reaction from those who feel this is another blow to the left-handed Hero of Time.

Clearly, some fans are joking/exaggerating about this topic, but there are plenty of left-handed players out there who always loved the idea that one of gaming’s greatest heroes was a southpaw. While it makes some sense that the Skyward Sword HD version of Link remains right-handed given the history of that game’s motion control support, it remains to be seen whether or not any future versions of Link will be left-handed or if right-handed Link is indeed the new world order. At the very least, it stands to reason that Link will remain right-handed in Breath of the Wild 2 (whenever that game is finally released).

What do you think? Do you still imagine Link as a left-handed hero? Should Nintendo return to that design in future games? Sound off in the comments below.

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