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Netflix's Legend of Zelda Could Be Exactly What We've Always Wanted

Netflix and Zelda. Are we ready?

Maybe. Hopefully. And this might not be the consensus for the majority of fans but the outcome is still questionable. Film and TV adaptations of videogames, after all, have had such an excellent track record. Right, gamers?

Unfortunately the announcement concerning the turning of one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises into a TV series is rife with cause for alarm. Let’s take a look at one piece in particular of Netflix’s official statement: Netflix is apparently claiming to be creating a “Game of Thrones” for a family audience.


Game of Thrones, Telltale, HBO

As Telltale reminded us, Game of Thrones is family friendly more in the incest sense.

“Game of Thrones” and “family audience” aren’t things you put in the same sentence unless “is not for a” fits between them. The rich world, drama, suspense, and thrill of Game of Thrones is predicated on the human capacity to commit deeds that are anything but family friendly. Then again, perhaps they were going for a different interpretation.

If their aim is to create a show that does just as fantastically as Game of Thrones, then they’re on the right track. One would feel comfortable aspiring to the success of such a TV adaptation. But Legend of Zelda has a very particular feel to it. There’s a whimsy, but there’s also a very dark side to the whole affair. Similar to the way creators slip in jokes for the parents in Disney films. And making the claim out front that this will be a show like Game of Thrones immediately sets expectations so high they might as well claim it will cure cancer to boot.

Majora's Mask contained themes and settings that, while suitable for youngsters, hint at themes far deeper and complex than a 'T' rating.

Majora’s Mask contained themes and settings that, while suitable for youngsters, hint at themes far deeper and complex than a ‘T’ rating.

Then there’s the issue of making an adaption that’s even “family friendly” at all. True, sticking close the continual ‘Teen’ and lower ratings the games get from the ESRB might be in Netflix’s best interests. It might also be part of the agreement with Nintendo. But what about the fans that grew up with Legend of Zelda? From 1986? From 1996? From all the years in between up to now?

Legend of Zelda is a franchise that, like most of Nintendo’s favorites, spans decades. Long enough for someone to be born and start a family of their own, for crying out loud. But like the protagonists of Pokemon, Nintendo seems intent – dare it be said to be doggedly so – on keeping Legend of Zelda “accessible” for “all ages.”

This could have been Nintendo’s big chance to get a maturely-themed take on the franchise going. It could have been created separately from the games, keeping their “all ages” feel while the TV show went to the darker, grittier potential of the franchise. And, when it possibly exploded in popularity, maybe then Nintendo would take note and stop hating money.

Just because the Kokiri never age doesn't mean Nintendo can't let the Legend of Zelda mature a little.

Just because the Kokiri never age doesn’t mean Nintendo can’t let the Legend of Zelda mature a little.

And of course the project could be canned before it even shows up as an option under “Because you watched Game of Thrones.” These projects based in the world of gaming have a record of being cancelled almost as long as they do of performing horribly. It would not be a surprise to anyone if Nintendo, perhaps recalling the Super Mario Bros movie, pulled all funding and cancelled their agreement with Netflix.

Which would also be a shame. There’s actually no reason why this can’t be a success story that will have fans oozing with gratitude. No reason, that is, except for history. And history tells us that there will be enough fans, maybe just a minority, who despite the project. And they will hate it so much and so loudly that it will drown out the supporters. History tells us that film and TV adaptations of videogames tend to fail apart from notable exceptions. History also tells us that it has been quite some time since a videogame movie that was announced was actually released.

Bless you, Resident Evil. But maybe a zombie video game in today's infected society doesn't count.

Bless you, Resident Evil. But maybe a zombie video game in today’s infected society doesn’t count.

But hopefully this will be a story like that of “House of Cards.” Netflix has clearly shown the capacity for putting together an award-winning show. As long as they have enough funding. And talent. House of Cards has been annually nominated for best actor/actress and writing awards. Legend of Zelda must be staffed with the same caliber of creator.

This story is beginning like almost every other. Popular videogame goes to the big/television screen. Gamers know how the story ends – if at all. So Netflix and Nintendo: please, please, please don’t screw this up. This is a huge opportunity to take the Legend of Zelda and turn it into even more of a household name.

Let's make Zelda even more amazing.

Let’s make Zelda even more amazing.

Here is your opportunity to make videogame adaptations less of a joke. A chance to make it so that the next time Metroid or Starcraft or League of Legends gets rumors of a film or TV adaptation gamers go wild with glee. It can happen. But it’s dangerous to go alone, Netflix. So spend the money that needs to be spent and get a crack team together. Make us proud. And please don’t disappoint the fans who want to love this.

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