Princess Zelda Doesn’t Need A Sword to Be A Hero In The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom

Zelda finally gets a quest of her own.

key art from The Legend of Zelda Echoes of Wisdom

It’s finally happening! After decades of being sidelined in a game series that’s named after her, Zelda is headlining a game of her own — The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom. Announced at the June Nintendo Direct, Echoes of Wisdom takes Link off the board entirely and gives Zelda a unique set of powers for her first turn as hero.

The Echoes of Wisdom trailer starts with Link creeping into a dungeon to rescue Princess Zelda, seemingly setting up yet another damsel-in-distress tale. But after defeating Ganon, he goes and falls into a giant hole in the ground (silly Link), freeing Zelda from the gem she was trapped in at the last moment. From there, Echoes of Wisdom reveals that it’s the game so many have been waiting a long time for — one that finally gives Zelda her due.

Echoes of Wisdom finally lets Princess Zelda take the lead in a game that isn’t that horrible CD-i one.

Played from a top-down perspective with an art style similar to the remake of Link’s Awakening, Echoes of Wisdom could have easily been a typical Legend of Zelda game, and Zelda no more than a palette swap of Link. But it instead cements Zelda as her own character with abilities just as impressive as Link’s, while borrowing some of the best elements of Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom.

Where Link-starring Legend of Zelda games focus largely on swordplay with a side of puzzles, Echoes of Wisdom makes strategy the main course. In the new game, the magically gifted Zelda uses a staff to create echoes (get it?) of objects or enemies around the world. Throughout the trailer, we see her making duplicates of everything from tables and trees to bomb-spitting monsters.

Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom were lauded for letting players approach battles and puzzles alike in multiple creative ways. Setting grass on fire to burn bokoblins to a crisp and building mile-long ramps to reach mountaintops are both valid strategies. Echoes of Wisdom makes that same idea the core of its gameplay. The trailer shows Zelda constructing a column of water to swim up to an out-of-reach ledge, using meat to distract menacing crows, and summoning monsters to join her side in combat. Maybe the most Tears-like moment comes when she hot glues a bunch of beds together to form a bridge and cross a chasm.

Zelda visits iconic locations in The Legend of Zelda series in Echoes of Wisdom.


From the short trailer we’ve seen, Echoes of Wisdom looks like the perfect way to introduce Zelda as the hero of her own game. Her gameplay is much different from Link’s, so she feels capable of doing more than just emulating her male counterpart, and it also makes sense with the themes of the series. Link is the holder of the Triforce of Courage, and his role as a brave swordsman reflects that. Zelda, on the other hand, has the Triforce of Wisdom, which manifests in the new game as her magical skills and clever thinking.

Series producer Eiji Aonuma asks rhetorically in the Direct reveal, “Will Zelda fight with a sword, then?” This is a Legend of Zelda game, and those are about hitting things with swords, right? Well, no. Combat has always been a major part of The Legend of Zelda, but much more important are the sense of exploration and adventure, and the idea of a lone hero saving the kingdom through might and wits.

Zelda is doing fine without a sword in Echoes of Wisdom.


Some commenters online immediately leapt at the idea that Zelda doesn’t use a sword as a sign that she’s being treated as lesser, or that the game’s focus on strategy rather than stabbing is somehow an attempt to make it more “girly.” I could not disagree with that more. There are plenty of things in video games more interesting than hitting monsters with a sword. And even if Echoes of Wisdom is somehow using puzzles in an attempt to be more feminine — fine! Femininity is not, in fact, a lesser trait, nor are puzzle games inferior to action games. Just because Zelda doesn’t wield the same weapon as the series’ usual male protagonist doesn’t mean she’s any less of a hero. And to be clear, Zelda does very much smash a bokoblin’s skull with a rock in the game’s trailer, so not having a sword doesn’t mean she can’t hold her own in a fight.

It’s not that there’s no reason to worry about how Echoes of Wisdom will treat its new protagonist. Nintendo has had a checkered history with its female characters, to say the least, and its attempts to course correct haven’t always been successful. While I was happy to see Princess Peach: Showtime! give Nintendo’s other underappreciated princess the spotlight, I did find its execution a little lacking, with gameplay that felt shallow despite its variety. In my review of Showtime, I speculated that that shallowness could have been a cynical move by Nintendo based on false assumptions that girls don’t want complex games.

I don’t see any of that in Echoes of Wisdom. Instead, I see a game that treats Zelda as a character with a skill set that’s every bit as valuable as Link’s, and even more varied, without taking the easy route of making her a carbon copy of him. The image of a lone male knight wielding a sword to rescue a princess is culturally ingrained as our idea of a hero, while the princess is a prize to be won. Echoes of Wisdom may finally let the princess be the hero on her own terms instead, and without replicating the toxic dynamics of the knight in shining armor story. Besides, we already have countless games that let us carve a path through monsters with swords, but how many let you save the day by summoning tables?

The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom will be released on Nintendo Switch on September 24.

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