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There's been some continued discussions about the history of The Legend of Zelda games as they head toward the release of the upcoming Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The character has been designed a number of different ways over the years. It turns out the question of how to depict Link is a big one that people don't always agree on. One of the more recent discussions centered on which style Link they would use to star in A Link Between Worlds.
Nintendo Everything picked up a select number of quotes from from the Zelda: Art & Artifacts Book where designer Yoshiki Haruhana elaborated on how they chose which style of Link to use for The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, which was the canonical sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. According to Haruhana, it all came down to the continuity between the SNES classic and the 3DS adventure game, saying...
For this title there was a difference of opinion on which Link to use. Since it was for the Nintendo 3DS, some felt that it should be Toon Link, since it's a title for a portable game system, but others said that this was a sequel to A Link to the Past, so it should be regular Link. We had a long debate over it. Since A Link to the Past was the original, it only made sense to go in that direction. And since it's been twenty-two years since the previous title, the expectation about the art style became what it is. I found myself thinking that the Zelda series certainly has a bit of everything, which keeps it interesting
It's a fascinating bit of information that allows us to slightly peek behind a curtain that Nintendo usually keeps closed very tight.
It does make sense that they would want to use the original Link design from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past since this was going to be a sequel to that game. However, it's also a good point that it was 22 years later and times have changed. Modifying the art-style to reflect the sensibilities of the way Link has been modified over the years for the Nintendo 3DS version of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds also makes sense.
They ultimately decided to use classic Link, which features the eponymous hero in his little man-dress with fold-over brown boots, the lengthy green cap, neck-length hair, and a brown undershirt. This is in stark contrast to the Toon Link design, which sees him in white tights, small brown boots, the typical man-dress and a light-green undershirt. His hair is also slightly shorter.
It is a bit amazing how much effort they put into the design of Link for some of the newer games, and contrasting that with some of his more classic designs from the older Legend of Zelda titles.
All of that debating and deliberating over A Link Between Worlds didn't matter when it came time to make Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force Heroes for the Nintendo 3DS. The entire discussion was scuttled when Legend of Zelda executive producer Eiji Aonuma came in and said that they were going to be using Toon Link, no questions asked.