Princess Zelda will finally be the star in a ‘Legend of Zelda’ game

The beginning of the trailer for the new “Legend of Zelda” video game looks similar to the dozens of others the franchise has released since 1986: Link runs through a castle and defeats enemies with his sword to save Zelda, the titular princess.

But this time, moments after freeing Zelda from a crystal cell with an arrow, Link, the franchise’s longtime main character, sinks into a mysterious rift. Zelda finds herself alone as she escapes the castle and looks over Hyrule, a fantasy kingdom where the games take place.

“Now, it’s up to Princess Zelda to step into the protagonist role,” Eiji Aonuma, the franchise’s producer, said while announcing the game Tuesday.

For years, fans of “The Legend of Zelda” have debated why the series is named after Zelda, when Link has been the main playable character. Some have theorized that it’s because the player has to save Zelda; others argued that the franchise’s story revolves around Zelda and her ancestors.

Zelda is playable in a few other games in the series, but “The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom,” which is expected to release on the Nintendo Switch in September, is the first Nintendo-produced title in which the princess is the sole main character.

In some games, Link had a fairy companion to assist his quests to save Zelda from evil forces. In the new game, Zelda will have her own fairy partner, Tri, as she sets out to save Link from one of the many dark rifts that have emerged throughout Hyrule. But instead of fighting with a sword and shield, like Link has for decades, Zelda will use a rod that can create copies of items — tables, beds, rocks — to help fight enemies and solve puzzles.

“We wanted to create a new gameplay style that breaks conventions seen in past ‘Legend of Zelda’ games,” Aonuma said.

Until “Echoes of Wisdom,” Link had been the face of the franchise’s best-selling games, including recent standouts “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” and “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.”

But why then is the series named after Zelda — not Link?

Shigeru Miyamoto, who helped create the franchise, said in the 2011 book “The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia” that he wanted to name the series “The Legend Of …” but couldn’t decide on the final word. A Nintendo public relations strategist suggested he name the princess in the games after novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda Fitzgerald, Miyamoto said in the book.

“She was a famous and beautiful woman from all accounts, and I liked the sound of her name,” Miyamoto told Amazon in the early 2000s. “So I took the liberty of using her name for the very first Zelda title.”

After Tuesday’s announcement, fans joked on social media that the new game should be called “The Legend of Link,” because Link is being rescued instead of Zelda for once.

“Now just reverse the title to ‘The Legend of Link’ to keep the roles reversed,” one user wrote on X.

“Finally we get to play the legend of ZELDA,” another wrote.

Zelda is the second famous female Nintendo character this year to receive a rare starring role. In March, Princess Peach, whom Mario has saved numerous times in his video games, was the main character of “Princess Peach: Showtime!” On Tuesday, Nintendo also announced that “Metroid Prime 4: Beyond,” which stars female intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran, will come out next year.

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