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The Origins of Wolf Link: How Twilight Princess Shakes Up the Legend of Zelda Formula



Twilight Princess Wolf Link

When Link first enters the Twilight in Twilight Princess, he loses his familiar Hylian form and transforms into a new version of Link: Wolf Link. This is the most memorable and unique aspect of Twilight Princess because it introduces a whole new way of playing the game. Rather than relying on sword skills, players must learn to attack with bites and Midna’s power. When outside of battle, they can see Hyrule through a whole new perspective because of Wolf Link’s heightened senses and explore new areas because of his jumping abilities. Wolf Link makes Twilight Princess one of the most unique games in the entire Legend of Zelda series because of all the new mechanics he introduces.

Official art from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
Source: Nintendo

The concept of Link turning into an animal did not originate in Twilight Princess. The first instance of this occurring was as far back as A Link to the Past, in which Link transforms into a pink rabbit the first time he steps foot into the Dark World. Interestingly, in the manga of A Link to the Past by Akira Himekawa that was published just a year before Twilight Princess, Link briefly transformed into a wolf in the Dark World. Both the game and the manga dealt with Link transforming into an animal, a concept that would be revisited later for the franchise’s first game on the Wii.

When discussing the release of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD during a Miiting on Miiverse, Eiji Aonuma mentioned his inspiration for Wolf Link. He had a dream that he was a wolf trapped in a jail cell, which he thought was a great idea to put in a game. He stated that he never considered having Link transform into any other animal; a wolf was the only option. While Aonuma did not specify it in his post, his being imprisoned in the dream was likely the inspiration for the beginning of Twilight Princess, when Link first meets his companion Midna.

An image of Wolf Link howling in Twilight Princess HD.

Twilight Princess begins in a typical Zelda way; Link starts out using a sword in the tutorial section of the game, and it uses mechanics that are similar to other games in the series. Then, just as the player becomes accustomed to swordplay, Link enters the Twilight and transforms into a beast. This completely changes the gameplay, with the player now learning how to attack with bites and use their newfound wolf senses to see things that Hylian Link cannot. Wolf Link also gains the ability to dig and sneak through small passages as well as the ability to use Midna’s assistance to his advantage. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for puzzles and methods to reach new areas.

Wolf Link even helps Hylian Link learn new sword techniques through the use of howling stones. After he howls a song, he meets the Hero’s Shade in his golden wolf form. The Hero’s Shade then travels to an area that Link must go to in order to learn new sword skills. However, the golden wolf is not the only character that Wolf Link can interact with, however; he can also talk to other animals like dogs, cuccos, and even Epona. Sometimes they give him hints, while other times they simply have a meaningless conversation with him.

Official art from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD.
Source: Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda games usually follows Link as he traverses dungeons or tries to reach dungeons. Twilight Princess also places a heavy emphasis on dungeons but adds additional gameplay prior to them in the form of Twilight sections. When an area around a dungeon is covered in Twilight, Link is forced into wolf form and must collect tears of light to return the surrounding area and himself back to normal. After this is accomplished, the player still must search for a way to enter the dungeon as a Hylian.

Once Link gains the ability to freely shift between forms at will, the game makes the most of this. The first dungeon after this, The Arbiter’s Grounds, includes several sections where the player must become Wolf Link to progress. Poes abound in here, and there are even invisible enemies that slow both versions of Link down. Only Wolf Link can truly perceive these foes. Outside of this dungeon, Wolf Link continues to hunt down Poes in the form of a sidequest. The game gives players plenty of opportunities to use their wolf form even when it is no longer forced, so it still feels like Wolf Link is essential to Twilight Princess.

Twilight Princess not only reinvents Hyrule, but also Link himself. Players had become accustomed to the sword-wielding hero and his signature look, only for that to be turned on its head once he enters the Twilight. Wolf Link is the symbol of a new direction for the franchise; Twilight Princess is completely different in tone and style from prior Legend of Zelda games, similar to how Wolf Link is a completely different form of Link. He changed from a typical hero of light to that of a shadowy beast, allowing both sides of the same coin to be shown in this masterpiece of a game.

As an aspiring creative writer and artist, I dedicate most of my free time to drawing or creating ideas for video games. When I am not working on my creative pursuits, I am usually playing Fire Emblem, The Legend of Zelda, or Genshin Impact.