Out of the many announcements at E3 2014, a new game in The Legend of Zelda series was one of the least surprising, but nonetheless one of the most intriguing. Since the more recent titles in the franchise have featured fairly linear mission styles, producer Eiji Aonuma said that he wanted to return to the more exploration oriented open world structure that the first game had, and offered a first look at the upcoming game’s vast landscape, surveyed by a familiar-looking traveller on horseback.

When the young hero whipped off their hood and leapt into the air to do battle with a fire-breathing creature, most who saw the trailer assumed that the blond-haired youth was The Legend of Zelda‘s perennial protagonist Link. According to Aonuma, however, we shouldn’t take anything for granted.

Speaking to GamesBeat in an interview at E3, Aonuma smiled and laughed when asked about Link’s new appearance and said mysteriously, “No one explicitly said that that was Link.” It’s certainly a sentence to make you think. Upon closer inspection, the horse that the adventurer is riding has a dark mane rather than a white one, meaning that it might not be Link’s faithful companion Epona.

You can’t blame Legend of Zelda fans for assuming that the character in the teaser was Link. His appearance and origins have varied across his various incarnations, with the only truly consistent attributes being his blond hair, elfin appearance and green tunic and hat. The outfit is new, but looks similar to the blue tunic that Link wore in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.

Another defining feature of Link is his slightly androgynous looks, and even when squinting at the character depicted in this teaser it’s difficult to say for sure whether they are male or female. After all, Zelda’s alter ego Sheik, who first appeared in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, is distinctly male in appearance. In light of Aonuma’s comments, some fans have speculated that the upcoming Legend of Zelda will actually feature the titular character as its protagonist, and that this is simply a new look for her.

Another possible explanation, based on the appearance of both the hero and the horse, is that the game’s protagonist might be a son or daughter of Link or Zelda. The more romantic fans have already speculated that Link and Zelda finally decided to get together, and that the new character is their offspring.

For now we won’t completely write off the possibility that Aonuma is just trolling us, but it would certainly be a bold move to make a major new Legend of Zelda game in which Link is not the hero.

[Update: It turns out that Aonuma was just kidding. When asked about his comment by MMGN, the producer chuckled and responded:

“It’s not that I said that it wasn’t Link. It’s that I never said that it was Link. It’s not really the same thing, but I can understand how it could be taken that way. It seems like it has kind of taken off where people are saying ‘oh it’s a female character’ and it just kind of grew. But my intent in saying that was humour. You know, you have to show Link when you create a trailer for a Zelda announcement.”

Are you disappointed to hear that Nintendo won’t be striking out with a new character, or are you looking forward to seeing Link again?]

Game Rant E3 2014 Live Coverage

The new Legend of Zelda game is expected to release on Wii U some time in 2015.

Source: GamesBeat, MMGN