Princess Zelda (ゼルダ姫, Princess Zelda) is the titular character of The Legend of Zelda series by Nintendo. Unlike the majority of Nintendo characters, there are several, distinct incarnations of Princess Zelda seen throughout The Legend of Zelda series. Regardless, most share the same status as the crown princess of Hyrule, the setting for the vast majority of the series.
Other hallmarks shared by the various iterations of Zelda are their possession of both inherent magical abilities and the Triforce of Wisdom, although these are not depicted universally. While earlier games depicted Princess Zelda as a damsel-in-distress, a number of modern games have depicted her as an ally, companion, and love interest to the series' protagonist, Link.
Princess Zelda's first appearance was in The Legend of Zelda on the NES, where she served as the damsel-in-distress for Link to rescue from the evil monster known as Ganon. Within the series' chronology, however, Zelda makes her first appearance in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword; this game is notably the only one where Zelda is not a princess, due to Hyrule's royalty having yet to be established during the game's events. Instead, she is the goddess Hylia reborn as a mortal, who chooses her childhood friend Link as her hero like Hylia did with her own chosen hero.
Zelda has appeared in some capacity in every installment of The Legend of Zelda series, with the exception of Link's Awakening, where she is only mentioned briefly, and Tri Force Heroes, where she is referenced via an outfit. While she has typically assumed this role in subsequent games, modern depictions of Zelda have seen her assume an active role in Link's final battles. Notable examples include The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Spirit Tracks and Breath of the Wild.
It is worth noting that while there have been multiple games within The Legend of Zelda series, it has not always been the same Princess Zelda who appears in each installment, with this same notion being shared with Link. This is evident by the fact that there are multiple timelines within the series, wherein many games typically feature a new Zelda. By extension, Zelda's age has varied across the series: she appears as a young girl in some games, and as a teenager or young adult in others. Ocarina of Time notably featured Zelda being portrayed as both a child and an adult in the same game.
Zelda is often depicted as a classically beautiful princess who sports long, blonde hair, blue eyes and pointy ears, the latter of which is typical of Hylians. However, her hair and eye color are not universally consistent, as shown in The Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link, Twilight Princess, and Breath of the Wild. On a more exaggerated note, many games that use the "toon" design popularized by The Wind Waker feature Zelda with cartoonish anatomy; most notably, her "toon" design features large eyes with pupils that are fully black or have a blue hue in 2D and 3D art, respectively.
Zelda's dress is often portrayed as having elaborate designs, and is predominantly colored pink or purple alongside white and occasionally gold. However, she also wears a simple blue dress in A Link to the Past; white, robe-like dresses in Skyward Sword and Breath of the Wild; and a blue tunic with black pants combination as well as a dark blue dress with gold trim in Breath of the Wild. Her footwear varies between heels (Ocarina of Time), boots (Twilight Princess and Breath of the Wild), and sandals (A Link to the Past/A Link Between Worlds, Skyward Sword, and Breath of the Wild). Zelda is also occasionally seen wearing a cape, as shown in A Link to the Past and A Link Between Worlds.
Zelda's first playable appearance occurred in the non-canonical Philips CD-i The Legend of Zelda games, which are infamous for their poor quality. Her first playable appearance in an official Nintendo game was Super Smash Bros. Melee, while The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks marked her her first playable appearance within her home series.
While Zelda herself makes no appearances in Super Smash Bros., she is nevertheless referenced, due to The Legend of Zelda, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time being mentioned.
As a playable character
Main article: Zelda (SSBM)
The adult version of Zelda's incarnation from Ocarina of Time appears as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. However, due to the GameCube's improved graphics, Zelda's design in this game is far more detailed than in Ocarina of Time. Like her fellow series representatives Link and Ganondorf, Zelda is a slow, but powerful character. However, she deviates from them by being a lightweight whose moveset almost entirely consists of magical attacks, three of which are based on spells used by Link in Ocarina of Time. Her neutral special move is Nayru's Love, which emits a crystalline barrier that deals damage and offers protection. Her side special move is Din's Fire, which launches a magical fireball at her opponents. Lastly, her up special move is Farore's Wind, which teleports her in a desired direction.
Zelda also has the distinction of being the only character who can become an entirely different character. In this case, she can use her down special move, Transform, to assume her alter ego from Ocarina of Time, Sheik, who boasts a drastically different playstyle in comparison. Despite the power and versatility of her magical attacks, Zelda is hindered by her poor mobility and overly demanding, situational playstyle. As such, she is ranked 22nd out of 26 on the tier list, which places her in the F tier and renders her a low-tier character.
Main article: List of SSBM trophies (The Legend of Zelda series)
Zelda is a playable character, so she is featured on three trophies that can be acquired by beating each major 1-player mode with her on any difficulty. Her first trophy is earned by defeating Classic Mode as her on any difficulty, her second is from Adventure Mode, and her third is from All-Star Mode.
Her Classic trophy reads as follows:
The crown princess of Hyrule. Zelda entrusted Link with the future of Hyrule after a revelation came to her in the world of dreams. She knows much about the Triforce; in fact, the only person who likely knows more about Triforce lore is Ganondorf himself, whom Zelda evaded in Ocarina of Time by transforming into her alter ego, Sheik.
As a playable character
Main article: Zelda (SSBB)
Unlike Melee, Super Smash Bros. Brawl does not feature the Zelda from Ocarina of Time. Instead, she has been succeeded by her descendant, the Zelda from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. While this Zelda's playstyle is essentially the same as her ancestor's, she nonetheless sports a few differences. The most noticeable of these are her appearance as "Zelda/Sheik" on the character selection screen, which allows her starting form to be chosen, and her possession of a Final Smash called Light Arrow, which can pierce multiple opponents and boasts enough power to one-hit KO the first opponent it hits.
Even though this Zelda's attacks are much stronger, she shares the same significant weaknesses as her ancestor, which are further compounded by Brawl's changes to gameplay physics. Due to her weaknesses largely outweighing her strengths, Zelda is ranked 37th out of 38 on the Brawl tier list. This places her in the F tier, and renders her as a bottom-tier character.
Main article: List of SSBB trophies (The Legend of Zelda series)
Zelda has a trophy that is awarded each time Classic Mode is completed with her on any difficulty, and several randomly available ones. See Light Arrow for the trophy description of Zelda's Final Smash, and Sheik for trophies of her in that form:
The princess of Hyrule. In other games, her role changes between titles. In Ocarina of Time, she was hunted by the would-be conqueror, Ganondorf. She deceived him, however, by adopting the persona of Sheik. In Twilight Princess, she surrendered to Zant and was held as his prisoner.
The princess of Hyrule, loved and trusted by the people. When Hyrule is invaded by Zant from the Twilight Realm, Zelda is resolute in opposing him...but she chooses to protect her people and must surrender. From then on, she is imprisoned in the Twilight Hyrule Castle. In memory of the lost people of Hyrule, Zelda wears a black robe of mourning.
Zelda (Wind Waker)
The rightful successor of the throne and descendant of the true royal bloodline of Hyrule. She strove to put an end to the ongoing battles with Ganondorf. As the bearer of the Triforce of Wisdom, she became a target of the resurrected Ganondorf. Although she was hidden in Hyrule Castle, Ganondorf managed to find and kidnap her.
As a playable character
Main article: Zelda (SSB4)
The Twilight Princess incarnation of Zelda reappears as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. 4. However, her overall color scheme is noticeably more vibrant because of SSB4's aesthetics.
Despite being a bottom-tier character in Brawl, Zelda received a mix of buffs and nerfs in the transition to SSB4. The most noticeable nerf is her separation from Sheik, who is now an entirely separate character. This nerf is further compounded both by the drastic buffs Sheik received in her own transition to SSB4, and Zelda's key flaws not being properly addressed. However, the buffs Zelda received are quite noticeable: her damage racking potential has improved, Farore's Wind is now a very potent KOing option, and she received a new down special called Phantom Slash that has utility as both an offensive and defensive attack.
In addition to these inherent buffs, Zelda received numerous buffs via game updates. These include increased damage outputs, improved multiple hit connectivity, decreased ending lag, and the removal of Phantom Slash's blind spot. The changes to shield mechanics also indirectly buffed her multiple hit moves and Lightning Kicks by making them safer on shield, and making her better at avoiding punishment.
Although Zelda's strengths are largely outweighed by her weaknesses, she has nevertheless become slightly better than she was in Brawl. As such, Zelda is currently ranked 53rd out of 55 on the SSB4 tier list, placing her in the G tier (being tied with Ganondorf). In addition to being marginally better than her ranking in Brawl, SSB4's removal of the bottom-tier as of its third tier list also results in Zelda being assessed as a low-tier character like her ancestor is in Melee, rather than as a bottom-tier character like she was in Brawl.
A Zelda wig is also available as a headgear for all Mii Fighter types.
As a playable character
Main article: Zelda (SSBU)
For the first time since Brawl, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate features a new incarnation of Zelda as a playable character. Unlike her predecessors, this Zelda is an unlockable character and, more notably, not based on a single incarnation. Instead, this Zelda features a combination of design elements from her incarnation in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and that respective incarnation's descendant in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. In addition to a complete redesign, Zelda received a new Final Smash, Triforce of Wisdom.
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