Hack-and-slash action game “Hyrule Warriors” will launch in North America next week, a spinoff of "The Legend of Zelda," Nintendo Co.'s (NASDAQ:NTDOY) durable gaming franchise. And with it, gamers will get the latest version of Nintendo's legendary protagonist Link, who turns 28 this year.
If that doesn't make you feel old, some of these screen shots will. Let's take a look back at 28 years of Link, who started out rescuing Princess Zelda in 1986 and has since been depicted as a child, a teenager, and an adult. Of course its hard to tell how old Link was in early versions of "Zelda"; perhaps that was better left to the imagination:
Link first appeared in the original "Legend of Zelda" game for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986. The title also introduced series mainstays Princess Zelda, the kingdom of Hyrule and enemy Ganon.
“Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” was the first to introduce Link’s magic meter. The game also allowed him to earn experience points and featured side-scrolling and multiple lives, three features that were never used in the franchise again.
“The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past” launched in 1991 for the Super Nintendo. The game is actually a prequel to the original game and “Zelda II.” In it, Link can travel between the Light World and the Dark World.
“The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening” reached gamers in 1993 for the portable Game Boy. The title is one of the few in the franchise that features Link outside of the kingdom of Hyrule.
“The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” hit shelves in 1998 for the Nintendo 64. Link is shown from a third-person perspective in a three-dimensional space. The improved graphics allow Link to be portrayed in a more detailed way, with brown boots, white tights and a hat so awesome it would make Santa feel irrelevant.
In 2000’s “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask,” Link can transform into different creatures with various abilities. There are 24 masks in total. Link’s powers change depending on which mask he wears. With the Zora mask, he can swim rapidly, throw fins from his arms and generate force fields.
2002’s “The Wind Waker” is the 10th installment in Nintendo’s series. In the title, Link is depicted as cartoon-like, with large eyes and flowing blond hair. He's also depicted this way in 2007's "Phantom Hourglass" and 2009's "Spirit Tracks."
"Twilight Princess," the thirteenth installment of “The Legend of Zelda” series, launched in 2006 for the GameCube. Link can transform between a wolf and a Hylian in his quest to prevent Hyrule from being corrupted by a parallel dimension known as the Twilight Realm.
As much as we love how Link looks in every "Legend of Zelda" game, he truly looks like a hero in 2011's "Skyward Sword" for the Wii. The title received a number of perfect scores from several publications, and made use of the Wii MotionPlus peripheral for sword-fighting.
Warning: "The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds" will easily take up a week of your life. The 3DS game takes place in the same setting as 1991's "A Link to the Past," but has Link transfer between Lorule and Hyrule instead of the Light and Dark Worlds. This is the first game that allows Link to merge into walls, an ability that uses his magic meter.