Super Smash Character Reviews: Link
Welcome Back to GoNintendo’s Smash Fighter Review Series, where we look at Smash Ultimate’s massive roster and see how well these beloved characters made the jump. If you missed our debut episode on Mario, we highly suggest checking it out, as we explain the rules of our grading system in further depth than we will here.
In celebration of the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, today’s episode brings us to the other heavy hitter of Nintendo’s first party line-up – The Hero of Time/Twilight/Wild and whatever other noun you feel like tossing in there – Link!
Joking aside, Link does present an interesting issue for this series’ analysis. Whereas Mario is meant to be the same character every game, Link is more often than not a different person from game to game with very few direct sequels in the series’ over 30-year history.
The Links of Smash 64 and Melee we’re based off of Adult Link’s appearance in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Come Brawl and Smash 4 his design was changed to reflect his appearance in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
While Link may have looked like a specific version of himself in previous Smash Bros. entries, his in-game design was intended to be a more generic idea of what Link is as a character, especially when you consider that there are very few specific Ocarina of Time or Twilight Princess abilities in his movesets. For example, the Links of the past Smash games don’t make it rain with the Song of Storms or transform into a wolf. In fact, the only time this rule was broken was when “Twilight Princess Link” used the gale Boomerang in Brawl and Smash 4 – an item not found in Ocarina of Time.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate would bring another new look for Link.
For those who don’t remember the initial Smash Ultimate trailer (before we even knew it was called Smash Ultimate), we got direct confirmation that the Inklings from Splatoon would be joining the fight and that, unsurprisingly, Link would don his design from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
I say unsurprisingly as Breath of the Wild was the most popular the Zelda series had ever been, so a design change made sense.
However, unlike past Smash games, this Link took a lot more tools from his source game when entering the fight. We’ll get into the specifics of his kit later; for now, it’s important to establish that we will be analyzing Link on how well he represents his Breath of the Wild persona specifically. We won’t be referencing his past Smash appearances as much as we did with Mario, unless there is something that those versions do that would’ve worked just as well if not better for “Breath of the Wild Link.”
Also, even though I’m pretty sure this doesn’t need to be said, we will not be docking points for not including elements from Tears of the Kingdom, as that game was probably barely even starting development when Smash Ultimate released in 2018.
All that said, let’s see what the Hero of the Wilds brings to the Battlefield!
Before we get into the moves themselves, I wanted to point out how Breath of the Wild Link is the first Link in Smash Bros. to break the series’ tradition of Link being left-handed.
This reflects Link’s portrayal in Breath of the Wild as, despite the game lacking motion controls on the same level as Skyward Sword, Link was made right-handed. The only explanation we got for why this change was made is because the buttons for attacking we’re on the right side of the controller, but that never stopped them before.
I always thought it was cool that Link was a lefty, so it’s a shame that this trait was scrubbed out for such a lackluster reason. While this isn’t Smash Bros. fault, I felt the need to reference this change as many of Link’s animations from past Smash games had to be altered to reflect his new right-handedness.
Onto the attacks themselves: his Neutrals are pretty standard as the slashes and strikes you’d expect from a blade wielder, but there are few clear-cut references. Link’s Up and Down Air come from one of the few side-scrolling Zelda experiences, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
And bar none the coolest addition Ultimate added is when at 0%, Link’s Forward Smash sends out a beam attack like the sword does in multiple Zelda titles when at full health. It doesn’t do much in combat, but it’s still nice to see a change that many in the fanbase wanted to see happen in the Smash Bros. series.
Something rather interesting is that Link throws in a few kicks for his Grabs and Ariels.
While some might dislike that Link isn’t a pure sword fighter, I really like this addition to his moveset. We’ll get into a bit more of what this means for Link in the design section, but it helps to portray Link as a scrappy fighter who’s willing to improvise.
Honestly, my biggest gripe with his moveset is that Link doesn’t have a little more spice, especially considering the wide array of weapons available to Link in BOTW. I don’t think he should pull out all his items and weapons for his Neutrals, but there is a pretty important one that doesn’t see much use.
Link’s Hylian shield is just as iconic as the Master Sword, but the only purpose it serves in Smash is to, well… shield. This is especially egregious as BOTW had shield bashing AND introduced shield surfing, which would’ve been fun Neutrals OR Specials.
Another unfortunate loss to Link’s moveset is that his grab no longer includes the hook shot, as the item was not featured in BOTW.
Pour one out…
The loss of the hook shot results in his Grabs feeling severely lacking in a way that they didn’t before. And if there were any place to have Link pull out some of the other weapon types from BOTW, these Throw animations would’ve been it.
All in all, Link’s Neutrals do a good job of covering the basics of Link but definitely have room to be pushed further.
While Link’s sword skills are shown off in his Neutrals, we get a taste of his smorgasbord of items from across the series in his Specials.
His Neutral Special allows Link to charge and shoot an arrow from his iconic bow, probably his most famous weapon next to his shield. A neat addition for Smash Ultimate is that some arrows that miss their mark will fall on the ground where Link can pick them up to fire two at once. This unfortunately doesn’t make up for the fact that this Special doesn’t live up to the full potential of the bow.
Side Special is the boomerang, a projectile that hits opponents both going out and coming back. It honestly feels pretty boring after losing its ability to draw in items and opponents from Smash 4 and Brawl. I understand that the Gale Boomerang was specific to Twilight Princess Link but it definitely feels like something was lost, especially considering how great his Down Special is now.
Up Special is the iconic spin attack, able to be performed on both the ground and in the air. While the spin attack has never been used to ascend in the Zelda series at the time of Smash 64’s development there really wasn’t a move or item that would’ve been a suitable recovery. Nowadays though, they could certainly do better but we’ll get to that in the improvements category.
Last but not least is Down Special, the classic bombs with a modern twist. Link now has access to the remote bomb rune from Breath of the Wild and with them the ability to control when the blast goes off. This small change took what was an all-right attack and made it a great one, skilled players using the remote bombs to their full potential is a sight to see.
There are definitely some good choices for Specials but, save for the bombs, they do feel pretty one-note. And speaking of one-note, let’s talk about the Final Smash
Link’s Final Smash in Ultimate is extremely disappointing. While the old Triforce Slash was pretty generic, it at least looked visually interesting. Here, the ancient arrows feel like Zelda’s old Light Arrow Final Smash but even lamer.
I understand the ancient arrows are a powerful and iconic tool in Breath of the Wild (Link using the arrow was one of the first things seen in the original BOTW trailer), but they don’t feel Final Smash worthy.
All in all, Link’s Special Attacks cover all the basics you’d expect from a Link moveset, but (save for a few examples) they don’t dig enough into the complexities of Breath of the Wild to be living up to their full potential.
We mentioned Link’s sword beam earlier, but another neat touch is that Link’s shield will actually block projectiles when he’s standing still; this isn’t the most useful technique in battle, but it’s nice to see that the developers thought of it. That decision especially stands out considering how even though swords are a common weapon in Smash Bros., traditional held shields are a rare sight. And speaking of swords…
Link was the only character in Smash 64 to wield a sword back in 1999, but nowadays the Smash series has become rather infamous for its ever-growing roster of sword users. It might make one wonder, does the original swordsman still stand out compared to those who came later? And for me, the answer is yes.
The “too many swords” argument has always bugged me. While I agree that more unique weapons could and probably should be picked over more swords, I think it’s ridiculous to suggest that all sword characters play the same. Link’s a great example of a unique sword fighter; even though he was the first and arguably most generic sword user, he still stands out from the crowd all these years later because of the care the developers put into his moveset.
What makes Link stand out to me from his contemporaries is how scrappy yet thoughtful he is in his attack animations. Link is like the middle ground between Ike’s intense sword strikes and Marth’s delicate precision.
You can tell just from the way Link animates that he is trained in the ways of the blade, but is improvising in the heat of battle. He lacks a certain elegance. His bow, boomerangs, and bombs add to this feeling, as he is using everything at his disposal to give himself the advantage.
This is fitting, considering that Link in Breath of the Wild was trained from a young age to be a royal knight but, due to the events of the game’s story, ends up thrust into the wilds of Hyrule having to fend for himself and improvise.
The closest comparison I can think of is Jackie Chan’s fighting style in many of his films, someone who is clearly skilled but won’t leave the fight unscathed and isn’t afraid to use unconventional methods.
Throughout the entire Smash series, and especially in Ultimate, Link continues to boast a unique style that no other sword fighter has managed to match.
We’ve touched already on how Link is now a righty, but what other special touches does he have?
To start with his costumes, we got a nice swath of references to colors seen in outfits in both Breath of the Wild and other Zelda releases. The costumes even alternate between his Champion’s Tunic design from the game and his “Tunic of the Wild” which is inspired by his classic green hat design.
My only real gripe with these costumes is that I don’t like the Tunic of the Wild’s design, but that’s not Smash’s fault. I just think seeing Link’s legs looks weird, but the rest of the costumes don’t have this problem so it’s fine.
Another minor gripe I have with this iteration of Link is his taunts; not that they’re bad, but I wish that at least one of them tapped into Link’s goofier personality.
…another cool sword pose…
…and a cool sword sheathing pose just to mix things up.
It would’ve been funny to see Link chow down on some food from his bag or whip out the Sheikah Slate for a selfie. It’s nowhere near as big a characterization issue as with Mario, but I do feel being able to see that goofy side of him helps to sell that Jackie Chan-esque style I was talking about earlier.
If not in the taunts, it would’ve at least been nice to see his goofiness on display in one of his victory screen animations (something I forgot to mention with Mario).
All in all, though Link definitely looks the part like the heroes who came before him.
I think Link’s interpretation in Smash Ultimate is pretty solid; they chose to translate the thought-provoking puzzles of the Zelda series by giving Link plenty of his iconic tools and tasking the player to unlock their full potential. This makes every battle with Link a puzzle that needs to be solved.
While players can certainly survive with just the sword and shield, utilizing all of Link’s tools to their fullest potential can really make Link a spectacle to watch – the best example of which is the remote bombs.
It’s incredible what a difference a simple change like being able to control the time of the explosion can make, but it transformed the bombs from being an alright move to one of the most interesting in the game.
The bombs have become so good, in fact, that it makes the other Specials feel lacking by comparison. We’ll get into this more in the improvements section, but I do wish that the bow attack had the same utility as the bombs; Link not being able to move and aim with his your bow feels so bizarre.
Using your tools to do things not thought possible in a Zelda game is the essence of Breath of the Wild, and it’s the essence of Link’s portrayal in Smash. Link’s moveset invites players to explore and experiment, just like the vast fields of Hyrule call to all adventurous hearts – I only wish there were more tools to play with!
I understand that, given Ultimate’s development time and scope, it would’ve been difficult to revamp all of Link’s moves and work in more Breath of the Wild specific attacks. But it still feels like a shame given that this will probably be the only time that Breath of the Wild Link specifically will ever be in Smash.
Link will likely get a Tears of the Kingdom inspired re-design whenever the next game comes (heck, depending on how long the next Smash takes, we might be on a completely new Zelda with no relation to the Switch era of the series). If/when that happens, I just hope they have the time to make that version of Link live up to this experimental ideal while also embracing attributes unique to that game’s version of the character
Link’s Final Score is 38/50 or 76%.
Link is an incredibly compelling idea for a character that I wish was pushed further. Ironically, I feel this is the thought process the Zelda developers get into when making the next installment, so that must mean Smash is doing something right. Hopefully the next Smash game will have the time and/or resources to really flesh out Link’s concept to the fullest.
It feels like a moot point to suggest improvements for this version of Link. As I stated earlier, it’s very possible the next Smash game will change his design and moveset yet again to reflect Tears of the Kingdom (my condolences to the dev team if they try to incorporate the fuse mechanic). However, if by some odd chance they decide to stick with Breath of the Wild Link again, here are some ideas…
Considering how important rescuing the champions is to Breath of the Wild’s story and gameplay, it makes sense that we have the Champion’s Gifts be featured in the moveset in some way. I’m going to warn you though, this gets pretty in depth.
Mipha’s Grace is probably the most over-powered ability when placed in the context of Smash, as in BOTW it allowed Link to become fully healed after receiving a fatal blow.
In Smash, this would simply be a special animation that would feature the spirit of Mipha flying around Link on the revival platform after losing a stock, the implication being that she healed him up enough to get him back in the fight without actually impacting gameplay.
Another special animation…
For Shielding and Parrying!
Similarly, Daruk’s Protection could be a special animation for Link’s shield in Smash, and when you successfully perform a parry the spirit of Daruk will pose along with Link. This won’t affect gameplay it will just be a different and more flashy animation.
A powerful blast of lightning…
Could power up Link’s new Down Smash!
Urbosa’s Fury is where these powers will start to have an effect on the battlefield. In BOTW, Urbosa’s Fury served a lightning charged spin attack to foes and it can do something similarly here.
As I hinted at earlier, I suggest changing Link’s Spin Attack from his Up Special to his Down Smash, so when Link has a charge of Urbosa’s Fury the Smash will be super-charged, delivering a jolt of lightning energy in the area around Link.
Don’t worry about spamming though – Link will only have one charge of the attack per stock, so once he uses it, he’ll have to be KO-ed before he can use it again.
Lastly is, of course, Revali’s Gale – and considering I made the Spin Attack Link’s Down Smash as opposed to his Recovery, you can probably already guess where this is going. However, I have an interesting twist on the concept: much like in BOTW, Link will not always have access to Revali’s Gale and will have to rely on his wit instead.
When lacking a charge of Revali’s Gale, Link’s new Up Special involves using a fire-rod…
to create an updraft to rise with his paraglider!
Upon tapping Up B, Link will hop in the air and shoot a blast of fire directly below him, after which he will immediately whip out his paraglider and ride the updraft caused by the flame. The fireball would also serve as a projectile on its way to the ground and any opponent that gets in its way will serve as fuel for the blaze making it a fun edge-guarding tool.
The downside to this attack is that the fireball will need to either hit something (character, platform, bottom of the screen) or travel a decent distance before the updraft will actually begin. This will leave Link a floating duck for a few seconds as he slowly descends with his paraglider waiting for the breeze to start.
This is where Revali’s Gale comes in. If Link has a charge, then all one needs to do is hold the Up B command to charge up and release to go flying instantly with Revali. You could, however, still just tap the command and perform the fire rod version of the recovery if you’d rather save Revali’s Gale for a more pressing situation.
I wanted to add a bit of BOTW’s resource management into Link’s moveset – and while I think having breakable weapons would be a bit too much, having to keep track of Revali’s Gale would be a good compromise, especially considering how important recoveries are in Smash.
To be clear though, Revali’s Gale can be activated multiple times in a stock, unlike Urbosa’s Fury. It will basically charge off screen, similar to Wario’s Waft or Cloud’s Limit Break, until an icon appears next to Link’s Icon signaling that “Revali’s Gale is now ready!” – they could even add in the voice clip if they want.
I had considered having Urbosa’s Fury work this way as well, but the idea in my head for Urbosa’s Fury seems way too overpowered to be used more than once a stock.
As one last nod to the Champions, I thought it’d be cute if Link received new throw attacks where he utilizes the Champions’ weapons.
Instead of a kick for his Forward Throw…
…He could slash with Urbosa’s Scimitar of the Seven!
Likewise, the reverse throw kick…
…Could be a heavy slam from Daruk’s Boulder breaker!
Instead of an upwards sword slash for the up-throw…
…Link could shoot ’em out of the sky with Revali’s Great Eagle Bow!
Lastly, instead of a body slam down throw…
…Link could impale the grounded foe with Mipha’s Lightscale Trident!
It’s a simpler way to add in the additional weapons from the game without having to redo the whole move set.
That’s all the Champion related ideas I’ve got, but let’s talk about the bow.
I’m sure many people would want to see Link use the different arrows added to his kit, but that feels like a bit much. My suggestion instead is to have Link be able to move back and forth and angle his shot as he charges the arrow.
It’s a small change, but it would help add extra utility to the move similar to how the bombs were changed.
Another feature I’d love to see them try to add to the bow is the slow-motion Bullet Time effect that you get when firing from the air.
This obviously would only slow down Link and not the other fighters but it’d be a great way to stall your fall and attempt more precise shots. It’s definitely something that’d need to be properly balanced.
If I could magically implement any of these changes it would definitely be adding this utility to the bow. The bow is probably one of the more recognizable non-Master Sword weapons from Zelda, so it would be nice to see it used to its full utility. I can’t say the same for the boomerang.
While I understand the boomerang is a Zelda staple that is still in Breath of The Wild, I honestly would like to see it replaced with something more unique to the game. I actually have three separate ideas for how this could be achieved.
The most self-explanatory idea. Link uses Stasis on the area directly Infront of him and any character or item in the way is frozen in place. Form their all attacks from Link or other players will affect the prisoner’s inertia like it does in the game. For balancing purposes though, only inertia would be affected by attacks so the caught enemy won’t take damage and they can also mash the buttons to make Stasis wear off sooner.
Similar to Stasis, Link summons a Cryonis pillar in the spot directly in front of him. The pillar can be used as a platform by him and other players or be used as makeshift protection from coming attacks. My only problem with this idea is I don’t know how it could function in the air or off stage.
This last idea is a two-parter and probably my favorite of the ideas. When on the ground, Link will perform a shield bash directly in front of him that will not only hit opponents but reflect projectiles, similar to how Link can reflect Guardian beams in Breath of the Wild. The input can also be held to have Link hold the shield out in front of him and then throw out the bash when releasing the button.
When in the air however, Link flips forward and proceeds to shield surf down onto the battlefield, protecting his feet from attacks from below. Colliding with other fighters in this state will cause damage and, depending on the terrain he lands on, he might keep sliding even more. My favorite part about this attack though is that it can be combined with a well-timed remote bomb explosion to create…
A Bomb Jump! Considering how much of BOTW’s online identity revolves around the crazy tricks you can do I think it’d be neat to pay tribute to that in the move set while also adding a cool movement option.
Lastly, the Final Smash. There’s a lot of things you could do with this one but I feel like we all know what it’s be.
(Spoilers for Breath of the Wild if you’ve somehow avoided it all this time.)
Pretty straightforward, Link would stick his sword in the air to trigger a cinematic where the Divine Beasts would aim their beam attacks to wherever on-stage Link currently is. Link would then quickly glide away with his paraglider before the spot where he stood would be bombarded by the might of the divine beasts. After the onslaught, Link would float back down to where he activated the attack to resume the fight.
…I guess this means I lied earlier when I said I had no more ideas revolving around the Champions… whoops…
That’s all the ideas I’ve got! I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I’d have this many when I started writing, but the they just kept flowing. While some of these ideas will probably not be implemented due to this very likely being the last Smash with BOTW Link, I do think the changes to the bow would just be nice improvements to see as the series continues on.
Thank you all for the warm reception to the first Smash Review! I’m going to try and make these come out monthly if I can manage it, obviously some characters will be easier to write about than others.
I’m mainly trying to review characters that are relevant at the time (I did Mario for MAR10 Day and the Mario Movie and Link I did for Tears of the Kingdom) but I’m also willing to hear who you’d want to see covered. I can’t guarantee I’ll get to them right away but it will be good to know who’s wanted.
Thank you for reading and enjoy all the secrets Hyrule has to offer, above and below!