Get out your boomerangs: Netflix is planning to turn the Nintendo video game series The Legend of Zelda into a live-action television show. The news comes from an anonymous source “familiar with the matter” speaking with The Wall Street Journal.
For those unfamiliar, the 20-odd Zelda games released so far take place in a fantasy world called Hyrule. It’s a world full of rural villages and dungeons that are teeming with monsters and head-scratching puzzles. The hero is Link, a boy usually clad in green, who works his way up to fighting an ultimate enemy, who has often kidnapped Zelda, the princess of Hyrule.
While news of the team-up has just been announced, this seems like a smart move for both Netflix and Nintendo. Netflix is always adding to its lineup of original programming, which already includes adult-oriented shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Marco Polo. The digital media company also offers a few animated features for kids, like The Adventures of Puss in Boots and VeggieTales in the House.
Netflix is describing the Zelda series as “Game of Thrones for a family audience,” a demographic none of its current major series serve.
It could also prove to be a smart move for Nintendo, a company that has been struggling to get a leg up financially for the past three years. Sales of the Nintendo 3DS have been slower than expected in the face of smart phone proliferation. Meanwhile, the Wii U never managed to build anywhere near as much momentum as its competition.
In fact, the next Wii U game that’s likely to convince holdouts to buy a Wii U is an upcoming Zelda game, slated to release by the end of the year. A high-profile Zelda TV series could help bolster sales of the game.
However, the show won’t be without potential pitfalls. One thing that links all the games (no pun intended) is that the hero Link doesn’t talk. While that trope may work in a video game, it’s less likely to play on a television show, where protagonists need to be interesting and, you know, interact with other characters.
Nor does Nintendo have a great track record when its properties are turned into dramatic storytelling. Most famously, a remarkably awful Super Mario Bros. movie was released in 1993. Prior to that, a Zelda cartoon aired for 13 episodes in 1989. It coined the annoying phrase “Excuuuuse me, Princess,” but didn’t have much impact on the entertainment world beyond that.
As for the source material, the Zelda games primarily focus on fun gameplay. It will require a lot of work for the creative team behind the show to turn Hyrule into a world in which a wide array of stories take place — something that’s necessary for an ongoing TV series.
Whether the Zelda television show is any good remains to be seen. Netflix is currently seeking writers for the show, so the finished product will presumably be a long way off, provided the project isn’t scrapped before it gets off the ground.
Despite those concerns, this seems like a smart move for both Nintendo and Netflix. If the show is done right, it could boost both companies’ bottom lines and please fans of the video games. That’s a win-win.
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