Although The Legend of Zelda series remains as one of the most critically acclaimed gaming series, there have been some instances when a game, in one or another way, motivated scandals in media, as well as within the Zelda fanbase. Some reasons for this might include religious or content issues, radical changes that concern longtime fans, and opinions during interviews.
A Link to the Past is known in the Japanese version as The Legend of Zelda: Triforce of the Gods (Zeruda no Densetsu: Kamigami no Toraifosu). During the SNES era, Nintendo of America had an active policy against religious references in video games (though the first two Zelda games had some anyway), so the title of the game was changed to A Link to the Past. The game also showed Egyptian characters read on the inscriptions to be translated by the Book of Mudora, but were changed to random symbols when the game was exported overseas.
Ocarina of Time, in the original Nintendo 64 version, had two major religious references: The Fire Temple's music sampled a group of men chanting an Islamic call-to-prayer. This was removed from later versions of the game by Nintendo because of the religious association. The name of 'Allah' can clearly be heard at one point. Another Arabic phrase that was translated was "I bear witness that there is no god but Allah". Some also took issue with the fact that the call-to-prayer was used as a component to music; during a call, all controllable sources of music or loud sound must be silenced, and not doing so is considered ignoring the call. The chanting was replaced by a MIDI sample of a choir in later releases, ports, and remakes.
The second religious reference in Ocarina of Time was the Crest of the Gerudo, which was far more widespread as it appeared as a motif on several elements through the game, including blocks, switches, and the Mirror Shield. This symbol was similar, but not identical, to the Star and crescent symbol that is prominent in the Islam, the Muslim community in general, and several national flags in Asia. Some of the differences between the two symbols include: The Islamic version has a 5-point star, while the Gerudo version has 4 points; the Islamic crescent faces to the right, and is not as "complete" or "closed" as the Gerudo one, which faces to the left; and many Islamic crescents have the star deeper in it, not at the edge like the Gerudo version does. In any case, due to the religious meaning of the symbol, Nintendo edited it out in all of its spots in the game, with a single exception. The newer Gerudo Symbol has since been a staple in modern revisions of Ocarina of Time.
Another Ocarina of Time issue revolved around Ganondorf's blood. In the original version, after his defeat at the top of his lair, he coughs up red blood; after Link stabs the Master Sword in his forehead, blood drops fly as well. In later versions, the color of the blood was changed to green.
Controversial changes within the games
The Adventure of Link, being the second installment in the Zelda series, was expected to retain the core elements of its predecessor, while still adding new ones. Instead, the game changed the gameplay completely, using elements of RPG and platform games, such as experience, jumps, life system, etc. For these reasons, the game is regarded as the black sheep of the series, and has remained one of the most polarizing and divisive entries so far.
Before The Wind Waker was revealed, it was believed that the game's visual style would be similar, or even superior, to the SpaceWorld 2000 GameCube Tech Demo that showed a fight between Link and Ganondorf in a dark chamber. However, the demo was never meant to showcase an actual game, and The Wind Waker was instead conceived with cel-shading graphics. The fan reaction was heavily mixed and, prior to the game's release and eventual critical acclaim, it was said that it would affect the series' reputation.
Spirit Tracks was first revealed during the Game Developer's Conference in March 2009. When it was revealed that the game would evolve around train transportation, there were fan concerns about the seemingly high rate of technological advances in Hyrule, despite them taking place as early as inLink's Awakening. Another concern was related to the restrictive nature of exploring the overworld with a train, compared to navigating through it on foot or with a more traditional means of transportation.
Breath of the Wild has received controversy around the art style of the game shown at E3 2014 as it differed from the Zelda HD Experience tech demo shown at E3 2011. Unlike The Wind Waker, the backlash was no where near as large as it was when the art style from The Wind Waker contrasted SpaceWorld 2000 GameCube Tech Demo. For the most part fans were pleased with the art style, but a fair amount were disappointed. Similar to Spirit Tracks, controversy surrounding Zelda's setting and genre changing arose. At E3 2014, an octopus-like machine was firing beams at Link while he used a seemingly high tech bow and arrow to defend himself. This left some fans wondering if the genre of the series would still remain medieval fantasy. Eiji Aonuma confirmed that Zelda Wii U will not be more futuristic than previous games.
Despite Mario Kart 8 not being related to The Legend of Zelda series, Eiji Aonuma stated that he had interest in seeing the Master Cycle in core Zelda games. Fans interpreted this as Aonuma foreseeing future Zelda games becoming high tech or steampunk. Some fans welcomed the idea, while others were unhappy because they wanted the series to remain a medieval fantasy.
Developer comments and demonstrations
In a 2009 conference in Spain, Eiji Aonuma had commented that Ocarina of Time had not aged very well, claiming that it had a slower presentation and outdated graphics, and that the subsequent games in the series were technically superior. This caused controversy among longtime fans of the series, who started arguing whether or not he was right. This was compounded by the fact that, in a previous 2008 interview with Nintendo Power, he had stated that he would keep working on the series until surpassing the aforementioned game.
When Skyward Sword was revealed in E3 2010, Shigeru Miyamoto made a public demonstration of it during the conference. However, due to wireless interference, the controls did not respond very well, making Miyamoto realize unintended commands in the game. Though the journalists later managed to play the game better on the demo floor, the previous incident had arisen concerns regarding the effectiveness of using motion controls to play the game to the point that some fans asked for traditional controls instead, which has affected the expectations since.
Longtime community debates
Sheik's gender. Due to the character's masculine appearance in Ocarina of Time, as well as Princess Ruto referring to "him" as a male person, it was thought by fans that Princess Zelda had undergone a gender change while hiding from Ganondorf during the seven-year skip. Even after Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Brawl referred to the character as female (despite the games not being considered canon in the first place), and Ocarina of Time 3D provided Sheik with a more feminine body, fans still debate over the character being male or female.
Voice acting. After Twilight Princess was revealed without full character speech, fans began debating whether or not future games should include voice acting. Detractors often cite the Phillips CD-i games as a reason not to feature this element in the games, whereas others point out that the varying dialogue options for Link in games such as Skyward Sword give him several established personalities for the player to choose from, rather than him being a blank slate onto which the player can entirely project themselves. Breath of the Wild is the first in the series to feature significant voice acting, though Link still does not speak.
↑"The Zelda team needs to stop obsessively shoving their creative art styles down peoples throats and just give consumers what they want. If they wont do this, then Wii U deserves to crash and burn in the most spectacular fashion possible." — Alex Plant, Nintendo is Obsessed With Forcing Unpopular Art Styles in Zelda, GenGAME, published June 21, 2013, retrieved December 19, 2014.
↑"Ben: The trailer shown off for Zelda Wii U during the Nintendo digital event was very impressive and very intriguing, especially because there seemed to be a theme of technology with the monster with the mechanical arms and the lasers, and then the high-tech arrow at the end. What can you tell us about the theme or prevalence of technology in the upcoming Zelda? Aonuma: It’s not as though this environment is more high tech than past Zeldas. If you remember, we’ve had statues in the past that had beams that shoot out of their eyes. The hookshot is something that is actually really really high tech. We probably couldn’t even make one now if we wanted to. So I wouldn’t say this new Zelda is going to take place in the more distant-future, or even the near-future for that matter." — Mases Hagopian, Zelda Dungeon Interviews Eiji Aonuma and the Hyrule Warriors Team, Zelda Dungeon, published June 16, 2014, retrieved December 19, 2014.
↑"The development team showed me how the Master Cycle races on the track, and I was overwhelmed by how great it looked. (It looked so cool that I also want it to appear in games I work on.)" — Eiji Aonuma, Miiverse - Aonuma's post | Nintendo, Miiverse, published October 16, 2014, retrieved December 20, 2014.