I’m still having a hard time processing the idea of a direct celebrity cameo in a Legend of Zelda game. There have been plenty of references to video game characters littered around the series — Link’s Awakening alone features characters from Super Mario, Kirby and SimCity. But never — as far as I can personally recall — has anyone been pulled in from the real world (developers aside).
Yet here I am, about to explain how Link can make a phone call to popstar and ’80s icon Madonna.
You may recall, near the beginning of Link’s Awakening, the telephone in Grandpa Ulrira’s house. If you use it, it will dial the number of someone who goes by “the Bucket Mouse”. The Bucket Mouse seems delighted that Link rings him, though Link quickly hangs up the phone and the game notifies the player that they must have dialed the wrong number. This is odd enough in itself because the Bucket Mouse is never seen or heard from anywhere else in the game (something we may explore deeper in a future Princess Zelda’s Study). Enter the French Canadian version of the game, where things only get weirder.
In this version, this same phone instead calls Madonna. The singer will speak to Link in what appears to be a mix of French and English. “Hello! Madonna à l’appaouïelle. No darling…” The phone then clicks and, like when the Bucket Mouse conversation ends in the English version, the game tells the player that they dialed the wrong number.
YouTube user Moab Graffiti kindly uploaded footage of this:
As strange as this cameo is, it is of course just a passing Easter egg in a specific regional variant of the game, only intended for amusement.
Even so, it does make more sense that something like this could take place in the world of Link’s Awakening, at least more so than any other Zelda game. The fact that Koholint Island takes place in a dream makes surreal cameos seem more plausible. Also, the inhabitants of Koholint Island use telephones to communicate suggests that they use technology at least similar to what we use in the real world, bringing this fictional timeline seemingly close to our own. This makes the appearance of a real-life, modern celebrity more believable, if only slightly.
We also never see Madonna. Of course, the name is iconic enough that we know exactly what the translators for the game are doing, but it could be argued that it’s actually an alternate character or creature that happens to share the same name.
Link’s Awakening is just about the only Zelda game weird enough for something like this to happen.
It’s because of the unique eccentricity of Link’s Awakening and the strange world it takes place in that something like this could have happened, and what makes it such an isolated occurrence in the franchise. We never saw an Easter egg of Link using the Pirate’s Charm to talk to Justin Timberlake in The Wind Waker, or use the Sheikah Slate to FaceTime with Ariana Grande in Breath of the Wild. In fact, I’m very doubtful that we’ll ever see anything like this appear in a Zelda game ever again — Link’s Awakening is just about the only Zelda game weird enough for something like this to happen.
Upon Link’s Awakening’s release in 1993, Madonna was still huge in the pop world, with hits like “Vogue” and “Like a Prayer” still buzzing in people’s cassette players (or Sony Walkmans, for the truly bodacious kids at the time). With this in mind, it’s easy to see why she’d be the go-to celebrity for the localization team to choose for a pop culture reference.
I’ll end this article by going back even further in time. Here’s a track from 1985, when the beloved songstress was arguably in her prime.