Posted on May 13 2016 by Darrin W. Harr
A topic that has been debated on the site recently is the issue of Link being an established character of the franchise, or a player avatar meant to be a “link” to the games that he is the protagonist of. Whenever someone such as a staff member or fan suggests a major change be made to Link for whatever purpose, the standard counterpoint to this suggestion is the fact that Link is viewed as an established character such as the iconic Mario from Super Mario Bros., or Samus from the Metroid franchise. This is a valid point. I personally believe the intention of Link as a protagonist was to be a player avatar. I’m not talking about full-on heavy, physical, and detailed customization options, so don’t think that.
Here’s a quote from series producer Eiji Aonuma, who is in charge of the development of every Zelda game:
“With new games, naturally people are going to think how does this Link relate to the Link from the last game? The thing is, when making a new Zelda game, we don’t necessarily start with the storyline first, we start with the game, and we think, ‘What’s Link going to be like in this game? What kind of a character is he going to be, and what kind of a personality is he going to have?'” — Eiji Aonuma, 2004
Here, Aonuma is obviously referring to Link as a character with personality. That’s it, right? Case is closed, and we can all go home. Not necessarily. It looks like Aonuma may have changed his view on the topic:
“When a player is playing a Zelda game, my desire is for the player to truly become Link — that’s why we named him Link, so the player is linked to the game and to the experience. Of course, the player can always change Link’s name to their own name to further that notion should they want” — Eiji Aonuma, 2007
In The Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link, and A Link to the Past Link was just a sprite (although that pink hair did stand out a bit). He was what Aonuma describes in the 2007 quote — the player truly becoming Link. Note that use of words. Aonuma says that the player is supposed to become Link, not Link becoming the player. That’s why heavy physical customization options wouldn’t work. I like to use this quote from Josh MacDougall, who runs the YouTube channel Really Freakin’ Clever:
“Look; I always play Zelda as if I’m the protagonist. I never name him Link; it’s always Josh. I think EVERYONE should be able to do that.” — Josh MacDougall, 2016
When Ocarina of Time came around, Link was no longer a meager sprite. He was a full 3D model, polygons and all. There’s a sub-plot in the game about Link growing up and becoming a man, he uses facial expressions, etc. This is a Link that fits the description seen in Aonuma’s 2004 quote.
Since the Zelda franchise’s jump to 3D on the N64 and beyond, Link has grown more and more into his own iconic and established character. There’s nothing wrong with Link being iconic. Most of the time he has his green tunic and cap, as well as his trusty Master Sword. However, when fans look at Link, do they really think about his personality? When you think about Ocarina of Time, do you think about a young Link maturing and becoming a man? I certainly don’t. Link can stay the iconic character he is, and return to being more of a player avatar. Even if Nintendo were to add gender options as the rumor says, Link would still look pretty much the same.
There’s nothing wrong with Link becoming what Aonuma envisions in the 2007 quote. In fact, I think Nintendo should strive to make it so. Maybe that’s what they could be doing with Zelda Wii U/NX. We really don’t know, and probably won’t until March 2017 when we can experience the game for ourselves.
Fan Art: IGN