Over the years we have been reminded by the two top minds behind the Zelda series that Link is a representation of the player. It gives reason for him to be silent, and often times gives reason for him to be a somewhat bland character. Still, many gamers hold strong ties that “we are the hero” and as such, things are perfect the way they are. People tend to suggest a lot of crazy things should change in the Zelda franchise, sometimes at the the dismay of many fans. A lot of you are happy the way things are, but does that mean our viewpoint on the hero may have been wrong all along?
Lets look at things objectively first. Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma have both laid claims that Link is you. It’s often the reason given that if voice acting were to happen, no one wants Link to talk. Often times it the reasoning we have for him not having as much emotion as someone who is saving the world should have. Developer intent is that Link is us, so thus, he must be. But not so fast.
One thing that makes “us” unique is that we have the ability to make choices. I decided to write this article, for starters, and you have chosen to read it. Agree or disagree, we both made choices to go down that path together. Now, lets compare that to our hero, Link. When does he ever have a choice? I can’t think of any time he really does.
Sure, we are asked if we understand what we were told, something that has been a staple in video games for the simple sake of having the ability to repeat what was just told to you in case you didn’t get it all the first time around. However, is that a real choice? You say no, they repeat the question or statement, and do so until such a point that you say yes. You really don’t have a choice: In order to advance you have to say yes.
Above: Kaepora Gaebora Wants To Know If I Have Amnesia.
Some of the greatest freedom of choice we have had existed in Majora’s Mask. The side quests involved mostly the choice of do we want to help this person or not. It is a legitimate choice. While choosing one way or the other doesn’t help you advance in the game (as in, it doesn’t change the outcome), it does make you feel more connected to the hero. It wasn’t Link who reunited Anju and Kafei, it was I who did it. That may possibly be the single most touching moment in Zelda history, because I chose to help them.
This sort of freedom is rare in Hyrule. Now, some may read this and go, “Oh, so you want a Fable type game? Well why don’t you just go play Fable then and leave Zelda alone?”. That sort of defeats the purpose. If I am suppose to be the hero, Link, then I shouldn’t need to go to another game to get that feeling.
This isn’t to say Nintendo is wrong, and that we need choice. What it is saying is that, ironically enough, Nintendo needs to finally make a decision with Link. Is he is own character in the game, much like Zelda, Midna, Ganondorf, Majora, Anju, Kafei, and all the rest of the gang, or is he truly suppose to be me?
I think the Zelda series has been torn on this for some time. Frankly, I feel the allure that Link is us has long since been lost. It all starts with how you start the game. Say you’re a female and you happen to play Zelda. Are you suppose to pretend you’re a guy? How is that who you are? The choice is already taken out of your hands to begin with. So, where do we go from here? Really, it can go either way.
I have felt for awhile now that Zelda may not need to change so much as it needs to advance with the times. Part of that advancement is creating a richer experience with the hero. I could be bold and say he should talk, not only in text but in voice. I could say he needs a jump button. I could even go as far as to say he needs to be given choices in what path he takes to save Hyrule. Maybe he needs more emotional involvement? I honestly can’t tell Nintendo what direction to take it. All I can tell them is to pick one side and go with it.
What about you? What would you like to see Nintendo do with Link? Are you happy the way he is?