Link is a very popular character. Unfortunately, we can only play as Link every couple of years as we wait for a new Zelda title to be released. This is why games like Super Smash Bros. is so much fun for the Zelda fan, because they play as Link, in a non-Zelda game, to hold them over while they wait for the next full installment. Link has had several other cameos outside of the Nintendo development studios as well. Final Fantasy and Mario RPG, both Squaresoft games, had a brief cameo, Donkey Kong Country 2 by Rare, and even World of Warcraft each have a small cameo that made every Zelda fan smile. But the greatest cameo of all time for Link was back in 2003.
Soul Calibur II for the Nintendo GameCube featured Link as a bonus playable character. With his own profile, weapons, costumes, and a very plausible back-story, this was the first cameo, officially permitted by Nintendo, which went beyond a mere nod to the character, and truly made the character apart of the game. The support for this addition showed in sales as well. Despite the GameCube’s small installment base at the time, sales for the GameCube version closely rivaled even that of the PS2 version, and completely dominated the Xbox version. Soul Calibur games since then, both III and IV, have failed to ever reach the same sales figures as Soul Calibur II for the GameCube. Most people are willing to attribute this success to Link’s presence in the game, despite the GameCube’s unpopularity. The game was a success, pretty much because Link was in it. He was a fun character to play, he looked awesome, and the game really held our imagination as we waited for future Zelda titles. Why Namco didn’t bring Link and Soul Calibur back to the Nintendo home console is a mystery, but it wasn’t long before another company picked up on the idea.
A few years later, Activision began developing a game called Marvel Ultimate Alliance. The pursuit of a Wii version presented a unique opportunity for them. Since the Wii version was a few steps back from their Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, Activision wanted a way to bring Nintendo fans into the game, despite some of its shortcomings. They would do this by including Link and Samus Aran in an early build of Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Unfortunately, this early version was made on the PS2 hardware. Due to time constraints, Activision had to present their idea to Nintendo under these conditions. Apparently, this upset Nintendo which presumed their characters would be included on the PS2 version of the game, so they reluctantly denied Activision their request. While the details on the decision are vague, it seems very unlikely that Activision intended on including these characters in the PS2 version, despite what the video evidence may suggest. But why Nintendo would so quickly brush off the idea is mind boggling.
Had Activism implemented Link and Samus Aran into the game, with the same quality and care Namco did with Soul Calibur II, Marvel Ultimate Alliance would have likely flourished on the Wii. I played through the Wii version, and while it wasn’t a great game, it was still fun, but it would have been even better with Link and Samus on my team. It is a mystery why Nintendo became so strict with their characters after Soul Calibur II. Surely they had stronger reasons than the fact that the idea was pitched on a PS2 build. This would have been a spectacular addition to the game, one that would have convinced me and many others to actually buy it. Who could pass up the opportunity to have Spiderman and Venom team up with Link and Samus?
Nintendo needs to loosen their grip, and lend their characters to other games, like in Soul Calibur II. Zelda games are few and far between, so a little cameo now and then would really help fill in some gaps. Now this isn’t to say that every video game out there needs Link in it. Only good developers with a strong title should be permitted to tamper with such an important character. We don’t want to see Link appear in every Mario Party or Mario Tennis game. Let’s not tarnish the character, but rather compliment the franchise with a little fan service every once in awhile. Fans will be happier, Nintendo will make more money, and maybe more third party developers will work with the Wii more often.
Thank you HyLorian, for finding this video and pointing it out to us, and sorry it took us so long to finally use it.