Previous Legend of Zelda entry: Just an Article #7 Zelda Saga Breath of the Wild
The Zelda series has some elements in common among its titles, as I said on the last article about this universe. One of these elements is Link, the main character of the story and the hero of Hyrule (or any other given name of that territory), which is the same character the player uses to learn the story and to play in that world. Link is the reference of this series, being our guide, as players, and the representation of the gameplay of the game itself. His blonde/orange hair, (usually) green outfit, elvish look, sword and shield are the key elements of any Zelda, all of them representative of the games for the audience. But, Link is not just a character, a protagonist, a hero. Link is, as well, the representation of something much more deeper that the character he is, and we have to talk about metagame and metaliterature to understand this point.
Let’s start talking about his name, the first element we know about him. And, the fun part about his name is that… he has none. Link is just a placeholder, an example of name to offer to the player, a way to suggest an example and allow the player to name “Link”, our hero, as he/she wants to. The player can name the main character, his/her guide in that world, how he/she prefers, making the protagonist as personalised as desired. Well, maybe I have to clarify this point a little bit more: Link is not JUST a placeholder, but ALSO a placeholder. Link is a real word, a name given to elements that join, unite… link… two different things, two different worlds if you please. Even though you can change Link, the given name, for almost any other word of your choice, you can remain with the original meaning, with the original “Link”. This use of that word creates a deeper meaning in the awaken unconscious of the player, understanding that Link is not just customizable but also a way for us to get into that game, to be linked. At least, with the hero himself.
Link has another special characteristic that can be noticed quickly through the game. If you haven’t noticed it yet, maybe you should look closer… And, please, don’t look for what you can see… Try to look for what you can’t see. Or, in this particular case, what you can’t hear. Link doesn’t talk. He grunts and shouts incoherent cries, but there are no real dialogues that come out of his mouth. He can be spotted in two different games saying single words a couple of times. And in that infamous cartoon series that we all want to forget about (“Oh, excuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me, princess”). But, at least, there are no proper sentences and complex estructures he ever uses. This characteristic can join the theory about the “Link” name due to this lack of sound, which allows the player to play through am empty vessel, which doesn’t even have a voice, where voice = power, control over his own actions. Link doesn’t control neither his path nor his actions, because it is the player who does it.
Link has different abilities in different games, although most of them are the same: sword fighting, bow shooting, shield defense, etcetera. In fact, his abilities are based on typical abilities that can be found on any story from a mediaeval fantasy world, those that you can find, for example, on books by J.R.R.Tolkien like The Lord of the Rings. Link can be taken from one of those stories, he could be “a Legolas”, even to the point giving of him being an elf. But, even counting these elements, Link has one ability that is shown in some of the most important games of the franchise (mainly in Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask), which is time travelling. When Link plays an specific song with his instrument (which, most of the time, is an ocarina), he can go back or forward in time, reenacting or even changing completely events from the past, or moving towards an unknown time and context. He is the only character in those games that has this incredible ability, which, by the way, confers him with the power and duty of becoming a hero. But, why is this ability so important? Because he, in reality, doesn’t need the Ocarina to travel through time, he can do it whenever he wants to.
As stated by Nintendo itself, Link is not the same hero for every game, but a different person within any new title. But, simultaneously, he is, indeed, the same character, the same person. How can this occur? Well, in words of Nintendo, Link has always been a reincarnation. The Link we know, the Hero Link, is a soul, the soul of a deity that has to save Hyrule (or any other given name to the same land) forever and ever, and so he must be reincarnated into different bodies in different ages to fight against the Evil and the Darkness. That is why “they” share some physical resemblance, some fighting abilities and the power of travelling through time. He, Link, in fact, lives in Time, as a concept, and reincarnates when needed. Depending on when he is needed, he will have different special abilities, but with the same base for anything else. Nintenso also released a timeline of its games, which can be found on the Hyrule Historia book, telling when and why the hero was called to action, why he was needed. You can also check this timeline HERE.
This is, in my humble opinion, one of the pillars of Nintendo’s awesomeness as a videogame company: The detail and depth they put into their games. Link, as some other elements in their games, is not just A character, A protagonist, A person, but THE protagonist, since he is you, the player. He can be in any and all the Zelda games because he has a motivation, a capability to do it. And, by doing so, Nintendo shows why Link is so important in the Zelda series, why he is the hero, and why, in fact, the player is the hero. After the release of the first titles of this franchise, most of the following RPG games have included one or various elements found in Zelda’s, but the element of turning the hero into your own hero, customizing him/her to fits your necessities, to make YOU, in a nutshell, the protagonist of the game, has been the number one key element of most of these games. Because, if any other thing, that is what a videogame is supposed to do: make YOU play the story.
Link is our link, and represents the necessity of union between the game and the player, turning our experience into a deeper, more meaningful one. And that is why the “Link” character will always be needed in videogames.