The Missing Link
I hate to make this the third Twilight Princess article in a row; I especially hate that this article will seem almost like a counterpoint to one of the previous Twilight Princess articles. However, the writer in me is an uncontrollable beast, and it will not simply toss an idea aside! Note, however, that this is not a spoiler topic; no juicy details are revealed… so please keep your comments generic and free from spoilers!
A Link to the Past has always been one of my favourite games. Quite literally, throughout the history of my gaming career, there have been only four games that, in my most humble opinion, have managed to best Link to the Past in terms of how much I liked it, and only two of those four are Zelda titles. (No, neither of them are Ocarina of Time.) However, despite the fondness that, 15 years later, I still have deep down for the title, I look back on it and wonder where the timelessness of the game is. Truly it’s an excellent title, and I don’t mean to imply anything but… because I’m not. What I mean to say is that, since I began playing the game as a young lad, I have very few truly significant memories from the game. They’ve all but vanished.
On the other hand, Link’s Awakening, a game I revisited significantly less than its spiritual sibling, is a game about which I have significant memories. While still high on my list of good games and good Zelda games, it is quite easily not within TML’s Top Ten… yet I can remember feeling more a part of that game that I ever did with A Link to the Past. There are more memories, more emotions, more connection with the title that most games I have ever played. One would almost think that I liked Awakening better the way I speak of it… but it’s not the case. One of the two—Awakening—houses all my fond memories; the other embodies the qualities of nothing short of video game of the utmost quality, perhaps the epitome of the perfect 2D adventure title.
The difference, I’ve found, stems a little character called Marin. She’s the major NPC in the game, taking over the traditional role of Zelda in the series (save for the fact that she never gets kidnapped, thank the goddesses!). And there’s nothing particularly noticeable or distinguishable about her from any other major character. Saria from Ocarina had as much character as Marin did. Malon was rather comparable to Marin recently (and not just because of the name difference.) Even Nabooru had the same inner fire as Marin did. Yet I did feel one major difference between Marin and most every other Zelda character: I felt as if I were truly playing a role in her life. From start to finish of the game, Marin is there with you. From the moment you wake up staring into her eyes until your last memories of her as the Wind Fish slowly arouses from its slumber, it’s easy to find Marin wherever she is. And when you do find her, you never quite know what to expect next. You might find yourself playing a song for her as she sings along with you in some sort of a duet, you might end up talking about the future and our dreams on the beach while the waves roll in, or you even might ask her along to come on a small adventure to move a sleeping walrus out of the way. She’s more than mere plot device as many of the Ocarina characters were; she’s human, and you can feel it; you can empathise with her. I felt as if everything she and Link did together mattered, mattered to me and mattered to her, as if somehow she and Link grew together so very deeply over the course of their brief encounter. For a moment, I truly cared for Marin. I cared for an NPC, and my cup of emotions spilled over.
The four games to rank higher than A Link to the Past (and indeed some of those just below) all share this quality with one or more of its characters. Perhaps it’s just me and my naïve view on things, but when I can find myself seriously that deep with any other character, when I become emotionally invested in another being, despite that he or she is completely fictional, the game is bound to rank high on my list. I end up playing much more than I should. I get to the end of the game and want to immediately replay it over again. I live out the best parts of it in my mind as I go from place to place. I write fiction about it. I am inspired. It’s like poetry to me in an alternate form; it’s like reading a novel that’s interactive. I gush with emotion.
(By the way, in case you’ve ever wondered TML’s Top Ten, here it is:
Yes, I liked Twilight Princess… and Wind Waker… for the very reason that I felt a part of some other character’s life. You might even say that I fell in love with some of the characters in the game. For Wind Waker, I felt as if I was connected with Medli, Makar, and Tetra… always seeming to reappear in their lives whenever I didn’t expect it. In Twilight Princess, it was Midna, the small little group in Telma’s place (a group that touches me much stronger that you could ever know), and Rusl. The top two games on my list even get more connected as I start to relate with nearly the entire protagonist cast. There’s something about exploring those in-character relationships, clichéd as they may (or not) be, that just makes me fall for a game head over heels. And somehow I keep wanting more. I mean, imagine what Ocarina of Time could be like with a fleshed out dialogue, with Wind Waker’s and Twilight Princess‘ facial expression engine. Ocarina has tons of very strong characters in the game, and they’ve never truly felt real to me. Imagine what they could be like with just that little extra umph. I do believe it’s why the fanfiction community goes back to Ocarina time and time again; they’re trying to add that extra little dash of creativity to make it more alive than it ever was, to make it truly as memorable a game as it should be.
Maybe I’ve always been too critical on games that lack this trait, or maybe what I see in the Zelda series is very different from most other fans. But I think that involvement of the player, the bringing of the player into the realm of the imaginary world, is an important trait to have, and the best means to accomplish that is through characterisation. And since Link is a completely generic, zero-dimensional character that can become who you want him to be to begin with, those character-rich and expressive NPCs are the things that pull me into the game… and that makes all the difference in the world to me.Follow This Entry | Leave a Response | Trackback | Read Other Posts by The Missing Link
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