The Legend of Zelda is one of the most beloved gaming series to ever be created. It is a series that is one of the crown jewels in Nintendo’s arsenal of franchises and recognizable brand characters. Yet despite all of the different achievements and milestones that many games in the series have reached, a small yet archaic stance for the franchise prevents it from taking a new step in its evolution. If there is to be any prospect of experiencing a truly “new” Legend of Zelda experience, then it’s time we allow the series’ hero Link to finally speak.
Every Legend of Zelda game has followed the same group of components with each of Link’s adventures in the series. In the games, there is a story about good and evil with the fate of the world at stake, a rich and intricate world to explore, and plenty of interesting characters to interact with. Each of these components has appealed to many gamers around the world, making most of the Zelda titles classics that everyone has enjoyed. With each successive game, something new is added to give the experience a fresh feeling, yet still maintaining the same core components of what was established in previous titles. Even with the gradual evolution of the series from the classic days of the NES to the recent release of the Wii U, the Legend of Zelda games have always steered away from allowing something that would take the series into brand new horizons. Voice acting for characters in the game.
The story telling for Zelda games has always been expressed through text dialogue and/or movement of the characters and world within them. The expressions, reactions, and text bubbles usually clue us in on the events occurring during Link’s adventure. And while this has been handled well for the series for almost 30 years, the landscape of game design has changed in ways to allow for more dynamic and cinematic storytelling. Yet the Zelda series has never stepped away from tradition and chosen not to give Link and the land of Hyrule a true spoken voice beyond screaming and grunting.
Nintendo Group Manager and Zelda Series Director Eiji Aonuma was once asked about this in an interview with Kotaku and replied with this:
“By not having him talk, it kinda lowers the hurdle for the player to really feel attached to Link, so that’s something that I’m still having to think about.”
This is true as Nintendo has always made Zelda games with the intention of having the player feel connected to the land of Hyrule by having players take on the role of Link and be credited with accomplishing the tasks he completes. But this same goal has been achieved many times by other game series who have embraced giving their characters a voice and personality, and still had the player become attached to the protagonist and their world.
The best example of this being done is the Mass Effect trilogy from Bioware. While it is true that players can create their own look for the game’s hero Commander Shepard, this did not deter gamers from being invested in the world as Commander Shepard by NPCs and everything they interacted with. Not only was the voice work the same no matter how you created your Shepard, the game world still recognized you as Shepard while you in turn became attached to “being” Shepard.
This can be related to when you made a custom name in the original Legend of Zelda for NES or any Zelda game that lets you type a name. In the beginning of the game you answer what your name is or type out the Save File name to begin your adventure. Despite this choice, you as the player still recognize the role they take on as Link himself, while the world in game sees you as Link, the Hero of Time/Light/Hyrule. There is still a connection between the player, the main character, and the game world in both titles; and voice acting has absolutely nothing to do with it.
So why should Link have a voice now? What evolution does the series undergo by doing this? Adding voice acting to both Link and his Hylian friends would enhance the already deep storytelling with more emotion. Voice acting in turn would also give more personality to the environments players explore, making them feel more alive and dynamic. This change would not hurt the overall experience that Zelda fans expect when playing a game in the series, but instead make what is already there even better while maintaining the core components of past Zelda titles. Other games that have done something similar include Saints Row, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, and even other Nintendo games like Fire Emblem.
Like all other gaming franchises, the Legend of Zelda will continue to evolve and bring about new adventures for gamers around the world. For a true big step for the series to take place, Link and the people of Hyrule need to be given a voice and have their chance to say something to us, the players. The closest to ever hearing what Link may sound like if he spoke would be by playing the Japanese version of Soul Calibur 2 for Gamecube, where voice actor Nobuyuki Hiyama does the voice work for both Link and Siegfried’s dialogue. Not allowing this to happen will only keep the series tied down hard to classic tradition, rather than using that same tradition to bring about the best of what the series has to offer. It’s time we finally let Link speak, because I’m sure he has plenty to say to us.
Got an opinion about The Legend of Zelda? Think that voice acting will be a good addition to the series? Or do you love the games so much you don’t want to see them change? Let us know in the comment section below and let your voice be heard!!!