Dear Shigeru Miyamoto,
As the Skyward Sword is on the way, we're in for another round of complaints that there's no voice acting in Zelda games. I hear that you're orchestrating this game - thanks. The critics are right on that one; it's long overdue. However, thank you for not allowing voice acting in Zelda games. Please never, ever, ever let Link utter even a single word.
I'm not going to take this space to complain about the quality of most video game voice acting and writing; these deficits have been covered ad nauseum, and things are getting better. There are voice actors in the industry these days who don't suck, and anyone who says that video game plots are all bad is just plain wrong. However, Zelda games have always been video games first, and while the plot has influenced the design (Wind Waker's high-seas adventure influenced the bright look, whereas Twilight Princess' dark realm muddied the pallette), it's the game itself that brings people back every time. We expect spit-and-polish beyond the industry standard from Shigeru Miyamoto's flagship series, and we get it. If Link were to speak, it would have to be revelatory to live up to expectations. No game can be all things to all people, and players expect perfection from the Zelda series. So no matter what Link might actually say, this late in the game it's bound to be a disappointment to many.
So let's play the tape forward: What will happen when Link opens his mouth?
More after the jump...
If you ask me, the very construct of Link will be damaged. You've spent twenty years building him up as an avatar of sorts for the player - a broadly-drawn character who stands in for the one holding the controller. Make him talk, and this illusion explodes. Give him a bit of character, sure - make him all the things the player would like to be. Make him a hero, make him brave, make him intrepid, and skilled, and even magical. These are all things the player can't express in the real world the way Link can in Hyrule. Give Link something to say, and then you have to make him a fully-drawn character or else. You have to make him conflicted to give him depth, you have to make him limited to keep him realistic, you have to give him flaws to make him human. If you don't do these things, the story will suffer. The dialogue will suffer. Seeing as movies are the standard to which many would like to hold video game story elements, what happens when you try to make a movie out of a barely-there characters who are only superficially conflicted, who are limited only by narrative convenience, who either have no flaws to overcome, or have no intention to overcome them?
Well? What happens then? I got three words for you: The Phantom Menace. All telling, no showing. More is less.
This is all aside from the fact that, if you open Link's mouth, you have to give him something to say. That's all well and good if you get it right the first time (or fodder for controversy if it comes out like Other M), but then you've got another game coming down the road. And another. And another. After you set the precedent, you have to give him something meaningful to say every time, but how much is there for him to say? How many wrinkles, how many character flaws to iron out can you give him? Link's already older than many of the people who play his games... How long before he's addicted to chu chu jelly, or riding Epona over a tank full of sharks? How long before the echoes of his former heroic silence become too much to bear?
Please, please, please keep Link's trap shut. I don't want to hear how hard it is to be a hero. I want to experience it. I don't want Link to tell me how important he thinks it is to save Zelda. I want to think it's important to save Zelda. The Zelda games have done a great job of showing, not telling. Gannondorf snatching Zelda from castle Hyrule while Link was too young to do anything about it did not need dialogue; it provided an indelible image that propelled the millions of players through the rest of the game. Less is more. Show, don't tell. The Zelda series consistently demonstrates that you know this, and you know how to work it.
Please, sir, stick to your guns. Zelda games do not need to be like other games. Diversity is a wonderful thing.
All the best,
Tell us what you think below!