We know most characters to talk, especially leads. But in video games, you’ll find it more that the lead characters don’t, in fact, have the gift of gab. One of the more famous being our favorite green garbed hero, Link. All we ever hear from him are his famous cries of agony and effort (YAH! HYU! HYAH! in case you forgot). But for the hero of time and holder of the Triforce of Courage, why doesn’t he have the courage to speak to anyone, let alone girls? He’s saved Hyrule from disaster time after time, why can’t he have a say for once?
Consider three things. For one, most voices in Zelda games are performed by Japanese actors. To find English equivalents may not be as easy as we hope or it may sound off to hear a Japanese voice speaking in English or other languages as the game is an international release. Secondly, not having audio dialogue from any character and having it in captions on the bottom of the screen instead helps slow down a scene in the story for us to process. Not having a voice melds with Zelda’s specific format of game play. But finally, consider the book effect. Though books are inaudible, we can “hear” a character when they speak as the voice of the character is left up to our imagination. Some things are best left to the brain. Nintendo learned the hard way by giving a voice to Metroid‘s Samus. While the voice acting wasn’t completely awful, the dialogue was and it killed a sense of who Samus was to the character as it closed the door on the player’s ability to imagine the character for themselves.
Samus isn’t the only vocal experiment. Sony’s Spyro the Dragon and Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog were given voices from some of the best voice actors in the industry, and with those voices attitudes. It kind of worked for both characters, but in playing as those characters it didn’t give much room for the player’s imagination. The perk is that with their style of game play and plots, it plays off as a neutral factor. Mario is lucky as he has the Italian plumber shtick; he doesn’t have to say much for us to get it and it doesn’t take away from the character or the game play. Even his animated and live action show didn’t take away too much from the character, but helped build the others in the series like Luigi, Toad, Princess Daisy, and how The Mushroom Kingdom works. The same principles happened with Sonic the Hedgehog animated show as it gave more depth to his supporting team mates and even Robotnik ad his nefarious plans to turn critters into, um, robots. But not all spin offs are created equal. Perhaps it’s the fear that the voice they give Link will remind players a bit too much of The Legend of Zelda Animated Series. How could we forget that they TRIED that route. But rather than give him that 90’s cool edginess kids connected with, it made him sound like, well, a complete ass. Link was more of a mean punk than hero material in the entire show, making Zelda look tons more competent and a bit like a nag. Which is a shame, cause in this show, she OBVIOUSLY wore the pants in the relationships. And for anything related to princesses in the 90’s, that was rare.
Some people feel that not having characters speak for themselves and having other character’s dialogue assume his stance takes away from the character, showing they have little personality. This is not so much a problem with Link as his reactions are shown along with appropriate facial expressions. Perhaps it is why they experimented with a “choose your own adventure” style dialogue feature in Skyward Sword. You have a sense of speaking, but there is still no voice. It is all left to you and your imagination. To add a voice gives you a sense that you control a character, but you are not the character as every reaction and comment is chosen for you and in a voice you may not be expecting. But having a silent hero gives you the illusion, no matter how slight, that YOU are the hero. It’s you as the character, not Link, that saves the day. And maybe that’s how it should stay. He hasn’t talked at all at this point in the games and it’s part of the game’s history. But perhaps someday they will give Link a set of pipes, and you’ll get to decide whether that was the best thing since sliced bread or another Metroid: Other M style mistake.