Now I might make some fans mad, though that's never stopped me from writing before, but the reason that Link is so popular is because he's something of a blank slate. He never speaks, he just goes out and does what needs to be done. We, as players, ascribe motive and, for the most part, we see Link as a noble hero going out to do battle with the villainous Gannondorf, and that's probably the truest explanation; but since Link never says anything, never emotes a personality we never really know. This is partly because its a new Link in nearly every iteration, though there are exceptions to this rule.
Back in the eighties, ah the eighties how I miss you in some respects, there was a television show called the Super Mario Bros. Super Show. On Tues, and Thurs (I think its been a few years) there was an animated segment based on the Legend of Zelda. To put it bluntly it was terrible. No terrible is too kind a word. Zelda was obnoxious, Link was whiny and obnoxious and there was a fairy character that I don't remember all that well. It was one of those things that fans of the Zelda series look back on as being pretty bad, and not cannon. It was an attempt to give personality to characters that didn't have personality and in that attempt it failed miserably.
Then there was Ocarina of Time. Now in the interest of full disclosure I have to admit that I've never played Ocarina of Time. At that time I was a Playstation man. I've read about it though and seen thoughtful criticism of the game and it seems to have successfully given Zelda a voice in the form of the Sheik, which I think was rather clever. I think Link was given more of a backstory as well and I think that was what helped it to be so wildly popular. It kept Link enough of a blank slate that people could slot themselves into the role of the hero while still giving him a story, however minor it really was.
Now contrast that with another more fleshed out character, and for this analysis we'll be using Cecil from Final Fantasy IV.
You being play with Cecil as a Dark Knight. He's conflicted about his role in the kingdom and is effectively banished after questioning the king. You follow him on his quest to save the world, ultimately purging himself of his darkness and becoming a Paladin. Unlike Link Cecil has a clear character arc that begins at the start of the game and continues through out. You learn about him as you progress and you gain, and lose, friends and companions. I'll grant that some of them are rather two dimensional but I still have fondness for them. There's betrayals, secrets, revelations and it ends up being quite the story. I really recommend it for any rpg fans out there.
In some ways its harder to put yourself in Cecil's shoes. You know from the outset that he's done things that aren't good, and that he feels conflicted about it. He has a personality and that can make it harder to get into the game, but its by no means any less enjoyable.
I enjoyed the Zelda games I played. I think I'd call them more action games, but that's more of a personal thing really. Both Link and Cecil are popular, Link much more so by my own admission, and I think that's because of Link's nature as a blank slate. Much like the early iterations of Samus Aran you can more easily put yourself in the shoes of a character that doesn't have much in the way of outspoken personality. We see ourselves being the hero in their place that way, at least I always did.
That's all for now
May God bless you and may God be gracious to you
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