Of the many stories and controversies that boarded and disembarked the 2014 E3 hype train, the one I found most interesting was the speculation on whether or not the Link in the trailers for the future Wii U title was actually female. Lines were drawn in the sands of the Internet and the division became clear: the fans who believed the reincarnated Link, by the very definition, could return as female to fill a blank slate role. Then there were the fans who firmly believed that Link would always be male - a fully fleshed out character, along with Zelda and Ganon, who developed distinct roles over the years with every new iteration in the long running series.
I'll admit that I am of the latter camp although I can see merits of the assessments from the former. To me, Link's not an avatar in which I assume the Hero of Time role but he is instead the silent protagonist of a narrative, in which I'm his fourth, more helpful fairy guide.
In my years of gaming there are other silent protagonists whom I've helped along the way too. They're the characters who NPCs and fellow party members talk to and they've not a word of wisdom to impart. Are they the types with cold hearts? Disinterested in the opinions of others? Or do they prefer to let their actions speak volumes in lieu of words? Are those occasional grunts, excitable expressions and text prompts enough to let everyone know they mean business when put to the test of saving the world?
Here is a tribute to Link and other Silent Protagonists from different games who actually had a whole lot to say in a lot of different ways—whether through the impact of their decisions or actions taken—even if they could not or chose not to speak.
Link - The Legend of Zelda series
Hyah. Yah. Eh? and the occasional yawn are the most anyone's ever going to get out of Link. But! Over the years players have come to see more than the top of his head. We saw distress (or was it an exercise in how to display an overreacting shocked look?) in that face when dark forces kidnapped the Princess Zelda and whisked her away on horseback. We've seen a mischievous grin handing much needed
toilet paper to that hand in the bathroom. We've seen some semblance of a smile in the moments before things went horribly wrong time and time again. Link's face is a canvas of emotion. And then his face literally became a canvas and work of art in his last outing in A Link Between Worlds. Though if Yuga is to be believed, Link was more a display of terrible graffiti than a masterpiece.
In the next few months Link will put on even more of a scowl and maybe another surprising personality shift, and we'll learn to fear that determination, as many a moblin has before us.
Crono - Chrono Trigger
If his love of cats and bringing feline friends home from the Millennial Fair was not enough, Crono's ability to guzzle soda sealed just the sort of carefree, simple, boyish spirit he embodied. Even when the conniving Chancellor took advantage of his quiet disposition during the rigged trial—stockpiling accusations against him for cat 'crimes', and a food theft he may or may not have committed—Crono remained stoic. Perhaps a bit unphased, even.
Later still, with a grimace and without seemingly much thought, the quiet boy with the loud shock of red hair, jumped head long into danger in an attempt to save his friends. It may not have been the smartest thing but his bravery and selflessness surely warmed many a heart of gamers everywhere. And if his friends cared enough, they could travel through time to save him from that moment or they could be the jerks and steal the glory for themselves in the fight against Lavos. If they were smart though, they'd want to save him, even if just for his Tech abilities. Oh and because when given the chance, who wouldn't want to manipulate Time and change the course of the future? All for science, of course! Although, could you really blame them if they did not? Crono was a little bit difficult to have a conversation with...
Red - Transistor
When we meet Red, she is able to communicate through typed messages and humming. Mostly one-sided conversations were had between Red and her companion but not because she did not care to speak. Red's unfortunate situation became complicated when her voice was stolen. A singer by career, and through snippets of story and her much talked about popularity, we can glean that Red perhaps had the most beautiful singing voice - a truth perhaps best solidified by her woeful, haunting humming. What was taken from her produced a personality imbued with strength.
Forged in a dire situation, a vengeful destiny took shape. Red's voice was strongest in the lyrics, the flourish in which she cut down her enemies, and the sorrowful music set against a Sci-Fi world that was brittle and on the verge of collapse. A world already dangerously on the edge, waiting to fall into nothingness by Red's thirst for revenge. While I am still uncertain on whether or not her voice was selfish at the end of her narrative by the action in which she took, there was a certain power in her decision. The power being a decision she made of her own will, and not predetermined or controlled by a voting system that much of her world was built on.
Of course, her decision also deepened the mystery surrounding the truthful nature of what separates Cloudbank from the Farm but ah well...
Protagonist and Yu Narukami - Persona 3 and Persona 4, Respectively
The success of the Persona series has spawned anime series, an upcoming dancing game, a past fighting game with a new one to follow, and an upcoming dungeon crawler in Persona Q which will bring the characters from the two worlds together. If not for the franchise's success to spawn subsequent games, Persona 3's Protagonist would have remained a blank slate character to me: one who I've formed no real attachment to even if throughout the course of the game, party members who I all loved, saw the Protagonist as someone to save in a similar vein as Crono in Chrono Trigger. There was just something very creepy and detached about the Protagonist in Persona 3. He felt as blank slate as characters can come, which yes, was somewhat of the point. And he vastly differed from the Protagonist in Persona 4.
For starters, the protagonist in Persona 4 has a name. The play on words on the given name makes it even more clever and generic. But even if the Protagonist in Persona 3 was named in the anime and manga, Persona 4's Yu felt as though he had much more personality apart from the naming. Perhaps it was assisted by the overall, somehow lighter tone the game had. Maybe it was the fact that Yu had somewhat of an expression when he keeled over from terrible cooking that one time.
And while I've yet to see what Persona Q will bring, I suspect I'll begin to feel that way about the protagonist of Persona 3 as well. I'll see him more as a character in an ever expanding universe and not just that persona with the multiple personas. The cute character designs from Persona Q that are serving to make the characters more expressive might be helping with that as well.
Jak - Jak & Daxter
Before he became the incensed hero with a Dark Eco side, Jak was the kid with a high top fade for hair. He spent his days jumping from rock to rock, collecting mysterious things called pre-cursor orbs for no true apparent reason (other than being told he should to save mankind—blah blah blah), awkwardly exchanging glances at the mechanic whiz Keira who he had a crush on, and eye-rolling at the nonsense uttered by his more vocal counterpart, Daxter.
So maybe as a hero, Jak wasn't quite the vision of knightly good that you'd expect. Things changed though when tragedy struck. After being imprisoned for a while and suffering unspeakable torture, Jak could no longer be the silent type. His appearance in Jak II and Jak III was one of edgy rawness and revenge drove him. The Dark Eco made that once sweet smile turn into a curved smirk and expressed a possessed, deranged mind. Even when he was not drawing power from darkness, Jak's face no longer shone with an innocence but hatred. Long gone were the days of a quiet Jak and those days would never return. Instead we were left with angry one liners delivered in gravely tones.
One could only question why he was so quiet to begin with but I guess when the world was so beautiful and closed off from danger, it was better to just silently take all that amazing wonder in.
Or maybe that damned ottsel just did not give him a chance to speak.
Quico - Papo & Yo
Quico is not, by a standard definition, a silent protagonist. His entry here may be questionable with good reason but his inclusion is definitely on the tragic side but an important one. The story of Papo & Yo is a personal reflection of its creator's relationship with his father, and the nightmare of living in a household with a member who is an alcoholic. Quico is capable of speaking, and does so very early on in the journey. Though soon after, it's Quico's robot companion that does most of the narration in Papo & Yo. The robot is a safety net and a best friend. It also voices concern, distress, bravery, the rational and the irrational of a boy conflicted and determined to help his father—a monster who he both loves, needs and learns to fear.
Quico's actions through that love and his will when faced with a terrible puzzle of how to 'fix' his father's alcoholism are his voice at its strongest. But his voice being muted and replaced by screams is the one that is the most terrifying to experience when he is caught by the symbolic monster.
It makes the end of Papo & Yo bittersweet when Quico comes to accept difficult truths by letting go—giving him a new voice and a new will to move forward.
The Villager - Animal Crossing: New Leaf
As mayor, players speak by adhering to the requests of their citizens. The animals think your town could be a cultural hot spot and cultural philistines they are not? Construct a Moai statue head at their request. The animals think outdoor activities will enrich their lives? Construct a spot for a picnic. A big screen television will surely show your grasp on modernism and your technologically advanced prowess, and so, you order to have one of those constructed as well. And while your town may end up looking like a complete disaster varying in styles with no aesthetic direction, none can say you do not listen as the elected voice of the people.
Some may think you're a push over. Running errands and appeasing citizens with their mundane requests and demands. Catching fish and bugs at their whimsy. But you know what? You're a hero to the little people. Even so, you can be a bit of a villain too by shaking your head in disagreement when you just don't have the time - and risk watching their little disappointed faces, or incur their wrath. But mostly, you will probably nod and run in a tizzy everywhere to make them happy. And don't despair that even after all of that they still want to leave the town on account of it being "boring". Just don the self-made batman suit you designed at the local clothing store and imagine you're the best around. Don't ever let any of those animals bring you down.
Those are the silent protagonists who were noisy enough for me to think of. Their swords, kicks, magic artes, caring natures, head nods and strong wills saved lives—sometimes their own—and built friendships. Bravery was the tongue in which they spoke and listening was a language they understood and mastered.
I'm a listener too and I'd love to hear your input for your fond silent protagonists. ...Forgive me if I read them quietly from the comment section below.
- Visit TAY Classic for the Silence. Hm? What were we talking about? No idea but your face seems to have been marked up by a counting sequence. Anyway... on TAY Classic you can discuss anything you want 24/7. Start a discussion of your own or join in one already in progress. Be sure to add the tay classic tag to your post and you're done! Having trouble understanding TAY? Read this tutorial.
- Thank you to GiantboyDetective for the criminally loud but beautiful header image.
- The Fun List is a list that is just for fun. Isn't that funny? Read the others here.