Whenever the subject of developing the character of Link is brought up, Zelda fans appear in droves to insist that Link should be a blank slate for the player to project themselves onto, complaining that it would ruin the Zelda experience that they know and love if Link became a character of his own.
The problem is, though, that Link is becoming more developed in each game, and every time Nintendo does it, these same fans love it. This fabled blank slate Link has not existed since A Link to the Past, and that to say that a true Zelda game needs to have this is to say that Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess and especially Skyward Sword are not true Zelda games.
The blank slate Link “tradition” was started back with the original Legend of Zelda for the NES, a game which also included several other features that fans are now nostalgic for, such as a lack of story/introduction in general, and a higher level of difficulty. Here’s the thing, though: those weren’t there because Nintendo thought it would be “totes indie”, they were there because they were limitations of the NES.
Nintendo’s skimping on a story and introduction was because they couldn’t fit the story into the game and had to put one into the instruction booklet instead. The higher difficulty setting was simply artificial difficulty from having a non-streamlined control system, and the lack of a character for Link was because they couldn’t have one.
As soon as they had the N64 technology to pull it off, though, suddenly Link had a face and a voice and cutscenes and his own reactions to situations. Then, with the advent of the Gamecube, they pulled the brilliant maneuver of basing the entire graphics style around being able to show Link and the NPCs as expressive characters. This version of Link had a huge and expressive face, created so that Nintendo could show off this Link as a character of his own, someone with family and friends and thoughts and beliefs.
It was Link, not the player, who cried and waved as he left his island behind, and it was Link who, with his own will, made the decision to get his sister back whatever it took. Sure, you guided him through it as the player, because it’s a video game, but it was clearly the decision of Link the character, not you as a blank slate.
Skyward Sword has taken this a step further again. They’ve once again created an expressive art style where they can showcase the “character” of each character, and used it to give Link not only emotions, but his own love interest, who he as a character is determined to find again. And the reaction to that, as with every other step along this path, has been overwhelmingly positive.
You don’t have to agree with the idea of voice acting for Link – that’s an debate of its own – but simply being nostalgic about old games isn’t going to take the new ones forward. It’s time to publicly embrace the fact that when Nintendo wants to give Link a character, they do it well, and instead of asking Nintendo to hold themselves back, support them in bringing the games forward.