I’m replaying Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City, and in the latter game, when I bought Sunshine Autos and saw the cutscene (which are short and skippable in these games), something clicked in my head.
The NPCs in these games enrich the game universe. Heck, a lot of the best stories do that with supporting characters. This is a lot of the appeal of GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas… but then Liberty City Stories showed a problem. Some of the characters seemed to be weird just for the sake of being weird. They didn’t enhance the game universe. They made it less comfortable. This continued with Vice City Stories (which is otherwise a good game, but certain elements make me refuse to complete it), and this also continued with Grand Theft Auto IV*.
And that’s a problem I have with a lot of the NPCs in the Zelda games, starting with… I would say Ocarina, but Link’s Awakening had a few of those. Although the weirdest NPCs in that game weren’t too eccentric, as the game turned out to be a dream world, they were forgivable. Some of the characters from Ocarina onward are problematic, to put it nicely.
I hesitate to call some of the characters** “fruity”, as a lot of these characters might be acceptable to Japanese cultures, at least as something silly and funny, but to cultures that don’t get it, they come across as repulsive as clowns do to kids that are scared of them (just the reaction is annoyance instead of terror).
But beyond that, too many just don’t seem to fit the universe. Some are actually decent on their own, like Agatha in Twilight Princess, but she wasn’t really integrated into the Zelda universe that well. Her clothes are anachronistic (belongs better in a game like Skies of Arcadia), and she was mainly there to provide a collection quest.
Another way the NPCs don’t help the game universe is that they often seem to be in the way. I don’t mean just as roadblocks, but how the games force you to deal with them in ways that slows the game down.
A good contrast is a sick boy in Link to the Past, where he says that he caught it from some evil mist, letting you know that evil is taking over the land, and provides you with the net. So you got some information about the game universe, an item, and you move on.
* Although I saw most of the parts in videos about the game, which just made me more glad I returned the game.
** Such as the carpenter’s crew in Ocarina, the guys that run the hang-gliding chicken coop in Twilight Princess, and of course Tingle.
Fruity is the right word. Remember when the Zelda NPCs used to be cool? In Zelda 2, the old men who taught you spells were pretty cool. In Zelda 1, they were badass because they said enigmatic things like “It’s a secret to everyone.” Or they would take your money since you bashed down their door. Or if you attacked them, the lamps would start shooting fireballs at you. In Link to the Past, the NPCs were very much part of the cohesive part of the landscape. There wasn’t anyone fruity that I can recall. Maybe the lumberjacks.
Tingle was flaming though. These ‘fruity’ NPCs are telling us who the Nintendo developers are. And I mean that exactly how it sounds.