Come one come all, after a short leave of absence, your gaming hall of fame has returned. This week we shall induct the greatest gaming protagonist into the hall of fame. Which hero of fate will enter the hall and take their place in the annals of history? Who shall banish the evil and take their place as your champion? Our two contenders are the hero of time himself Link (Matt) and the worlds most kick ass, chain smoking, shadow stalking, stealth spy clone, Solid Snake (Ian). This is set to be a battle not seen outside of the realms of Smash Bros Brawl. Shall we begin?
Matt: I thought long and hard about this one. When you think about it there are loads of great gaming protagonists. In fact I went through loads of names before I settled on Link. But I chose Link for a reason. I believe that Link is the greatest protagonist of all time, because Link is not one, he is many. Let me explain that; Link is locked into a perpetual struggle between good and evil. In every version of his timeline he is faced with unbelievable odds, he needs to overcome a great evil with only the power of courage. All of Link’s ancestors are fated to be heroes. From right at the beginning the Triforce of courage picked his bloodline. Whenever a hero is needed a Link is always around. Link embodies pure goodness. He is everything a hero should be.
Ian: I’m the opposite to Matt on this one, I didn’t go through lots of different characters before settling on my choice, I just immediately thought of Solid Snake as soon as Matt chose the debate topic, I’ll talk about how badass Snake is in the next round (SPOILER: immensely) but in this one I want to talk about how Snake saves the day. See, as Matt mentioned, Link is the hero of time, he is destined for greatness from birth, he has won before he even starts. Snake is a clone of the legendary hero Big Boss. Not a full clone though, for he has a twin brother called Liquid Snake. Liquid got all the good genes whereas Solid was given all the leftover ones, meaning he’s merely here to allow for the creation of Liquid. Despite this, through sheer determination and learned skill, he is able to ultimately defeat his brother. Snake defies fate, whereas that’s the only thing Link has achieve victory.
Matt: Firstly, just because Link is the Hero of Time it doesn’t mean he is destined to succeed, it just means he is the one chosen as the best hope. Link much like Snake, has no real genetic ability that makes him a hero; he too becomes a hero due to his refusal to lose and his belief in good. Link has only the courage inside himself to see him through, much like Snake. Link doesn’t always win from the start either. The Timeline of Zelda splits off after the events of OoT. In one of the three possible outcomes, Link dies and fails to stop Gannon and Hyrule is submerged underwater. My problem with Snake being the greatest protagonist is that he never truly is the hero. Snake is the classic anti-hero. He doesn’t save the day because of a battle between good and evil, he saves the day, because it’s what he is genetically programmed to do. At the end of the day Snake is just a man looking for answers and trying to destroy the system that created him, people get saved as a byproduct. That’s not to say Snake doesn’t care (because he is shown to care on many occasions), but it is to say that it’s not his primary motivation. I don’t know, I just think Link embodies your classic Protagonist in a way Snake doesn’t.
Ian: So what makes a great hero? Great voice? Check (David Hayter’s grizzly voiced portrayal is instantly recognisable to any seasoned gamer). Great hair? Check (Snake rocks the mullet. Enough said). Smoker? Check. Can just as easily snap a guy’s neck as he can choose to sneak by and let his enemies live? Check. Can hide in a cardboard box? Double check. Single-handedly take down a bi-pedal nuclear equipped tank? Check. Isn’t a little elf-boy who wears green and stars in overhyped games? Check!
Matt: The fact you don’t get Zelda still puzzles me, but this is neither the time nor place. I’m going to close up here. Both Snake and Link are great heroes. Both Snake and Link are also two very different heroes. Snake as I said before is more of an antihero, and not what you’d typically consider the good guy. Link however is. As I said at the start Link embodies “hero”. Link has to go through the entire heroes’ journey, from humble origins to savior of the people. When you were a child and dreamed of adventure, Link is the kind of guy you dreamt about. When I think of great protagonists, there are few people who I can hold in as high regard as Link. No matter who in the bloodline the Link you play as is, Link is always the embodiment of good.
Ian: Solid Snake is greatest protagonist in gaming. As Matt said when arguing the Metal Gear Solid franchise into the GHoF, Snake is just as comfortable at being a stealth badass as he is at being an all-out action badass. Either way, he is a badass.
Jack: I think this debate centres around some interesting questions, what makes a character a hero? What qualities do we want from the imaginary people who save people and worlds on a daily basis? And ultimately why do we care about them? Matt and Ian without actually saying it have actually addressed these questions in detail. To me this debate comes down to two very different types of hero, you have the almost whiter than white Link and the anti-hero that is Solid Snake.
Link’s appeal is firmly rooted in the ‘Destiny’ theme, as Matt says there an ancestry and a history to Link that makes him a very traditional hero in my view. He has the humble beginnings, the honesty, the blond hair and the elf looks. This makes home the good guy who I imagine probably has a little cry after he’s killed people.
Now Solid Snake is much more of a dirty bad ass anti hero, even the name makes him sound cool and that before you get to the smoking, gravelly voiced assassin that Ian described (with great hair). There is also the incidental approach to heroism, as Matt pointed out he’s fighting the system not just going around saving people because he is a good guy. That makes him very cool but does it make him a hero?
Ultimately this boils down to personal opinion, these characters are opposite ends of the hero spectrum. Whichever one I pick people are going to disagree, but this is the weighty task that I have. To me I’ve always preferred my ‘heroes’ to be flawed, dirty, bad asses rather than the perfect golden boy who you almost picture has a halo. This is probably more jealousy then reasoned opinion but that means that it’s Solid Snake that goes into the hall of fame.
That’s the debate. Do you agree? Let us know.