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Ode to the Eternal Champion.
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Old 24 Dec 2006, 12:15   #1 (permalink)
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Default Ode to the Eternal Champion.

The Eternal Champion is a rarely seen concept in the gaming world. Too often our games are filled with over-used characters who by rights should have retired long ago. Face facts; Lara Croft stopped being cool long ago, Mario is so old I'm amazed his knees don't shatter whenever he tries to jump, and pretty soon Master Chief won't be able to aim straight because of his arthritic hands.

Clearly, the best thing to do with a game is to have one character who starts afresh every game... like Link.


Wait, Link? Link from Legend of Zelda? Link who's been in at least eight games, not including spin-off appearances? Yes, that Link. Specifically, Link the Hero of Time: Link the Eternal Champion.

Let me explain; aside from a few exceptions, the Link you play in each Zelda game is not the same Link as in the others. Since the release of Ocarina of Time especially, Nintendo seem to be working on the basis that you are either the same Link (Majora's Mask), or descended from that Link in some way (Wind Waker and Twilight Princess). In short, every Link is different, yet every Link is still the same Link. How? he's an Eternal Champion.

An Eternal Champion, as opposed to an Immortal Champion, is one who is reborn time and again in new forms, yet is still the same hero. In short, the Link from Ocarina, the "Hero of Time", created a Manifest Destiny whereby history would repeat in cycles; whenever a great evil arises, the Eternal Champion is reborn to face it. The Link from Majora's Mask is the same Link from Ocarina. The Link from Wind-Waker is, if not directly descended, most certainly inherating the Manifest Destiny, as well as some of Ocarina-Link's powers (won't say more so as not to spoil the game for those who haven't played it). Twilight-Link, right from the off, is clearly the Eternal Champion reborn; he has a horse named Epona, he is a left-handed swordsman, he has the Triforce mark on his hand, and before you even enter the first dungeon you discover he bears the Triforce of Courage. When his Manifest Destiny is revealed, he even takes on the clothing and hair-colour of the Hero of Time.

Link, however, is not alone in this "Eternal" routine. Hyrule is an "Eternal Kingdom", repeated over and over. Ganon is the "Eternal Villain" (though he was not in Majora, and I don't know if he's in Twilight yet) and Zelda is the "Eternal Damsel in Distress". Hyrule likes cyclic history, it seems.


But why is an Eternal Champion better than the alternatives? Well, for one thing it gives more familiarity than replacing the entire cast each time as Final Fantasy does. I know a lot of people, myself included, draw comparissons to previous characters in the FF genre; Auron was very "Vincent-like", Rikku bore resemblence to Yuffie, Yuna felt very much like Rinoa or Garnet... but these aren't Eternal Champions; it's a new world, new people, new situations each time. The early FF games did have an element of "Eternal Champion" creation about them, what with constant reference to Light Crystals and the like, but ultimately the protagonists were always different. Link, on the other hand, is always Link, even if it isn't the Link.

The second benefit to an Eternal Champion is that they don't grow old. I mean, take FFX-2. Yuna and Rikku are seriously weak at the start compared to how strong they were at the end of FFX. How come they can't hit several-thousand damage? How come they have so little HP? How come they've lost all their awesome gear? This is the problem with direct-sequals; your character magically "loses" power he had before, unless the game never allows them to grow more powerful. Whilst that might work for games like Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee and Abe's Exoddus, and FPS games get away with it for a while, you ultimately start to wonder why the hell these things aren't a cake-walk given what you've done before.
With the Eternal Champion, that is bypassed; Twilight Link may bear the Triforce of Courage, and may be living out the Manifest Destiny of the Hero of Time... but just because you've got the power doesn't mean you've got the skills; Twilight Link has all the makings of a Hero, but he's never actually done any Hero-work. This also explains why a "rookie" character can succeed where more experienced warriors fail; being the reborn-incarnation of one of the biggest Heroes in all creation gives one an advantage.

But what are the flaws of the Eternal Champion? Well, I guess that there is a feeling of repetition; Twilight Princess, whilst a great game, does feel a little familiar to me. I mean, there's only so many times you can save Hyrule before you turn around and say "screw this, save yourself for once! Oh, and Zelda, how about taking self-defence lessons or something! Or hire a guard! Or buy a sodding padlock for the door!" The other problem is that, with not being the exact same character, you lose out on elements you may have liked from previous games. I liked the Ocarina of Time, the Wind-Waker wand I wasn't that impressed with, and frankly I think I'd rather put up with Navi's irritating whine than Midna's bitchy attitude.


All in all, the Eternal Champion is a rare thing, but it is a nice idea. It's always good to know that in the darkest hour, there will be a Hero to save the day... and it's even better when you know that Hero isn't just some adventurer who sits in pubs waiting for the DM to finish working out the Dungeon Map.
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Old 24 Dec 2006, 17:03   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Ode to the Eternal Champion.

I see where your coming from. Link is always a fun character for me to play :P

I find the biggest problem with an Eternal Champion, is when they have a poor design. Or some
large flaw, that you notice every time you play them.

Otherwise, they tend to turn out alright, if you can deal with the repetitiveness. As long as they're well built they're great!
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