Raise a Glass to … Colin

Continuing the entirely irregular column wherein I sip a few gin and tonics and loudly proclaim my love for various aspects of the games industry, before fighting with some scallies and throwing up in a bin. This week: a young lad whose destiny will never be to save the world.

Twilight Princess had its share of memorable characters. The chap selling lamp oil in the woods, with the birds nesting in his barnet and the obvious entheogen habit; the girl in the fishing shack who was hot for Link’s tilt-ball skills; the sinister bug princess; that postman who can only be described as fucking nuts… But none for me had the charm of Colin, the shy boy from Link’s home village who hated violence and looked up to Link not for his sword mastery, but because of his devotion to animals.

Here was a character who felt real, a quiet and sensitive child, excluded from the other kids’ games because he didn’t share their rough and tumble sensibilities — a boy who would rather be alone tending to horses than perfecting his aim with a slingshot. Here was a video game character I could identify with.

His visual design was exemplary. Although Twilight Princess was a generation behind the competition upon release, the nuance and emotion expressed through its characters proved there is a deeper magic in modelling and animation than pure processing power. The game’s occasional muddy textures and empty field design may have betrayed its Gamecube-era tech, but the richness and subtlety of its characters was not matched by any other game at the time, and few since.

Colin, with his downcast eyes, his hands clasped behind his back and his foot digging awkwardly into the ground, showcased this better than anyone. The talent of Nintendo’s artists at evoking empathy through their work brought to mind the heartfelt warmth of Miyazaki’s films.

Which is not to say Twilight Princess always got it right. The game’s plot had a tendency to cross the line from sincerity into saccharine sentimentality, and cut-scenes could sometimes be mawkish and confusing. But with Colin the balance was maintained beautifully. He wasn’t a stereotype or a clichĂ©, nor did he feel like he’d been designed from the character-trait-diamond video game writers so often use (“timid but brave when pushed” … “arrogant yet withdrawn” — that kind of paint-by-numbers bullshit). There was a seed of consciousness within him, a spirit and lifeblood that went beyond mere pixels and shader techniques.

Sure, his eventual character arc was predictable, but the bravery he exhibited was a standing up for what was right, a strength that had nothing to do with fitting into the egotistical mould of hero the other children so admired. When he won their respect he did so on his own terms, and the compassion he showed for those still in danger was entirely in keeping with his personality.

Colin embodied everything I play RPGs for. He drew me into the new, peculiarly melancholic Hyrule, he brought Link’s world to life, and he gave me a desire to believe in it. He is the reason I love Nintendo, the reason I continue buying their games.

So here’s to you, Colin. Salud.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is an action adventure game developed and published by Nintendo. You can buy it on the Wii, or the southpaw purists among you might want to check out the Gamecube edition. It’s no Ocarina of Time, but then what is?

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