for me mute characters work best when the story is mostly told through atmosphere and in-game events, with little actual character interaction. i have a much easier time projecting myself onto samus aran than, say, gordon freeman. samus basically just runs around in a lonely environment, so it's pretty simple to imagine that she's reacting to things precisely as i am. freeman, on the other hand, is surrounded by well-rounded npcs, who constantly talk at him. since i have no ability to respond to what they're saying, those scenes put a wall between me and gordon, making me think of him as his own character rather than my avatar in this world. and because he's designed as a blank slate, i think of him as a dull, dull person.
to take this back to zelda, i find it easier to think of link as my avatar in the older games, but as the series started fleshing out the plots and characters link's muteness became more of a barrier. wind waker is exceptional for the reasons people have mentioned above -- despite being mute, toon link has boatloads of personality. by making him so expressive i found it easier to think of him as having a personality, although this still loses the blank slate thing the earlier games had going for them.
so basically, i think if nintendo want to keep telling the kind of zelda stories they have for the last few years, they need to present a character with more personality, a la toon link, or give us some say in how he responds to situations, like a wrpg (though ideally less in-depth -- i like wrpgs, but i don't want zelda to become one.) alternatively, go back to minimal character interaction and lore exposition, and just focus on giving us atmospheric worlds to explore. i'd actually love to see zelda taken in this direction, but it's not very likely.
anyway, i don't really have much to add with regard to the main topic of this thread. i was hoping stevet would chime in, since i was pretty much agreeing with him in the earlier discussion right up until he disagreed with mps' point quoted in the original post here.
Edited by Fin, 01 July 2012 - 08:25 AM.