Sometimes, something happens that makes you realize the people who make games are as big a fans of them as you are. Of course they are, they’re making them after all. But we never image they’re as fanatical about things as we are. Linkle is proof, because with her we see developers following one of the Internet Rules.
There are many Internet Rules. Rule 20: take nothing seriously. Rule 50: crossovers always happen. One of the most prevalent rules is Rule 63: there is a gender-swapped version of every character. These rules tend to apply to fan creations, but Rule 63 has been gaining ground in source material. Japanese games, in particular, are working double time to provide ample examples of adding additional validity to Rule 63.
Which brings us back to Linkle, the most recent example. Her origins stem from concept art for Hyrule Warriors. Female Link was brainstormed, nicknamed Linkle and abandoned. That is, until Hyrule Warriors Legends came around. People caught sight of her telltale crossbow in initial art and, sure enough, she was revealed as a full cast member.
Now, it’s important to note that no one is actually calling Linkle “Link.” She’s always referred to as an exceptional girl from a village filled with Cuccos who happens to have a special compass, a yen for adventure and encounters with Skull Kid. It doesn’t change the fact that Linkle is essentially Link. She’s a canonized Rule 63 character and sign that developers realize the importance of such things.
But she isn’t some anomaly. Plenty of developers are absolutely ready, willing and able to create Rule 63 characters. Nippon Ichi proudly and prominently featured Girl Laharl when marketing Disgaea D2. As you can guess from that stunning display of naming, Girl Laharl is Laharl transformed into a woman. She’s known as Laharl-chan in Japan, which is much cuter. Laharl wakes up as Girl Laharl and returning him to normal becomes another part of the story.
Or not, because this is NIS and of course his remaining a woman is an option. In one of the game’s many endings, Girl Laharl is here to stay. While there is a “canon” ending, there hasn’t been a Disgaea D3 to cement that storyline, so people could go ahead and believe Girl Laharl is the natural result of that entry’s circumstances. Rule 63 and Girl Laharl forever!
Though, when it comes to making Rule 63 the norm, rather than the exception, Atlus has everyone beat with its Shin Megami Tensei series. Both Persona 3 and Devil Survivor 2 revel in the idea of gender swapped characters when they were rereleased. With Persona 3 Portable, Atlus explored the butterfly effect. The normal, male avatar is always referred to as Minato. A female avatar, who fans dubbed Minako, shows the different personal connections and minor story alterations that would have come with a different lead. With Persona 3 Portable, we can see both sides. The gender-flip doesn’t mean an identical scenario. Minako is her own person and more than another version of Minato.
Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker replaces Yamato Hotsuin with Miyako Hotsuin. People are left to wonder who she is and what her existence even means in the second storyline following the main game. After all, she’s suddenly head of JP’s in his place. She looks exactly like him. She even shares some personality traits. It’s another opportunity to use Rule 63 to see how things, a story, would change when someone is almost still themselves, but not quite.
Rule 63 has become quite a pervasive thing. It’s gone from something die-hard fans of a series do to their favorite characters in their free time to something even the creators admit is a good idea. Atlus does it. NIS America does it. Now that Nintendo’s in it too, with Linkle, the concept has more credence than ever.