Vocal Ramblings: Why Shouldn’t Japanese Games Keep Japanese Voices Tracks?

I’m a regular listener to Podtoid, Destructoid.com’s primary podcast (out of three), and a question fielded in one of their recent episodes (around 16:35 right to the end) concerning voice acting in games has got the creaky wheels in my brain rolling and grinding: not only am I a very big anime fan, but I’m also an avid video gamer. In fact, it was me pouring over gaming magazines as a kid that led me to watching anime from Manga Video and becoming the hardcore anime fan that I am today. And the going off against the lack of decent voice acting in games, especially Japanese games dubbed into English, certainly struck a chord with me…

Recently when I got Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2 for my Xbox 360, I was disappointed to find out that, unlike it’s prequel when it was released the year before, there was no Japanese voice track. At all. I’ve hardly played the game (though I hardly actually play games that much any more. or do much of anything except browse the internet), just as I’ve hardly played other Japanese games that didn’t have a Japanese vocal track. If I know that a game has a Japanese vocal track in Japan, but just has English voices over here, I’m just not that interested.

For instance, Frau Bow in Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2 is horribly flat and unemotional, and really helped to put me off my game when I played it. Whilst some of the characters were alright, Frau just really stuck out and took me out of the game. Persona 4 has slightly better voice acting, but the inability to change to Japanese voices (which had some anime voices actors who count among my favourites) infuriated me and turned me off. Same with Disgaea when I discovered the game only had English voices. It might be a piddling thing, but as not all English voice tracks in Japanese games can be like as in the Metal Gear Solid series (and even so… Listen to Otacon crying in 2! I’m pretty sure the Japanese version didn’t sound like that!) .

When I watch anime on DVD, I usually just turn on the Japanese vocal track, with the rare exception on the off-chance that the dub is actually pretty good, such as the Miyazaki movies, or Cowboy Bebop. To be fair, I’m not exactly a staunch crusader for having everything in Japanese, that’s just my preference. The Podtoid discussion pretty much encapsulated my problems with English voice acting: the fact that it’s not at all taken seriously in the Western countries, and that they just don’t care about putting in a good performance: Chad Concelmo, for example, talks about knowing a casting director who casts video games. She hardly actually plays video games, only stuff like Karaoke Revolution, and she has to be shown how to select songs to play using the joypad. And these are the kind of people who cast voice actors in video games, niche translated Japanese games such as Dynasty Warriors Gundam, the Persona games, Disgaea (which came to the UK without a Japanese vocal track).

Frankly, I’m inclined to agree. Being a big anime fan, I’m inclined to expect the dramatic, often over the top voice acting that usually appears in anime. When it’s replaced by bland line readings in English, I don’t get into it as much as I would if it was in Japanese. You can call it personal preference, you can call it me being a weeaboo (then Topher Cantler can come around and knock your block off), but I’d at least like the option to switch between English and Japanese on the fly. Or at least the English dubbing companies to take dubbing video games seriously…!

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