I don't know if I'm alone here, but there is one thing that really bothers me in a game. No, bothers isn't the right word for this hatred--this loathing disgust that overcomes me. It can turn a good game into a bad game almost instantly, and it can make a bad game even worse. The disease I'm talking about is called bad voice acting. In any game, a bad voice actor can turn me off right away. But in an RPG, when you have to spend sometimes 40 to 100 plus hours with this new group of digital friends, a bad voice actor can turn a stomach faster than rotten lasagna, and will often times force me to turn the game off completely.
A fellow staffer and I were having this very discussion the other day, and I brought up the game Okami. I know a lot of people love this game. It's very pretty; it's a piece of art, a masterpiece and all that other junk, yes I agree. But after an hour or two of that incessant whiny little language the characters used, chattering at me without pause, I just couldn't take it. I turned off the game and happily returned it to Blockbuster where it belonged.
Now, you might ask why I don't just mute the game and get over it. See, if I mute the game I lose out on all of the atmospheric sounds and the music. Music is one of the most important parts of a game, and playing a game in silence is never fun. What Okami should have done was given you the option of turning the voices off and leaving the other sounds on. Then maybe I would know why Okami is so great, like everyone else does.
I've just finished playing Final Fantasy XII, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. But there was a time in the game where I didn't think I would. That time was when they introduced the character of Vaan. I don't know what possessed them to hire this voice actor, I really don't. He must be an employee's son or cousin. That's really the only explanation. For a Final Fantasy game (any big budget game, really) it was inexcusable to have bad voice acting for one of the story's main characters.
Bobby Edner is this kid's name, and after a little research I discovered some things about him. Some of his notable roles include the following: that of the "Additional Voice" in Monsters, Inc., the "Boy at Sarah's House" in 1999's The Muse, and some voice work in Kangaroo Jack and Death to Smoochy. His best role, though, was that of the "Can I Touch your Boobs?" boy in an episode of Ellen back in 1998. Impressive! No wonder he scored the role.
Actually, all jokes aside, Bobby's got himself a good long list of not only voice work experience, but acting roles as well. And some were recurring, so the talent has to be in there somewhere, because someone wanted him back. Why did it not emerge when he was doing Vaan's lines? The only thing that saved the game for me at that point was the introduction of Basch (Keith Ferguson) and Balthier (Gideon Emery). Now, those men can ACT. Take a look at Gideon's website and tell me that man doesn't have talent (and a little more than that, too, if I may say. That's one sky pirate whose plank I wouldn't mind walking.)
Another prime example is the upcoming Eternal Sonata for the Xbox 360. Boy this game looks HOT. Just gorgeous. This is a console seller, in my opinion. But guess what? I watched a trailer the other day, and it sounded like they hired their cast from the Wal-Mart down the street. "Okay people, listen up. We're casting for this new game, and we need a few folks to record some lines from the script. You don't need any experience. If you speak English, follow me. There's ten bucks in it for ya." I mean, honestly. It infuriates me to no end. I really hope the trailer I saw wasn't official. Because if it is, forget it. That game can stay right where it is, because I ain't buying.
Anyway, the point is this. A bad voice actor can make a good game bad. You're already spending a fortune to create a quality game, why not spend that extra dollar and hire someone with talent? It makes a world of difference. And if your budget isn't that big, just leave the voices out. Plain text was good enough a decade ago, and it's just as good now. Am I alone here, people? Am I the only one who feels this way? I really hope not, because bad voice acting is like the plague. It must be stopped at any cost, and many will die before a cure is finally found.