Voice Acting and Zelda

JuicieJJune 1st, 2012 by JuicieJ

Voice acting in Zelda. It’s one of the most heated debates in the series today, and it has been for quite some time. Many fans are opposed to seeing voice acting in the series, some even to the point of being vehemently resistant to it, convinced that it wouldn’t work no matter what. I can’t do anything to change someone’s mind if it’s made up, but I urge those of you that have read this far to read the rest of the article and take consideration to my points.

Now, before I move on, I’m gonna go ahead and lay this out. I support voice acting in Zelda. As such, throughout this article, I’m going to briefly discuss the three most common arguments against voice acting in Zelda and I explain why I don’t think they hold up. After that, I’ll discuss my personal thoughts on the topic as a whole. If you still don’t support voice acting in Zelda by the end of this article, that’s fine. I just hope I can at least present the idea in a different light for you. So, without further ado, let’s get started. I’ll start it all off with the most common argument against voice acting I’ve seen.

“Voice Acting Would Ruin Zelda’s Individuality”

Basically, this argument states that Zelda’s lack of voice acting helps keep the series unique from other game series and that adding voice acting would take away that uniqueness. I have to say, I don’t see any solid evidence to back this up. Voice acting isn’t some kind of gameplay element that defines a particular kind of genre. It’s something that covers gaming as a whole, kinda like having a story and controls. You might as well say that Zelda having dialogue in general makes the series too similar to other game series with this kind of logic.

I would also like point out that Zelda games aren’t the only ones to not use voice acting. Mario (with the exception of Super Mario Sunshine) and Fire Emblem don’t have it, and Metroid didn’t for a while. Sonic Battle and the Sonic Rivals titles didn’t use voice acting, either. In fact, they worked pretty much exactly like Zelda’s “grunt style”. I bring this up because the fact that other games don’t use voice acting makes the statement that Zelda is unique for not using voice acting virtually useless. In fact, it only further aids the fact that voice acting wouldn’t ruin Zelda’s individuality, since, well, its lack of voice acting isn’t exactly unique. Because of all this, this is one argument against voice acting in Zelda that shouldn’t be used.

“Zelda Is Doing Fine Without Voice Acting”

This argument follows the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality and assumes that the lack of voice acting is the right path for the Zelda series by following the appeal to tradition fallacy. This argument doesn’t work. Just because something has always been used in the past doesn’t mean it’s what should be done in the future. With this logic, one could argue that nothing new should ever be added into the Zelda series, let alone any game series in general.

Allow me to put this into perspective. By saying this, you might as well be saying that Zelda should never have switched to 3D. It was doing just fine in 2D, wasn’t it? But look at how much it aided the series. How about the new addition of Wii MotionPlus? Wasn’t the series doing just fine with button controls? Yet look at how much more freedom we’ve been given in the combat by being able to control the direction Link swings his sword with pinpoint accuracy. Oh, and let’s not forget the technology that’s been constantly introduced into the series over the years, namely the highly advanced technology in Skyward Sword (Ancient Robots, Beetle, Lanayru Mining Facility, etc.). Countless fans have bellyached about technology in Zelda for years, saying basically the same things that are said about voice acting; that it didn’t belong in Zelda because it was doing fine without it. That’s been proven false as of late. It’s added a really nice balance to the series by giving it some diversity from the more medieval aspects the series had in its early days. So what would make voice acting so different that it’s where the line should be drawn involving new things being added into the series? Nothing. There’s no reason to think otherwise. Voice acting isn’t somehow magically different than any other new aspect being added to Zelda. That’s just silly. That said, this is yet another argument against voice acting in Zelda that shouldn’t be used.

“Link Would Talk”

My response to this argument is, “Why?” Why would Link automatically have to have a voice just because of the introduction of voice acting? Link has been silent for 26 years. Do you really think Nintendo would be dumb enough to give Link lines after all this time? I can assure you that Link will never be given lines. Ever. That’s an understood law among the Zelda community. The reason Link doesn’t have lines is because he’s the “link between the player and the game”. The Zelda team knows that by giving Link a voice that that “link” would be severed. There’s no reason to believe that Link would have to talk just because of voice acting. There just isn’t.

If you want further evidence on why Link wouldn’t have to talk because of voice acting, I have the perfect example to show why. Ironically, it ties back into a game series that I mentioned earlier in this article, a popular series faced an almost identical situation not too long ago: Metroid.

No, I’m not talking about Other M. Metroid Prime 3 featured voice acting for the first time in the legendary Metroid series, and it was pulled off with flying colors. The voice actors were fantastic, and their dialogue felt completely natural, as if it had been in the series all along. And here’s the kicker: Samus didn’t talk. Yes, Metroid Prime 3 kept its protagonist silent, which should ring a bell about something I mentioned about Link just a few sentences ago.

Now, before any of you go all, “Metroid isn’t Zelda!” on me, just hear me out. I’ve got two counterarguments to this statement.

The first one is something I’ve already mentioned. Voice acting isn’t some kind of gameplay element that only works in particular genres. It covers gaming as a whole, so saying that voice acting is OK for Metriod but not for Zelda is completely absurd. The second counterargument is that statement actually isn’t very accurate. Look at how the two series play. They both revolve around exploring an overworld, solving puzzles, and fighting baddies. They also both emphasize gameplay over story. The only differences are that Metroid takes place in a futuristic setting and that Samus uses an arm canon. (Oh, and Samus is a girl.) That’s basically it. Nothing else legitimately separates the two series.

If you’re not convinced, look at Skyward Sword. Zelda’s latest title took some heavy influences from the Metroid series. How so? It’s quite simple, really. Pretty much the whole game was a dungeon, each province was revisited multiple times to gain access to a previously blocked off area via a newly received item, save points were used, overworld bosses, and two bosses of which were fought multiple times. Each of these things are staple in Metroid and are utilized pretty much exactly the same way between each other. I don’t see how anyone can view all these similarities and say that Metroid and Zelda aren’t similar to each other. If you still do after all that, there’s not really anything I can do about it, but I can let you know that saying so just doesn’t make sense. I hate to attack personal opinions, but this is something that’s really inarguable.

So, with all of the major arguments against voice acting in Zelda out of the way, let’s move onto my personal thoughts on the subject as a whole. As I said at the beginning, I support voice acting in Zelda. I believe that it would do nothing but benefit the series. However, that doesn’t mean I think it needs to be in the series. I rather enjoy the “grunt style” that has been used since Ocarina of Time. It’s very entertaining and allows for the characters to use over-exaggerated gestures to enhance humorous moments. This is a big reason why I would prefer the voice acting to only be in the cutscenes; that way both voice acting and the “grunt style” would be in the series.

This isn’t the only reason I want voice acting to only be in the cutscenes, though. The other big reason involves the slight disconnect the cutscenes have from the rest of the game. See, in the cutscenes, we’re not involved in the action that’s taking place. The majority of each game involves us controlling Link’s actions and interacting with the characters and environments around him, but in the cutscenes, all we have to do is sit back and watch. I’ve always felt more connected to the game during NPC interaction outside of cutscenes, so I strongly believe that voice acting in cutscenes only would allow for it to not feel as intrusive to those who are against voice acting in Zelda. While I wouldn’t necessarily care either way, I do care about how some people wouldn’t like the introduction of voice acting, so I think only having it in the moments where we’re not controlling the game would be the best way to go.

Along with only wanting voice acting to be in the cutscenes, I would prefer the language spoken to be Hylian. I believe it would aid that sense of being a part of Hyrule that the Zelda games present so well, similar to how Link not talking provides that “link between the player and the game”. In fact, it seems that’s the language that would be used if voice acting would be introduced. Aonuma recently said in an interview that Hylian would be the language spoken if Zelda were to have voice acting in it. Even though he somewhat used that as an excuse to not put it in the series, I find it very pleasing to know that’s the language that characters would speak if they were given voices.

There’s another major reason behind why I would like to see the Hylian language used, though. It’s a game known as Shadow of the Colossus, which featured stellar voice acting along with, you guessed it, a made-up language. This was one of the most notable aspects of the game, as it demonstrated how a language made for a specific game could help immerse the players into the fantasy land that the story takes place in. This ties back to how I believe that Hylian would provide an even larger sense of immersion into the land of Hyrule, and Shadow of the Colossus is the major influence behind that belief.

Beyond that, there’s an influence behind my belief within the Zelda series itself: Midna and Fi. Both of these characters “spoke” in their respective games. Yes, it was complete gibberish, but it was still an unintrusive way of providing a slight sense of voice acting in the series. I think these two characters, as Hanyou said in his article on voice acting about a year ago, were a nice priming for voice acting in the Zelda series, as they’re a good way of easing into it by having only one character “speak” — in a “language” from outside of real life, at that. I believe that all that I’ve stated here is solid reasoning for having Hylian voice acting in Zelda and for the voice acting to be only in the cutscenes.

All that said, I think voice acting is something that should be in the Zelda series. I’ve been anticipating it for quite some time, and I’m confident we’ll see it in the future. I obviously have specific preferences for it, but I wouldn’t complain if those preferences weren’t met. Bottom line, voice acting in Zelda is not something that developers should shy away from. The only possible way it would hurt the series is if it were to be bad voice acting, but, come on, there’s no way the Zelda team would let that happen to their best series. Voice acting would without a doubt be a positive addition to the series, and it’s something that I think should happen soon, preferably with Zelda Wii U, if not Zelda 3DS. If you personally don’t want it, that’s fine. These sort of topics mostly boil down to pure opinion and personal preference. I just hope I was at least able to present this topic in a different light for you.

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  • ariever

    i honestly dont care about if they put VA in future LOZ games, its just if the use the right person for the job. Like if they played link with a scrawny voice, that wouldnt work. If they do, it better not be like the Zelda movie. That was terrible.

  • Legend of Cabanela

    I think it would be a good idea (even thought it could make Nintendo lose even more money) is that in the next Zelda they can make an option to have voice acting in English (or whatever language is in your area), Hylian, or take out voice acting all together. That way all the fans can agree on it. :D

  • RoBirk29384

    I would accept voice acting if it was used as it was in Super Mario Sunshine, where you would only experience voice acting in major cutscenes throughout the game, as opposed to the entirety of Link’s conversations.

    Not only would full voice acting for every line put the Zelda franchise in the crosshairs Metroid: Other M found itself in, but we would likely have to wait months longer for the game due to localization, alone.

  • Legend of Cabanela

    And look at Lego Batman 2. They had voice acting during the cutscenes, and it worked out pretty well.

  • fff

    i don’t understand why everyones so against voice acting in zelda games. if anything it would make it a much more personal experience then it already is. especially if they get a quality voice acting case like featured in uncharted i think it would make the game much better, and much more cinemac and immersive

    • fff

      and they could even take it a step further and give the option at the beginning of the game to play the voiced, or unvoiced version since it clearly matters to people so much

  • Opin88

    I’m opposed to voice acting because I have aspergers syndrome, which is a form of autism. This is a valid reason because when ANYTHING is voice acted, it soars over my head and I don’t get much of the emotion or I usually miss something. Having to read the dialogue is something that I enjoy because that sicks in my mind much better… and the fact that I’m a visual learner and not an auditory learner helps too. Either way, those are my reasons.

    • Nicholas Jabbour

      They could add an option to turn voice-acting off. Kid Icarus: Uprising had an option to turn the voice-acting off and just use the subtitles instead.

  • Princess Zelda

    Link doesn’t have to talk! He doesn’t anyway, and he doesn’t have to if they DO use voice acting. Yes, it would be hard to find actors, actresses, to do the voicing, but I’m sure that Nintendo would find somebody. I have seen videos for Skyward Sword with the fan reading the lines, and they did really good. For Zelda, it was a calm, sweet voice. For her Father, it was a rough, yet calm, voice. Voice acting would be good for the series, but only with great actors. I, personally, want voice acting in the Zelda series now. It would add more ‘links’ between the player and the characters. If the Zelda team did use voice acting, I wouldn’t oppose it, unless it was bad.

    This is only my opinion.

  • majoramaster57

    I think that adding voice acting to zelda would take away the way we imagine the characters would say the lines. I have always had different voices in my mind for each character when I read the lines.

  • Pizzaman

    Voice acting in a future Zelda MUST be optional!

  • DekuLink223

    I honestly think it would ruin the games. ever since ocarina there was no voice acting. I think they will be just fine without it

  • dave

    actually metroid is the one influenced by zelda

  • PepsiDude

    I love it when Zelda was singing in Skyward Sword!!!!

  • Midna

    Listening to Link in an inevitably American accent would kill everything I love about the franchise.

  • Cutiop

    If the people spoke hylian during the cutscenes then if you play a second time around they should be in English just like they did in wind waker

  • anaytat217

    if it was voice acted, how would they get the games in so many different languages?alot of people would not be able to play the game.

  • CB

    Shadow of the Colossus was great. It was a wonderful piece of art and the Boss battles, voice acting, and environment were simply stunning. I like how you used that imagery to describe how you would like the voice acting and I agree, but it should be the original Japanese cast speaking Hylian, not the silly people here in America. Goodness, we Americans are silly people.

  • Cococrash11

    As long Link is a Silent Protagonist I’m okay with Voice Acting.

  • Pingback: Hylian Language

  • Zelda fan #1

    umm what would Hylian sound like?

  • Zelda fan #1

    personally I think voice acting would be amazing, to actually hear Link’s voice would make me so happy, but what I don’t understand is IF Zelda were to have voice acting why not use english? Like they’d write in hylian, but they’ll speak english, just there english will be called “hylian”. Maby put a bit of an accent but nothing too crazy

  • neanea

    I don’t know if someone already pointed this out, but Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance + Radiant Dawn have voice acting in their cutscenes. They had good actors, too, imo.

  • machetelink

    so long as link doesn’t talk, it’s all good

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1648947163 Aaron Joseph

    Zelda games have used voice acting before. We call them the unholy tri-force. Now I don’t think that voice acting made them bad games, that was the game play of them. Personally, I think it might be nice to see a game have some voice acting in it, but, I also think not having it makes the games feel like they are more at home in my heart. As long as the dialogue is well done I don’t think it’s too much of an issue.

    There are some absolutely great games that have terrible dialogue in them that really take me away from the game and there are some which enhance the game. It’s really a tough call as to what could be the positives and negatives for voice acting.

    I honestly think the best thing to do is make a game that has an option of using the voices or the grunts.

  • rlythu

    people are kind of dumb sometimes, zelda would be so much more awesome if it had voice acting

  • Guy Person

    The thing about Zelda is that NPC’s will just repeat what they say every time you talk to them, which isn’t really weird in text but could get a bit awkward with voice acting :/ I do like reading what they say because I like giving them my own voices in my head, but that’s just a personal preference. I guess at the end of the day I wouldn’t mind it as long as Link doesn’t speak, because that would just be too weird for me.

  • Guy Person

    I guess if they had the option to turn off voice acting and just have text that would solve everybody’s problems :)