Voice Acting and Zelda

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.