The Shenmue series may be known as a pioneer in a lot of ways…none of those ways includes the quality of its English dub. Shenmue Dojo yesterday posted a story from a voice actor who did some NPC voices from Shenmue II. Not a whole lot about the process we hadn’t heard from Jeremy Blaustein’s revealing interview a while back, but I still got a few chuckles out of this.
The actor, who asked to be anonymous (though Shenmue Dojo attests to his legitimacy), explained to his agent that he was not capable of altering his voice convincingly, but he was then asked to do just that when he showed up for the Shenmue II recording session.
For the next role, I was asked to do the voice of an old man.
My agent, who was in the control room, did not say anything at all. In fact, I saw the agent ducking out of my line of sight. Nothing from the agent about the fact that I had accepted the job on the condition that I not have to alter my voice. Because my voice characterizations are not good and game players will notice the poor quality. And no clearheaded game producer wants to put bad voices on their project. Right?
Once again, I was on the spot. Well, it’s their game, I figured. One standard elderly-man voice coming up.
My favorite part of this story would have to be when this actor reveals that he was also the one responsible for that quirky NPC with the high-pitched voice, and I actually have a feeling that I know which voice it was.
One of the characters was described to me as an especially weird fellow and they needed an appropriately weird voice. They played some scenes on the monitor. They gave me a moment to think of a voice style.
They didn’t like my first attempt and neither did I.
The next attempt was a shrill, scratchy concoction that actually hurt to do. “No way will they want this voice,” I thought.
They loved it.
I had a created a voice that sounds like a cross between Clint Eastwood and Richard Simmons.
As I was recording, I remember thinking to myself “This character voice is terrible. If I were playing this game and heard this voice, I’d turn off the sound.”
He also discusses how he and a couple other actors improvised the background chatter of the Heavens gang, the small studio in which the recording was done, and his declaration that he will never accept video game voicework again. Pretty entertaining.