The guy behind the “shrill” NPC voice in Shenmue II explains how it came to be

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.

[Source: Shenmuedojo]

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13 responses to “The guy behind the “shrill” NPC voice in Shenmue II explains how it came to be

  1. Having not played much of the XBOX version (I imported the PAL Dreamcast release) I have to request youtube video, I can't remember hearing this voice! But what a sad yet funny story. The Shenmue voice acting stories are always great.

  2. -nSega54- says:

    lol well that might be difficult, I remember "the voice" but don't remember exactly where the NPC was located or how he looked, sadly.

    But I do know that the scene he mentions with he and all the other actors improvising the Heavens' background dialogue on the spot is probably this one:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yygjWIc8Gf4&featur

  3. VyseLegend says:

    haha, I remember that horrible sounding background chatter. Shenmue is full of funny ass voice acting, I sort of miss it :(. It would be a shame if Shenmue III had some sort of professional caliber VAs.

  4. Pao says:

    I love the English voice acting of Shenmue 1 & 2, I refused to play the Japanese version, and I don't regret it.

  5. -nSega54- says:

    I'm mixed on it. I would say for Shenmue III I think my ideal compromise would be to keep the MAIN characters (Ryo, Ren, Shenhua) but improve the quality of the VA of everyone else.

  6. Why do you put shrill in quotation marks? Who are you quoting? I didn't see the word anywhere in your story either.

  7. -nSega54- says:

    "Why do you put shrill in quotation marks? Who are you quoting? I didn’t see the word anywhere in your story either."

    Then you didn't look carefully enough :p

    "The next attempt was a shrill, scratchy concoction that actually hurt to do. “No way will they want this voice,” I thought. "

    Whenever you're describing something using someone else's words, you put the description in quotes. It makes it clear that those are his words, not mine, that are describing his performance.

  8. I see it now. Sorry about that. I thought you were usiing it like people misuse air quotes. That's one of my pet peeves, I guess.

    Also I do know what quotation marks are.

  9. cube_b3 says:

    Emett should really be an editor :P.

    He keeps us in line and then double checks.

  10. -nSega54- says:

    hahaha no prob Emmett The Crab. :]

    Bad grammar is a pet peeve of mine as well.

  11. ImSmartUrDum says:

    Regarding your comments in the original topic on sega.com regarding Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid wasn't re-cast on gamecube, it was only re-recorded.

    The reason given by the directors was they didn't want the players to feel like they were playing exactly the same game (audio makes up for around 60 to 80% of the emotion we feel when watching a movie or playing a game).

    In truth, nobody even wanted to remake Metal Gear Solid, it was one of these things that was forced upon the developers by fat-cat's in suits.

  12. -nSega54- says:

    hahah those posts were from a loooooooong time ago, I don't even remember 'em. The only reason I linked to it was because for some reason I can't find the original story on Shenmuedojo anymore.

  13. Fallout911 says:

    I haven't laughed so much in such a long time, thanks for posting this.

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