When I last mentioned Arc Rise Fantasia here on Axis of Bozz it was in a somewhat festive mood. At the time not only had the game won an award from IGN at the 2009 E3 Expo as the Best Wii RPG, but the North American localization and publishing rights were transferred to Ignition Entertainment, the company responsible for the localization of Muramasa: The Demon Blade, from previous license holder Xseed Games. Although my interest in this series has waned over the course of the last several months, my initial interest was due to the presence composer Yasunori Matsuda and character designer Kenichi Yoshida amongst the game’s staff, I was devasted when I first learned that the English audio for the game was fairly awful. After hearing the news I couldn’t help myself from asking, “If it’s true, how could things have gone so wrong?”
The first I heard about the dubbing was just a few days via the Anime News Network website in a weekly Gaming segment called The X Button written by Todd Ciolek. The funny bit is that I the segment seemed inconspicuous until I noticed it since the latest entry had, as its icon, an image of one of the new characters from the recently released Super Street Fighter 4 video game. Although Ciolek refernces an article from video game news website Silicon Era, which includes samples of the English dub, it doesn’t reassure me that the English audio dubbing, which Ignition Entertainment decided would be the only audio option for the game, would be any good when he notes that although “…Arc Rise Fantasia presents itself as a shiny modern RPG”, the voice acting in the game, “hearkens back to the PlayStation era, when North American publishers had all sorts of voice-heavy Japanese RPGs and inadequate resources for dubbing them.” Ciolek specifically refers to specific games, such as the original Grandia and Xenogears games, both known for having somewhat shoddy voice work (I can attest to Xenogears’ awful English audio dub and inconsistency with regards to lip syncing).
Now I’ll be honest, having grown accustomed to viewing Japanese visual media, in the form of animated TV shows, movies and video games, I am a little biased towards interacting or viewing visual media in its original language, be it English, French, Japanese or Korean. In my experience, at least, with English dubbed visual media I have found that in most cases the English voices are just lacking the same impact that the original voices seem to have and that there quite a few occasions where the voices just don’t match up well with the character being voiced. For instance, one of my favourite titles this generation is the PS3-exclusive Valkyria Chronicles, from Sega, which offers both an English audio dub and the original Japanese audio.
I’ve played through the game in its entirely with the Japanese audio enabled and played the game for a few minutes with the English audio and viewed a few videos on Youtube which seem to be predominantly using the English audio. Although I don’t fault the games’ English audio offering, it is for the most part very well done, it does have areas where the voices don’t quite fit or where the voices don’t quite invoke the same sort of feeling that you get from the original voices and can even come across as a little goofy. For example, there is an instance, during the battles in Valkyria Chronicles, in which your characters will randomly have one of their character traits activate and they will say something that coincides with the trait that has been activated, such as if the activated trait was a pollen allergy then the character would make quip about hating the grass and flowers or something.