Compare and Contrast: The Quality of Voice Acting

I apologize in advance for the lack of video embedding in this post.  Youtube and Firefox aren't getting along on my computer at the moment.
 
After all of the internet bitching regarding Samus's voice in Metroid:  Other M, I became puzzled.  In general, her voice acting is really not that bad.  Does her narration sound flat?  Yes it does, but it's a matter-of-fact tone that one might adopt while recalling past events.  Listen to her actual dialogue with other characters, and the tone and emotion is there, and it's rather well done.  In general, if there's anything wrong with Samus's dialogue, it's the fault of a script with an over-dependence on narration (i.e.:  telling, rather than showing), and some at-times clunky writing; elements over which the voice actors have no direct control.
 

 Now this is a game with horrible voice acting.
Honestly, I'm still puzzled as to what people were expecting out of the performance.  A female Master Chief?  I mean, you want bad voice acting, play House of the Dead 2.  Or the original version of Resident Evil.  Or any number of other video games from the mid-to-late '90s.  Games where the actors weren't so much actors as they were members of the developer's accounting department.  Or family members of the publishing company's CEO.  (And that last example isn't even a year and a half old.)
 
And some people think Samus's voice is awful, as in the worst voice acting they've ever heard?  Anyone that thinks that really need a reminder on what awful voice acting sounds like.  I honestly hear nothing wrong with Samus's voice in Other M.  The only real issues I'm aware of are that people are either rushing to judgment without playing the game (ah, the joys of the internet), have completely forgotten what awful voice acting actually sounds like and are resorting to hyperbole, or just don't like that Samus is, you know, a human, and not a badass killer of the universe.
16 Comments
17 Comments
Posted by Hailinel

I apologize in advance for the lack of video embedding in this post.  Youtube and Firefox aren't getting along on my computer at the moment.
 
After all of the internet bitching regarding Samus's voice in Metroid:  Other M, I became puzzled.  In general, her voice acting is really not that bad.  Does her narration sound flat?  Yes it does, but it's a matter-of-fact tone that one might adopt while recalling past events.  Listen to her actual dialogue with other characters, and the tone and emotion is there, and it's rather well done.  In general, if there's anything wrong with Samus's dialogue, it's the fault of a script with an over-dependence on narration (i.e.:  telling, rather than showing), and some at-times clunky writing; elements over which the voice actors have no direct control.
 

 Now this is a game with horrible voice acting.
Honestly, I'm still puzzled as to what people were expecting out of the performance.  A female Master Chief?  I mean, you want bad voice acting, play House of the Dead 2.  Or the original version of Resident Evil.  Or any number of other video games from the mid-to-late '90s.  Games where the actors weren't so much actors as they were members of the developer's accounting department.  Or family members of the publishing company's CEO.  (And that last example isn't even a year and a half old.)
 
And some people think Samus's voice is awful, as in the worst voice acting they've ever heard?  Anyone that thinks that really need a reminder on what awful voice acting sounds like.  I honestly hear nothing wrong with Samus's voice in Other M.  The only real issues I'm aware of are that people are either rushing to judgment without playing the game (ah, the joys of the internet), have completely forgotten what awful voice acting actually sounds like and are resorting to hyperbole, or just don't like that Samus is, you know, a human, and not a badass killer of the universe.
Posted by JJWeatherman

I think that was a sarcastic picture, but this really is interesting. :P 
 
You make a good point about the script being narration heavy. I haven't beaten the game, but I've played a good chunk of it. The tone was kinda flat, but as you said, I think that fits what the poor script was going for. The performance probably could have been better, but at the same time, it's definitely not god awful. I think the " rushing to judgment without playing the game" in combination with " hyperbole" bits are probably correct.
Posted by HandsomeDead

I don't think it's fair comparing a modern game like Matroid: Other M, a game which is the latest in one of Nintendo's main franchises and so expected to have high production values to decades old games.

Posted by Claude

Sounds like a bunch of butthurt fanboys to me. Or maybe fans that wanted a true Metroid or another Prime. But I haven't played the game, so who am I to judge.

Posted by Karkarov

Resident Evil 1 is not a valid comparison for one good reason. It was TRYING to sound like a bad B movie so the voice acting was intentionally done that way to be schlocky.  Listen to the words they say for gods sake "Jill the Master of Unlocking?  You almost became a Jill Sandwich?" how is someone supposed to say those crappy lines with a straight face?

Posted by Claude
@Karkarov said:
" Resident Evil 1 is not a valid comparison for one good reason. It was TRYING to sound like a bad B movie so the voice acting was intentionally done that way to be schlocky.  Listen to the words they say for gods sake "Jill the Master of Unlocking?  You almost became a Jill Sandwich?" how is someone supposed to say those crappy lines with a straight face? "
Wasn't that more of a translation problem?
Posted by Hailinel
@HandsomeDead said:
" I don't think it's fair comparing a modern game like Matroid: Other M, a game which is the latest in one of Nintendo's main franchises and so expected to have high production values to decades old games. "
Bad voice acting is bad no matter the era.
 
@Karkarov: Lines like "master of unlocking" were a product of poor translation, not any attempt at B-movie quality.  And even taking the quality of the script into account, the acting still isn't good.  If Capcom really intended it to be that way, they wouldn't have cleaned up the script and voice acting quality for the GameCube remake.
 
@JJWeatherman: From my experience, the story and script actually improve as the game moves along, particularly in the endgame when the story is much more focused on the present and the script isn't as laden with narration (though it's still present).  It's just a shame that the writers felt the need to use as much narration.
 
@Claude said:
" Sounds like a bunch of butthurt fanboys to me. Or maybe fans that wanted a true Metroid or another Prime. But I haven't played the game, so who am I to judge. "

Well, haters gonna hate and all that.  I knew that there would be some people upset with the direction given that there are still fans out there that would prefer it if Samus never spoke at all, but some of the reactions I've seen have just taken it to a ridiculous extreme.
Posted by Disgaeamad

Compare it to something like Arc Rise Fantasia's dub and I'm sure they'd very appreciative of it.

Posted by HandsomeDead
@Hailinel said:
" @HandsomeDead said:
" I don't think it's fair comparing a modern game like Matroid: Other M, a game which is the latest in one of Nintendo's main franchises and so expected to have high production values to decades old games. "
Bad voice acting is bad no matter the era."
Yeah, but expectations are completely different. Resident Evil was one of the first games to have complete voice acting and House of the Dead 2 is an arcade game from a decade ago, neither of those are expected or even required to have stellar voice acting but when you reach 2010 and take a 20ish year franchise, try to modernise it by fleshing out the character of Samus and then have bad voice acting, it's a different thing entirely.
Edited by Apathylad

I think it's worth mentioning that all narration is monotone and self-indulgent, and I'm a Dexter fan!  I think I'd have trouble reading this with a straight face:
 
 I love Halloween. The one time of year when everyone wears a mask... not just me. People think it's fun to pretend you're a monster. Me, I spend my life pretending I'm not. Brother, friend, boyfriend - All part of my costume collection. Some people might call me a fraud. Let's see if it will fit. I prefer to think of myself as a master of disguise.

Posted by SuperfluousMoniker

The dealbreaker for me is if there's bad voice acting during gameplay. I can handle bad voice acting during cutscenes. Often it's actually kind of funny. But when I have to hear "Take this! Flame buster! RAAAH!" etc. every time I do a certain move, my eyebrows start twitching.

Posted by Hailinel
@HandsomeDead said:
" @Hailinel said:
" @HandsomeDead said:
" I don't think it's fair comparing a modern game like Matroid: Other M, a game which is the latest in one of Nintendo's main franchises and so expected to have high production values to decades old games. "
Bad voice acting is bad no matter the era."
Yeah, but expectations are completely different. Resident Evil was one of the first games to have complete voice acting and House of the Dead 2 is an arcade game from a decade ago, neither of those are expected or even required to have stellar voice acting but when you reach 2010 and take a 20ish year franchise, try to modernise it by fleshing out the character of Samus and then have bad voice acting, it's a different thing entirely. "
Maybe they weren't required, but the voice acting in those old games was still terrible.  It doesn't matter what the games' budgets were or where the priorities were placed during development.
 
@Apathylad said:
" I think it's worth mentioning that all narration is monotone and self-indulgent, and I'm a Dexter fan!  I think I'd have trouble reading this with a straight face:
 
 I love Halloween. The one time of year when everyone wears a mask... not just me. People think it's fun to pretend you're a monster. Me, I spend my life pretending I'm not. Brother, friend, boyfriend - All part of my costume collection. Some people might call me a fraud. Let's see if it will fit. I prefer to think of myself as a master of disguise. "

My face, it is not straight!
Posted by Spacetrucking
@Hailinel said:
" @HandsomeDead said:
" @Hailinel said:
" @HandsomeDead said:
" I don't think it's fair comparing a modern game like Matroid: Other M, a game which is the latest in one of Nintendo's main franchises and so expected to have high production values to decades old games. "
Bad voice acting is bad no matter the era."
Yeah, but expectations are completely different. Resident Evil was one of the first games to have complete voice acting and House of the Dead 2 is an arcade game from a decade ago, neither of those are expected or even required to have stellar voice acting but when you reach 2010 and take a 20ish year franchise, try to modernise it by fleshing out the character of Samus and then have bad voice acting, it's a different thing entirely. "
Maybe they weren't required, but the voice acting in those old games was still terrible.  It doesn't matter what the games' budgets were or where the priorities were placed during development.
That's not the point; if something is sub-standard, then lowering the standard is not the answer. Old games known for campy voice acting like Resident Evil or House of the Dead are irrelevant here. Metroid is one of gaming's premier franchises and should be held up to the highest standards of the industry. People expect Samus to be just as well voiced as any character from the latest BioWare or Valve game.  
 
Bringing up Chaos Wars seems like a slap in Nintendo's face. Have they sunk so low that you need to show the absolute bottom of the barrel to contrast and defend their voice work ? I got nothing against Samus or Other M as I haven't even played the game yet and thus I've no comments on the quality of her voice work. But I'm sorry, you're not making a good argument for it.
Posted by Hailinel
@Killjoi:   Uh, what?  I brought up Chaos Wars, Resident Evil, and House of the Dead 2 as examples of truly horrendous voice acting as a counterargument to the people online claiming that the voice acting in Metroid is the worst ever, when it's frankly not even close.  To give any of those games a free pass because they're old and from an era when voice acting was only really starting to become a common element is absurd in itself.  It's like trying to excuse the acting in Manos:  The Hands of Fate when it's compared to There Will Be Blood.  Could the comparison be perceived as unfair?  Sure.  But the acting in Manos is still shitty any way you slice it.
 
And before anyone starts, I'm not saying that the voice acting in Other M is equivalent the performances seen in There Will Be Blood.  What I am saying is that the acting isn't bad, unlike those claiming it's terrible through their ignorance and hyperbole.
Posted by TheFreeMan

Samus and maybe Adam actually have some pretty good acting-the script is just garbage. Everyone else is terrible, though (I will admit that I found Anthony kind of charming, however).

Edited by Cornman89

I'm with you in that Samus's voice acting is not aggressively bad. Personally I reserve that descriptor for when someone overshoots a character; Samus undershot hers, which isn't as bad. The script--or maybe just the localization, I don't know--is really awkward, though. I can't think of any specific quotes, but I remember whenever she was talking about dudes calling her "princess" or "lady", those parts in particular were very poor. If there's one thing that begs for improvement, it's not the voice work, it's the actual words that people are saying.
 
This is Nintendo dipping its toe into the world of sophisticated narrative, so I'm not surprised that there are some rough edges to Other M's presentation. Still, I admire Nintendo's daring. I mean, you can only give so many points for effort, but at least they're trying something new. I really respected that about Other M (I really disliked the game on its own merits, though).
 
EDIT: This isn't much of a compare-and-contrast. Just saying...

Edited by RenegadeSaint

I think people don't compare it to House of the Dead and Resident Evil because the bar has been raised in recent years due to better funding and more professional voice actors entering the business.  Personally, I cannot comment on Samus' voice since I have not played the game.