Here's Why Zelda: Breath of The Wild Has Voice Acting, But Link Still Doesn't Speak

"I have these moments where I want to leave impressions on users."

123 Comments
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Now Playing: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Demo at E3 2016

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild producer Eiji Aonuma has discussed the reasoning behind using voice acting in the game, which is a first for Nintendo's beloved adventure series.

Speaking to Polygon, Aonuma said voice acting was necessary to make certain moments more impactful.

"It's really difficult to leave an impression on players with just text. It's not that I made everything voiced. But I have these moments where I want to leave impressions on users. I add voice there."

One character that won't be given a voice, however, is series protagonist Link, who will continue to be a mute avatar for the player to project themselves onto.

"If Link said something the user doesn't agree with, that relationship between the user and Link would be lost," Aonuma added, explaining the decision to keep link as a silent protagonist.

Elsewhere in the interview, Aonuma discussed Breath of the Wild's sci-fi elements, saying it was designed to be a contrast to the very natural world the game is set in.

"Link basically adventures through a ruined world. I wanted to add technology as the opposite side of that," he said. "I thought it would be interesting for Link to use technology to explore through this wild and ruined world. I figured that would add another layer to the game."

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is set to release for Wii U and NX in 2017.

During E3 2016 Aonuma revealed there are more people working on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild than any other game in Nintendo’s history. You can read a brief Q&A with Aonuma discussing how working with such a large team impacts his creative process here.

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Avatar image for Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

I'm very apprehensive about this.

The zelda franchise has always done a great job without voice acting. I'm of the philosophy that if it ain't broke, don't fit it.

Avatar image for iamtfc
iamtfc

Same as it ever was.

Avatar image for NorthernDruid
NorthernDruid

I really really really hope there's an option to turn off the VO...

Oh who am I kidding, I'll be fortunate if there's proper camera controls.

Avatar image for Shin_Gallon
Shin_Gallon

@NorthernDruid: This. Nintendo isn't known for giving the player tons of options. Hell I can't even rebind the jump button in Splatoon to something that makes sense like A instead of X...

Avatar image for Atzenkiller
Atzenkiller

I'll never understand the reasons why developers choose to make their mc mute. How the hell is that supposed to help with immersion? Do people really get so into a game that they pretend they are the mc? Really?

It's so fucking stupid to see characters who just stand there with a blank stare and being completely silent while someone is talking to them. Or am I the only one seeing it that way? Well, good thing most devs seem to have gotten rid of the mute characters by now.

Avatar image for edhc44
edhc44

@Atzenkiller: Have you ever played Chrono Trigger? Yeah, didn't think so.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller
Atzenkiller

@edhc44: Welcome to the 21st century, where characters in videogames actually look like humans that move, speak and show emotions.

Really, a great example. Do you have more?

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edhc44

@Atzenkiller: The Legend of Zelda. Whole series.

Avatar image for Smithburg
Smithburg

@edhc44: Chrono Trigger was good but a voice for the Chrono and even Serge in the sequel could have made him much more relatable, which would make it more immersive. The Legend of Zelda has had characters with more and more interaction, but Link still just doesnt say anything, by now it just comes off as rude because we know he can talk. Which in turn ruins the immersion.

Avatar image for edhc44
edhc44

@Smithburg: I'll have to disagree to some extent. This was a hot discussion topic in a forum I used to be a regular some 15 years ago. I (and most of the Dejap forum members at the time) find that Crono being mute makes him much more relatable, as while he's not a bland avatar who actually has some personality of his own, he has absolutely no backstory (apart of being friends with Lucca), making it possible for the player feeling like he's Crono himself. At least, that's what I always felt in my many playthroughs of the game.

Serge on the other hand was a big mistake. With the huge amount of backstory he has rivaled maybe only by Cloud, there was no reason to keep him silent except to follow the trend of a mute protagonist set by the previous game.

I think Link... I don't know, how many LoZ games have we had by now? Even though he has a bit of backstory in some of them (and that actually seems to go deeper In BotW) I think he would just sound off, like if Nintendo gave Mario hundreds of lines of speech instead of the usual yelps and moans (and stereotyped catch-phrases). We're used to it by now.

Relevant fact: Team Ninja allowed Samus to speak and look at the reception that game got... Say what you will, my epitaph will be "The Other M had good gameplay".

Avatar image for mussumsoftware
mussumsoftware

@Atzenkiller:I'm with you in that. As much as I try to project myself into the main character, I'll never get the NPC's reacting according to my reactions. It doesn't change the fact that, storywise, i'm only passively interacting. So, when dialogues an cutscenes are created to illustrate the world up to a level of emotional reaction of its characters, the absence of a personallity on the main character leaves a void that compromises the whole purpose of the adding story and dialogues. It also fails to create any sort of empathy to the main character, it becomes just a mario like figure to jump and hit the head on blocks... no strings attached.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller
Atzenkiller

@mussumsoftware: If devs want the players to immerse themselves in the game they should let them make choices, not make the main character a mute spectator. Just look at the Mass Effect series, that's how it should be done. You get to make so many more and less important choices throughout the game, which gets you to develop a connection to the game world and all the characters in it. You feel like you are actually shaping the world. But you do it by making decisions through a character that's actually alive an reacting to the world instead of seeing a mute and imagining how you would behave in that situation. Which doesn't matter since your imagination doesn't affect the game in the slightest.

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Rolento25

@Atzenkiller: Just you. I rather the characters be mute then have cheese ass voice actors, like so many games have.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller
Atzenkiller

@rolento25: I thought as much. Which makes me wonder: do you prefer to watch movies as well in silence while reading subtitles? I mean some of those movie actors sure have annoying voices.

Avatar image for Kougeru
Kougeru

Seems logical. My main issue with voice acting is that bad voice acting can ruin a character completely (Vanille lol).

My second issue, is that I don't see the point usually. For major cutscenes? Yes. But for random npc giving me a quest? No. I read it two to three times faster in my head and get back into the actual game quicker than if I say there listening to some subpar actor slowly read his lines. I don't know anyone that sits there listening to every line. Most people I've watched stream or in person, and asked, have all just read nearly every line possible and skipped before the voices could finish. Like me, they all really only listen in cutscenes. I hope Zelda is like that.. Save money by only voicing what's important. Use it to get good actors for those special moments

Avatar image for NTM23
NTM23

I suspect there'll only be voices for the cut scene moments. Watching the one video I saw, the usual walk up to guy and talk to them didn't have any voice work, which is usual for Zelda. The only bit was with the woman voice saying wake up. Also, while I am totally not averse to Zelda having voice work, I agree that Link doesn't need a voice.

Avatar image for Raansu
Raansu

Makes sense I guess. I imagine its the same reason BW fans were upset when current BW games had the main character voiced. Or Fallout fans with Fallout 4. It does kind of take away a sense of choice with the wheel instead of the long list of dialogue choices of older RPG's.

Avatar image for tnwolfy69
tnwolfy69

I think the lack of voices makes me get more into the game. I hope I never hear a voice actor with Link. I swear though, Danny Devito should voice pikachu. Whoevers Idea that was, it was ingenious.

Avatar image for justinc882
justinc882

I don't want link to ever have a voice actor.

Then again I actually prefer my games, especially my rpg's, where I have to read the dialog. I always felt more connected to the characters that way for some reason.

Avatar image for Kougeru
Kougeru

@justinc882: you realize he's had a voice actor in every game since OoT?

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justinc882

@Kougeru: I don't count the grunts and hiya! as voice acting but I suppose.

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dogpigfish

They should have him be voiced by death from darksiders 2. That guy was awesome.

Avatar image for skyhighgam3r
SkyHighGam3r

My problem was never that LINK was silent.
He's the protoganist, and in a game that makes perfect sense.

What I hated was having to read EVERY OTHER LINE OF DIALOGUE in the entire game...

Avatar image for Kougeru
Kougeru

@skyhighgam3r: you'd rather sit there listening to them talk slower than the average person reads? Most people read faster than average speech. This is why I never understood Bioware was so obsessed with voicing everything in The Old Republic. Do you have trouble reading?

Avatar image for skyhighgam3r
SkyHighGam3r

@Kougeru: lol What does reading it being faster have to do with ANYTHING? It's not about getting from start to finish as fast as possible. If that's how you play games, I just feel sorry for you. Take some time to just immerse yourself.

Pro-Tip: Dialogue immerses you better than text

Avatar image for Oogazi
Oogazi

People always say the Legend of Zelda is an action-adventure game, and it is, with respect to game-play. But in terms of storytelling, it has always been a role-playing game, evidenced by the fact that Link is supposed to be an avatar for the player. And the lack of voice is just the continuation of that tradition.

Avatar image for 7evenpoint
7evenPoint

I'm fine with this. Give all these kids the voice acting they want, for everybody else, but leave Link silent like it should.

Avatar image for deactivated-578f2053b4a13

Can there be any more HUGE ads splattered all over the page? This is getting ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as Link not speaking in 2016.

Avatar image for Kougeru
Kougeru

@halvedlife: adblock. And Link doesn't need to talk. The reasons legit. Voiced player characters break immersion.

Avatar image for wilsondiabetes
WilsonDiabetes

@halvedlife: Zelda is a RPG Game!

Avatar image for RogerioFM
RogerioFM

@wilsondiabetes: Most of them are not, they're action adventure games.

Avatar image for wilsondiabetes
WilsonDiabetes

@RogerioFM: I like them.

Avatar image for RogerioFM
RogerioFM

I agree, even Planescape Torment had dialogue in critical moments. And Legacy of Kain series has the best fucking voice acting of all time. There is no denying how a good VA can enhance a game. Yes, a bad VA can really harm it, most japanese games have horrible VA.

Avatar image for Kougeru
Kougeru

@RogerioFM: most games in general have bad voice acting. Fully agree with the Legacy of Kain comment. I listen to the Defiance opening monologue every few months just because it's so damn chilling.

Avatar image for kazeswen
kazeswen

@RogerioFM: Yeah VA is crucial to modern day games. The Witcher 3 and Mass Effect changed the game, elevated gaming VA into another level and its hard to go back now. Even Zelda has to recognize the benefits of good VA.

Japanese games have anime VA, its a mixed bag, usually cliché riddled, but sometimes it works. For example, Siren the New Order has some of the best Japanese VA in gaming, really made the game feel like a Japanese horror film.

I find that Japanese VA works best in horror games, something about Japanese VA making horror games extra horrifying.

Avatar image for Kougeru
Kougeru

@kazeswen: Japanese VA is actually really damn high level (though often bad scripts) on big name games. The English dubs on the other hand, are usually God awful messes. The Witcher is not a game I would use as an example if good voice acting. Some characters are food but a lot are really bad and unbelievable.

The reasons listed for not voicing Link are logical. And besides, do people actually sit there and listen to every line when we can read it twice as fast on our own?

Avatar image for kazeswen
kazeswen

@Kougeru: I would listen if the acting and facial animation is up to snuff.

I listened to every single line in Mass Effect and Witcher 3, cause the facial animation and voice acting all aligned to something that felt cinematic.

Its not just VA, its the visuals matching the VA. If they are both good, then I rather listen then read.

Avatar image for kazeswen
kazeswen

@Kougeru: Japanese VA tends to fall into anime tropes, which is more or less the same character with the same personas, using the same jokes with the same actors over and over again. If you've never watched an anime in your life than Japanese VA can be good, but after a while they are all exactly the same.

But I feel English VA when not using those cheesy anime actors, can be very diverse almost cinematic. English VA is only bad when they use the same anime trope actors, IE they are trying to emulate the same horrible Japanese anime actors. That's why JRPG Eng Dubbs are so horrible, they are based on anime tropes and bad voice acting to begin with but when you try to copy it using American anime actors it makes it even worse. Tales franchise is the worst offender.

With Game VA you need to hire different actors for different roles, and can't fall back to tropes.

Avatar image for RogerioFM
RogerioFM

@kazeswen: Siren the new order is that remake for PS3?

Avatar image for kazeswen
kazeswen

@RogerioFM: Yeah, great game. Feels like a game version of The Ring. One of the best hidden PS3 gems.

Avatar image for RogerioFM
RogerioFM

@kazeswen: Ah yes, I have that one, but didn't finish it. I have to undust my Ps3. Might get Yakuza 5 while at it too.

Anyway back to Siren, that game though was pretty atypical, they went to the trouble to hire American and Japanese actors and to keep the realism, the American protagonist actually SPEAKS japanese, that was a nice touch there.

Avatar image for deactivated-578f2053b4a13

@kazeswen: You mean Siren: Blood Curse? I think Europe and the U.S. had different subtitles for it, but yes, great game.

Avatar image for naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

I'd prefer they kept without the voice acting.

Now it's probably going to be ridiculous pantomime voiceover where they stress every word,

or it's going to be too realistic and not going to fit the atmosphere and visuals of the game.

This was an artistic decision I feel they're only undoing now because of how much gamers enjoy excuses to bitch.

Avatar image for kazeswen
kazeswen

Its about damn time they used voice actors in Zelda games.

The games always had dialogue for those who actually play the games. It was always voiced in some weird awkward gibberish language that somehow Nintendo thought was cool, it wasn't.

All they are doing is changing their horrible gibberish language into real human language, which is a god send, cause their gibberish was atrocious. Wasn't even good Game of Thrones gibberish, it was just straight up playschool gibberish.

I never to this day understood why Nintendo opted to use annoying gibberish instead of real language. I guess they are finally admitting that they were wrong.

Avatar image for Maoxx
Maoxx

@kazeswen: I kind of always felt the reason they did their voices like that, was more for the player to have something to use to imagine the characters voices in their heads. (and it was also a lot cheaper for nintendo to go that route and save some money)

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RogerioFM

@kazeswen: For some stuff Nintendo is way behind of the times. But, at least I respect them for at least trying to make fun games.

Avatar image for kazeswen
kazeswen

@RogerioFM: Yeah, this Zelda does look hella fun. Its the only reason I held onto my Wii U.