I remember the first time we got a sound card for the PC.

It was a Soundblaster and the first game I played was Prince of Persia (the original running around dungeons, avoiding spikes, getting neatly, though bloodily, bisected by irrational, chomping blades game, none of this Sands of Time nonsense). I can still remember playing through it with the system bleeps and pings, then being utterly gobsmacked at the difference after the card had been installed. The snapping blades clanged together menacingly, the little snippet of music at the beginning of every level sounded as though it was played by actual instruments (obviously it wasn’t, it was horrible midi stuff, but at the time it could have been the fucking London Philharmonic for all I knew), and your character made a satisfying ‘uugh!’ sound whenever he was impaled on spikes, sliced in two or dropped, unceremoniously from a great height.

 

 

Jump forward a few years and you’ll find me sitting alone in the dark laying…er…Alone in the Dark. In the intervening time, sound technology had moved on. The music has improved no end, none of this Prince of Persia crappy midi shit (OK, so it was still midi, but it was better midi), and when your character died he yelled a sphincter-puckering "AAAAARRRGGHHHH!!!!!" as he fell to the floor clutching his head, a sound gut-wrenching enough to make me turn on all the lights in the house, lock all the doors and play a few levels of Lemmings just to stop my skin from crawling away on its own to hide under the bed.

And time advances further still (or stays around the same era, I forget, it’s been along time) and we get a CD-ROM (a proper, re-mortgage your house, runs at a single speed, have it fitted by a professional, rugged piece of kit). Suddenly game characters have voices; actual real voices. 7th Guest had a scary, sickeningly menacing narration, Kings Quest 6 had actors actually reading the lines in the intro (though not the rest of the game, sadly) and Myst, oh god, Myst was just creepy as fuck (I know, it was a puzzle game, but when you’re alone in the house and you first encounter the brothers in the books with the weird, broken up messages and radio static? Garrgh, it was unsettling. What? So I’m a little freaked out by kiddie stuff, big deal).

So, 21st century, whatta we got? Full, surround sound, instrument perfect music? Check. Graphics of a suitably gnarly nature that, if I saw them with my 12 year old eyes, would have replaced Leslie Easterbrook as the object of my nocturnal activities? Check. Full, in game voice acting? Ummmmm….somewhat.

Now, this is going to sound like I’m ragging on Nintendo again (which I am) and will make me sound like I hate them (which I don’t), but I don’t understand their philosophy on voice acting. I’m pretty sure someone in the know will reply to this post with a perfectly reasonable explanation, but as someone who has grown up playing Mario, Zelda and games of that ilk (I love that word, it makes me sound dead big), I’ve become increasingly frustrated by the distinct lack of actual dialogue in Nintendo games (not just Nintendo, but they are the most prominent culprit).

Take Mario, for instance. They have an American actor, Charles Martinet, that has been the voice for Mario for years. He is world renowned as the man who gave the jumpingest plumber on the planet an actual voice, yet what does Mario actually say?

"Itsa me, Mario!"
"Super Mario Galaxy!"
"Ooh"
"Eh?"
"Thanksa for playin’ my game-a"

Not exactly sipping from the dialogue cup is it?

And, the other characters? Do they have anything more interesting to say?

Nope. The toads have evolved the annoying screeching, "hey!", Luigi simply repeats everything his brother says in a slightly more irritating tone, and Peach….god, all she seems able to say is "Mario!!!!!!!!" in a breathy, panicked voice, whilst reaching out an arm in desperation as some rabid, turtle creature fucks off with her for the umpteenth time.

Zelda isn’t much better, with each character, or group of characters, simply having a stock noise or word that they utter so you understand that the person speaking is the one with the text appearing underneath them. You know, just in case you’re a retard. However, Zelda does hold the coverted position of being the family of games containing the most annoying character noise on the planet. Beedle, who owns the floating shop in Wind Waker says "Thank you!!" whenever you buy anything and his voice sounds like he’s got a pool of Gastrol GTX congealing at the back of his throat.

Why do this? I’m assuming it saves a buttload of memory, not having a bank of voice overs to be reeled out in the right places, and the Wii is swimming at the shallow end of the processing power pool, but other games manage it, so why not Mario? I’m sure some space could be made by not giving every fucking extraneous character in the game have something to say. (What’s the point of having 3 toads and a fuck tonne of little woodland creatures that Mario can interact with if all they are going to say is "Are you going to help us?". Unless you’re going to start having these characters say stuff like "Fuck me, that’s scary. Pop a cap in its ass bitch", stop the inanity). At the very least fuck the brain grating character exclamation noises off. I don’t need to hear a helium huffing version of Rusty Lee screaming "Hey!" at me everytime my son decides to talk to a toad (and he fucking talks to all of them).

And, Nintendo, if you don’t want to do it with Mario (I actually giggled at that line), then please do it with Zelda (because she’s hotter and a woman. Yes, I am 12). You have a smorgasbord of adult characters that you can entice C-list TV stars to provide voices for, so give it a try. I’m not suggesting giving Link an actual voice; people love a mute hero who doesn’t reply to anything they say and who wanders around dressed like one of Santa’s elves gone feral, but at least do some voices.

I’ll not try and give this any kind of decent ending, mainly because I can’t. I’ll simpy leave it as it is and allow people to wonder quietly to themselves why they read to the bottom.

Tata.

P.S. Waddya think of the new graphic, huh? Pretty sharp, eh?