How To Adapt A Japanese Game With English Voiceovers

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Siliconera readers have played dozens of Japanese games brought over by companies like Atlus, NIS America, Aksys, and Xseed. When a game comes over from East to West, English voiceovers are often added to the game. Siliconera had a casual conversation with Taliesin Jaffe, the voice director of Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed, where he talked about the differences when directing voiceovers for a Japanese game and a Western one.


You’ve worked on a lot of Japanese games. What do you think the difference is when recording voiceovers in Japanese compared to recording them in English?


Taliesin Jaffe, Voice Director: It could not be more different. Wow, I’m trying to think where to start with that one… The big thing when it comes with Japanese games is that they have a lot more in common with anime and anime translation and adaptation than Western games. Western games, there is not really a set system for creating voiceover and foreign performance capture for Western games yet.


But, the nice thing is when bringing a game from Japan or honestly any country is somebody has, on a certain level, done that work for you and figured out the weird nooks and crannies of the game. It just becomes your job to take all of that information and put it in some sort of state where it is actually understandable, consumable, and enjoyable for an American Western audience and then to do the best to create the best simulation of that experience as humanly possible.


And thankfully, anime has given people a lot of tools for doing that. The various way the script adaptations are done are very, very similar to anime. The casting, the performance style. Whereas when you’re given a Western game you kind of have to sit down and start from day one to figure out what is the tone. Where is it coming from? How weird can you get? How funny can you get?


We’ve been doing anime for 20 years so there’s it’s rare for anything to come along that doesn’t make sense, that we don’t already have a pretty decent grasp of. And [Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed] is a very Japanese game.


Ranma 1/2 is a very Japanese cartoon. There is a way to translate it and there is a way to bring it to the U.S. in a very Japanese fashion. Then there’s Cowboy Bebop which is a Japanese take on Western pop culture and we know from that direction you take a slightly different path in the way you cast it and the way people sound and even the jokes you can make. This game is so steeped in anime culture that there is no other way to direct this game than make it an ode to the anime style adaption. I just talked a lot! I had a lot of caffeine.


How did you pick the cast?


TJ: Actually, I didn’t pick the cast.


Tom Lipschultz, Localization Specialist at Xseed: We sort of had a dream list of people who we wanted to work on various roles and Cup of Tea tried to fill that dream list as best as possible. Where they couldn’t they kind of picked people they thought they fit.



Is that usual?


TJ: No, it’s not usual. There are two or three ways it usually happens. Sometimes, especially for anime, you get to go in and set the whole cast yourself and figure out how it’s going to be. Sometimes you submit, this is my least favorite way to do things I admit, you submit like three options for every character to Japan and hope whatever they send back – can I metaphor? Is that OK?


It’s like you’re going to bake a pie and you have three different options for crust, five different options for filling, four different options for the type of salt you’re going to use, three different options for how long it’s going to be in there, and you send them all to different people and they randomly pick one and you hope it’s going to be good. So, that happens a lot where you send it and they like I like that one, that one, that one, and that one. (In a comical voice) Then you say that comes together… kind of OK.


The nice thing about this game and a company like Xseed, and I say this with love and affection, is you’re all nerds. So you actually know who sounds good and you can say who you like. They already knew the sound they wanted and could kind of put that together. That’s a fun way to do it too.


What’s the weirdest scene you recorded for Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed?


TJ: I think you might have just witnessed it! [Laughs] I’m feeling a little dirty.


Was this the strangest thing you had to voice over?


Cindy Robinson, Voice Actress of Nana in Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed: No, I’ve done all kinds of bad things. I’ve been a baby making machine, that was interesting. Do you know Zero’s Last Reward? I’m Zero the 3rd and you know that bunny is all over the place. Zero is probably the weirdest off the wall character I’ve played.


Most of her scenes are not like that. That scene is literally that he’s just hugging her. The game plays a lot with player expectations. There’s a sister mini-game too where you basically get a lot of cut scenes with the sister depending on this weird board game setup thing.




Is this the dirtiest game you’ve done?


TJ: [Laughs] That I’ll admit to. There’s some stuff in Hellsing that I’m not proud of. I’ve never seen anything like this before, I’ll admit. I worked briefly on Moon Phase and it kind of reminded me of that anime, but it’s a lot more fun and playful. The foreign tourists are a little weird. People are either going to love what we did or think we’re crazy.


TL: For context there. The fake vampires in the game, are known as Synthisters. There are all manner of syntheses that are generic NPCs. Among them are foreign tourists from America and China. And we’ve done them to be satires of Japanese tourists.


TJ: That’s such a nice way to put it. [Laughs] That’s such a polite way to put it, thank you. We’re bad people and hopefully people will find it pretty funny. Especially our replacement for the American tourist is a little out there.


TL: yeah, we decided we couldn’t have an American tourist if the game is in English so we went with a foreign accent.


TJ: A couple different foreign accents. There may be a Glasgow Scot in there. There may be a Brit and two Chinese tourists. It  works, it’s very weird but it works and at the very least it’s extremely disturbing and I think people will appreciate that. It’s been a lot of fun to work on this game.


Cup of Tea Productions have worked with Xseed for a really long time since Wild ARMs 4.


Danni Hunt, Owner of Cup of Tea Productions: The good thing with Xseed is they know what they are doing so we don’t have to ask them for specifics and they know not to throw specifics at us. I think Wild ARMs was so long ago, it was our first one and we we’re been getting to know each other.


How does Akiba’s Trip compare to a game like Xenosaga?


DH: [Xenosaga] was enormous and it had a lot of in game movies. That almost makes the recording super long because you are recording to picture which is a slower process. This is chunky, that’s for sure. It might be the most characters we have, maybe. 




Cup of Tea Productions did voice recording for Mega Man Legends 3. Did you work on that at all?


TJ: Oh God, I wish!


DH: That was us though. It was almost completed. It was voiced. I can confirm it was almost completed.

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