News Article

Why Silence is Golden for Nintendo

Posted by Jamie Giggs

Nintendo explains the tradition of why their characters rarely speak.

Nintendo's heroes such as Mario, Link and Samus rarely ever speak, aside from the old 'Wahoo' and other grunts. It is rare to find a Nintendo game with recorded speech; however Punch-Out!! on the Wii had it. The game's producer, Nintendo's Kensuke Tanabe had this to say:

Nintendo's tradition is that the hero or central character never vocally speaks. The player's fighter, Little Mac, does keep quiet, as Link, Samus and Mario mostly have before him. We also followed this tradition for the title.

Nintendo's developers have said that they don't want to spoil the player’s imagination of how the heroes speak. In 1997, the old Star Fox crew spoke quite a bit in Star Fox 64 with some of our favourite one liners "Do a Barrel roll!" still memorable to this very day. Metroid Prime 3 also had recorded speech.

The voice work in Punch-Out was used to give its NPC's more flair. "We recorded speech to express each character's origins and characteristics, and to make Doc Louis have a larger personality and greater impact on gameplay," Tanabe said. "I believe having fighters' voices during matches is very effective in making the experience more immersive."

The Canadian development studio backed up Tanabe's comments. Next Level producer Bryce Holliday said:

There's a nice dynamic to the quiet hero in combat against massive, talkative foes. Since we used the original camera view from over the shoulder and kept the feeling that the game is about overcoming your fears and knocking out your bullies, it makes sense for Little Mac to talk very little. He is more avatar than character, giving fans an opportunity to put a little of themselves into his character.

So do we want to see Link in his next game chatting away?

[via kotaku.com]

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User Comments (40)

Roopa132

#2

Roopa132 said:

I'm happy that the characters don't talk because of exactly the point that Nintendo has: Everybody can imagine it himself. I think the CDi Zeldas and Marios and the cartoons are the best examples why Nintendo wants to keep them voiceless.

NeoRausch

#5

NeoRausch said:

no need for a talking hero here either. but nintendo really needs to add more talking to the rest of the game(s). this cartoon gibberish is quite annoying.
works for animal crossing but not for a modern Zelda gane...at least that's what i think.

harusame

#6

harusame said:

A silent protagonist works fine in an adventure game but the grunting Link in Soul Calibur II was just stupid. Was he retarded or is that what the Hylian language sounds like?

TwilightV

#7

TwilightV said:

If Link were to ever (not suggesting just saying) speak, It should be written dialogue like in the Fire Emblem series... and maybe a few vocal exclamations like in Skies Of Arcadia (again, just saying). We don't need another "Unholy Triforce" incident.

SMEXIZELDAMAN

#10

SMEXIZELDAMAN said:

ya link shouldnt ever talk ever. except when he asks Zelda out :P
I think link is mute. he can't talk

LoopyLuigi

#12

LoopyLuigi said:

Well, I agree that characters that are more like avatars should not speak, ie Link and Little Mac, but all the other characters in those games should have voices. I was very disappointed that there was no speaking dialog in Twilight Princess. However, characters who have their own personality, such as Mario and Stafox characters, should have proper speaking roles, it's the difference between a first person narrative and a third person story.
PS Tingle should disappear. Forever. and ever.

Sean_Aaron

#13

Sean_Aaron said:

I don't care if there's sampled speech in Zelda, but it did strike me as odd that people would ask Link questions and his only response would be "..." -- I mean it's text, surely he can reply with text?

Objection

#15

Objection said:

I hate RPGs with silent protagonists and that includes Zelda. If its only text than he can reply with text. I'd be happy with full voicework too.

warioswoods

#16

warioswoods said:

@9

Horrible memories of those ads, which always ran during the Super Mario Bros Super Show.

Noire

#17

Noire said:

I can understand Mario or Link not talking, but the silent character that gets on my nerves the most is Samus Aran. I find her absolutely fascinating when they give her a voice (the Metroid manga and Metroid Fusion), but in the games where she doesn't speak, she's just boring. Come on, Nintendo, let her have a personality!

vherub

#18

vherub said:

or the real answer is voice work costs money and takes up space on disc/cart, and while your game might get praised for quality voicework, usually people will choose to lower scores for bad voicework
people are always complaining, silence is the safer choice

Chipmunk777

#19

Chipmunk777 said:

"Well excuuuuuuuuuse me, princess!"
"Oh boy!"
"I just wonder what Gaaanon's up to!"

Link should never, ever talk.

Kreegs07

#21

Kreegs07 said:

I think in the new Zelda, the other characters should speak, but LInk should stay quiet.

Odnetnin

#22

Odnetnin said:

"I hate RPGs with silent protagonists and that includes Zelda. If its only text than he can reply with text. I'd be happy with full voicework too."
Zelda hater.

"PS Tingle should disappear. Forever. and ever."
But his new romantic epic sounds so intriguing!

dgold

#23

dgold said:

@vherub answered this well with a couple of key points. Additionally, on the cost of voice work: Nintendo markets their games in many countries, so voice work would have to be translated and re-recorded in other languages.

brandonbwii

#24

brandonbwii said:

Samus apparently does speak not just in Fusion, but Other M as well (they feature most of the same dev team). As for Link not talking, I don't know how well that'd work out. I'm okay with him silent, but if Nintendo decided to give him a (competent) voice I wouldn't complain. As for Mario, don't ever change. :-)

Kid_A

#25

Kid_A said:

I like to use my imagination when it comes to how the hero should talk, which is why I like how Link is completely silent. It's like when they make a book into a movie and the actor they pick for a certain character isn't at all how you imagined them when you read the book.

Objection

#26

Objection said:

@Odnetnin-Way to misunderstand! Then again, I guess the way I wrote that brought it on ;) I love Zelda and other RPGs that have silent protagonists (Persona series, looking at you) but I hate that they are, in fact, silent. I don't know why (besides laziness) that they don't include a "voice" whether it be text or actual voicework.

SwerdMurd

#27

SwerdMurd said:

Most of my favorite games have featured a Silent Protagonist. It's an effective tactic...and I love Nintendo's way of upholding that with the Italian sterotype-rumblings that Mario and Luigi make on their games.

theblackdragonAdmin

#28

theblackdragon said:

Though I enjoy both silent and not-silent protagonists, after the CDi games and the cartoon, i agree that Link should never talk on his own. It would be nice for a change, though, if we were given a choice of things to reply with (good answer, jerk answer, silence) once in a while, like in other RPGs. the Child Link games especially would be nice with some speech from him.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#29

Philip_J_Reed said:

Fact: if you make Link talk, no matter WHAT voice you give him, 95% of gamers are going to say "That's not what I thought he'd sound like," followed closely by, "I wish they'd just kept him quiet."

vherub hit some very valid points square on the head.

miletich3

#30

miletich3 said:

There has been controversy about this. Now that I realize that the players (us) can do the talking for Mario or Link, I have almost zero trouble with that.

Slapshot

#32

Slapshot said:

Works great for Nintendo characters..... As for the company Nintendo.... I want them to stop using the silent treatment and actually tell us whats coming and not!!!

MetalMario

#34

MetalMario said:

Remember this?

"I'm so hungry, I could eat an Octorok!"

or "Gee, It sure is boring around here."

^ Two prime examples why Link should not talk.

XCWarrior

#36

XCWarrior said:

I want Link and Mario to talk. Not tons, but a little bit anyway. Mac so should have talked. I mean its over the top boxing. She should be jabbering, even if Doc Louis does plenty of it.

HappyHappy

#38

HappyHappy said:

I agree with XCWarrior I would like to hear more Nintendo characters talk a little bit more not like any big speechs and if Link ever talks I hope he never says Well excuse me princess.

StarDust4Ever

#40

StarDust4Ever said:

One thing I can't stand is for game characters to repeat the same stupid phrases over and over again. After hearing each of these little one-liners a dozen or more times, it gets old. Mario's grunts and woohoos are cute, but they don't get on our nerves because they're not intelligible speech. Imagine if you were playing Mario Galaxy and you're running around with one health wedge, trying to destroy some random boss and Mario blurts out "I could really use a Starshroom right now!" or moon-hopping through Space Junk Galaxy and hearing "there's no sign of the princess anywhere," for the fifth consecutive time. Another advantage is that they can use the same grunts, moans, and woohoos regardless of what language the game is being localized for. Subtitles are a lot less expensive to translate than hiring a separate team of voice actors for every language.

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