Thirteen is unlucky for some, but not for Fire Emblem: Awakening, the thirteenth entry into the Fire Emblem series. The RPG title has enjoyed success across all regions, becoming the best selling game in the series in its first month in North America, and shifting enough copies in the UK to sit in third place on its chart debut.
As most will know by now, the story focuses on Chrom, the prince of the Halidom of Ylisse, as he journeys with fellow companions during a destructive period of time. Matthew Mercer is the strong voice behind the game's mighty leader, and we were lucky to grab him from his busy schedule to have a chat with us.
Nintendo Life: Hi Matthew, thanks so much for taking the time out to speak with us here at Nintendo Life! Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Michael Mercer: My pleasure! Hello everyone. My name is Matthew Mercer, and I am an actor/voice actor based in Los Angeles. I've done many video game projects and cartoons (which Wikipedia will reveal to you), and directed the Nintendo-based webseries There Will Be Brawl a few years back, where I also played Ganondorf and Kirby.
NL: Can you please tell us how you began your career in voice acting?
MM: I began doing background voices and minor characters in Japanese Anime way back in 2000/2001, but only every now and then for fun. About 6 years ago, I decided to pursue it actively... and as such, quit my job, hit the pavement, and starting working as hard as I could towards a career in this field. So far, so good!
NL: We'd like to take a moment to applaud you on your work with Chrom in Fire Emblem: Awakening. Tell us, did you have to audition for the part?
MM: Thank you, I'm very proud of my part in Fire Emblem! I did indeed audition for the role, and even though the title of the project was secret on the audition sides, I recognized the art and character references as Fire Emblem, so was hoping to get it. Somehow I pulled through!
He's young, but has a good head on his shoulders and is willing to accept the challenges he's had thrust upon him. Keeping him a character the player can both identify with, and vicariously enjoy his heroics. It was a challenge, but one I was up for.
NL: Did you have any specific inspirations in developing Chrom's voice?
MM: Mainly, I wanted to maintain a balance between casual, cool, stoic, and occasionally playful. He's young, but has a good head on his shoulders and is willing to accept the challenges he's had thrust upon him. Keeping him a character the player can both identify with, and vicariously enjoy his heroics. It was a challenge, but one I was up for.
NL: Fire Emblem: Awakening's story is told through both fully voiced cutscenes and written dialogue with shorter "reaction" vocal clips. Those clips are surprisingly versatile - did you have a specific list of words and phrases to record, or did you get to adlib them based on context?
MM: Most of those shorter clips were pre-written in a VERY long script, with a few bits of adlib if we felt the context allowed it. Patrick Seitz, the Voice Director and an all around fantastic guy, was kind enough to give the actors as much context as possible for each scene and individual reaction... a privilege not many projects afford a performer, hehe. I think the quality elevates noticeably because of it.
NL: Did you get to record dialogue or conversations with any of the other voice actors, or was the recording mostly solo sessions?
MM: As with most video game VO sessions, they were solo recorded in the booth. We would LOVE to record together, but with so much dialogue to cover, it's not cost-effective to pay two or more actors to record scenes together. Thankfully, the cast is full of extremely talented VAs, so you would hardly notice. Made my job easy!
NL: Do you play games yourself? If so, what are some of your favourites?
MM: I've been a hardcore gamer my whole life, though free time continues to be a fleeting commodity. Favorite games? Wow... that's a long list. Old School: Final Fantasy VI and VII, Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, Breath of Fire II, Baldur's Gate, Street Fighter Alpha 3... it could go on. New School: The Witcher series, Demon Souls & Dark Souls, anything Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect series, etc. In case you couldn't tell, I'm an RPG nut.
NL: Out of all the characters you've voice acted for, who do you identify with the most?
MM: That's a TOUGH question. Personally, I'd say I really identify with Leon Kennedy from RE6. We tend to both be the guy who has to make the hard, moral choices in a world of confrontation and responsibility. Self-sacrifice for the good of others and all that.
NL: Are you working on anything at the moment that you can tell us about?
MM: I am working on a LOT, but most of it is under heavy NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement), sadly, but I can say there are some really cool things coming up.
NL: We may be quite cheeky in asking if you've been asked to reprise your role as Chrom in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. series?
MM: I currently have not been approached and asked about this, but MAN WOULD I LOVE FOR THIS TO HAPPEN. As a huge fan of the Smash Bros series (heck, look at my webseries!), I would love to. Chrom seems like an easy fit, and follows the trend of previous Smash Bros games... so just keep your fingers crossed, and be SUPER VERBAL to Nintendo about your NEED to have Chrom in the game!
NL: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a video game voice actor?
MM: First and foremost... you need to hone your craft as an actor. Silly voices are fun and impressive, but at the heart of everything, you need to know how to interpret scripts and copy, how to breakdown character elements and have a mind for scene study. Take classes and workshops to help improve your ability as an actor. It's a very competitive world, so you need to do whatever you can to be competitive. When ready, go to where the work is and work HARD.
NL: Matthew, it's been a pleasure. Best of the luck for the future from all of us at Nintendo Life!
MM: Thank you for having me! If anyone wants to follow my silly exploits, I'm on twitter at @matthewmercer. You are all awesome, and keep art alive!
Ninterviews are a series of interviews where we get to know interesting people with a passion for Nintendo. Please contact us if you have any suggestions for future Ninterviews. Click here to see the full series.