Mass Effect fans know their Voice Actors
Just another reason why ME1-3 fans would probably easily transition into the visual novel fan base as well. Voice actors are not a hot commodity in the US, where some people even hire their own software developers as voice actors. There is no professionalism and no long term contracts, unless you’re a star like Mark Sheen or something. Mass Effect keeping the voice actors consistent throughout is a testament to their cash flow reserves and certain evolutions in American media.
But what really matters is that the fans actually have their favorite VAs and they know them by name, and sound. Same as is true for Japanese anime and visual novel fans.
I was curious about Jennifer Hale’s background, since she took the vast plurality of Best VA votes over at Bio forums. I found out that she is an actual professional VA. And the startling eye shocker is this.
Hale interpreted the voices of Fall-From-Grace and Deionarra in the computer-role-playing-game Planescape: Torment. She voiced the female version of Commander Shepard in the video game series Mass Effect, noted for her nomination for “best performance by a human female” award at the 2010 Spike Video Game Awards (Mass Effect 2). She is also known as the “voice” of Samus Aran in all three games in the Metroid Prime trilogy, providing grunts and screams as the player moves and takes damage.
Fall from Grace and Deoinarra were both my favorite voiced lines in Planescape Torment. Just perfect. My only regret was that only a few lines were voiced, given the quality that I had heard. No wonder I favored the female voice for Shepard over the male one once I had time to do a comparison. She just had that emotional matrix down, and even though sometimes I disliked how she voiced the lines, I started realizing that I was actually feeling something whereas with male Shep I just didn’t feel much of anything. Given her work in Planescape Torment, it wasn’t her voice at fault, but just the writing probably. The writing in PT was superb and I found no fault whatsoever.
She voiced Bastila Shan in the award winning Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and returned for a brief appearance in the sequel, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II The Sith Lords.
Bastila was one of my favorite characters from KOTOR. She almost seemed like a character the Japanese would create. Another job done well, that I never knew about given the unpopularity of connecting VAs to their characters in the US. If all American voice actors and actresses had her talent at singing and her professional focus in VA, American voice acting would be light years ahead. However, the quality she brings out to a writer’s story is the minimum standard expected in Japan for visual novels rated for adults. That’s the minimum quality. Therein you see the difference. The Illusive Man in ME3 and Jennifer Hale, those are “normal” performances in Japanese VN, not the ones that stand out from the rest. Another reason why I like Japanese visual novels, for the story as well as the voice talent providing that story an audio output (and it almost doesn’t matter that it is in Japanese, since I’ve learned to understand a substantial portion of words by now)