Hacking The Japanese Voices Back Into The Games

Let's face it: Over the years there have been some pretty terrible English dubs of Japanese games. Moreover, these horrible dubs often replace an excellent Japanese voice cast.

Now while there is nothing wrong with liking your Japanese games in English with English voices, have you ever wished you could just play some of your favourite Japanese games in the original Japanese with English subtitles? Well, you're not the only one.

For years now, various game hackers from across the net have been taking their favourite Japanese games and "undubbing" them. Simply put, after getting the game both in English and in the original Japanese, they replace the English audio files with the audio files extracted from the Japanese version. The result is just what you'd expect: a fully localised version of the game but now with Japanese voices.

Of course, creating an undub is far from easy. To start with, every game is different in design and structure; so switching the audio files is often no easy task. You need to have at least some working knowledge of the game's code to even find the files you want to replace. Moreover, even after the files are swapped, the timing for the voices -- when they start and stop -- often no longer syncs up. The only way to fix this is to manually edit the game's code.

Despite these hurdles, more than a few people have released their undubs online for others to download. These undubs cover everything from PS2 games to DS games to Wii games. Big named RPGs like the Final Fantasies, Personas 3 and 4, and various games from the Tales series have all received the undub treatment.

Luckily, as time goes by and disc size increases, more and more games are released with the Japanese voices included in addition to the English ones. But until the day that this is the case with all games, it's a comfort to know that with the right skills, you can undub them.


Comments

    And even in the games with dual audio, I always still pick English. I prefer to play a game without subtitles and as I don't understand Japanese at all, English it is (FFX's voice acting wasn't even that bad. That one laughing scene was even justified for plot reasons).

      I will say what I always have said, the worst of the "subtitled version only" crowd have little understanding of the language, and thus have no reference (beyond other voice acting that they can't understand) to what it should sound like, and what good and bad acting sound like in that language.

      And yes, it is annoying that people keep bringing up the laughing scene, when it is crystal clear that THE LAUGHING IS SUPPOSED TO BE FAKE, hell, they start laughing for real right after that.

        You've got to admit though, it was still pretty awkward lol

        actually, as somebody who understands japanese. The japanese VA is often superior to the english VA. Mostly because in Japan great VAs are like idols, it's a job that a lot of people want to do and so the people are more passionate. In NA, VAs don't really have any prestige (until recently), so a lot of them lack the passion necessary for certain lines. Quite often when the script calls for a scream, japanese VAs will literally scream until you can hear them run out of breath, while NA VAs will just talk in a slightly louder voice. Maybe it's the fault of the voice director and not the VA, but the end result is the same, shoddy VA work.

        Strangely enough, games developed by Western developers often don't have this issue of horrible NA VAs. So it's probably at least partly a budget issue and also stupid stereotyping done by english Voice Directors e.g. X has a deep voice in the original Japanese, but gets a screeching whiny voice in English. Sanji from One piece has a normal voice in Japanese, but gets an "i'm a stupid expendable goon who goes 'duhhhh' " type of voice in the 4Kids dub.

    Depends. Foreign movies and anime series, sub, every time no exceptions.

    With games its a little trickier. I actually prefer Final Fantasy games in English, and cant imagine Metal Gear in Japanese. But then there are others like Street Fighter, KOF, the Atelier series etc. which sound awful in English.

    I've tried playing a couple of undubs in the past but generally they just don't work out so well. I think what ruins it for me is just the terrible untimed subtitles. Subtitles need to be timed to suit the language you are listening too. The subtitles in undubs are often original english subtitles time for english audio, so when you chuck Japanese language in there it just throws everything off. Well that and not having the ability to pause or rewind annoys me. Subtitled anime is fine, but games just don't seem to make it up to scratch. These games are much better in their original forms.

    I wish people would stop picking on the laugh scene in FFX
    It was /supposed/ to be bad. That's the point of the whole scene.
    The voice acting in general in X was actually really good.

      also this article kind of sucks. Why not talk about some of the work people do like the Mother 3 fan translation project or the Suikoden Tierkreis undub

    This comment section has made me want to play FFX again... but I'm trying to wait for the HD remake!! I don't think I'm going to make it.

      i said that when it was first announced.

      "i wanna play X, but i'll just wait till HD comes out!"

      nearly two years later...

    I don't understand a word of Japanese, but I played 悪魔城ドラキュラX 月下の夜想曲 on PS1 and loved it. More recently, I bought a PS3 just so I could play 無双OROCHI Z. Its an action game, you don't need to be able to understand everything and you can work out all the menus easily enough. I've since gone through and played 真・三國無双5 Empires and 北斗無双, still can't read or understand Japanese, but they're action games. The quality of the voice acting is so much better because I can tell from how they sound whether they're upset or angry at me, if they're struggling or if they're impressed. An RPG would be a lot more challenging unless you enjoy it for the combat. I have 真・三國無双7 on its way and looking forward to playing it before its released in English.

    Is it odd that I enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII's dub... aside from the Australian accents? Oh god, what a nightmare. Really rubbed in the fact I'm a fan of Vanille's Japanese voice actor too...

    Last edited 09/03/13 6:34 pm

      Not odd at all. FFXIII had a decent English cast.

      They are definitely starting to get better quality english VAs. FFXIII did have a good english cast. I question some of the localisation choices and dialogue choices that they've made e.g. the NPC labelled "Mother" who died near the start of FFXIII. I mean whose mother is she? Why not just go with "Woman" or "Hope's Mother". But the delivery was good for the most part despite some of the weird dialogue.

    I do prefer to play/watch foreign media as the original director intended. Voice actors are chosen for their ability to convey emotion and character. If you changed the voice actors in a pixar film, alot of the character would be lost.

    I've played an undubbed version of Tales of the Abyss. Not because the English voices are bad though, they aren't. They're actually pretty good. Sadly though they're limited to voicing just the game. When it comes to skits and anyone who has played Abyss knows there are a lot, not one is voiced. The music lowers in preparation for conversation and then its just a muted silence while you read what they are saying. It takes the magic out of it. But all skits are voiced in Japanese.

Join the discussion!