I Want To Play Zelda: Breath Of The Wild With The Japanese Voiceover

I Want To Play Zelda: Breath Of The Wild With The Japanese Voiceover

Watching the new Zelda trailer live on the Switch presentation was pretty incredible.

The art, the vistas, the explosions, the new character designs.

The voiceovers.

Yep, Zelda has voices now. That’s new.

Some fans have been crying for voice acting in Zelda for years now. Others — myself including — were skeptical. Zelda had a style. I liked that style. I’m an old decaying lump of flesh and I’m resistant to change, but when I first heard that voiceover during the Switch presentation I fell in love. Yes, this adds a sense of drama and scale. Yes, this adds weight and a new layer of top notch production values.

Now my body (my ears at least) is ready for voice acting in a Zelda game.

But then something funny happened. I was so excited about Breath of the Wild that I wanted to show people — my wife, my family, my friends — the trailer. And that’s when I noticed.

That’s when I noticed that the Japanese voiceover had been replaced with an English voiceover.

That’s when I noticed that the English voiceover sounded, um… bad. Really bad.

Actually it’s more complicated than that.

When I watched the trailer for the first time — with the Japanese voiceover — I was floored. The aesthetic, the art direction, the dialogue, the voice acting… it all suggested this sweeping, Ghibli-esque adventure with an unparalleled production values for Nintendo.

Crucially, I found myself really moved and affected by the section towards the end, where Zelda is crying and where the King is pleading for Link to rescue his daughter. This is what I had hoped for — great performances, impact, drama.

Then I watched it in English and it had all the drama of a damp fart.

It’s almost certainly because I’m a complete Weeb. I make my goddamn CHILDREN (who are too young to read) watch Ghibli movies with the subtitles. That’s how out of place and painful English voice acting is to me when it comes to anime. The interesting thing about Breath of the Wild is that it’s so Ghibli-esque similar feelings seem to apply. I wouldn’t play Final Fantasy with Japanese voiceover and English subtitles, but Breath of the Wild inspires the same instincts in me.

If Nintendo provides an the option, you’re damn straight I’ll be playing Breath of the Wild with it’s Japanese voiceover.

I know, I get it. 100% it’s the end result of decades of cultural conditioning and snobbery, but I can’t help myself. The connections in my brain exist and I can’t listen to the English version of Breath of the Wild with cringing involuntarily.

It sounds worse. I don’t know why. It just does.

It makes the dialogue worse. It makes the drama seem less impactful. It makes the writing seem corny. I know that makes zero sense, but it’s in my bones.

Am I alone here in this weirdness?


  • I definitely noticed a difference in the English voices for Zelda. There was just less emotion conveyed so what came across as really impactful in the Japanese voice overs just fell a bit flat in English.

  • Yeah English voice acting can be pretty terrible at times and often doesn’t hold up against the original language voice acting.

  • I thought the English voiceovers sounded good, EXCEPT for Zelda. Her little snivel completely ruined it for me, especially when compared to the powerful wail the Japanese voiceover had. So yeah, will probably stick to Japanese if the option’s there.

  • Is there a trailer that still has the JPN voice over? I haven’t seen it yet. But I do understand where you’re coming from Mark. I can’t watch anime in English. It has to be the original voice cast with subs

  • I watched the scene where Zelda cries in all languages. I prefer the Italian one. It’s the most in sync with the animation. The Japanese one is the most powerful, but I personally can’t stand Japanese crying, it affects me like fingernails on a blackboard.

    Also the Deku Tree needs to be deeper, like James Earl Jones deep.

    • Ha, I just watched a comparison between them all and thought pretty much the same things. Italian or Latin seem the best of the lot. And that Deku Tree needs to be deeper. Like Christopher Lee or something.

  • You are not alone, I much prefer playing the Warriors games with Japanese voices. The English voices are a joke. Warriors Orochi 3 had only Japanese voices which was nice, though I imagine they did that for cost reasons. Translating 95 playable characters voices would have been interesting.

  • Never really understood the push for Zelda games to get voice acting, now it’s here I’m in the same boast as Mark.

    Thing is, I was always aiming to get the Wii U version. I’m not going to hold out hope for the option to change from English to original Japanese, but we’ll see what happens.

    I’m not going to base my reason for changing my mind on something like this though, I mean, the voice acting would have to be called out universally as objectively terrible before I give a hoot.

  • Nintendo of America’s localization team is kind of not great. Like yeah they get the job done, but the way they direct their voice actors ALWAYS leaves a lot to be desired when you have the Japanese dub to compare to. It’s like they only read a script rather than listen to what they’re adapting so they end up missing or way underselling exactly what emotion is happening in a scene and Zelda in this trailer is the best example yet. In English it sounds like she’s upset, in Japanese it sounds like her world has been shattered.
    Knowing Nintendo there wont be an option to switch dubs. It’s a feature they took OUT of fire emblem after all.

  • Haven’t seen the english one, but I’ll generally watch anime and play Japanese games in Japanese with subtitles – I’ve seen so many horrible dubs that I just generally don’t bother, and will usually default to whichever language something was made for. To the point I now find it weird watching DragonBall Z/Super with the English dubs that I grew up with. Having said that, I did play FFXV with English voices – they seemed to fit pretty well (Ignis’ recipe discoveries aside)… tho I’m pretty sure I watched Kingsglaive with subtitles. Huh… don’t actually remember.

    • I’m glad the FFXV dub was okay because, like you, I always prefer to watch things in the original language, however I found FFXV had to read and keep up with due to the tiny font and a lot of dialogue happening when I’m more focused on controlling what’s happening. I watched Kingsglaive with subtitles.

  • I didn’t mind the English one. I watched it first in Japanese with English subtitles, then watched the English version. Honestly, for the most part I preferred the English.

    Except for the crying scene.


    That’s a video of the crying scene in 7 different languages. To be honest I think English is the worst one. For the most part, the Japanese made Zelda sound like a 10 year old whiny schoolgirl. But the voice actress nailed the crying.

    • Thanks for the video!

      Judging by the comments I’m in the minority, but I preferred the English Zelda crying to the Japanese, although her delivery of the preceding dialogue in the trailer could be better. It seemed heavier and more realistically emotive to me than the Japanese. For my money, the typical Japanese anime wail never feels real and often pulls me out of the moment. Having said that, I think pretty much all the other localisations (except French) nail it better than the English, in my opinion.

      Of course, without seeing it all in context it’s unfair to judge. The game has obviously been directed in a very Japanese way and due to cultural differences between the styles of Japanese and Western entertainment, translations can often come across as stilted and/or bizarre. It’s a milestone for Zelda games and I’m just gonna take the good with the bad.

      • Well, she did, in a way very typical of how Japanese VA is so often directed. So in that regard she does it well. I just prefer my voice acting more grounded and realistic and less bombastic. I’m a less is more kinda guy. 🙂

        • I think western voice acting is probably done cheaper with less takes and they choose the version everyone hates the least. Imaishi (Director of Gurren Lagann, Kill La Kill, FLCL, Dead Leaves) had a good quote “I’d rather go too far than not go far enough, to me that would be the worst”

          That’s sort of what I feel about a lot of english dubs I wouldn’t say they are more realistic just more tempered due to the process

  • Generally speaking, I don’t like dubs. Nintendo don’t make good dubs either. Definitely would be up for having the option, though I expect we’ll get a bad phoned-in dub as per usual.

    The biggest thing that stood out to me when hearing the voices though was that it’s going to be weird having everyone talking, but Link still remain stoically mute. It was bad enough in the last few games when everyone has tons of dialogue and Link just stands there like a bump on a log, but now that they’re actually voicing it, it’s just strange. I wish they’d take a page out of Ys. Adol in that is mute too, but they cover it by having third-person narration for his dialogue, like “Adol told her about what happened”. The reasoning is you already played that, you don’t need someone else to summarize it in dialogue.

    Also, Mark, I completely agree with you re: anime, but most of the Ghibli films have incredibly good dub work. Professional actors and high quality direction. It still sometimes can have those stilted run-on sentences because they’re trying to match the lip flaps, but generally they’re extremely well-cast and high quality. Also for Porco Rosso, I absolutely swear by the French dub. Jean Reno is absolutely perfect as Porco. Still prefer the subtitles where I can, but Ghibli’s stuff is a big cut above the rest.

      • Recent examples are the Fire Emblem games. Xenoblade X. Their stuff ranges in quality a lot but at its best it’s pretty typical anime dub stuff, which is to say stilted and awkward and in that reading-the-ingredients-on-a-can-of-soup-while-really-excited-about-it anime dub tone.

          • Those are absolutely Nintendo games. Monolith (Xenoblade) and Intelligent Systems (Fire Emblem) are first-party Nintendo studios, completely owned and operated by them.

          • They’re not, they’re Nintendo. And more importantly, Nintendo NA localizes their stuff (except in the case of the first Xenoblade where Nintendo UK did it because the NA branch were being dipshits about it)

          • Dude, they are other studios, they have their own names. They are completely owned by Nintendo but are not them.

  • Give me a third option, no voices…… They all pretty much ruin the mood in some manner IMO. If we are going to go with a weeb based view on these things than I am going the full course. Zelda games are better with out any voice acting beside the incomprehensible giberrish.

    Yes the english isn’t great yes the Japanese just smacks of using a default high-pitched stereotype for zelda. Seriously feel like the scenes involving zelda could just be superimposed over any random high school romance scene and it would fit. Though I get a lot of people prefer that in their Japanese content.

    I found the actual music, sound affects and visual convey the feelings more than anything. Subs are probably better purely since I actually focus on what being said.

  • I loved all the English voices EXCEPT for Zelda and the Goron. Zelda’s VA was horrible and the Goron just didn’t have the same feel as the Japanese one.

  • Mystery history woman and Deku Tree sound old in the Japanese version, there’s gravitas to the performance. The English MHW rendition, however, sounds like a 30 year old imitating a 70 year old, it’s cringe inducing. Not an issue so much for the Deku Tree since there seems to be an obvious difference in timbre.

  • I’m the opposite. In that I generally don’t like any of the Japanese voices for anything, and would prefer a dub.

    Would love it if we got separate options for vocals and subtitles though, honestly would consider popping on the Italian voices so long as I could still read the translation.

  • Also on the crying. The good ones: Latin > French > German > Italian > English, though I think they’re all pretty close. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the English one other than it doesn’t match the animation as much as the others.

    The terrible ones: Russian > Spanish > Japanese. Also pretty close to each other, but a world below the others.

    All the vocals (not just the crying) are compared here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMFf59v6ml0

    • Wow! Goes to show just how varied opinions on these are gonna be. I personally thought the French was the weakest of the localisations (didn’t strike me as ‘real’), whereas I thought the Spanish was one of the better ones, and I liked the Russian.

      They’re never going to please everyone with these. :p

      EDIT: My bad for not watching the video you linked before commenting. The Spanish I was talking about was actually the Latin localisation. The Latin team kills it. Also the other comparison video seems to have swapped up the Russian and the French crying scenes, so I don’t know which is which… The one marked as French in your video is the one I like. So… I guess we’re in agreement. :p

      • I agree with the Spanish being the best, or most suited to the scene. French sounded like laughter… On the whole I’d prefer the Japanese voices for the game, though.

        • Why you ask. Well, keep in mind that the ENTIRETY of AMERICA (besides USA, Canada and Guyana’s), has Spanish as it’s official language. I’m Chilean and I happen to speak English to a competent level, but the great majority of people here never bother to learn it. Now, we combined are more in population compared to Spain, and our expressions and dialects differ a lot (see Portugal vs Brazil); to the point that they could very much be considered two different tongues: Spanish, and Latin Spanish.
          Now, why do we have to conform ourselves with lousy Spaniard translations, when the best dubbers in the world reside in Mexico?.

          I hope this answer your question 🙂

  • I don’t mind the actual voices in English. I like the British accent of Zelda for instance. But the actual quality of the acting itself feels straight up bad. There is way less emotion than the Japanese and feels almost like a bad anime dub.
    It will probably be serviceable but i’d love to have the option to change to Japanese audio.
    I think what also makes the Japanese audio better is that I don’t know what they are saying. It makes it feel like a fake language which is mysteries and that these people come from a different place than me.
    Just seemed cooler that way.

    • I legitimately believe this is what makes Japanese with subs appealing to so many. Since many of us don’t have a firm grasp on the nuances of Japanese linguistics, we can’t judge it the same way we would a dub in our own language.

  • Mark, you giant weeaboo!

    I kid. Everyone knows, as far as the chinese cartoons goes, that the sub>dub every time. It’s not too far a stretch to say this applies to video games too.

    However, I don’t mind British Zelda. I’d be willing to give the dub a go.

  • I definitely prefer dubs for my anime. That’s not to say I think all dubs are superior, but there’s efinitely good dubs out there. FMA, ToraDora, etc.

    The thing with me is, because I don’t understand Japanese, and Zelda is some kinda weird fantasy wonderland, I feel like the original Japanese dub adds a bit of fantasy mystery. These guys could totally be speaking a fantasy language. It adds to the feeling of fantasy, unlike subtitles which distract me from whats on the screen.

    …except, it’s Japanese, I know that. But still.

  • English Zelda sounded like a dead corpse to me, there’s hardly any emotion in her voice and she doesn’t even sound her age. The Japanese voice is exactly how I’d imagine Zelda to sound. Young, lively and emotional.

    Apparently there are rumours that there won’t be audio options in the game and others say they would.

    Honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if Nintendo didn’t add voice options. Cuz they’re that much of a dick to their fans. They hardly listen to what their fans want, the region free function in the Switch was only done because they lost customers to their rivals.

    And if there’s no voice option we can always go to change.org and sign a petition.

  • I never watch anime with the original voices. I always stick with English dubs, usually because I like how overacted and cheesy they are. But the English voice cast to Breath of the Wild sounds so flat and inauthentic. It sounds like a wannabe Game of Thrones. But above all, I simply cannot stand hearing recognizable English words in a Zelda game. It feels so wrong. It feels like fan fiction. The Japanese voices sound so distinctly Zelda. They’re the same kinds of voices we’ve been hesrinf since Ocarina of Time, just speaking full dialogue now. To me, it doesn’t feel like a difference from the past games. It sounds perfectly Zelda.

  • If you’re going to write articles for one of the Internet’s largest gaming websites, could you or your editor please learn the difference between it’s and its?

    It’s = It is
    ITS so Ghibli-esque similar feelings = Ghibli-esque similar feelings BELONGING to it

    If this is just an Australian thing, I apologize, but I noticed the error twice within this article, and its prevalence is so bad that it’s driving me mad.

    But yeah, hooray for original voice acting, long live Zelda, etc.

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