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The (Original) Voice Of James Sunderland Speaks On Redone SH2 Voice Acting

james.jpg

There's been trouble a'brewing in the foggy town of Silent Hill - or more accurately, the cold husk that remains after everyone involved in the original games up and left - specifically, with the upcoming Silent Hill HD Collection. The controversy surrounds Silent Hill 2's voice acting. For reasons that will be disclosed shortly, the updated SH2 will feature a new cast of voice actors.

Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, best known for singing some of Silent Hill's more memorable (and "listenable," according to my atmospheric noise-averse friends) songs, will be lending her voice to the roles of Mary and Maria. She recently addressed the controversy, stating that the conflict was due to Konami's unwillingness to pay royalties to the original voice actors - "specifically the actor who played James." She explains that video game voice actors are not entitled to royalties; rather, the actors performances are bought out by the company.

Guy Cihi, who portrayed James Sunderland in the PS2 version of Silent Hill 2, has released a statement over his Facebook account - one which he hopes will settle the matter once and for all. He claims that all agreements between himself and Konami were verbal, with the company never fulfilling its promise to give him a written contract. According to the actor, California law stipulates that "voice actors in videogames retain all rights for reproductions and re-uses of their vocal recordings and motion-capture work unless the artist specifically conveys those rights to a second party." Thus, the use of his work on a Silent Hill 2 HD cannot be used without his consent.

Cihi sought to allay readers of the, shall we say, more cynical persuasion.

Let me be clear about something: my problem with Konami has never been about money. It's always been about the thoughtless way that those involved in the production have been treated. The reuse of my material without asking me and without having a written agreement that provides for it is one example. Another example is how my contributions to the game, and my face, were purposefully erased from the 'making of' video. Why was that done? These are some of the issues I asked Konami to settle with me on before making any new agreements. To this day Konami has never offered any explanation.

With respect to his correspondence with Konami, Cihi stated that the only person with whom he had contact over the matter was Michael Ranja, Konami Digital Entertainment's Director of Licensing. Apparently Mr. Ranja sought to put the previous verbal agreements into writing back in October 2010 - a necessary step, due to the lack of paperwork and, presumably, the lack of a written contract. Cihi wrote back (he has yet to disclose the contents of that email) and received a follow-up, stating simply that Mr. Ranja would try to contact him shortly about a settlement.

While the whole of Cihi's statement makes for a good read, it's the last few sentences that bring a rather interesting twist:

After thinking it through carefully I have come to realize that I am unwilling to be part of any legal barrier or excuse which prevents a new generation from experiencing Silent Hill 2 the way the original Team Silent created it. The only way to do this appears to be for me to relinquish all my rights to Konami and so I hereby completely waive all rights to my motion capture and vocal performances in the Silent Hill 2 production without demand for additional consideration. Have your lawyer send me the proper documents required so that we can put this fiasco behind us.

I call on Konami to release the HD versions of SH2, and all subsequent re-releases, with the original vocal tracks intact. If you desire, I welcome you to include the new vocal tracks so that fans can choose which version they prefer.

Sincerely,
Guy Cihi
August 2011


So there you go, perhaps the end of what has been a fairly convoluted saga. If Cihi is being straightforward, voluntary relinquishment of rights to his acting clears out one roadblock; if McGlynn's statement is accurate, it's a wonder that, given that Konami can do whatever it pleases with a voice actor's work, this should never have been a reason to hire a new crew.

Personally, I'm hoping with all my little boy heart that Konami decides to include the original voice acting. Part of it's the sheer nostalgia - despite the fact that Silent Hill isn't exactly known for it's Shakespearean voice work, there's a sort of emotional attachment to the old - though much of it has to do with the fact that I've found the new performances to be pretty dreadful. Eddie is a particular point of ire for me. Say what you will about the original voice actor, but at the very least, he didn't speak with an inflection that could be aptly described as "slipping into a heroin-induced coma."

image via relyonhorror.com

16 Comments

M.B. said:

Here's a link to an interview with Jeremy Blaustein, the head translator/localization guy for the original SH2. He was also tasked with casting the voice actors. (YT link skips to the part about SH2)

http://youtu.be/5Sx7yttJm0I?t=5m42s

He gives an anecdotal account of how and why he originally hired Guy Cihi for the role of James and some other behind-the-scenes stuff (Guy's daughter auditioned for the role of Laura).

Not that I'm commenting about the current legal stuff or new voices or anything. Just thought this would be interesting to share...

Kenneth said:

Based on that comparison video, I'd say the voice acting is a lot better in the HD version.

Mary Elizabeth McGlynn makes everything better.

I completely understand wanting the original voice work though.

rymdimperiet said:

Oh, I don't know. I think the new VA's are ok:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8vyYASGFCI

Chris said:

Rymdim, you win. LOL!!!!

Briker Ed said:

Lol rydim, that made me choke on my yoghurt :P

I prefer the old voice acting for pure nostalgic reasons, but to be quite fair, the new ones don't sound as horrible as I thought after reading the post. I'd dare to say they're quite good actually. Perhaps not worthy of an Oscar but the old SH2 voice acting had some facepalmy moments as well if I recall.

SuperSwede said:

Eh, they didn't work for me. Part of it undoubtedly the nostalgia factor, but it all seems very "off" to me, and I found it really distracting.

kirasakuya said:

I think it will be hard for me to replay these with voices that I feel just don't match the characters.

https://casting.thetester.com/agevnavi

SuperSwede said:

Also, rydim, you are my new hero for posting that.

Time to start a letter writing campaign.... Konami, we denezins of the internet demand the inclusion of "melodrama mode."

Shin Gallon said:

I was really excited for this...until I heard about the voice actors. And after watching the comparison video, I can safely say that I'll not be buying this. I'll just track down a copies of the PC versions instead and play them in HD that way, with the real voices.

Gamescook said:

This is an odd question, and I am not intending to disrespect Mr. Cihi in any way, but... What has Cihi DONE since Silent Hill 2? Is he a commercial actor in Japan, or a plain ol' accountant over there or something? Like, what's his real career? Still love the natural-sounding voicework in Silent Hill 2 SD!

Gamescook said:

Oh my goodness, Guy Cihi is a millionaire entrepreneur. I'm speechless.

http://www.tokyoweekender.com/2009/03/guy-cihi/

Wootini said:

I don't know... I'm a huge fan of Silent Hill, but now I'm less enthused. It's not that the voices were BAD, per say, but I just felt like they were changing the inflections of their lines just to do it. Not because the line should actually be said that way. It was distracting.

SuperSwede said:

@Wootini

The inflection is an interesting point. The original voicework had a sort of David Lynch quality to it -- i remember my initial reaction to Mulholland Drive was "the acting is terrible" -- insofar as while it seems a bit jilted at times, it contributes to the unsettling atmosphere of the game. I just plain don't care for the new performances, but more than that, i think that attempting to make the delivery seem more "natural" takes away from the implicit tension of the atmosphere.

Granted, some of the original voicework wasn't all that great (Angela had some groan-worthy lines), but overall i think it suited the mood of the game quite well, in that there's something unsettling about the peculiarities of everyone's speech: It's not overtly "weird;" its just... well, unsettling.

Windgates said:

I really need to try and separate the nostalgia and the quality of work from the two different samples. I love silent hill 2, so the originals just sound "correct" to me.

Well... okay listening to them side by side again. New Eddie sounds so awful it makes me cringe. New James sounds pretty bad too to be honest. I generally like Mary McGlynn's voice acting, but she doesn't fit as Mary/Maria for me. I find her voice too deep for it, and the original Mary/Maria still gives me chills - but that also could be the nostalgia kicking in.

Briker Ed said:

I dunno.... I've played through SH2 so many times that I think I'd be quite interested to see how the new voice acting affects the overall atmosphere of the game. Just for curiosity's sake.... I cannot say they're better or worse really. Imagine playing SH2 for the first time ever in HD. For those players maybe the original voices would sound blasphemous *shrug* Or, if they already recorded all the new voice acting and have a green light to use the original ones, just put an option to chose either in the HD version(?)

Keith said:

I wouldn't say that the original voice acting was great by any means, but the new samples that have been linked to here really do not seem to match with the visuals very well at all. It's a shame because Silent Hill 2 was one of my favorite games for a long while and I'd be very interested in playing a remastered version with updated sound/graphics/gameplay.

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Keith on The (Original) Voice Of James Sunderland Speaks On Redone SH2 Voice Acting: I wouldn't say that the original voice acting was great by any means, but the new samples that have been...

Briker Ed on The (Original) Voice Of James Sunderland Speaks On Redone SH2 Voice Acting: I dunno.... I've played through SH2 so many times that I think I'd be quite interested to see how the...

Windgates on The (Original) Voice Of James Sunderland Speaks On Redone SH2 Voice Acting: I really need to try and separate the nostalgia and the quality of work from the two different samples. I...

SuperSwede on The (Original) Voice Of James Sunderland Speaks On Redone SH2 Voice Acting: @Wootini The inflection is an interesting point. The original voicework had a sort of David Lynch quality to it --...

Wootini on The (Original) Voice Of James Sunderland Speaks On Redone SH2 Voice Acting: I don't know... I'm a huge fan of Silent Hill, but now I'm less enthused. It's not that the voices...

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