Nintendo Breaks Its Silence About Silence

Nintendo's lead characters are rare among modern gaming heroes in that they seldom talk out loud. But rarer still is a Nintendo game that does include recorded speech. Punch-Out Wii did, and its creators explained why.

"Nintendo's tradition is that the hero or central character never vocally speaks," the game's producer, Nintendo's Kensuke Tanabe, told Kotaku over e-mail. The player's fighter, Little Mac, does keep quiet, as Link, Samus and Mario mostly have before him. "We also followed this tradition for the title."

Nintendo developers have previously stated that they keep their heroes silent so as not to spoil players' own imagined sense of what the characters sound like. But on rare occasion supporting casts have gotten chatty. Little Mac's trainer and opponents talk out loud. In 2007, Metroid Prime 3, another Tanabe-produced game, used recorded speech. And back in 1997, the supporting casts in Nintendo's Star Fox 64 birthed some of the gaming's better-known one-liners (Fox spoke as well, a little).

The developers said that Punch-Out's voice work was included to give its non-playable characters more flair. "We recorded speech to express each character's origins and characteristics, and to make Doc Louis have a larger personality and greater impact on gameplay," Tanabe said. "I believe having fighters' voices during matches is very effective in making the experience more immersive."

The game's developers at Canadian development studio Next Level Games echoed Tanabe's comments. Plus, Next Level producer Bryce Holliday said, there's a nice dynamic to the quiet hero in combat against massive, talkative foes: "Since we used the original camera view from over the shoulder and kept the feeling that the game is about overcoming your fears and knocking out your bullies, it makes sense for Little Mac to talk very little. He is more avatar than character, giving fans an opportunity to put a little of themselves into his character."

Even Nintendo will break its characters' tradition of silence when the moment's right. Link, you can keep quiet for now. But, Doc Louis, keep on carrying on.