Pokémon Scarlet and Violet may be pretty busted, but they’re also a lot of fun. Being able to choose where to go next and take on quests and gym leaders out of order is a breath of fresh air. The story’s quite decent, too, with one major drawback: none of the dialogue is voiced. Usually I’m all for written dialogue in RPGs that I can zoom through at my own pace. In Scarlet and Violet, however, it’s clear that approach is no longer cutting it.
Ever since the games released earlier this month, players have been circulating clips that look awkward and cringey because of the lack of voice acting. It’s especially jarring in cutscenes that are cinematically shot and edited, where characters are opening their mouths and pantomining dialogue, only for no sounds to accompany them. One example that’s made the rounds on Twitter shows rival trainer Nemona laughing maniacally about her love of Pokémon battling:
While the animation and expressiveness of characters continues to improve from game to game, the lack of any voiced dialogue clearly puts a ceiling on how effective it can be. As one player put it on Twitter, “Dear Pokémon company, please stop adding characters whose whole career is singing or voice work just for your game not to have voice acting and having their model just shake in a 2 second loop with an open mouth over text bars in complete silence.”
Some fans have started contributing their own dubs to compensate. Kaisastreams voiced the above scene on TikTok and it’s already a clear improvement.
YouTuber Dr. Bonehead went even further and dubbed some of the biggest scenes in the entire game with the help of other voice talent. “My voice-over friends and I put this together over the past few days,” they wrote. “Game Freak, PLEASE add voice acting in Generation 10!” A version shared on Twitter juxtaposes the fan dub with the original scenes, and the difference is massive.
I had a similar reaction coming to Scarlet and Violet immediately after playing Tactics Ogre Reborn. The remaster is fully voice acted, and compared to some Square Enix dubs, is actually quite good, despite emanating purely from static character portraits. While most of Scarlet and Violet function just fine with text prompts for battles and trips to the Pokémon Center, the completely silent major scenes immediately threw me down the uncanny valley. They feel so out of place it almost seemed like one of the games’ many glitches.
Of course, voice acting is no simple thing to add to a game, especially one with as much global popularity as Pokémon that would require tons of different localized performances. At the same time, games with much less reach like Xenoblade Chronicles 3 have done exactly that. Maybe if Game Freak similarly had five years to work on Scarlet and Violet, that would have been the case. But voice acting or not, the Gen 9 releases have already become Nintendo’s fastest-selling games ever. So I won’t be holding my breath.