My very first “real” job — that is, the first job that I hunted down myself without the aid of family members — was at a pet supply store.
No, not the pet store. This was a separate nightmare that specialized in dry goods and supplies like food, toys, and leashes. We didn’t sell any live animals, and that’s one of two good things I can say about the experience.
The other good thing is that I was finally earning enough money with which to buy video games, and I had a new PlayStation I was dying to break in. So my first paycheque went to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and two South Park T-shirts.
(It was 1998.)
I don’ t know how many times I’ve played Symphony of the Night. I’m not sure how many times I’ve finished it at 200%+ completion. I can’t count that high. The point is, I’m as familiar with the game’s cringe-worthy voice acting and dialogue as any Child of the PlayStation, and you can count on me to scream “ENOUGH TALK! HAVE AT YOU!” when I’m getting bored with the direction a conversation is taking. It gets funnier every time.
For years I’ve been confident in saying “Oh yeah, Symphony of the Night’s translation is a flaming dumpster fire.” But last week, Legends of Localization, run by the venerable Tomato, re-published a line-by-line re-translation of the opening conversation between Richter Belmont and The Count (they call him The Count because he loves to count things, ah-ah-ah!).
And that’s when I realized something important. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night doesn’t have a translation problem. It doesn’t even have a voice acting problem. It has a Richter Belmont problem.
Richter Belmont is far and away the weakest link in Symphony of the Night’s presentation. From the first “Die, monster!,” listening to every word out of his mouth is like witnessing a baby do a half-gainer down a staircase. I’m torn between laughing and rushing over while cooing “Baby, baby, are you all right?”
Moreover … look, I’m well past the age where I think gay jokes and stereotypes are acceptable humour, but I can’t listen to Richter Belmont’s airy voice without thinking how he must’ve sired the extended Belmont clan only after a long chase on horseback, a struggle, and a difficult ride back to his marriage bed.
I shouldn’t be surprised Richter received less-than-noble treatment at the hands of Symphony of the Night’s localizers. Japan reveres Richter as one of the Belmont clan’s strongest patriarchs because Castlevania X: Rondo of Blood for the PC Engine made a big impression on the country. The game’s SNES counterpart, Castlevania: Dracula X, came out late in the system’s life and generally wasn’t very good, causing it to slip under most folks’ radars.
But Castlevania: Symphony of the Night throws you into the game expecting you to know all about Rondo of Blood and Richter Belmont. If you’re a teenager who hasn’t played a Castlevania game since Castlevania IV in the early ’90s, this is a terribly confusing moment (and it’s only made worse by the fact the prologue is named “Bloodlines,” which is the name of an obscure Castlevania title for the Genesis). So when the funny long-haired man in the funny blue outfit yelled “DIE, MONSTER” at Dracula, it’s no wonder I was helpless to do anything but point and scream-laugh like a horse teetering at the precipice of insanity.
Dracula, though? He sounds fine. Alucard? He’s great, and his original voice actor is even coming back for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.
Hell, I still think the conversation between Dracula and Alucard before their final battle is well done for a ’90s PlayStation game. It sounds good, and the acting won’t give you douche-chills. I can’t listen to the new voice actors for the PSP version of the game and say, “Oh yeah, these voices sound much better,” because outside of Richter, the Librarian, and the Ferryman, they don’t.
Here’s a handy-dandy comparison video if you want to draw your own conclusions. I may well just be deaf to good taste thanks to my lifelong diet of The Killers and My Chemical Romance.
In conclusion, English-language Richter Belmont poisons everything, and he is worst pony.
Thank you. [Iwata bow]
Fun related side-story: I watched an Awesome Games Done Quick speedrun of Symphony of the Night last year. To save time, speedrunners usually turn into a bat and wing-smash over Richter to avoid triggering the encounter / fight with his possessed form.
I still think about how furious that must make Shaft. “I am the Dark Priest called Sh — get yo fat ass back here!“