It’s been a while since I last did an interview, but I’ve always known that insights provided by people who have actually worked on the Street Fighter series is a great way to not only understand the development behind the game, but it can also reveal information that would allow someone like me to create better theories with a more solid foundation. A few weeks ago, I had a conversation on Twitter with Marc Swint, the English voice of Necalli and one of the people who had worked on localization for Street Fighter V. After talking with him, I knew he was going to be a fountain of information if I had the opportunity to interview him formally.
Yesterday, on July 3, I finally took the initiative and reached out. He agreed to the interview, and in the early morning hours of July 4, he returned his answers in the fastest turnaround time I’ve ever had for an interview. What makes this interview even better is that he doesn’t hold back, and I found, as you soon will, that what he reveals is not only very detailed, but extremely enlightening in understanding the development and the processes of what happens behind the scenes.
(Aside from some minor editing for style and word choices, the interview is listed exactly as written.)
1) You had a very big role to play in regards to the translation of Street Fighter’s script from Japanese to English. Could you explain what your role was in the localization of the game, and briefly discuss some of the overall challenges you had to face as a localization specialist?
A: For SFV Prime, Season 1 and Season 2, I worked alongside Bill Rogers taking the translations for the individual story modes and the tutorial and do what I often call “adding the music of English”. The procession is that Reiko Matsuo or Jonathan Klein would get the raw Japanese scripts from Capcom, either of them would directly translate that into English, then either Bill or myself would catch that script and work on it from there. Jonathan would too, if he had time. He likes to shepherd the scripts for the original World Warriors since he’s been working from that batch the longest. So it can help create a focused continuity in how characters sound from game-to-game.
Where’s the challenge? Well, I was brought in by Bill as a Street Fighter nerd. I’ve loved the games since Alpha 2, but I’m no world class fighting game player. But the story always grabbed me from time to time. SF had always been some part of my life. The US animated series, the games, SFII: The Movie. Something orbits around your life like that for so long and you start to take an interest in how much of this all fits together and where. The CHALLENGE is in that you want to do a good job, you want to do right by the series, by the fans following the story the same as you are. You want to grab as much continuity as you can, lash it together and make it make sense, and you have to do this with the APPROVAL of who this all ACTUALLY BELONGS to.
The writing for me was the easy part. The hard part was getting it approved. I wasn’t just some hired gun. Anyone can come in, do the job by the numbers, get paid and get out. But I KNEW how so much of this fit together and any fan of the series knew that some of that cohesion was falling apart because OF COURSE it would be. A ton of games, over our entire literal lifetimes. Changes in direction, in user-end quality standards, in writers, in management. You’re bound to lose a nut or a bolt here or there and start to hear a franchise start to rattle under the weight of its own continuity.
It wasn’t enough that I made this small change to the script to re-attach continuity for something that happened in Alpha 2, I had to PROVE it happened. Likely to someone (I was in a bubble, everything was emails) who hadn’t actually thought about it in years. There are folks who are in it for the fighting system and others who are in it for the story, same as any game. And I wanted those long-haul fans of what’s going on in these people’s lives to feel like things that happened before mattered just as much as what’s unfolding in front of them.
Thankfully, I got those approvals.
2) In Cinematic Story Mode, there was a lot going on. The introduction of several characters meant that not everyone was going to get an equal amount of time in the spotlight, although this was somewhat mitigated by each character’s individual story mode. Working in localization, and seeing exactly how the story was set up, was the project a linear process, or did you find it difficult keeping things coherent because all of these events were happening at one time?
A: Jonathan adapted the Campaign/Cinematic Story Mode by himself. You should ask him directly. 🙂 (Editor’s Note: I will be looking into this.)
3) Besides localizing the game, you were also the voice of Necalli. One of the things Capcom mentioned was that Necalli has a sort of “hidden genius” in regards to fighting, among other traits that were not expanded upon in-game. How did the direction proceed while recording the character, and were any of these “hidden talents” discussed as you performed?
A: Nooooot really. The idea that he was a “hidden genius” was kind of a holdover from a previous iteration of the character (the version I actually auditioned on). Originally, Necalli in his regular form was the version that we all know, but early days his V-Trigger form was this more eloquent version of himself. Still beastly, but more talkative. Very Jekyll and Hyde, but BOTH were bastards. You can still see shades of Jekyll in his Critical Art because he’s wasting significantly less physical energy in putting someone down and the animator’s also translated that sense of Jekyll to his facial expressions during V-Trigger. He’s much more intellectually present.
Unfortunately, beyond that very subtle nod to what was, Hyde-Necalli became primary Necalli. In story modes, same deal. That’s just how character development works. Sometimes those great ideas have to hit the cutting room floor for time, or complexity, or any number of reasons. But you’ll usually see a little bit of something left over from the original idea. So when it finally came down to the 1,100 lines I had to record, it was all beastly fury with the occasional set of words choked out and a LOT of drool on a pop filter in the studio.
4) A lot of people in the FGC feel that Capcom dropped the ball regarding Necalli’s character. In Street Fighter’s story, he takes a lot of “Ls” , as the term goes. However, I can’t help but feel that his story isn’t quite over yet. When you were localizing and voicing Necalli, did you get the feeling that Capcom had something else in mind with the character, or at this point do you feel that what we saw is what we’re going to end up getting: a sort of supernatural Dan Hibiki?
A: Capcom had a LOT of interesting ideas for Necalli in the development stage. But he kinda got busted down to this L-taking force of nature. Like the Joker in a story, plenty is already going on and then NECALLI SHOWS UP TO RUIN YOUR DAY AAAAAAND he’s gone again to go lick his sludgy wounds. Again, that’s just how the ball drops sometimes in character development. Necalli was someone’s baby, but somewhere in the mix there just wasn’t enough time or space for him. Truth be told, as-is, I wouldn’t expect to see him again in the near future.
Skull-O-Mania will have to scoot over on his bench and make some room, haha.
5) In a recent interview that was conducted in-house at Capcom, the developers were asked by the questioner, concerning the character Rose, “What is the most interesting thing you can tell me about the development of Street Fighter V Rose that no one outside the development team currently knows?” As someone who would have a deeper insight into Street Fighter V’s development, there would be a few things you couldn’t tell me and a few things you could. So I ask you, what is the most interesting thing you can tell me from either doing localization or from your performance as Necalli that no one outside the teams you’ve worked on knows?
A: I did everything in my power, EVVVVVVVERYTHING, to find a way to wedge in a line about “Tuesday” every time Bison/Dictator showed up. I wanted that for myself. I wanted it for the fans as a secret code to let them know that riding on my scripts they were in good hands. But alas, unless I really Really REALLY wanted to throw it in there for NO GOOD JUSTIFIABLE REASON… I JUST. COULDN’T. *headdesk*
I had to choose my responsibility as a custodian of the franchise and put my personal wants aside.