Laura Bailey Interview
After reviewing the game and giving away a copy and a console to play it on to celebrate the European launch, we managed to steal a few precious minutes with Laura Baily, the voice of Marta Lualdi in Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World!
Here's what the experienced voice actress had to say.
RPGSite: Hi Laura, thank you for your time. How are you today?
Laura Bailey: I’m good! Just got out of a session. Sorry it’s been so hectic for me, recording schedules have gotten crazy stacked to make up for the holiday breaks.
RPGSite: I was going to mention that from your résumé it looks like you have had a very busy few years – are you looking forward to a rest over the holidays?
Laura: Oh yeah. The whole industry usually takes a break between Christmas and New Year’s, so it’s nice to know I can leave town without missing anything.
RPGSite: You are most well known for your work in anime but in recent years you have been moving more and more towards the world of gaming. Was that something you consciously decided to pursue or was it just natural career progression?
Laura: Kind of a natural progression. A lot of games come from Japan, so sometimes the same dubbing studios work on them . Which opens the door to more video game work. This industry is actually a pretty tight knit group of people, everybody knows everybody. And sadly, anime seems to be recording less and less, so it makes sense to find work in greener pastures.
RPGSite: The switch to video games certainly hasn't slowed you down, as you have voiced important characters in a number of big name games. Are you surprised that your previous success in animé seems to have translated into video games so quickly?
Laura: Well, DBZ was a great trainer for all the fighting games I do. :-) And a lot of the RPGs are dubbed in sort of the same manner as anime, so I knew what was going on right away.
RPGSite: Now the main reason we are here is Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, which is newly released here in Europe. Had you heard of the original Tales of Symphonia before working on the game?
Laura: Don’t hate me, but I hadn’t. I hadn’t realized there was a whole series of Tales games until I realized I’d done Tales of Vesperia as well, and made the connection.
RPGSite: When you are working on a direct sequel to a role playing game, does anyone run you through the events of the original or is the focus solely on telling the new story?
Laura: Video game recording is crazy, because most of the time, they just tell you who your character is and then let you run. With the Tales games, I knew what was going on immediately around my dialogue, but really nothing else. What happened in the previous game wouldn’t effect Marta in this game… so we pretty much just focused on the present.
RPGSite: Marta Lualdi is of course the female heroine of the game. While the general events of the original may not be important, there is one in particular that affected he life - how is she dealing with that when we first meet her?
Laura: Hahaha! Good question. I’ll ask her next time I talk to her.
RPGSite: The character that she is closest to is the male lead, Emil Castagnier. How does she feel towards him when they first meet each other and how has that relationship changed by the time that we reach the conclusion?
Laura: She’s a bit of a brat at first. So her interactions with Emil are more childlike, but as they progress through their tale, they start to grow up and… I don’t wanna give everything away!! You have to play the game to see the beauty of their, uh, relationship develop.
RPGSite: One of the things that people love about the original Tales of Symphonia is the depth to the characters and the lands that they inhabit. Do you think that Dawn of the New World continues that tradition with Emil, Marta and anyone else – be they new or returning characters - that we meet along the way?
Laura: I think so. I haven’t seen all of the finished sequences, but from what I experienced in the recording process, this game is enveloping.
RPGSite: What would you say defines who Marta is for you?
Laura: A few years before the Tales game, I recorded an anime called Kodocha. By the way, it’s hilarious and awesome and everyone should watch it. Sorry, got sidetracked. The girl I played in that show, Sana, set the groundwork for how I approached Marta. They’re both kind of off the wall, over the top girls who don’t hide what they want.
RPGSite: What was it like behind the scenes on the game?
Laura: Pretty laid back. We record one at a time on video games. So it was just me, the engineer, and the director during my sessions. Tales was fun because both of those other two people were women, which is pretty unusual. It created a different recording vibe than most other games.
RPGSite: Do you have any memories that stand out about your time working on the game?
Laura: Like I said, it was a different vibe. There was a lot of relationship talk during the sessions. It was like a slumber party every time I went in to record. :-)
RPGSite: As you mentioned earlier, before working on Dawn of the New World you had worked on Tales of Vesperia as Gauche. Was your return to the series a direct result of your time on that game?
Laura: It was recorded at the same studio which helped, I’m sure. Anytime you work on a game, you build a relationship with the people creating it. So when I came in to audition for Symphonia, they already knew me.
RPGSite: While Marta is one of the lead characters, Gauche only makes a few sporadic appearances, so how long did each role take to record?
Laura: I think Gauche only took around 4 hours to knock everything out. Maybe 6 hours, tops. With Marta, I think I had about 6 or 7 sessions. Each one being 4 hours. RPGs are fun , because the characters talk A LOT.
RPGSite: Are there any plans for you to return to the Tales franchise again, be it for something related to the above games or something entirely new?
Laura: Not that I know of… maybe someday. It’s always fun to get to revisit older characters.
RPGSite: You also voiced the female lead in Star Ocean: The Last Hope, a game that was released here several months before Dawn of the New World but a few months afterwards in the United States, so which one did you record first?
Laura: I think Tales of Symphonia recorded first. It was awhile ago for each, so it’s hard to remember the timeline exactly… they were pretty close to each other though.
RPGSite: Is it difficult finding a fresh approach when voicing characters like Marta and Reimi that perform the same basic function in their respective games or are they written differently enough that it is not an issue?
Laura: While they’re both the love interest in the games, the two girls are vastly different. Marta speaks her mind, whereas Reimi tends to b a bit more unsure of herself. Separating them in my mind was very easy.
RPGSite: It is also only a few months until Star Ocean: the Last Hope is released again, as the much expanded Star Ocean: The Last Hope International – was the possibility of an updated version ever discussed while you were recording the original release?
Laura: I didn’t even know about International until you just asked! Ha ha! So, no, it wasn’t discussed. I’ll have to check it out.
RPGSite: Haha, well, those questions are out the window then. We still have a few minutes left, so in their place let's briefly talk about one of the biggest games of 2008, Street Fighter IV. Does recording for a fighting game compare at all to recording the battle cries for a role playing game or is it an entirely different beast?
Laura: It’s pretty similar. There’s just a lot more of it. Fighting games take a lot less time to record though, because there’s a signifigantly less amount of story driven dialogue. Street Fighter was an in and out sort of process. I think the whole game took less than 8 hours for me.
RPGSite: Not only did you work on the game but you gave voice to Chun Li, who is also known as the First Lady of Fighting Games. Were you aware of how iconic a character she is and if so, did that add any extra pressure?
Laura: Oh my gosh, I freaked out when I got the part. Street Fighter was huge when I was a kid, and getting to be a part of it was awesome. But, yeah, I was worried about what people would think of my voice since she is so iconic. I decided to just trust my director and not worry what any of the die hard fans would think. It can be hard to please everyone, especially since Chun Li had never had an English voice in any of the previous games.
RPGSite: What has the feedback been like since the game was released?
Laura: There’ve been mixed reactions. A lot of people really liked it. Some people didn’t think she should speak English, some people thought her voice was too high. But, technichally, Chun Li is Chinese.. so.. she shouldn’t really speak Japanese either… And, I mean, she jumps around and says, “I did it!” She’s gotta sound cute. You can’t please everyone, y’know? I know I liked it. Heh heh.
RPGSite: That is about all we have time for and not just in this interview. The New Year is nearly upon us, so what can we expect from you in 2010?
Laura: 2009 was a blessing because it was a really busy recording year. Hopefully 2010 will mean more of the same. There’s a new anime I’m starring in called Soul Eater. It’s coming out from Funimation in January on DVD. And I’m not sure what all is being released across the pond, but I also have a ton of new and rockin games coming out next year. You can keep an eye on my website, www.lizardbee.com. I’ll add the new titles to the news feed as I get the ok to talk about them!
RPGSite: Laura, thanks again for your time. It’s been an honour.
Laura: Ditto, darling!