Man, how 'bout dat trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain? FREAKIN' AMAZING. It's so memorable: the oh-snap-Snake's-in-a-coma intro, Mother Base all explodey-like, a flaming unicorn-pegasus, and holy crap the music. Kojima did it again! He managed to spark that nostalgic desire in me despite 15 years of telling the same story, albeit sequels and prequels. But Big Boss sounded a little different at the end, didn't he? Maybe it was just me WHATTHEF---
Hideo Kojima's decision to replace Big Boss's veteran voice-actor David Hayter with other talent came as a shocking discovery for a multitude of fans of the Metal Gear series. Many who expected to hear Hayter's signature gravelly voice were confused as to why the Big Boss at the end of the trailer didn't sound like this.
Look, I understand Kojima's desire to accentuate the new MGSV from the other entries in the series, and what better way than to change the numbers to roman numerals and polish everything to a metallic, geary shine. Improve the graphics, mature the storyline, and the focus on darker themes such as being in a coma and the resulting weakness, the fear of being hunted, the disturbing nature of amputation, and the phoenix-like rise of Big Boss to what he will become in the 1987 Metal Gear game. Whatever Kojima plans on doing, I'm sure he and Kojima Productions thought long and hard over the direction they desired to take and how they will take it, and will still make an awesome game, Hayter included or not. But that won't stop me from writing my opinion on why I feel torn that David Hayter isn't included in MGSV's production, and why I share the same opinion as tons of other Metal Gear Solid fans.
Voice-acting is a big thing, both in Japanese videogame culture and in their western counterpart. In Japan, voice actors and actresses attract huge fanbases that stem from their vast catalogs of music CDs and anime and videogame voice acting. Heck, have you seen Megumi Hayashibara's voice-acting and singing synopsis, which includes roles such as Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop and Diddy Kong in the Japanese dub of the Donkey Kong Country TV series? Koichi Yamadera, another favorite of mine, has an equally large portfolio. And how about Akio Ohtsuka, the Japanese voice of Solid Snake/Big Boss, with his own tidy list? These people are legends in their own right, with careers spanning for more than a decade. This fervor of idolizing voice actors and actresses supposedly unique to Japan could be why Otsuka maintains his role as Big Boss's Japanese voice, despite Kojima taking an entirely different route when it comes to MGSV's western release and his decision to replace Hayter.
However, even though voice acting over here (here being America. Sorry, my Euro-buddies) is not as prevalent as it is in Japan, it's still damn well enthusiastic. When you bring up Nolan North, Jennifer Hale, and Steve Blum, people recognize them from a myriad of different roles in videogames and animation. More importantly, people get excited over them. Try revealing to a friend the fact that Nolan North not only did Nathan Drake in Uncharted, but also that dropship guy from the first mission in Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, or Deadpool in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Hell, he'sineverything. Conventions still list voice actor/actress panels as a major draw. Anime Expo's guest list features a number of prominent videogame voice-actors and even my hometown's Kawaii-Kon had videogame voice-actors featured in their 2013 line-up. So, in essence, there is a similar type of fan appeal when comparing both lists of Japanese and American voice actors.
Speaking of lists, the new Splinter Cell: Blacklist decided to take a similar route, ditching Michael Ironside for Eric Johnson's fresher voice. But Ubisoft Toronto can get away with it more than Kojima Productions can. They have repeatedly gone on the record to state that the most important reason for the change in talent is that the role needed to be filled by someone who could encompass both the voice and physical stress of the Sam Fisher role, since the motion-capture and voice-recording were the same process. Meanwhile, the only stated reason for David Hayter's absence as time of this writing was to make it feel like "a new Metal Gear game", which to a fan of fifteen years probably doesn't sound like much of a reason. David Hayter is a voice actor that has participated in a multitude of projects. According to IMDb.com, he has acted in 39 different roles, both voice-acting and in-person. One wonders that if, given the chance, Hayter would be able to mature Big Boss's voice into the old war-dog that he is in MGSV. It seems we will never know.
In the original Metal Gear Solid back in '98, David Hayter's voice captured the essence of a quirky, young Solid Snake on his first mission of what will be many, establishing the series humor and personality of what it is today. Naked Snake's own adventure in the third Metal Gear Solid mirrored the first MGS's own story-arch, and again Hayter's voice fit perfectly with the paradigm of a rookie soldier going into the unknown, learning the lessons of war and maturing along the way. But now that Big Boss is all big and bossy and grown up, with a story-line that plays on his age and a grizzled face from over a decade of constant combat, maybe it's time to mature the voice along with the character. Snake can't stay young forever, and although I would love to hear more of young Snake's gravel-sexy man-voice, I guess, sometimes, you just gotta let them grow up.