In his November 2010 review of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, John Teti opened by comparing the cut scene narration to “story hour at the local library” as told by an “avuncular man”. Teti continues: “…the narrator just changes his voice as he reads the lines of each character: a bit squeakier for Kirby and a bit more serious for Kirby’s new friend, Prince Fluff. It’s a perfectly analogue intro to an analogue game.”
I wonder whether Teti would have made the same leap or the one I made had he played the UK localized version of the game which was released last week. The US version which Teti played is narrated by voice actor Dave White, born and raised in Seattle and who, from what I’ve read, does a great job of bringing warmth and levity to the role.
Thanks to a unexpectedly specific touch of localization by Nintendo, the UK version features in White’s place an English narrator. While I suspect the actor’s someone of less standing than Geoffrey Palmer of As Time Goes By fame*, I echo Richard Tutton’s view that it sounds a fair bit like him:
The combination of a wizened, measured English narrator and the craftwork-like threaded designs of Kirby’s vivid world immediately reminded me of hodgepodge British cartoons of the 70s and 80s. I used to watch classics like Roobarb and Custard (see below), Thomas the Tank Engine, and Postman Pat religiously, and the game’s opening took me right back to sitting cross-legged in front of my TV, listening intently as the likes of Richard Briers, Ringo Starr, and Ken Barrie leisurely spun an enchanting tea-time tale.
It may seem like a small touch, but I wonder if I would have had the same reaction to the American version of the game. I think I might have seen the narrative as charming and enjoyable enough, but the addition of a dry, almost Englishly lugubrious voice resonated so much with my childhood memories that I was unable to stop smiling and laughing whenever a cut scene popped up. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it let me regress throughout the whole of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, but maybe the childish whimsy of the play would have tired quicker had it not been tied together by the evocative ribbon of the narrative. Nintendo, Good-Feel and HAL Laboratory, kudos.
My play.tm review of the game will be up shortly, so look out for that.
*If anyone can shed some light on the voice actor’s identity I’d be very grateful
ADDENDUM: A quick realization that the credits are part of the final video unlocked in the Patch Plaza does indeed shed some light. The only English name listed under ‘Voice’ in the credits is Paul Vaughan’s, and a quick IMDb search reveals that (a) Paul Vaughan has done a bit of voice work in the recent past. Mystery solved?
DOUBLE ADDENDUM: If this is true, then as GamerDork‘s Leon Cox pointed out to me on Twitter that means Paul Vaughan has narrated both Kirby’s Epic Yarn and its polar opposite bizarrely linked by punnery, 1984 shock mockumentary Threads. That’s kind of amazering.