I don’t speak a bit of French and yet the first thing I did in the (final) unlocking process Skyward, Final Fantasy XIVThe first expansion was the switch to French audio. It was a recommendation from a dear friend who is still on her first trip FF14 than i am. Neck deep in Skyward‘s main story quest, (I recently passed The Cutscene after The Vault. You know the one) I can’t think of a better way to play.
I didn’t mind the English coming in A reborn empire. Raubahn’s commanding but gritty voice made him sound like a general who could still screw up the common soldiers. And though I’m still thinking She ain’t shitMerlwyb’s rasping voice, with two packs of cigarettes a day, gave it a distinct sound appropriate to a pirate politician. While I’m very happy with the ARR cast, it’s a good thing I made the switch to French audio. Apparently Square Enix switched between language studios A reborn empire
It feels right to play Skyward in French. The game mainly takes place in Ishgard, where there are many French names like Edmont, Haurchefant and perhaps the most French of them all: Jannequinard de Durendaire. I feel like I have the most authentic Ishgardian experience when I hear my compatriots speak in rapid-fire French. The difference increases my enjoyment of events that I would normally not pay attention to in English. For example, Ravana – the multi-armed insectoid god of the Gnath people – sounds like a generic, voice-modulated video game villain in English, but he is threatening as hell in French. Listen:
Ysayle Dangoulain is another improvement where “everything sounds better in French”. She was once your ally, and while her English voice is perfectly fine, her French voice has that aged smokiness (no, not like a cheese) that better conveys her story. She’s fought a fruitless and bloody war for years, and her rough French voice sounds like she actually went through some real shit. Compare yourself.
The best change from English to French is definitely Haurchefant. Shark elephant is a great guy no matter what language he speaks. In English he is optimistic and happy. In French, he’s more mature, even sexy. He’s the guy who called me “mon ami” and handed me a hot cup of tea on the worst night of my character. He also appeared out of nowhere to help me fend off a group of powerful knights from the Sky Department. He’s the guy who gave his life for me and left me with words that I’ll etch into my heart forever.
His final words in English are one of those video game lines that will stay with me forever. After being struck with a fatal wound, he gently admonishes you that your eyes are so tearful and tells you, “A smile is better suited to a hero.”
With French audio and English subtitles, I don’t get a French translation of what is being said. I needed to know what French Haurchefant’s last words were, so I switched my game client from English to French for French subtitles. Then I ran the words through Google Translate and whined for a moment with grief.
With a simple audio / subtitle change, what was already a memorable exchange between friends became something deeper, more personal, and far more tragic. “A smile is better suited to a hero,” even though it’s beautiful on the face, it feels impersonal. It’s something a writer would have someone say to get more feeling out of a moment like a juicer for emotion. But: “You have such a beautiful smile, try not to forget mine.” Someone would really say that. That’s what someone says the last time they look at their lover. Haurchefant loved you and I think the English version of his last line robs you of the feeling of really feeling that love.
Not everything is great in the Francophone landscape. In French, Alphinaud, a literal child, sounds like a grown man with two children and a mortgage. It’s also easier to miss things when I run away during voiced cutscenes. Playing in French requires my full attention and sometimes I just can’t give it – especially after my heart has done it once again was torn from my chest, still beating.
I still wavered from losing my beloved shark elephant and just stopped understanding what happened next. My story processing power was completely shut off, and I just went through the motions to complete quests without a clue what was going on. It wasn’t until I defeated The Limitless Blue dungeon that I returned to action-consciousness, and that’s only because the story brought me back to Ishgard.
To keep the immersion going, I’ll be playing in French for the rest of the year Skywardbut come on Storm blood I can make changes to the audio again. Since Storm blood is the East Asian theme expansion, maybe I’ll play in Japanese.