The COVID-19 lockdown period was a hectic and confusing time for many. While gaming events were put on hold to opt for digital-only presentations, the game industry had to figure out how they would continue developing projects in a socially distant capacity. However, one corner of the industry had an especially confusing time, voice actors. Publishers typically utilize studios to direct and record voiceover lines for games and anime, but during this lockdown, the industry once again had to adapt, and many voice artists had to construct in-home studios.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. There was a brief period during the pandemic when voice actors didn’t know what would happen, and they were left with some rare time off. So Casey Mongillo, who you might know as Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion, Nahobino from Shin Megami Tensei V, amongst many other character voices, saw this as a time to start working on a project that they didn’t have time for before. The project was ambitious: Give the 1999 PlayStation release Bloody Roar II an updated English redub.
I sat down with Casey to talk about how they got involved in hacking video games, what led them to work on this ambitious project, and how they got all their voice actor friends involved.
We’re going to start from the beginning. A young, 8-year-old Casey inserted a PlayStation One disc into the CD tray of their PC to see what would happen. This led them down a rabbit hole of forums and documentation that described the software and tools that someone would need to search through files on a disc and possibly edit lines of code.
I wanted to understand when Casey was first introduced to this because even when taking years of knowledge into consideration, redubbing a video game involves taking the game, reverse engineering it, and editing lines of dialogue that can be seen as just numbers on a screen to the untrained eye. However, as soft-spoken as Casey can be, their confidence explodes when discussing this project. The curiosity of what makes a game tick never seemed to wear off.
Fast forward to 2020, Casey decided to play a few matches of Bloody Roar II, and the idea of a fun redub project entered their brain. However, the time it would take to make that happen wouldn’t work out with their current workload. Who would have guessed that just a few months later, North America would shut down in hopes to curve the infection rate of Covid-19?
So while voice actors set up their home booths for recording, Casey thought there was no better time to test the equipment than with a fun redub project. They called up friends in the industry to see if others would be interested. Some were confused but up for the task, and others were excited about the project based on their experience with the title.
One of the actors in Bloody Roar II Redub is Kira Buckland (Kyoko – River City Girls 2, 2B – NieR: Automata, Jolyne – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure). She explained how the project was approached professionally, primarily due to the original dub taking some liberties with the characters without the evident care that can be heard in the Japanese version of the game. Therefore, the direction for Bloody Roar II was to stick as closely to the original Japanese actors as possible. Kira lent further assistance by creating the project script in an industry-standard format.
Once the crew was on board, Casey decided to record themselves as Bakuryu the Mole just to see what it would sound like. Looking back at what this took to accomplish was explained to me by Casey. First, everything has to be done within the limitations of the PlayStation hardware. For example, you can’t record in high-quality audio formats and expect it to play nicely on a PlayStation. Everything put in has to be identical to what they took out in terms of size and length for the game to run. Broken down even further, it has to be 1:1 with even the bite-size of the original data, or else it won’t work.
Kira was next up in the booth and took on the character Uriko the Half-Beast because, as she explains it, she’s a “crazy cat lady.” The remaining voice actors in the credits highlight names you’d see in many games and anime today, so I’ll share them now:
- Announcer: Bill Butts
- Alice the Rabbit: Kayli Mills
- Bakuryu the Mole: Casey Mongillo
- Busuzima the Chameleon: River Vitae
- Gado the Lion: Bill Rogers
- Jenny the Bat: Lisa Ortiz
- Long the Tiger: Kaiji Tang
- Marvel/Shina the Leopard: Morgan Berry
- Shenlong the Tiger: Xander Mobus
- Stun the Insect: Eddie Correa Jr.
- Uriko the Half-Beast: Kira Buckland
- Yugo the Wolf: Edward Bosco
Aside from being Casey’s new favorite game, Bloody Roar II was the perfect candidate for this project because it doesn’t have many voiced lines. There are around 15 lines per character, including grunts, taunts, and victory lines.
Eddie Correa Jr. works in audio engineering on fighting games and was approached by Casey to help with this project. Initially, Eddie had sent over files as if they were ready for a PS4 game, but when they were put into the PS audio format, they were too quiet. So Casey and Eddie spent the next few days balancing the audio and ensuring it was right. The result is a tower of CDs that Casey used to test the audio and make edits. Each of these CDs has a note on them, and the stack likely still exists in their room today.
Casey took the files, converted them to PlayStation audio format, and put them in the game. Being a PlayStation game, the audio itself sounds like it was recorded 20 years ago through a few audio tricks. To insert audio into the game, Casey opened the game files in a hex editor to look for the sound format, which might end in a set of W’s. They then took that information to find the exact bite size and compare it to what they had recorded. Even if the audio was the same size, the file must be padded to match the original file size, closed out with the W’s, and saved to the main game file.
The project took two weeks to finish, resulting in a working 2020 English dub for a game released in 1999. This is a working executable of Bloody Roar II that can be played on an actual PlayStation. There’s an official website available where you can download the patch and apply it to a Rom of the game, which can be burned to a disc or played using an emulator. Steps on how to do this are shared on the website.
So what’s next is community support. Casey has worked closely with the niche and growing Bloody Roar community, who actively play this version of the game. They shared that it’s available if the license holder of Bloody Roar 2 would like to release it in an official capacity.
Casey and Kira agreed that it would be impossible for them to do this now due to their workload and traveling for events. After playing it, I’m in awe of the absolute joy it brought me to experience this game 20 years later with this new voiced audio. However, the added context of Casey calling their friends to record audio, burning CDs late into the night, and creating something out of pure passion made the experience much better.
To end on a bittersweet note, we may never see another project like this again. A prominent voice actor and their voice actor friends redubbed a PlayStation game from 1999, and it’s fully playable on PlayStation hardware. So while you’re letting that sink in, I hope you’re downloading it now to play for yourself.
I want to thank SCXCR for setting this up and being extremely helpful.
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