I picked up a copy of Gauntlet Dark Legacy for the PlayStation 2 over the weekend. It’s the only entry of the series I never had a chance to play, but it brought back some memories. They have nothing to do with Gauntlet itself, but the Midway voice.
When you walked into an arcade back in the ’90s, and even a little earlier, you knew where the Midway games were. You couldn’t miss them. Every one of them had some overbearing voicework, an overly bassy, screen-rattling voice that dominated everything, but it was awesome.
There were exceptions. Tim Kitzrow dominated their sports games (from NBA Jam to NFL Blitz) with enthusiasm, not force. The real kickers came from Mortal Kombat, the above-mention Gauntlet, Killer Instinct, War Gods, and a few others. These were announcers who were into their jobs, who got it, and loved it. They were evil, foreboding, and even a little taunting. Not matter how evil they were, you could beat them, and would keep putting quarters into the machine to prove it.
It’s part of the reason why the games lost so much at home. The overwhelming compression and lack of decent audio systems back then were a real downer. The games lost an identity. Back in the arcades, these games had a dedicated subwoofer to not only make the punches in Mortal Kombat feel real, but add to the power of that announcer who wanted nothing more than to blow you away.
It seems to be a lost art now as characters do most of the talking themselves. Remakes like Hydro Thunder missed the point entirely in terms of voice work, and Midway is no longer with us. Maybe eventual remakes will restore some of that magic.