The Naruto franchise, as a whole, means a lot to me. Growing up, I watched the anime, played the games, and befriended people who shared those interests with me. As a result, the discovery that Bandai Namco faced accusations of using AI voice lines for Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections deeply saddened me.
A recent viral post on X/Twitter featured a video of Naruto speaking strangely in a scene in Storm Connections. The same scene is also featured in one of the older Naruto Storm games, Naruto Storm 2. The Naruto Storm 2 version has excellent voice direction, while the new version in Storm Connections does not. In the Naruto Storm Connections version, his voice downright changes mid-sentence. The strange voice acting has sparked speculation about the potential use of AI voices. Interestingly enough, the voice actors are unaware of where those lines originated.
Voice Actors’ Thoughts on the Supposed AI Voice Lines in Naruto Storm Connections
Maile Flanagan, the English voice actor for Naruto, clarified on X/Twitter that she did not deliver the line like that. “I can GUARANTEE I did not say that line that way,” she states. “What’s that from? I guarantee no voice director of Naruto or the games would have me do that in that way.” Consequently, this led fans to believe that something was wrong here. How could a voice actor not be aware of their voice lines in a game?
This prompted fans to scrutinize the game’s production process. They now understandably seek answers about the authenticity and integrity of the voice acting. The case of AI in entertainment is trending, so it is intelligible for people to think of the worst quickly.
Alternatively, the English voice actor for Kawaki, Michael Schwalbe, went to X/Twitter to say that he also didn’t remember delivering lines the way he does in the clips fans gave him. He even went out of his way to send those clips to an AI detection program. The results showed that AI was indeed in these Naruto Storm Connections scenes. While these detectors are known to be unreliable, both voice actors have said that they never delivered their lines in the style these scenes portrayed.
It’s even more suspicious when, in the Portuguese dub of the game, Naruto’s mother sounds extremely robotic in one scene. This unexpected departure from the expected vocal performance raises eyebrows. It also adds another layer of concern to the overall puzzling situation. Now, fans are questioning the integrity of the voice work across different language dubs. Thus, this intensifies the perception that a broader issue may be in the game’s production.
Bandai Namco’s Silence: A Defeaning Echo
Bandai Namco’s lack of an official statement regarding this situation is unprofessional and an egregious oversight. It contributes to uncertainty and frustration among dedicated fans and conscientious voice actors. It also puts a sour look on an already not well-reviewed game. When Bandai could easily explain the situation to fans and voice actors, they chose not to comment and let the conjectures ensue. Fans, craving transparency find themselves navigating a murky sea of speculation. All they can do is decipher the authenticity of the voice lines in question without the guidance of an official explanation.
Bandai’s silence undermines the trust of the fanbase. It also perpetuates an unnecessary cloud of doubt around the artistic integrity of the game. As stated before, the topic of AI in movies, video games, and art has been a trend lately. Gamers have realized that developers deserve to be treated well and recognized for their talents. Including AI in games to replace developers would only disregard human talent. It would be in Bandai’s best interest not to be involved in those practices and lose the fans’ trust.
The loud silence from Bandai Namco does a disservice to the loyal Naruto Storm community. Likewise, it also raises questions about the company’s commitment to transparency and accountability. As fans and voice actors yearn for clarity, Bandai’s choice to withhold commentary perpetuates a narrative of evasion. This leaves fans wondering if the silence attempts to shield potentially uncomfortable truths about the development process.
Bandai’s Limited Time to Address the Naruto Storm Connections Potential AI Voice Lines
This game, intended to celebrate Naruto’s 20th anniversary, has already begun badly. As a longtime Naruto Storm fan myself, this is crushing. All Naruto Storm fans wanted was a gaming experience like no other. But instead, a lack of online modes and questionable voice acting plagues us. The community even has a massive uproar about the gameplay changes and how controversial they are. With the shortage of offline modes, it’s hard to tell someone to pay money for this game. In the end, it’s all on Bandai Namco to address everything, starting with the voice acting.
Ultimately, the failure to provide an official statement reflects poorly on Bandai Namco. It serves as a disheartening testament to the industry’s struggle with accountability. The gaming community deserves more than ambiguity and speculation. Bandai Namco needs to address the lingering concerns on social media promptly. If Bandai seeks to develop more games in the future, this is a situation they should consider tackling immediately.