Vocal Performance of the Year is perhaps my favorite category in our annual awards. It is a category that specifically celebrates the fusion of a single individual with the character they inhabit. A stellar vocal performance elevates a good character to an unforgettable one. It makes lines of dialogue become emotions and thoughts of a breathing person. The actors celebrated in this category went above and beyond to connect us to their characters and the worlds they live in. They made the games we played better by bringing humanity into to life within them. With that said, here are the winners of Lords of Gamings 2023 Golden Lance Award for Vocal Performance of the Year.
Winner: Ben Starr as Clive Rosfield in FFXVI
Clive Rosefield is a man who on the surface, isn’t anything all that special. A man set out for revenge against the murderer of someone close to him. That story is one done many times over in all forms of media. But his journey is elevated by the raw soul and emotion Ben Starr puts into the role of Clive.
Providing both vocal and motion capture for the character, Ben channels levels of emotion you just do not see in most video games. During the game’s opening hours, you experience some of the hardest trials in Clive’s young life. The anguish in his voice is palpable. And when Clive finds happiness, love and hope along his decade-long quest. You feel that emotion during every turn.
One scene in the game, where Clive comes face to face with someone he never expected to see again, you can feel the repressed rage he has been bottling up for this person for many years, finally given a chance to express that the clearest he could muster to them. And that changes on a dime the moment another person in his life comes back to him moments later, effortlessly channeling a power within he has struggled to control most of the game to help save the day.
Clive as a character was a powerful one that will stick with me for years to come. That only was possible with the performance Ben Starr offered the character. It was one that clearly came from struggles in his own life and experiences. Sharing that with the many players that gave Final Fantasy XVI a chance was one I will always be thankful for.
Runner Up: Craig Sechler as the Adoring Fan in Starfield
Admittedly, the Adoring Fan is a meme dating back to Oblivion. But despite the comedic nature of his return and his place amongst your crew in Starfield. He always lifted my spirits with his line delivery, from the obvious sincere lines to some of the more creepy ones. Craig always made journeying into space and exploring the vast horizon of a new planet more enjoyable. His performance deserves to stand with the best of this year, despite how people may feel about Starfield and most of its cast.
Runner Up: Takaya Kuroda as Kiryu Kazuma in Like A Dragon Gaiden The Man Who Erased His Name
Takaya Kuroda has been giving his voice to some of your favorite video game and anime characters for almost 25 years. In 2005 he began playing Kazuma Kiryu the protagonist from the Yakuza/Like A Dragon franchise.
Fast forward to this year when I saw a video from the English-Dub of Like A Dragon Gaiden, I instantly panicked. Watching the video, it felt as if the game was broken. I immediately ordered the Asian + English release from PlayAsia.com. In all of my years of gaming, this was the very first time I made a deliberate purchase decision based on the voice cast. Thank you Kuroda-San for nearly 20 years of Yakuza.