Voice Actresses

"Last time I checked, we are still in this fight."

Final Fantasy X was the first FF game to bring voice acting to the games, adding a new element (for better or for worse) to the storyline of a primarily text-driven series. Final Fantasy XII refined it.

Attitudes about voice acting in video games vary. On one side, you could argue that voice acting does not allow the gamer the creative freedom fill in the gaps with their imagination. It was fun creating a pixel sprite's voice in my head based solely on the screen text. Allowing personal interpretations allows for a more personal connection. Without that, games can become less of an interactive experience and more of a movie-watching experience. I also think that having no voice acting in games allowed the dialogue writers to get away with kooky and endearingly funny lines. (See Final Fantasy VII). ;D

On the other hand, it can be argued that voice acting enhances the storyline even more. The wonderful thing about RPGs is how they immerse in a rich, fantastical world. Voice acting contributes to experience the same way that enchanced graphics do - they make it easier to become lost (in a good way) in a world that is already so intricatedly detailed. Furthermore, when it's well done as it is in FFXIII, it helps gamers better understand the characters more. After all, what you say is important, but so is how you say it. Some critics have said that it was hard to get a feel for Rinoa from Final Fantasy VIII due to the lack of voice, especially because she is someone for whom her energy and compassion is such an defining part of her character.

Coming back from that tangent, here's a look at the voice actresses who breathed life into Lightning!

Maaya Sakamoto

Maaya Sakamoto voices Lightning in the Japanese language version of Final Fantasy XIII. She is a popular J-pop singer, songwriter, actress, and seiyu (voice actress). Born March 31, 1980, she made her voice acting debut in the mid 1990s. It's safe to say that she is among seiyu royalty, a highly skilled and respected voice actress. I would even say that she's the new Megumi Hayashibara. I originally was going to say that Maaya was especially popular in the late 90s and early 2000s. But that's wrong - she's still in her prime of popularity! She played Haruhi in Ouran Host Club brilliantly, perfecting the reverse harem protagonist by making her stand out from all the rest. She also played Ciel in Black Butler, Nino in Arakawa Under the Bridge, and Mari in the Evangelion Rebuild. Add that to her older roles, like Hitomi from Escaflowne and Motoko from Ghost in the Shell SAC, and you have a very impressive resume.

The choice of Maaya for Lightning's voice is interesting because Maaya was also the voice for Aerith Gainsborough in the FF7 Compliation and Kingdom Hearts. First of all, Aerith and Lightning are so radically different, but Maaya excels at both, demonstrating her versatility. Second, since FF13 is filled with various homages to FF7, choosing Maaya is an additional way of giving a shoutout to the past, while also passing down the torch. Third, having Maaya voice Lightning further illustrates how desperately Square wanted to make FF13 and its protagonist likable - they brought out the best effort they could in voice acting.

Ali Hillis

Ali Hillis voices Lightning in the English language version of Final Fantasy XIII. She is a fairly successful, but not very widely-known, actress in films, television shows, and video games. Born December 29, 1978, she started acting in English movies and tv shows (no starring roles) in 1999. She started doing voice acting in video games in 2004, and I'm quite convinced of her talent. When Ali speaks in regular interviews, she sounds dramatically different then when she does a character's voice. And that's what a good voice actress should be doing - creating a unique voice to lure viewers and gamers into recognizing it as that character, to make us feel like the character is really alive.

Her previous roles include the Godwin twins in the Xenosaga series, Liara from the Mass Effect series, and Karin from Naruto Shippuden. In interviews at press events regarding FFXIII (search for them online!), Ali did acknowledge that she owns a PS3 and that she will be playing the game. She mentions that, while she doesn't understand Japanese, she listened to the Japanese dialogue to get inspired on how to interpret the character. When asked her favorite line of Lightning, she laughs and says that it regards a recurring habit Light has. Whenever a ridiculously intimidating monster or other challenge is thrown at our heros, Lightning sighs and says, "...Right." Fantastic.