Final Fantasy 14 has some of the finest storytelling in gaming right now. Under the leadership of Naoki Yoshida and writing talents of Natsuko Ishikawa, the MMORPG has set a new benchmark for the beloved JRPG franchise in so many ways.
It’s mature, introspective, and emotionally resonant to the point that I shed legitimate tears at the climax of Shadowbringers. The best part is, things are only set to reach new heights with the arrival of Endwalker later this year. Set to conclude the Hydaelyn and Zodiark storyline, we will soon need to say goodbye to the Scions of the Seventh Dawn as a new era is ushered in.
Such farewells won’t be easy, especially for the likes of Alisaie Leveilleur, a confident female character who has grown into a fond fan favourite since her introduction so many years ago. Truly coming into her own with the arrival of Heavensward and Stormblood, the young red mage played a pivotal role in saving The First from Emet-Selch, even if it meant putting her own welfare on the line when it mattered most.
I recently caught up with Bethan Walker, the English voice talent behind Alisaie, about her experience playing the character, and how it feels to fill the shoes of a heroine who has come to mean so much to so many people. Even as an actor, it seems that saying goodbye to someone you’ve known for so long doesn’t come easy.
“It has been an incredible experience,” Walker tells me when reflecting on her time portraying Alisaie. “I think my awareness of what I am a part of has grown with each expansion. I feel immensely privileged. I learn something new about Alisaie every time I am in the studio and every time I read what the fans are saying about her. It’s always a very exciting moment getting to read the next section of script.”
Taking the mantle from Simone Bee following the release of A Realm Reborn, Walker had some rather big shoes to fill, but she felt confident in what she could bring to the role. “I was very aware the character had been voiced brilliantly before and I think it’s always good to be sensitive to the fact the fans had already invested in another voice actor,”she explains.
Alisaie’s character grew and grew with the release of each new expansion, her determined yet soothing demeanour acting as the perfect foil for the nature of her brother, Alphinaud. Their relationship as siblings has become one of the game’s best, and certainly its most relatable for players who grew up with a brother or sister to bicker with.
I lost my brother earlier in the year to terminal cancer, and found solace in the heartfelt relationship between the Leveilleur family as I played through Shadowbringers. “Sibling relationships are very important and can have a huge impact on our lives,” Bethan says.
“They are like so many brothers and sisters I know. So quick to tease each other, so very different in their skills and accomplishments, and so full of love. They speak to each other in a way [only] brothers and sisters can. I feel like so much of the growth in their relationship is unspoken. It’s the moments between the lines, the care that is so clearly there between them through the highs and the lows. I feel as if they’ve matured and come a long way.”
With the original game being in Japanese, Final Fantasy 14 requires a gargantuan effort when it comes to localisation, and actors are challenged with ensuring they stay true to the original performance, while also putting their own spin on things. “I do reference the Japanese from time to time,” Walker admits. “I think it’s very important to be aware of the world you’re in. However, for the most part, I try to trust my instinct and above all, the script.
“She is like an old friend to me now, it is becoming easier and easier to step into her shoes. She is so familiar to me – it’s as if she’s always there. I think the key is being ready. We don’t always get that long with the script, so it’s important to do a lot of work before entering the room and be ready to work hard and with great accuracy.”
With the majority of its development and localisation created during the pandemic, Walker tells me that Final Fantasy 14 is still being recorded from a studio, albeit with all of the safety measures you’d expect. Working primarily in radio dramas and British television, voicing Alisaie is an alien venture, but one she has welcomed with open arms. Fans have been equally as receptive, too.
“I knew about the fans, but now I feel I am actually really getting to know them,” she says. “I am contacted on a regular basis by passionate fans and I take great pleasure in replying as often as I can.” Of course, where there’s fans, there’s fan art: “I have started a collection of the beautiful artwork that is created by fans based on Alisaie,” she continues. “Some of it is quite extraordinary. There is some real talent out there. Every loyal Final Fantasy 14 fan I have encountered has been warm and friendly.”
I sadly wasn’t able to procure any precious information regarding Endwalker, but with the Digital Fan Festival set to take place in May, it’s only a matter of time until Square Enix unveils exactly why we’re headed to the Moon alongside the Scions later this year.
As for my chat with Bethan Walker, it was fascinating to delve into how characters in such grandiose JRPGs are brought to life, especially under such fragmented circumstances brought upon by the pandemic. With any luck, we’ll be celebrating in-person with our Free Companies before the year is out. If not, Endwalker will bring us together all the same.
Next: A Love Letter To My Final Fantasy 14 Free Company
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- Final Fantasy 14
Jade King is one of the Features Editors for TheGamer. Previously head of gaming content over at Trusted Reviews, she can be found talking about games, anime and retweeting Catradora fanart @KonaYMA6.
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