Raiden Speaks: An interview with Quinton Flynn
Quinton Flynn is best known, in games, as the voice of Raiden, a controversial figure within the Metal Gear Solid franchise. I spoke to him at AVCon in Adelaide, South Australia, about the reaction to his most iconic character, a few of his other iconic roles, and the Konami/Kojima rift.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
ZAM: I want to admit upfront, going through your list of performances, there’s a lot of games here I haven’t played.
Quinton Flynn: That’s okay. Me neither.
Your main role I want to dig into today is Raiden. He’s a fascinating figure. When players started Metal Gear Solid 2 they thought they’d be playing as Snake the whole time, but instead they got him. A lot of people were angry about this, even though the game was ultimately well received. When you were brought in to record Raiden, what sense did you have of this guy’s position in the franchise? Did you know enough about Metal Gear to know that there would be a backlash?
I was not aware of Metal Gear, no, because I was not a gamer. It was a role I was happy to have; I loved it, working with David Hayter as Snake, and being directed by Kris Zimmerman, who had also directed me on The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest some years before. I was just happy to be working on this new creative, cool project. It wasn’t until after it came out that there was this backlash, because people didn’t know they’d have to play as this secret character. It was divided – about half of players loved it, and the other half was resentful. No one came up to me on the street and said this, so I only found out about it through word of mouth. It didn’t bother me. If it would be coming out now, I suppose, I’d hear about it more online.
When you were recording it, did you know that people would be surprised that this was not a game about Snake?
No, I had no idea. They didn’t tell me. The way they record is, they record what you’re doing in a non-linear fashion, which is to say not from the beginning, then the middle, then the end of the story. It jumps around depending on what other actors and actresses you’ll be doing scenes with and their availability. So I only had an idea of my character, the sequence of scenes, and what the story was generally about. [Series director] Hideo [Kojima] was wise enough to keep the secret of the reveal to himself, so none of us knew.
When you say you knew what the story was about – what IS it about?
Actually, I don’t really know. I’m still trying to figure it out. I know what the story was about in the scenes that we were acting and communicating and working, but as an overall arc I have more of a recollection of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. That was more cohesive; it was about Raiden, not Raiden and Snake, and things were quite clear.
Of course, Raiden was eventually reinvented as a badass robot ninja.
You’ve got that right.
When they brought you in for MGS4, what did they tell you about what Raiden had gone through and how he was different now?
It’s been so long that I don’t exactly remember what they said, but I do remember that he became a world-weary, war-torn cyborg ninja. I don’t remember them actually giving me the story of what happened between 2 and 4. Perhaps it was in the backstory in the narrative at the beginning? I don’t recall, and like I said, I don’t actually play the games. I just know that I accepted it and took on the role. The interesting thing is, they made all these changes, and I had to reaudition for Raiden in MGS4. That was very strange. Kris, the [voice] director, knew that I could do it, and I knew that I could do it, but somewhere in the casting process one of the powers-that-be didn’t know, and they wanted to make sure. They didn’t know that I had the range that I have, that I could give them exactly what they wanted, and then create a differentiation, by Rising, between what we call ‘Good Raiden’ and ‘Bad Raiden’. [In ‘Bad Raiden’ voice:] “Now it’s time for Jack to let ‘er rip!”
For Revengeance, was working with Platinum Games a different process? Or was it basically the same for you?
It's basically the same for me, but what they did with it was different. I got to work with different actors than I had in MGS4, though. There were some that returned that I’d worked with in the past, but then there were others who were new to me, and that was great. I loved what they did with their roles.
When you’re playing the character, but in a different genre – I know you played Raiden in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale as well, making three genres you’re playing him across – how does that change what you’re doing?
Well, the thing is, as an actor, acting is being, acting is playing. I give myself the freedom and permission to do whatever is necessary. Each moment to moment is different, just like in life. Life is improv – we don’t know what’s going to happen next, so we act and react, and we can respond to things in an appropriate fashion. Acting is acting is acting; it’s like a painting using different colors or brushes.
You brought up Battle Royale. That was a peculiar situation. What was odd was that I wasn’t being directed by the same team that brought you Raiden in all the other Metal Gear games, so they were relying on me to give them Raiden. The directors, writers and producers didn’t really know Raiden like we knew him. There would be times where there would be quite a lot of dialog for me to suss out what I would be doing, and I’d have to ask questions about the situation. ‘What’s happening here? Who is he fighting? Do you want me to be loud on this line, or a bit quieter?’ Without something to look at, it was hard for me to figure out what the end result would be. It was done in a faster, shorter fashion, and I wasn’t in the room with any of the other actors. I hope it came out well, I don’t know. Did you play it?
I did, actually! It seemed fine? I had no complaints?
Well good! Was Raiden right up your street?
It’s been a long time, to be honest, I don’t really remember who I preferred.
But he did a good job?
I’m sure he did.
Then fuck yeah! I kicked ass!
Are there sessions you need to do for these games where you just go in and make noises, for when he jumps or takes damage or swings his sword or what have you?
That’s part of the session. They save it for the end after we’ve done all the lines, because it can really rough up our voices. We’ll do it at the end of a recording session. Jumping, landing, series of punches, short punch, medium, long, throwing something, short distance, long distance…
So are you given a list of scenarios, like ‘here’s 50 things that might happen to Raiden in this game, please make a corresponding noise?’
They do it one at a time, and they’ll give me the direction for it, but they’ll want me to do…they’ll say either ‘A-B-C’ or ‘1-2-3’, and they’ll want me to give them three sounds in a row. Then the director will ask me to either lengthen the time, or shorten the time, then change the intonation a certain way. And you don’t know how many prompts there will be, there could be 15, there could be 50. It depends on how many attacks there are, what does it sound like when I’m being attacked, is there a death rattle, is there a whisper at the end? It’s wild.
Do you act out those actions in the studio as well?
Oh yeah, I do. I have to be aware of the sound of the clothes I have on, but I’ll swing my arms like a sword, or move my head…I get physically into it as much as I can, because then I get out of my head and into my body, and that’s where the real sound comes from.
In the Sonic franchise, you play Silver the Hedgehog. How much of the world around Sonic have you looked into? Have you engaged with the fan subculture around Sonic?
I haven’t yet. Do you think I should?
Oooh, I don’t know.
Maybe I shouldn’t. It might be fun? This is news to me.
How much do you know about Sonic generally?
Very little. They didn’t give me a lot to do as him! This last go around – I’m not sure if the game has come out yet, whatever the most recent one is -
Yeah, I think so. They gave me a lot more to do, so that was a lot of fun, thankfully. He’s a cool character. He should be used more.
I also wanted to ask about Henry in No More Heroes.
[In Irish accent:] Ah, Sir Henry, motherfucker! Irish! Wonderful.
That’s very much in your wheelhouse! It seems like you don’t get to play many Irish characters?
I don’t know that they have any. They don’t seem to create many, and they should. I got to play alongside Robin Atkin Downes and had a ball with him. We did two of those games, and when I went to Ireland – I think it was 2012 – they were thrilled. Some of the Irish people actually complimented me on my authenticity of dialect, which really made me happy. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Are you aware that they’ve been teasing a third No More Heroes?
No, I didn’t know that! Oh my God, thank you, I need work! Yes! Bring it!
Yeah, hit them up!
I’m being given the ‘last question’ signal, so: how aware are you of the whole controversy around the Metal Gear Solid franchise over the past few years?
Oh, a fair amount. About as much as anyone else, that there was a split between Konami and Kojima, and that Konami owns the rights to the franchise.
As someone aware of all of this controversy, and how they treated Kojima, if you were invited back to play Raiden again do you think you’d feel comfortable returning?
Well, I don’t know the politics around that. I don’t know if they’re even considering it? I would play Raiden again, but I don’t know if Konami would be comfortable doing a series where they brought Raiden and Snake back without Kojima. If they did they might be setting themselves up for a lot of bad press, even if it was good. I’m happy to do the character again, though. I think an animated series would be great. I think if they could work it out, if Kojima got the rights back, if he wanted to do it…I don’t know if he wants to do it anymore, that’s another question that we can’t answer. I love the character, but they’d have to suss that out between themselves.
I think what people really want is Revengeance 2.
Well before they had the split they were already talking about it, while we were recording the first game. And I was keen on that and very disappointed when it didn’t happen. So I agree, we need a sequel.
Get that hashtag trending.