When we look back on the 40+ year history of video games, and the countless titles that have been released up to this point, it’s safe to say that visible Welsh representation has been rather scarce.
I’ve been mashing buttons since the late-80’s, and for most of my gaming life, console games were seen as magic made elsewhere, in places like Japan, the United States, and mainland Europe. Similarly, the characters, stories and locales I experienced, seemed borrowed from beyond Welsh borders.
However, I feel there’s been an upswing in our fortunes as-of-late, and as yesterday was St David’s Day, and this is a Nintendo-centric website, I’d like to canonize a few wonderful examples of Welsh representation found in games available on Nintendo’s hybrid marvel, the Nintendo Switch.
When it comes to Nintendo, perhaps the most contemporary Welsh character in console gaming at the moment, is Xenoblade 2’s sarcastic and cynical Gormotti driver, Nia. If exclamations such as, “what the bloody ‘ell is this”, and, “Oi, did you say something?”, conjure up images of Gavin & Stacey, you may be interested to learn that Nia’s voice actress, Catrin-Mae Huw, got her start on the hit BBC comedy, playing Natalie in Season 3.
Welsh characters in RPG’s on Nintendo Switch don’t stop there, as the Studio Ghibli-inspired Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch from Level-5, features self-proclaimed High Lord of the Fairies, Mr. Drippy; a fairy with a distinctive red lantern hanging on his nose, a good heart, and a penchant for bellowing “Core, blimey!” when he’s excited.
When asked in an interview with GodIsAGeek, why a Welsh accent was sought for the role, the voice of Mr. Drippy, Steffan Rhodri (who also starred in Gavin & Stacey by the way!), said “One of the writers of the English script was a Welsh speaker from North Wales, and this may have influenced their choice. I think a Welsh accent often works for comedy.”
Another famous polygonal Welshman is one Edward James Kenway, a Swansea-born privateer-turned-pirate, member of the British Brotherhood of Assassins, and protagonist of 2013’s Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, available on Nintendo Switch as part of the Assassin’s Creed: Rebel Collection.
Welsh actor, Matt Ryan, who provides the voice and likeness of Kenway, initially read his lines in a West Country accent, before being asked to revert to his natural Welsh one. This ultimately led to the character becoming far more influenced by the culture of Wales than was originally intended. Black Flag’s lead scriptwriter, Darby McDevitt, even began mining Ryan’s dad for some colloquial Welsh phrases with which to pepper the dialogue.
Kenway himself is prideful, and unabashedly Welsh, to the point where he frequently gets worked up when the games’ Caribbean NPC’s confuse Wales with England.
Speaking of NPC’s, Black Flag spotlights one of the most famous Welsh Pirates of the era in Black Bart Roberts, and Assassin’s Creed III, also available on Nintendo Switch, is replete with Welsh town criers, soldiers, and civilians. I’ve no doubt that there are many more examples of Welsh representation in the Assassin’s Creed series than are listed here.
Some other notable digital Welshfolk on Nintendo Switch include Boudica, Queen of the Celtic Iceni tribe in the first century, and a General in Civilization VI; as well as Dark Souls Remastered’s deep-dwelling merchant Domhnall of Zena. Voiced by Matthew Morgan, Domhnall greets players seeking unique items, armor and crystal weapons with “Aye, Shwmae”, a familiar, informal Welsh salutation which roughly translates to “Hey, how goes it?”
So far I’ve covered characters who speak in a Welsh accent, but what of the Welsh language?
Welsh language options in video games are exceedingly rare, even Steam, the world's largest digital PC store, does not contain Welsh in its language filter list. Hence why it pleases me to highlight Minecraft, the world’s best-selling video game, and 2020’s fast-paced deck-building roguelike Dicey Dungeons, which both feature Welsh language support.
Minecraft, has arguably the strongest, most direct representations of Welsh landmarks in all of video games. In November 2020, Careers Wales launched CareersCraft World on Minecraft Education Edition. Players were able to explore block-by-block recreations of some of Wales' iconic landmarks, and to discover more about Welsh heritage through the power of play.
Similarly, Mentrau Iaith Cymru, a community-based organisation working to raise the profile of the Welsh language, has been working with young people during lockdown to rebuild significant Welsh buildings within Minecraft. As of July 2020, Castell Dinas Brân, and the village of Capel Celyn have been completed, and broadcast on social media, with plans to restore Aberlleiniog Castle next.
For a more enchanted take on Welsh locales, and culture, look no further than Maid of Sker from Welsh developer Wales Interactive. Set in a remote hotel in 1898, this first-person survival horror draws from macabre Welsh folklore, inspired by the haunting tale of Elisabeth Williams. Its score is punctuated by re-imaginings of a Welsh hymn, Calon Lân, Welsh Lullaby, Suo-Gân, and the song Ar Hyd Y Nos.
The FIFA series, and WRC 9 FIA World Rally Championship are two of the more obvious Nintendo Switch titles with allusions to places in Wales. FIFA, of course, lets you play as Swansea City and Cardiff City, and both the Liberty City Stadium, and Stadiwm Dinas Caerdydd are represented.
WRC 9, which drifts onto Nintendo Switch in mid-March, sports stage maps for Hafren, Great Orme, Dyfi, and Brenig; a rally course located on the shores of the picturesque Llyn Brenig reservoir, situated in the heart of the Denbigh Moors.
At the outset of this article I said that in my formative years, there was a common belief that console “games were magic made elsewhere”. These days, Wales is home to a great many independent developers, and a video game industry all its own, aided by bodies, organisations, and businesses such as Games Wales, Games Talent Wales, The Arcade Vaults, The Welsh Gaming Network, ESports Wales, HackTech Cardiff, and USWGamesDev, to name a few; but are there any games on Nintendo Switch from Welsh development studios?
Indeed there are! The most well-known of these is Pencoed developer / publisher Wales Interactive, developer of titles such as The Bunker, Don’t Knock Twice, Time Carnage, Maid of Sker, Gamer Girl, and The Complex. The studio, which won South Wales Business of the Year in 2014 and 2016, develop and publish their own IP’s, as well as those of third-parties, and have been instrumental in reviving the FMV genre.
Pill Bug Interactive, a two-man outfit based just outside Cardiff, released Cycle 28, an Asteroids-inspired momentum-focused space shooter, with a Groundhog Day mystery, on the Nintendo Switch eShop in August of 2018. You play as Flight Lieutenant Olivia Bergen, a low ranking officer, separated from her fleet, and stuck in a time loop. At the start of each 6 minute cycle, Olivia will make a new log entry, drip-feeding you more and more clues as to what’s going on the longer you survive.
If you’d like to learn more about Pill Bug and Cycle 28, check out our extensive interview with them here.
Whilst this is a little outside the remit of this article, I’d also like to give a shoutout to Cardiff developer Dakko Dakko, who launched inventive on-rails shooter / platformer hybrid Scram Kitty and His Buddy on Rails on the Wii U in May 2014.
If you know of any other Welsh developers who’ve released a game on Nintendo Switch, we’d love to hear from you!
Welsh Nintendo Communities
I couldn’t possibly conclude this piece without highlighting two important members of the Nintendo Players UK family in Nintendo North Wales, and Nintendo South Wales. They, along with our other community groups across the UK and Ireland, are dedicated to hosting local Nintendo events, and serving as a social hub for fans to meet up, play together, and make new and lasting friendships.
There you have it! Whilst we’d always like to see more, Welsh representation on Nintendo Switch, and in video games as a whole, appears to be on the up. Welsh characters, accents, language, and locales, are now firmly rooted in a few of the most popular games and franchises of recent years, and the native development scene here in Wales is arguably as healthy and interconnected as it has ever been. Now, how’s about adding the Welsh Dragon into Skyrim?
Written by Paul L. Russell