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My Japanese fluency has increasingly resulted in me doing things I end up very quickly regretting. Take the video above. In preparation for a much-demanded live stream this week of Mizzurna Falls, a Japan-only PS1 game that's basically the direct predecessor of Deadly Premonition all the way down to the real-time open world gameplay, I've been stealth streaming on Twitch a few games at odd hours to test my hardware and software under different scenarios. I probably don't need to do that much testing since the game in question is pretty old and the software needed to get everything running is nice and stable, but if nothing else, it's getting me more comfortable with talking in an empty room to the Internet for hours on end. Yesterday, that test was the N64 adaptation of screaming robot anime series extraordinaire, Neon Genesis Evangelion, a game I bought while living in Japan mostly because I find cartridge games with FMV capabilities to be a morbid novelty. Long story short, I was translating what was on the screen live while I was playing what was mostly new content to me; pretty much everything beyond that first level was new territory for me, having only played it before the stream for about 15 minutes to ensure it would even broadcast properly in the first place. I won't attest to the potential quality of things like the commentary, though, especially since streaming is something I've only done sporadically up until recently, so I'll understand if you think you've seen better content out there.
As you can see above and in the other parts of the archive on YouTube, this was an endeavor I quickly came to regret. Evangelion is something I largely respect from afar, the recent movies being the only things I've actually found myself legitimately enjoying, but going into the game, I knew that the series has had nothing short of a rocky history when it came to game adaptations. The reason is probably obvious: Evangelion, in spite of its plot and themes largely derided the modern anime industry and the types of customers it attracts, does enormous business in Japan as an entertainment property. Given the huge number of adventure games, pachinko sims, and other miscellaneous versions of Evangelion available on pretty much every major Japanese hardware platform since the Saturn, apparently a lot of Japanese fans just like getting as much of those characters and that plot as they can get, even if both are often represented in games poorly. Evangelion for the 64 is therefore pretty obviously the end result of a cash grab that stems from the desire to exploit that profound love many people have for the show, especially in its heyday. There are interesting ideas in play, like how different Angels require different minigames to defeat, but as you'll figure out if you watch deep enough into the archive, a mixture of clumsy controls, a lack of tutorials for missions that do change those clumsy controls, and a generally poor presentation ensure the game doesn't ever elevate about the level of dreck. It may well have been a blessing in disguise when a glitch actually prevented me from seeing a series of control prompts necessary to move forward, forcing a premature end to a game I was otherwise morbidly intending to finish all the way.
I'm still ultimately glad I did it, though. As I discuss on here from time to time, I think it's important that games that never get translated from Japanese still get some sort of exposure in English. When we expose ourselves to games produced just in or even translated into our mother tongue, it's very easy to lose sight of the sort of creativity at play in the fringes of the medium and, in turn, not realize just how much potential for diverse experiences games have in general. For bad games like Evangelion on the N64, this is probably less true and, in this instance specifically, I'm definitely not the only person to have ever provided English translations and commentary on it. But the basic philosophy still stands. At the end of the day, while there are a lot of Japanese games you can brute force through without knowing the language by just experimenting with raw gameplay, having that linguistic knowledge can be critical in both catching on to certain subtexts that a game might be trying to convey and, in genres like RPGs, just understanding plot development and current objectives in general. That's ultimately why I like doing these sorts of videos and writing reviews of games that are only available in Japanese; as somebody who can bridge that gap between English-speaking and Japanese-speaking worlds, I like trying to provide insight into games for people that might not otherwise be able to play them, especially since there aren't otherwise necessarily a lot of other people around at my age with my specific education. Admittedly, live translation in front of an audience is definitely harder than just me sitting down and casually watching or reading something in Japanese by my lonesome, so that's hopefully something that will improve over time, but I hope my attempt at bridging that gap comes through in the stream archive at least somewhat.
I'll likely be doing a few more of these streams featuring more obscure Japanese games over the course of this week now that I'm on Christmas Break. As I mentioned earlier, Mizzurna Falls is at the top of the list and will probably take place at some point late Thursday afternoon. Like Evangelion, it's a game I've only barely played in order to become familiar with the basic gameplay, so much of the stream and my live translation will be of content that's as new to you as it will be to me. Like many Human Entertainment games, I think it's a really interesting experimental game that's definitely worth discussing more widely and since that game seems to have an absolute dearth of information in English, I hope that I'll be assisting that dialog at least a little. Details will obviously get more solidified as the time to do the stream gets closer, but like this Evangelion stream, I'll definitely be archiving it on YouTube after the broadcast, since I don't exactly want those translation efforts to be lost to the ether.