@video_game_king: I'm not trying to deny what you said, just that there is precedence for not going the completely literal route and that I think it needs to be lessened where possible. I would otherwise agree that you're much more likely to find more balanced translations in licensed localizations since the people working on those are more professional and, if nothing else, tend to have a longer history working on that sort of stuff and a better perspective on which approaches work in what sorts of situations. In the end, I'm ultimately just being an idealist. Like I said, I'd rather more translated games exist than less and while super literal ones tend to rustle my feathers personally, it's at least better than making interested players learn Japanese from scratch to at least understand the basics of what's going on.
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Before I ramble at length about translation philosophies, I'll just quickly throw up a link to an old interview Hardcore Gaming 101 did with Agness Kaku, the woman behind the localizations for Metal Gear Solid 2, the Katamari Damacy series, and a whole host of other games. I think she does a better job of articulating what's often at stake when translating games like VC3 than I do and my general translation philosophies more or less line up completely with hers. Just so there's a little bit more background on where someone like me might be coming from when voicing concerns about this stuff.
@yyninja: It's entirely possible my experience with the source material is biasing my views on the translation to a degree. On some level, as a translator, I approach the original Japanese like I would a reader does of most any piece of fiction in general, bringing to bear my interpretations of characters and events, which in turn influences how I emotionally react to the material and, when I'm translating said material into English, reinterpreting it for another language. Coming from experience, you'll never get two translators to agree entirely about how to go about translating a given work since we all have different ideas about what needs to be emphasized, what can be safely dropped, and what needs a little imaginative massaging to make the underlying messages viable in the new language. In that sense, I feel that the translation is mostly successful in terms of technical consistency with the official Sega localizations since the basic terminology and whatnot is the same, but is perhaps lacking from my perspective in terms of respective Sega's stylistic approaches to dialog and whatnot. I'm sure some people will disagree with me on this, but when there's already some sort of precedence to work with in cases like this where you're dealing in untranslated sequels or supplementary material for works that have previously had translations and that precedence has been adequately well-received, I personally err on the side of caution and try to replicate that existing style, largely because it's what that foreign audience has come to expect. Maybe I'm still asking a lot of a free fan effort, but these are the sorts of questions that run through my mind personally as someone who's done this sort of work professionally before. Obviously there are compromises that have be made in part because of various technical limitations that are usually inherent to game translations specifically, but even knowing that, I feel like this patch could have really benefitted from some extra editing passes. I don't even necessarily mean from another translator like me; oftentimes when it's possible, it's good to just have a regular editor versed only in the target language go through the translated materials and punch stuff up. They're often the secret sauce behind the best localizations like what Nier and Hotel Dusk have gotten.
@video_game_king: I rarely dabble in translation patches since obviously I'm not their audience anymore, but I'd argue that there are definitely patches that avoid going the completely literal route and benefit hugely from it. Mother 3 is a case where a professional translator actually worked on that game for free and that game's patch was extremely well received in English in part because it's just well-written in its own respect. In cases where games are written by proper authors like Shigesato Itoi, that extra nuance and deftness in translating is necessary even more so than usual since going a purely literal route means that foreign players risk missing out on the sense of the depth that's present in the original Japanese. Preserving the heart and emotional substance in such translations is a lot more important than pure semantics. It's easy to find words with analogous meanings across languages if you brute force it with a dictionary, but it's another thing altogether to make a foreign audience react the same way as the native audience did to a given passage.
@tobbrobb: To be certain, I agree that more overtly literal translations and more overtly creative ones each have their place. If I'm working on academic or legal materials, I'm absolutely going to play my translations pretty straight and narrow and not really mess around with semantics and word choice. If there's a generally accepted translation for a given wording or phrase, I'll adhere to those standards unless I have a good reason to deviate and then I'll still make sure that change is noted accordingly. But speaking from experience, in the end, you never really have purely one type of translation. Human languages didn't all grow up side-by-side in the same ways; historical and cultural divergences over the course of hundreds and hundreds of years has resulted in different languages approaching the same sorts of situations from different philosophical perspectives, which influences the underlying meanings of even the most basic words to native speakers amongst the various languages. It's most obvious when you deal in something like Japanese and English like I do where it's readily apparent just how isolated the two cultures have historically been, but it's true even for languages that are related to them. It doesn't take much for languages to end up on different tangents that affect how their speakers look at the world around them and interact with it. So to some degree, the way I see it as a translator myself, translation is always a bit more of an art than a science because what's ultimately being transferred between languages isn't merely words, but a whole mindset, so to speak.
The end goal of translation, fundamentally, speaking is to evoke the original material's embedded thoughts and sentiments using analogous language that the new audience can find relatable. In that sense, being too literal (ie: formulaically translating specific words the same way time and again) is often problematic because it can neglect things like connotations, whether that's because something critical has been lost in translation or the wrong thing has been added in the new language altogether because of carelessness. It's true even for seemingly rigid documents like in those academic and legal cases I cited earlier; the right sort of rigidity needs to present across languages or misunderstandings can occur really fast. That's why despite the perceived blandness of that sort of translation work those people are among the best paid in the business because they need to be aware of those potential pitfalls and compose their translations accordingly. Similarly, overly liberal translations obviously risk losing sight of the intentions and sentiments present in the original material, as that wording and structure in the source naturally has to exist in the state that it does for some reason. That source needs to be consulted as a sort of foundation or else the translation risks veering so far away from the creative charms that defined the source material that it might as well be considered original work in its own right. It's tricky work and far be it for me to claim that I'm perfect as a translator, either. I'm just disappointed in the approach I've seen the team take with this game when I don't think it was particularly suitable given the medium and thematic ground it covers.
So yeah, I guess this is my way of saying that I ultimately agree with you. The best case scenario for translations is where you strike that balance and the new audience doesn't notice that there's an inherent balance towards one over the other. For me personally, since I mostly work in fiction, that means I pay close attention to the semantics and whatnot of the original material, but essentially reconstruct it so the same basic meanings and emotions can be conveyed anew in the most natural-sounding manner possible, all without dropping any critical connecting plot threads that specifically make that work what it is. You probably inferred it already, but that does mean that I'm normally more liberal-minded when it comes to my approaches to translation, although I make sure I don't get wanton about it. If I can read my new work and it preserves the same basic beats as the source material, all without the wording and structure immediately reminding me of how the Japanese reads, that's when I feel I've succeeded. Whether I actually manage to do that in the eyes of readers and players is another matter altogether, but it's at least what I strive for.
@bocam: For sure, I'm not saying Sega's work was always perfect. I just appreciated that their English scripts were good about maintaining the series' sense of whimsy, which I've found pretty lacking in this translation for 3. But yeah, that patch is absolutely abysmal to make work. I'm not surprised in the least that it's a custom program, but I've never gotten it to work. I still wanna give it a whirl so I can more thoroughly dissect their translation work, but they really need a more elegant solution if even tech-savvy people like you and me have trouble with it. I continue to be baffled as to why it's bundled with a copy of JPCSP, for instance.
As somebody who played this to completion and did a decent amount of postgame content in Japanese, I have somewhat mixed feelings on this patch. On the one hand, I'm super excited that fellow series fans who don't speak Japanese can finally play through this game, as it's my personal favorite in the series. Really refined mechanics and my personal favorite story in the series make for good times all around with VC3. On the other hand, from what I've seen of the translation while watching a Twitch stream of it, I feel like a lot of the soul and vivaciousness of the original dialog has been lost. VC games have never been examples of literary profundity in any language, but they always had solid localizations that made for fun reads, especially when it came to character banter. So far, this translation seems to have prioritized one-to-one academic "accuracy" with the Japanese over a smooth, natural-sounding script in English and, knowing what I do about this game's plot, I think that makes the game unnecessarily suffer as a result. VC3 has a pretty complex storyline that deserves a really polished translation in order for the emotional aspects and allegory to be fully appreciated and I worry some of those nuances have been lost judging by what I've looked at. Maybe it's a consequence of who they managed to recruit to the team, but it's still disappointing that they couldn't find somebody within the fanbase who's a solid writer that could give it some extra punch and polish because it totally deserves it. As it is, it reads much like I'd expect a ragtag fan translation would, competent in terms of getting all the basics of the original Japanese across, but lacking in conveying the heart and nuance of the source material. It honestly reminds me of a lot of the attempts by fans to retranslate the Ted Woolsey-era SNES Final Fantasies and that's not something I enjoy being reminded about.
That's not to say that this patch's release isn't worth celebrating. I'll always be of the mind that more translated games are better than less and certainly given the choice between fans having a stiff-reading English version of VC3 versus no translation at all, I'd naturally go with the former. I'm just a bit bummed that the translation that I'm seeing doesn't really mesh all that much with what that game evokes to me personally when I play it in Japanese. But I'm obviously biased since I don't need this patch at all to play it and enjoy the story, so maybe I'm being unnecessarily hard. I'd be interested to hear the impressions of OP and other people as they get deeper into the game as to whether the script is as dry to them as I personally see it. I don't doubt I sound pretentious on some level since I work as a translator myself and naturally that bestows some privilege with regards to how I can play these sorts of games, but I do really like VC3 and wish nothing but the best for it in terms of translations.
Ah well, at least it'll be nice to actually be able to discuss this game's plot with English speakers without worrying about spoilers as much.
Wait, Dragon Quest VIII? I think you mean VII. I don't remember the next one getting any special release this year.
Yeah, that's probably a typo.
An iPhone port of the game came out a few weeks ago in Japan.
I think out of that list, SMTIV is the most readily accessible if you're looking to dip your toes into some of Atlus' denser and more challenging fare without potentially being too overwhelmed. That being said, it is in a lot of ways a throwback to their SNES days in terms of gameplay and narrative philosophy and that can be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on what you like to get out of RPGs. Here's my personal breakdown of the potentially contentious points.
You'll probably like SMTIV if:
- You like RPGs where your primary investment is going to be in the raw gameplay systems. There is a story present in the game and while I'd disagree with some posters here that say it's throwaway fare, it's not the driving force of the game. Plausibly speaking, SMTIV expects you to derive most of your enjoyment from the combat, fusing, and demon recruitment mechanics. The better you get at utilizing those systems and getting stronger as a result, the more the game will have to offer and give back to you. You'll have narrative justifications for preferring one area over another at times, but the 40+ hours you're likely going to invest in that game will likely arise because of mechanical engagement. If your main reason for coming to an RPG is to indulge in a well-told, linear story that just happens to be accented by the gameplay, SMTIV likely isn't going to be you. That being said, I think what narrative is there can be enjoyable, but that depends on the second point.
- You like nonlinear storytelling that requires actively engaging with the world to get a complete picture of what's going on. I'd agree that SMTIV's main storyline is largely nothing to write home about and while I'd agree that it's primarily because it's a systems-driven RPG like I wrote above, I also feel it's partially because the main SMT games have always been about piecing together the world through your own exploration and then making of it what you will when it comes time to make alignment choices. The games are less about being fed a specific worldview through which you engage the game, but rather merely being inserted into a world and told to make something of yourself within it, whatever that may ultimately be in the end. This aspect in particular is what I'm referring to when I say that IV is a return to the series' SNES incarnations, as how fleshed out that world and its inhabitants depends largely on how willing you are to engage in talking to NPCs repeatedly over the course of the game, playing through sidequests, and even doing a little inferring from the environmental design. I feel there are some genuinely poignant and emotional moments in that game, but they come almost entirely from optional content that you can very easily miss. If you prefer to be told a story rather than be made to search for it yourself and you don't think you can enjoy the systems enough to justify playing through the game on those merits alone, SMTIV likely isn't for you. If, however, you're of the Dark Souls school of narrative design and enjoy how that game gives you some very healthy and interesting backstories and subplots through some deliberately obfuscated means, SMTIV may well be up your alley.
- You love options upon options upon options for how to strategize and play through the game and are okay with a difficulty curve that's high in part because it's expected you're willing to experiment. While this is true for a lot of Atlus games in general, SMTIV is really open ended in terms of character progression, equipment, and ability loadouts. There are a lot of variables to keep track of and while the game is designed to be flexible in such a way that you're not strategically pigeonholed into using, say, specific demons to win against a specific boss, as time goes on, the game expects that you'll be pretty familiar with how a lot of different systems work such that when you hit parts that are clearly designed to up the difficulty that you'll come upon optimal solutions relative to the diverse options at your disposal. It's a lesson you're forced to learn even earlier than usual by Atlus standards and it stays pretty true for the rest of the game. After the first 10 or so hours, I think the difficulty largely levels out aside from some optional sidequests, but it's still something to bear in mind if, again, you prefer a more linear progression in terms of character growth.
I personally like all of those things about the game. It feels like they took the most outstanding traits of the original two SNES games and, for those looking for that specific brand of RPG, largely made it all relevant again 20 years later. I came away impressed with how fresh it all felt to me personally as someone who often has a hard time going back to that era of Atlus games, despite otherwise having a sort of academic appreciation for them. SMT games have always been cut from a pretty different philosophical cloth compared to a lot of stuff like Square-Enix's games both pre and post-merger, representing to some extent the last relatively mainstream inheritor in Japan of 80s PC RPG design and IV continues that tradition. I'm not at all surprised by the mixed reception it's gotten and the criticisms levelled against it can be valid depending on what you personally look for in an RPG. IV's gameplay and narrative genealogy calls upon a pretty specific heritage of old games in the Japanese RPG scene that I suspect not a lot of western players, or at least younger ones, are potentially all that familiar with, especially since a lot of the games it quietly references in its design were never localized and therefore never got a chance to properly enter the western "canon" to begin with. So I'd say that while SMTIV isn't my personal favorite Atlus game and that I don't even inherently disagree with some of the criticisms leveled at it to a degree, as someone who wishes I could engage with the older games in the series more readily, it is a game that I enjoyed a lot and it really put into perspective why the really old entries are still revered in the ways that they are. Some might argue that it might not always be the best representation of some of those old values and mechanics, but as somebody who stumbled into the series well past the heyday of those first few games, I really liked what I played.
I'm just gonna leave this message for posterity, but I'll hit you up with a friend request soon since I've mostly soloed my way to the 40s and it'd be nice to have company more often. I've been getting back into the game something fierce, so it'll be nice to actually learn what this guild stuff is all about finally. Expect to find something from chiemcyukiko/ツノク・チエ within the next couple of hours when I have time to log back into the game. I don't play with the English patch since I speak Japanese, so try not to mind me so much if I get confused over some of the English terminology since that's not what I'm familiar with when playing that game at all. On the other hand, you're free to mooch off of me for anything that remains untranslated or for when the translation patch gets broken between updates!
I'll chime in with a bit of an unusual one since its translation patch is supposedly going to be available very soon: Valkyria Chronicles 3. Basically a side story that occurs within the same general period as the first game, 3 is a marked narrative improvement over 2 and in my personal opinion offers the series' best and most provocative storyline. It's hard to articulate entirely why that is without delving into a lot of spoiler territory that a lot of English-only fans probably don't know about quite yet, but as a game where the central antagonists are a group of enemy Darcsens, the series' analogue for Jewish people and other persecuted groups in WWII-era Europe, its coverage of such themes as zionism and allegory for things like the ongoing fighting in the Gaza Strip makes for a pretty intriguing affair after it's all said and done. And while 3's cast is founded upon pretty familiar anime tropes, they develop in pretty unique ways that go far in making their personal journey relatable and engrossing. Assuming the translation patch has a good English localization going for it, I'm curious to see how people will take to that story.
I moved into Japan after the earthquake and lived there until June of last year with the intention of returning soon. Like other Japan residents and tourists have said, most of the country is perfectly fine and as habitable as ever. I've mostly lived near Osaka, which is way the hell away from Fukushima and aside from some energy conservation stuff that the whole country has been undergoing in general, people have gotten by just fine. Food-wise, I felt even healthier than I do being back in the States because of my diet and I still ate a good amount of fish and whatnot. People over there aren't exactly keen on buying beef or anything from that area, either, so it's not as though people are actively eating irradiated food. News sites that focus on Japan like The Japan Times still do extensive coverage of Fukushima-related issue if you're interested in keeping track of what's happening from more firsthand native sources, with much of it available in English as well.
There are, of course, reasons to worry about what's happening up there. TEPCO has hardly been all that judicious about disclosing everything that's going on in the area without some serious prodding from the government and the nature of the disaster, to my understanding, makes a lot of the specifics of containing the fallout and shutting down the reactors a large question mark, with very smart people having to figure it out as they go along. But the rest of the country is getting by perfectly fine. The people are chipper, the food is great, and, for our purposes here, the games are plentiful. I'm not worried about what'll happen to me personally when I move back and in fact plan to eventually volunteer out in Fukushima to do my part to help it get back on its feet.