Games I'd Love to Translate Myself

While we thankfully live in an age where by and large most major video game releases get released in all territories globally, there are still a good number of games that still manage to slip through the cracks despite the best of intentions. You likely know all too well at this point how these sorts of things go, either corporate politics kills a game's chances of seeing life overseas in another language, the themes make it too niche to do well through traditional sales mechanisms, or it's just too culturally or thematically dense for one reason or another, and it's often really a combination of them that lead to a game's translation demise. That's thoroughly unfortunate, as I feel that not only having more games to play all around is generally a good thing, but the more works that are translated, the better players overseas can understand foreign developers' creative influences and what makes them tick as people.

As I speak Japanese bilingually, this is a list of games that I've come across over the years that, given the time and resources, I'd love to translate, either by way of a fan patch (realistic) or an official release of some sort (currently a pipe dream at this stage). Different games make the cut for different reasons, but if there's one underlying theme to all of them, it's that I ultimately think Japanese game development and its philosophies would be better understood if these games were allowed to roam free in other languages. There are, of course, games that remain exclusive in other languages that I feel are worth bringing over, too, particularly from China and Korea, but as Japan is my main linguistic sphere, that's what this list will likely focus on.

List items

Edited by SecondPersonShooter

I read about Conception briefly on Destructoid and though it seemed creepy and pandering, but hearing your spin on it I actually am quite interested now.

I wish you luck in your translating ambitions, I'm sure anything you put out would be golden

Posted by Mento

What's absurd about VC3 right now is that its three main characters (and Selvaria) appear in Project X Zone. Between that and the other two games being in English, it feels like a lot of the groundwork has been done already. There's enough goodwill for that series that the third game could easily recoup its expenses as a PSN exclusive.

But hey, it's Sega. Maybe Atlus can twist their ear about it. I have to hope that the Atlus acquisition was partly lead by a "Hey, we suck at localizing shit, and these guys seem pretty good. We should buy 'em and learn what we can" decision. Surely they didn't spend all that money just so they could put Chie in a go-kart that transforms into an airplane?

(Talking of Zettai Zetsumei Toshi: It still boggles the mind you guys didn't get Disaster: Day of Crisis. That game feels like it was made for an American audience.)

Posted by Video_Game_King

Oh, hell. Most of those are PSP releases. Has the PSP translation community even taken off?

Edited by audioBusting

I've never heard of it before, so Conception sounds nuts. Seeing that both Dangan Ronpa games are being localized on the Vita, maybe it has hope yet?

edit: Whoops I thought that the remake is being localized, but it's only the first one.

Posted by Brackynews

More like E.X. Tropers, right? Huh? xD JaTaM: Just add Teens and Mecha. Review could be fun, especially by proving my assumptions wrong.

I'm glad this page will be a google result for "ZZT3". We need more of those.

All very good reasons to keep my PSPs on hand. Sadly I'll never be willing to update to authentic firmware of my original Japanese one, but if the community is even half the strength it used to be, maybe I'll be able to play a fan translation of these some day.

Posted by BBAlpert

I can't be the only person that saw the thumbnail for E.X. Troopers and thought "Hot damn, they made a FLCL game," right?

Posted by stubbleman

I guess I should look into Disaster Report 2. I played 3, and it was the first and only one I've tried. So maybe I was missing the part where it didn't innovate enough. Being my first game in the series, I thought it was fantastically put together. I was shocked at the fact that you can mantle chest high objects like guard rails and stuff. So often with Japanese games, chest high objects are lazy level designer code for 'fuck you, you can't come over here,' and they even have really nice looking animations for climbing on these objects. It makes just navigating the levels feel like a dream. And that's a weird compliment to pay to a third person PSP game. It's clear that some of the people at that studio definitely had their shit together. I really did get kind of a latter day Naughty Dog feel from the controls, and I'd definitely hit it up a second time in English on the Vita.

Posted by TepidShark

Assuming you have purchased a copy of the game, is applying an English patch technically illegal?

Edited by Pepsiman

Before I reply to people, I'll just note that this list remains a work in progress and that I'll probably be throwing on extra games in the future as I play them. It's also pretty likely that I might actually start up translation teams myself for some of these games in the future since I feel I have the connections to make it happen for some of these games. Anyway, mountain of comment replies! Here we go!

@secondpersonshooter: Conception's not without its issues. The actual RPG portion and dungeon crawling get kind of grindy at times, even if a lot of the fundamental mechanics are kind of neat. Like a lot of these translations I'd like to work on, I wouldn't mind trying to hack in an option for faster level ups like what Mother 1 eventually got, but I digress. I appreciate your kind words about my endeavors and hopefully I'll get the chance to work on them eventually!

@mento: Ultimately I feel like Sega was most wary because 2 sold spectacularly poorly overseas, although I do agree with you that the damage wasn't so catastrophic that they couldn't have made their money back with a localization of 3 in some capacity. The biggest hurdle in terms of cost really is that there's just so much text; 3 is definitely a mechanically denser game than the previous two games and, as someone who took about 80 hours to finish it, is also notably longer in terms of narrative, with the majority of that being voice acted. You run into an unpleasant numbers game either trying to retain the Japanese dub, going with a potentially cheaper English one, or if you really want to please certain fans without caring about your margins, going with both. The game's in a weird quandary. At this point, I'm kind of hoping that Sega just puts out an HD compilation of 2 and 3 and maybe bundles it with the first game, since that might be the series' best chance of reaching a wide audience again overseas, but who knows. For all we know, Sony might be having its own localization teams taking a stab at it because of that initiative they've now got going for Japanese PSP and Vita games. Hard to say!

And I agree that I think part of the reason Atlus was probably bought out by Sega was because of the existence of Atlus USA. It's not very well-known at all, but Sega hasn't had an internal localization team for quite some time, relying on contract companies like 8-4 to get the job done. Sometimes this tactic has worked out okay; whoever they hired for the last few Yakuza games did a really good job in my opinion. But then other times, it's been pretty iffy and I suspect that strategy has been why a lot of their games have wound up in limbo, since they just can't summon the resources to get to work on international versions for a lot of their internally produced work these days. So I very sincerely hope that Atlus USA gets to either work on some of that back catalog or they just try to help Sega maintain release parity across territories moving forward, as a lot of their Japanese-only stuff is still really good and I think would help turn around public opinion of the company's output overseas.

@video_game_king: The PSP translation scene has been healthy for quite some time, yes. Valkyria Chronicles 3 and FF Type-0 are some of the higher profile projects being worked on as we speak.

@audiobusting: At one point Spike-Chunsoft actually went on record saying they were looking into localizing Conception, so for all I know, maybe we'll yet live in some bizarro world where I don't have to be the only foreigner who's ever played it. A sequel just came out in Japan a while back for the 3DS and Vita that's supposed to stand alone, so maybe if the writing is just as solid as the first game and the Dangan Ronpa localization does well for them, perhaps we'll see something yet. As I just said to Mento, hard to say!

@stubbleman: Disaster Report 2 was localized under the title of Raw Danger overseas because why stay consistent? Like the original game, it got a pretty dubious localization in places, once again giving everybody blonde hair and basically going out of their way to de-Japanese the hell out of the writing and setting as much as possible. It's a pretty sad approach to take with those games, since the types of disasters that series has traditionally depicted have hit pretty close to home for Japanese players and I think it does a creative disservice to not respect that original intent. I've only ever played the entire series in Japanese because of that, so I can't speak to any other alterations that might have happened in 2, but I believe the gameplay itself was otherwise left intact. That's ultimately what's most important, because that game does some pretty crazy and neat things with player choice that I still haven't seen any other game do a generation later and it kind of astounds me that no other game has attempted to emulate its particular mechanics. Really, if I'm being frank, you could put the entire series down as games I'd love to translate, since I think 1 and 2 deserve to be played in a more pure format than what we got overseas, but 3 naturally remains most important just because you can't play it in another language yet at all.

@tepidshark: Some lawyers might argue that you're technically violating the EULA by making your own copy of the game and then patching it, but nobody's ever been prosecuted for it in part because it's a victimless "crime" (as if it's a crime to begin with) and it was actually held up recently in court that such backup copies fall under the free use provisions of existing copyright law, however busted it might otherwise be in this day and age. Even then, there are still ways you can soft patch a game in such a way that you don't actually have to make a copy in places where it still might be an issue. The Fatal Frame 4 patch on the Wii, for instance, actually requires that you own a legitimate copy of the game and the translation patch is just a file that you execute from an SD card that runs in the background as you play the game. The best part for that game in particular is that you don't even need to install the Homebrew Channel to make it all work, meaning people can keep their Wiis clean if they need to do so.

Edited by Yretery

Recently got EX Troopers myself, and boy is that game a blast, so much so it's the only game in my PS3 library I've maintained the patience of going through to get a platinum trophy. I also lucked out in that the 1st year anniversary of the game has brought some of the japanese crowd back to the game so there's people to play with at odd times.

Real bummer anything else like it won't be happening for a long time, at least not with the lost planet franchise being in the state it's in.

Posted by Pepsiman

@yretery: Super happy to have another EX Troopers fan here! Yeah, I feel that it's just a pleasantly unique take on shooting that I absolutely would love to have more of in an even more refined package. Just super stylistic and enthusiastic and happy to be its own thing. I definitely have a big dumb smile on my face whenever I play it. Definitely would have made my GOTY list last year had I been able to afford importing it then. And I also happened to import my copy right around the first anniversary as well and was super surprised to see the online scene somewhat coming back to life. I've definitely had fun messing around with Japanese players and have gotten friendly with them, so that game has just been good times all around for me.