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#1  Edited By Pepsiman

Remote play lag absolutely isn't doing you any favors. While the input latency might not be as impactful for other genres, for something like a rhythm game where the timing windows are usually open for a fraction of a second, that lag is likely enough to break your prospects, even if your sense of rhythm is otherwise accurate. Bear in mind, the image you're seeing (and the audio you're hearing) on your remote play device is slightly behind what the actual PS4 is outputting because of delays in video encoding and transmission, so you hitting in time to what your remote play device is displaying is consistently going to be too late according to the game's logic because the actual console is already ahead of what you're seeing. Even if you try to compensate for this, it might not always work because of fluctuating network and encoding conditions, resulting in lost controller inputs.

Basically, I'd try playing on an actual TV and compare the difference if I were you. You might not suddenly get perfect scores, but you'll almost certainly notice a night and day in difference in terms of what you get, even if you find some stretches of songs tricky still.

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@zeik said:

@shindig: It's SEGA's fault for taking so long to release these games in the west. 0 and Kiwami are like several years old at this point. If we had gotten them at the same rate as Japan there would be more breathing room between them. But better late than never.

Let me bring a little perspective into this matter since I work in Japanese game localization as a translator. I don't have any specific knowledge of Sega's inner workings (and even if I did, I'd likely be NDA'd to hell and back), but I have worked on a lot of games that are similarly big like a Yakuza game, so I like to think I can speak to the scope, scheduling, and logistics involved in bringing something like a Yakuza over.

The first thing to bear in mind in terms of these translations taking so long is that the game scripts for every Yakuza game are enormous, even by RPG standards. I don't know specific numbers, but I'm pretty confident they generally break 1 million Japanese characters easily once you total in sub-stories and other side content. (For perspective, the main storyline of Tales of Berseria, which I worked on, clocks in around 600,000 characters and the optional content I believe at least doubles that total amount.) This not an insignificant amount of text to translate. Every translator works at different rates, but generally they can only translate around 3,000 to 5,000 characters a day depending on the nature of the content, if any research into niche subjects has to be done, etc. Generally, at least in my experience, 4,000 characters a day is a happy medium, but either way, the most you can realistically expect a translator to translate in a given month and have it be well-written stuff is around 80,000 to 100,000 Japanese characters. (I've been known to do 120,000 on very rare occasion, but only when the deadlines demanded it. Those months are pretty stressful!)

This means that if only one person is in charge of translating the entire thing from start to finish, a game the size of a Yakuza can quite easily take the better part of a year to translate into English, if not more. And that's before you factor any time for actual editing work and any fine-tuning that may need to happen once translation drafts are implemented and tested in-game, whether it's just contextual polish or squashing weird bugs or something else entirely. Now, typically, a game that's as big as Yakuza will at least have two translators working on it to split the load, but it's a delicate balancing act because the more chefs you have working in that translation kitchen, the harder it is to achieve a quality final product due to different writing styles and whatnot. My understanding is Yakuza games do indeed have more than one translator working on them, but it's definitely not a lot because of what I just mentioned. Even so, again, things are only going to go so fast because no localization is ever done as soon as the translators are done writing their first draft, far from it. Even with multiple translators and editors on board for each year, I can see these games still taking close to a year or more to localize from start to finish. What you can infer from Kiwami coming out so soon, then, is that localization work on it began while Yakuza 0 was still itself being localized and the same can be said for Yakuza 6, too.

It's not just translators and editors that have to be brought on board in order for a game to be localized, either. You need programmers who ideally worked on the original Japanese version of the game to dive back in and modify the programming code to make any necessary changes to make the game run in English. You'll probably also need artists on the team to hop on board to redesign UI assets at the very least in order to make menus and other parts of the game accessible to foreign players. Depending on how a development team is structured, this can be a drain on resources away from whatever the current main project for the Japanese market is or, if localization is happening while the Japanese version is still in development, a drain on resources from simply getting that version done to begin with. This is why global simultaneous release dates for Japanese games still aren't always a guarantee even in this day and age, as it can be a difficult juggling act to keep both raw content production and localization (or localizations, if a game is trying to shoot for other, non-English-speaking markets, too!) on schedule, a proposition that's often too hard for all but the biggest developers like Square-Enix.

Either way, my point is that most localizations require a pretty significant investment in manpower, which in turn impacts how reasonably quickly a localized version of a game can be made without sacrificing quality in one way or another. This is especially true for a series like Yakuza, where the games are churned out on a pretty consistent schedule and there's an expectation that the main team will essentially move on immediately to the next entry once the current one is released in Japan and sells well enough to justify Sega's continued support of the series. The fact that the team has actually managed to create a pipeline where it can now reliably simultaneously produce this many localized versions on top of their usual work developing the latest entries speaks to how far they've come since the old days pre-5. There are very, very few developers within Japan that I can think of that can actually maintain such a complicated, intense structure and not have things go off the rails. Most of the big publishers I've worked with more or less have everything in order with their localization departments these days, but they're usually not juggling that sort of load, either.

Market realities and sales numbers of previous entries also probably made it harder to make a case within Sega to make Yakuza localizations more expedient in previous years, although obviously I don't have anything resembling hard numbers and am just speculating at this point. Considering all of the main numbered entries have made it over in one form or another despite those ups and downs, though, it's probably safe to say that those logistical issues surrounding manpower and development schedules probably weighed on localization efforts more than anything else, as clearly Sega has ultimately been able to keep finding financial justifications to keep localizing them no matter how late they historically can be. I suspect these more recent localizations having Sony's support behind them, as well as the improving health of major Japanese games abroad overall in recent years, has also helped improve the situation in various years and incentivize Sega to invest more heavily in creating a work environment favorable to producing localizations as challenging as Yakuza's. Although I can understand concerns about potential saturation issues releasing so many localized entries in relatively close proximity to one another, I think it's ultimately a good problem to have when localizing multiple titles in a long-running series like Yakuza. Again, as someone who's worked on the inside of similarly big projects, the fact that they're able to even consider, let alone pull off, such a feat is really remarkable to me and certainly not something you see often in this line of work.

Hopefully that all makes sense and doesn't come across as too ramble-y or condescending. I just thought I would add my two cents since localization schedules and loads are things people like to discuss a lot anymore, but don't always have necessary a lot of hard facts or documented experience from industry insiders to consult.

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I'll try to be vague in order to avoid spoilers since I played the Japanese version, but as has already been pointed out, in this instance specifically, part of this being an ordeal at all is that the protagonist happened to intervene against a guy with some pretty serious clout. It becomes much clearer later on in the game just who he meddled with, but suffice it to say the guy isn't your ordinary drunkard causing a ruckus.

One other thing to note, though, is that Japan has extremely low juvenile crime rates overall. It's been a while since I've studied the subject, but the number of kids actually imprisoned is, I think, no more than several thousand, if that, which, when considering the country has a population of around 120 million people, is pretty crazy to think about. From what I understand, there are also other mechanisms within the Japanese system to deal with juvenile offenders other than just out and out imprison them, so the numbers and how meaningful they are get a little murky, but overall, most any sort of serious youth crime, especially the violent variety, is especially rare in contrast to other developed countries. So even just being associated with an incident is enough to be pretty seriously branded as an outcast by a lot of people, especially within a school system that's designed to promote social harmony and instill within students consideration for how their actions can impact the social groups that they're a part of. Under a certain logic, Larry Bird Jr. here acting out and getting arrested for it reflects poorly on both his old school and his parents, as it shows that they all failed to "keep him in line," as it were. Obviously in a real world situation not involving a drunkard with clout, you'd hope that people would care more about the fact he was trying to save a woman in distress and I think they would, the system isn't that heartless, but the specific politics of this situation make it a little more complicated in ways that the game doesn't completely spell out early on.

Hopefully that all makes sense. I'm by no means an actual expert on Japanese law, but just thought I'd chime in since I did study it while living there years ago.

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Conveniently, there's a NeoGAF post by a guy I know on Twitter that covers the languages for the Japanese launch lineup specifically here. For Zelda, you're in luck! That'll run in English. I assume all you have to do to get it to play nice is have an account with the system language set to English or the region set to an English-speaking territory if that option isn't available in-game outright.

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@lentfilms: Oh no, not at all! I'm just a rambley type in general and thought I'd chime in since I could speak to these things a little. We're more than fine, I promise, and I apologize if I came off as aggressive. c:

Regarding the politics, I think it's partly what you've said where it might be down to being able to offer specific perks someone like Xseed can't necessarily do on their own and I think it's also quite possibly down to them offering a better deal for localization rights up front. What's weird about this instance is that usually these sorts of drastic changes don't happen in long, outstanding business relationships with Japanese companies. Capitalism is capitalism at the end of the day, but usually small to mid-tier companies like Falcom especially maintain these sorts of ties with similarly sized companies unless they have a really pressing reason to break things off. To hear Xseed people tell it, at least, they were pretty caught by surprise to not land this game, which makes me wonder what's going on internally at Falcom.

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#6  Edited By Pepsiman

@thewildcard: I feel conflicted about XSEED not translating VIII. On one hand I think the company deserves a lot of credit for making the series relavent in the West again, and for bringing over actual Falcom developed games instead of ports made by other studios, but I also feel the translation quailty of the Ys games has never been that remarkable from XSEED. Oath and Origin are based off fan translations and the scripts for Seven and Celceta were pretty bland and dry, although they may have been that way in Japanese too. I think XSEED's work on the Trails games have been fantastic, and I won't want anyone else to work on future games in that series, but I think it is entirely possible for someone like NIS to do just as good a job if not better with Ys.

Full disclosure before I dish out my opinion: I'm friendly with a couple of people who work with Xseed in varying capacities, so feel free to take my opinion with as many grains of salt as you like. I myself have otherwise never worked for them as a translator.

Anyway, the only Ys I've played much of in Japanese I believe is Seven, but I'd argue that those scripts aren't particularly literary in their native language. It's not abysmal or anything, it's perfectly competent, but it's pretty dry stuff overall in Japanese. I think a lot of superfans would agree that Ys' strong points outside of its gameplay are in its overall lore and world building and not so much its moment-to-moment conversations. They're there to help keep things moving and help lay down some atmosphere, which is probably for the best considering what those games are going for with their gameplay.

All this is to say that sometimes with projects like that, there's only so much you can spruce up in translation. Having worked in the trenches in localization for a while now, the number of Japanese games that have really good writing already are, I feel, still pretty far and few between, even in genres that are ostensibly supposed to be rooted in it like adventure games and visual novels. Most are at least semi-okay like Ys and some are outright terrible for various reasons, but the good stuff is rare enough to getting to work on that level of material is always genuinely refreshing. Knowing that, there are certain things you can do in translation to make those okay and badly written games more uniformly polished, but it's hard to put out truly inspired material if you don't have that initial base to work with, those character dynamics and relateable happenings that initially draw you in as a translator and a player. I certainly do my best to have my own fun with that material where I can, but at the end of the day, when it's not creatively your baby, so to speak, from the game's very inception, it's very tough to write a mindblowing translation when the underlying material you're given doesn't even support that proposition in Japanese. There are absolutely localizations that I feel are better written than their Japanese games, but it's either because the Japanese was already great and got that much more writing polish in localization or the original Japanese is just so aggressively bad that the only way to go was up.

Think of it like this: Xseed is a really small company. They employ freelancers to help with a lot of the core translation work, but the main crew that does the editing work and gets the game ready for release is, I think, no more than like a dozen people strong. People have their specialties, but they're going to have their hands in a little of everything. If Ys' English writing sounds dry while Trails can come out really strong, I think that alone says volumes about the base quality of the original Japanese writing in those games when the people working on them are otherwise by and large the same. None of this is to criticize the people who have worked on the translation side of Ys games, I've talked to some on Twitter and they all do good work, but Trails is by and large on a whole other level with its Japanese prose, which makes the potential that much higher for the English script to be equally as memorable in turn.

One thing to consider about Ys VIII switching ships to NISA, though: a friend who knows those games much better than I says that VIII is extremely referential of the past games' lore, seemingly more so than is typical with an Ys game. This puts NISA at a pretty severe disadvantage for several reasons; not only will they ideally have to have translators that are either intimately familiar with the series or at least really good at their research, but if that game makes specific call backs to previous in terms of specific lines or terminology, they're not inherently going to have access to the previous games' localization files to consult, if they even recognize those references to begin with. Certainly, Xseed isn't obligated to hand over any of its work to NISA if they're not going to be paid to be involved in this new game's localization and while Falcom probably still has that data on hand, they're such a small company still that I've noticed telltale signs over the years that would indicate the amount of manpower they can devote to localization support is usually incredibly small. (Indeed, the only reason the Trails games run as great as they do on PCs in English is because a lone programmer at Xseed did the reprogramming herself.) That's not to fault Falcom; they do well, but essentially have to always focus on new games for the Japanese market in order to stay afloat first and foremost. This means that there may be times where NISA is on its own when dealing with certain issues and while, speaking from experience, they're not impossible hurdles to overcome, that minimal support can impact the final translation quality that can be achieved, especially with a release date that's not that far around the corner by localization standards.

Hopefully all of that makes sense. I have my suspicions as to why this switch probably happened, as Xseed people have indicated they didn't give this game up voluntarily, which I'll just say bodes interestingly for this game and the business politics behind it.

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Yeah, Naraku is meant to be really tough by design so that when you get out of it, you'll have a really solid grasp of the combat mechanics that'll serve you well for the rest of the game. The difficulty curve evens out pretty quickly once you finish that area and the game, while still tough, will feel more consistently fair as you get deeper and deeper, at least along the main path. (Some side quests fights can still be pretty messed up and require fairly advanced mastery of the combat system's nuances.) Anyway, what the above posters have said are all really good to keep in mind, especially returning to town to heal up at your dormitory for free, but I'll add a few more things that'll hopefully help you along your way:

  • As you've probably noticed, one of the big differences between SMT4's and Persona 3/4's battle system is how it handles extra turns, namely that when you hit a weakness or land a critical hit in SMT4, it makes that move only cast half of a turn and then moves you over to your next party member, rather than letting the party member that just attacked strike again. This means you have to be somewhat more careful in terms of planning out your turns and considering ahead of who attacks when, how, and with what move. To that end...
  • This might not matter quite as much in the early stages of Naraku while you don't have a full party, but sometimes it's better to have a party member pass a turn, rather than spend it doing a particular action. Passing also only costs a half turn and can come in handy for setting up specific situations, like ensuring a party member gets to attack twice when you have fewer turns available. Consider the following scenario:

    Say you have a party with two characters, as you do now, the protagonist and your demon. This means you have two turns to make your move, or therefore potentially four half-turns depending on how you act. Your protagonist can't strike any weaknesses in the enemy lineup, but your demon can. In this scenario you have two options. You can choose to have your protagonist attack and use up one full turn. This will leave you with one full turn when your demon gets to attack. Your demon then strikes the weakness, spending only a half turn. This means you have one half turn left to act that your protagonist and only your protagonist can spend, as simply skipping will use up that remaining half turn and mean it's the enemy's turn to attack. This is an okay way to go, but isn't always the best approach depending on enemy lineups, so let's consider a more efficient use of your turns.

    Say you have the same two-member party and enemy lineup with the same weakness as before. Instead of starting off by making your protagonist fight, you can pass, spending only one half turn. Thus, when it's your demon's turn to fight, you have 1.5 turns' worth of actions remaining. You then have your demon attack the enemy weakness, which spends only another half turn. At this point, you know have two half-turn markers on screen, meaning that when it's time for your protagonist to attack again, both he and your demon can spend each remaining half-turn attacking. Knowing that, now that any action the protagonist takes will use up his half-turn anyway, you might as well have him attack to get some damage in. Then it shifts to your final half-turn with your demon, which you spend using another attack to strike the enemy weakness. This is good, efficient strategizing in SMT4 because it allows you to attack twice with your demon, therefore dealing double the amount of damage that you could achieve using the other strategy, plus a little extra from your protagonist's attack during that second wave of half-turns.

    Mastering the economics and unique aspects of SMT4's turn system in comparison to Persona's will take you very far, as it'll ideally mean you're minimizing the amount of times the enemy can attack back while you're dealing as much damage as possible. This basic strategy still extends to bigger party sizes, so the sooner you get comfortable planning ahead in consideration of how to achieve the most number of half-turns in each round, the better off you'll be.
  • If you don't already have her in your party, recruit Napaea, who I believe is a really common demon in that initial area of Naraku. She can heal you with Dia and also has Zan, a force element attack, meaning she can still attack and strike enemy weaknesses when she doesn't have to heal.
  • Running away is not guaranteed to be a safe option, especially this early in the game when your stat parameters aren't conducive to making it work, as enemies can still stop you and then attack you if you fail to escape. This means that sometimes early on, it can better to fight out and then spend MP/items healing later rather than wiping out and having to retrace your progress. HOWEVER, it's worth noting that there is a 100% success rate of automatically ending a fight unscathed by talking to an enemy demon that you've recruited in your party. (The identical demon doesn't have to be in your active battle formation for this to work.) Talk to these demons and they'll notice you've recruited their brethren, at which point they'll leave you alone and possibly give you a parting gift for your trouble. This is an especially usefully strategy for when you're trying to flee a dungeon and get caught up in a fight. With any luck, the enemy lineup will have someone familiar you can reason with and get out unscathed.
  • Unlike Persona 3 and 4 at their default difficulties, buff/debuff spells and status ailment spells can seriously impact your chances of survival in fights in most every SMT game, but especially in 4. Most importantly, buff/debuff spells work on boss characters, unlike other RPGs, something which the game expects you to take full advantage of in order to survive those encounters. As such, try to have demons readily on hand who can at least buff up as many different stats as possible. Early on in the game in Naraku, I personally think this means you should prioritize higher speed/evasion first (successfully dodging enemy attacks means that they lose extra turns), then higher defense, and then higher attack. Then, when it comes to debuffing bosses, ideally around the same time you're buffing your own party, I personally tend to prioritize lower defense and lower attack relatively equally and then lower speed if I can either spare the MP or if they're still hitting for so much damage that I need them to more consistently miss. There are, of course, valid reasons for having different types of buffs/debuffs prioritized, but I think those tiers will serve you well while you're still coming to grips with what makes an SMT game an SMT game versus Persona.

I think that's about all I can think of. If you really like the game's atmosphere that much, definitely stick with it, as it'll reward you in spades once you're done with Naraku. It's a tough uphill climb for sure early on, but SMT4, I believe, features the best iteration of modern SMT's combat system aside from its sequel, Apocalypse (which only then introduced minor tweaks that you'd only appreciate after playing a lot of 4), so if you can stay patient and really figure out what makes it tic, you'll hopefully find a really rewarding game awaiting you once you get past Naraku. I know it's one of my absolute favorites in the past five years for sure. Good luck!

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@pth6277: I don't think it's ever been ruled out, but seeing as Austin has moved on to run his own site since then, if another Project Beast ever happens again, it'll probably be with a slightly different lineup of people behind it. In the meantime, I think they're focused on a handful of other series that they're doing in the new year, like Alex making his way through the NES Mega Mans and Alex and Dan playing through the Yakuza series.

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@error52 said:

It's DotEmu, and they don't exactly do great work...

We'll see, though

Reiterating this. The team behind this isn't particularly known for doing a bang up job bringing other SNK games over to new platforms. Lots of weird frame rate drops on very old games and buggy, crash-inducing programming, from what I've gathered.

It's cool that the effort is being made, but I'm not holding my breath on this until reviews have their say on it one way or the other.

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#10  Edited By Pepsiman

I know this only got bumped because of the spambot and has otherwise been flagged as answered, but I work as a Japanese game translator, so I'll throw my two cents on a particularly thorny issue for Western learners: kanji acquisition. Whatever resource you use, whether it's Remembering the Kanji or something online or something else altogether (I was lucky enough to major in it in uni, so it was classes and workbooks for me), don't feel like you have to rush yourself to learn all of them upfront within a compressed time frame. One of the biggest mistakes I've often seen new learners make is that some think they can get kanji out of the way by just sitting down and cramming something like Remembering the Kanji for a few months. In my mind, this is a really quick way to feel burnt out and the risk of that knowledge not even sticking anyway long term is pretty high because at least in my experience, kanji mastery primarily comes from a lot of application, not just in terms of writing them over and over again, but seeing how they're used to form words in conjunction with other kanji and internalizing their fundamental meanings that way so that eventually when you do encounter new words, you can often figure out what they mean at a glance without even needing to consult a dictionary.

Most natives learn kanji over the entire course of their core schooling from grade school to high school and even they're often quick to admit that it could still be hard at times even at that pace. As a non-native that can just focus on studying Japanese rather than a bunch of other subjects like they would've had to, you can compress this timeline to a somewhat significant degree (I myself was literate enough to be able to live more or less fully independently within Japan in about 3.5~4 years, but again, that was my degree), but in the end, it's not a race nor should it be, so don't feel ashamed to take your time picking kanji up no matter what pace you go with. The thing a lot of self-studiers don't know is that much like their native language, non-native Japanese speakers all have their own strengths and weaknesses with the language, especially with the language. Many very fluent foreigners who settle down there are primarily great at speaking and listening, while others like me are stronger in reading and writing (hence why I'm in translation and not interpretation specifically, even if I have some interpretation experience). You should work on all of these areas if you can to have a balanced understanding of how the language works from all of these angles, but just know that you're not a bad learning or "doing it wrong" if some areas take more time to really get down pat than others, especially kanji. Besides, it's 2016 and frankly, as other people have pointed out, there are very helpful resources to help you get a jump start with reading kanji online and elsewhere that, in a lot of ways, you can largely get away with predominantly being literate at reading kanji if you just find you can't develop the raw muscle memory for being able to write them by hand consistently, especially if your main end goal is becoming fluent enough to consume Japanese media like games. Definitely still try to master kanji from both a reading and writing perspective if you can, but I've known cases of non-natives living with reading disabilities and whatnot that have done very well for themselves in terms of their career and engaging with natives, so don't think it's the end of the world if kanji proves to be especially ornery. It may well just be a sign that your strengths in the language lie elsewhere, as is the case even for many natives.

Above all else, though, as a self-studier, take it one day at a time and don't pressure yourself to learn more and at a faster pace than what you're comfortable doing. Learning Japanese can be hugely rewarding and it definitely changed my life for the better, but everybody takes to different parts of the language differently and at different speeds, especially if they're learning it from scratch by themselves. Don't shy away from the tough parts, but don't get too hung up on them that it sucks your motivation to tackle other parts of the language in the meantime; it's important to try and stay productive so that you have the morale to keep this up for the long haul. In my experience, often the hardest aspects of Japanese can come naturally to you over time just by being exposed to them by osmosis, continuing to see examples of them while you focus your attention on other things. Nothing about the language is impossible, even for Westerners not lucky enough to grow up with a kanji-heavy language like Chinese from the outset. It's a journey above all else and you'll figure out how to make the language your own more and more over time as long as you stick with it. Even I still learn little new things about the language constantly for my job and I'm paid to know it, so don't put too much pressure on yourself to be great at any one aspect too fast. If you're that dedicated to it, it'll come to you in time.

Good luck, duder! I wish you well in your language travels! :D!