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

  • By most accounts, 2012 wasn't a particularly stellar year for Capcom when it came to its shooter releases and, as it turned out, Resident Evil was mostly the one at fault for it. Operation Raccoon City and Resident Evil 6, while not necessarily the worst games you would ever come across in your game-playing career, were not what most people would consider particularly exemplary relative to the genre, let alone the series itself, generally garnering a reception ranging from apathetic to outright loathing.

    In the periphery of all those troubles, however, was EX Troopers, a lowly anime-themed spinoff of Lost Planet that was more or less swiftly sent off to die at retail in Japan. That's a damn shame, because EX Troopers is one of the most exhilarating and dynamic shooters I've had the pleasure of playing regardless of national origin. Mixing Monster Hunter's emphasis on cooperative combat mechanics and animation priority with a large number of unique guns that are all well-balanced and suited for different situations, EX Troopers is a legitimately unique and thoroughly fun shooter that I honestly suspect would have sold better overseas with enough word of mouth. Given how you have infinite ammo for the guns you carry that reload at different rates, the game plays much more like a twitch-based action game that emphasizes the rhythm of your guns' rate of fire as your real weapon and it's a much more raucous and thrilling game for it. What's more, it's the rare shooter that also gives you plenty of single player content to mull over, including in the post-game, and almost all of it is just joyous to go through.

    In terms of localization, it's not without some unique challenges, many of which are a direct result of the game's manga aesthetic, with the biggest one being text embedded directly into dialog bubbles as art within prerendered cutscenes. But by and large, from the look of things, it's relatively straightforward-looking work for a game of its genre. The writing itself isn't usually all that great and if you were to import it now, you wouldn't be missing out on a whole lot since the game itself is otherwise mostly accessible without the language skills, but I'd still love tackling it simply because that's how much I love the game's core mechanics. It's a great reminder that Japanese developers are thoroughly capable of making fun, unique shooters when they're approached with the right mindset and that alone is enough to make me suspect that the game would find a receptive audience overseas if it was ever given the chance. That being said, there are a few notable omissions in menu options in a few places that, if possible, I'd love to also correct through a translation project, as it's always great to receive a translated product that's even better than the version available in the source language.

  • Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 3 is arguably the weakest entry in the short-lived Disaster Report series. The choice of gender for your protagonist makes certain character dynamics interesting, but from a gameplay perspective, it plays more like another stab at the first game rather than a refinement of the thoroughly revolutionary second game, which is a complete shame. Nevertheless, I still feel it's worth translating because it remains such a tonally unique game. Whereas many games are still designed to be fun power fantasies and exercises in wish fulfillment, ZZT3's objective of having you simply survive what could actually be a very real Japanese disaster situation is distinctly the opposite of that. You don't win so much as just get to live longer when you make it through the game's various challenges, making you feel vulnerable in ways few other games still attempt to this day. It's got its lighter moments from time to time, too, when the characters are allowed breathing room to not worry about their next meal or how they're not going to get killed by nature, making the game a very human one, in a sense.

    Despite being a relatively short game that you can beat in about 8 to 12 hours in your first run, ZZT3 is a relatively text-heavy game. Characters talk to each other a lot as you make your way through the increasingly deteriorating ruins and the game will regularly give you optional reading in the form of messages that serve as both in-game hints and legitimately educational lessons in how to survive various disaster situations. Still, my love of the series as a whole is enough to make me want to one day see this game translated, especially for overseas fans left hanging after the otherwise superb second game. When I talk in the introduction to this list about wanting to translate games that broaden people's understanding of Japanese design philosophy, this is one of those games that immediately comes to mind and I hope that should I ever take this game on that I'll have what it takes to give the English script it deserves.

  • Including Valkyria Chronicles 3 on this list is probably a bit of an iffy decision; there is, after all, a translation patch in the works for it, however slow progress may be on it. I still throw it up on here, though, because from what I've seen of their work, I'm legitimately worried that the final English script may not completely convey just how emotionally powerful the game is at times in the original Japanese. Unlike 2, which was a pretty horribly written game because of its overabundance of high school anime tropes despite otherwise playing well, 3 is a very confident return to form, both wringing out just about any remaining potential there is left in the series' current gameplay formula while delivering a very well-told war story. When I say that I worry about the current translation not being able to necessarily deliver what this game deserves, it's because the game makes really complex historical references for its allegory and it's all too easy to lose that impression in another language without completely rock-solid writing backing it up. In particular, the game is deeply referential of Zionism and the founding of Israel, themes that I feel it handles superbly, but must be handled with both caution and love and care at the same time. It's not a perfect game narratively as it occasionally gets too "anime-y" for its own good, but what works in the plot works really, really well and I just want to see English-only fans of the series get a script that completely lives up to what the original Japanese has to offer.

    Like many other games on this list, aside from the usual technical hurdles in translating VC3, the biggest issue is simply how much sheer text there is to work with. You name it, the game is pretty dense with it, be they mission text, charts, menus, character biographies, what have you. But if text bulk is the biggest of a localization project's problems, then all that's ultimately needed is time and editing work. There are also a few minor changes I'd like to see added to the gameplay code, such as how Kurt, for whatever reason, can't have allies join his improvised squad when his special power is turned on if they're already crouched, but implementing stuff like that is way farther down on the checklist compared to just making it run in a language other than Japanese. Like other games on this list, as the last main entry in its series and the only one to not get translated, ultimately I'd just love to give this game an English translation so fans outside of Japan could finally get the closure with the series they're looking for. You can already partly get that because of the excellent art book Udon translated, but fans shouldn't have to resort to material like that to get to know such a critical game in the series.

  • Conception is really easy game to dismiss on the face of things. The game's title seems to imply that it's a frivolous game with impregnating anime girls as its central mechanic. It's a dubious idea that's seemingly made worse when considering how overtly straight-faced the "lucky" girls play to their anime tropes and how their children are dubiously designed lolis. It would be understandable if, after only knowing this much about the game, you were to conclude that it's emblematic of the many, many problems that plague today's Japanese popular media and its games in particular.

    Leave it to the team behind the Dangan Ronpa series, then, to turn that all on its head. Not only is there no real pregnancy or sex to speak of, but the game is a hilarious and supremely well-written deconstruction and parody of all those things that have led much of Japanese media astray in recent decades. Everybody in the game is in on the lecherous joke and it's practically out to mock the type of otaku player who might unwittingly pick it up thinking it would be just yet another game to satisfy their hormonoal needs. It's impressive just how much the game's marketing and opening story beats play it with a straight face, as it practically dares you to guess how low it'll go with its pandering. But as soon the game starts calling you out on your implicit desire to use alcohol to make these girls hook up with you, it's all very hilariously uphill from there. It's a very self-aware and ironic sort of game and it's why I love its writing so much. The RPG gameplay itself can be a bit of a chore, but going through the main story beats and social linking segments make up for it by and large. As a translator, it'd be an honor and a really fun challenge to come up with an equally funny English script so that players overseas could finally join in on the fun. I totally understand why this game was likely passed up for localization, but that initial core conceit is turned on its so much in such a funny way that I can't help but want to spread the love however I can.

  • As viewers of my live translation stream for this game can attest, Mizzurna Falls is not, on the face of it, a particularly great game to play. Like a lot of Human's games, it's an intriguingly experimental game, one whose ambitions as a prototypical open world game at times practically dare the PS1 hardware to break on it, but control issues and the expectation of the player to be able to adhere to a strict time table of NPC schedules that requires either a guide or multiple playthroughs to master in order to advance the plot do much to suck away the entertainment value of the game, leaving it a largely tedious husk.

    And yet it still intrigues to me to no end because a lot of what Mizzurna Falls has at its core was revolutionary for its time, especially on console hardware. For all the faults the game has that make it all too easy to miss critical plot beats when you need to hit them, that combination of an open world environment to explore in tandem with a large cast of characters that actually have schedules and go about their days in different ways across the in-game week is astounding to see in motion. GTA3 gets credit for providing the very definition of open world polygonal games and Deadly Premonition has no shortage of similar features going for it, yet here's a game that managed to fundamentally achieve what both of those games set out to do years ahead of their time. For all the troubles it may have in how its systems are implemented, Mizzurna Falls is nothing short of a testament to the innovative spirit that ran through Human's games until the day it went bust.

    Mizzurna Falls is therefore a game I'd really enjoy translating because I feel it's a historical relic worth preserving and spreading into the greater game-playing consciousness outside of Japan. I'm not denying the rightful achievements of GTA3 and Deadly Premonition, but I think having the knowledge of Mizzurna Falls' existence would make for an interesting wrinkle in the discussion of open world games and their history. Given that it runs on a real time clock where events are very dependent on your presence in order to trigger them --the game goes on even if you're not present, but it means you'll miss out on critical plot threads needed to connect the dots of the underlying mystery-- getting it through the testing/quality assurance phase might be a bit of a nightmare, but I do genuinely feel that for as clunky as this game is, it's still otherwise worth playing just to get a broader understanding of just how wildly ambitious Japanese game design could get in those days despite hardware limitations.

  • My nearly single-handedly edited wiki page on here for this game is probably enough of a testament as it is, but PachiPara 13 is far, far more than the lowly pachinko simulator its title would very understandably lead you to believe. The reason for that lies in its RPG mode that exists separately from the pure pachinko simulator bundled with the game, which lets you play as your own customized character as they basically go about their day-to-day life in a Japanese city. There's pachinko to be played here and there, sure, but there are so many other things to do in the periphery that it's surprisingly easy to get lost in just wandering around and having your character go about their day as you see fit. What's more, it all takes place within an open-world framework; the plotline advances relatively linearly, but you're otherwise allowed to wander off and go do whatever in-between major story beats and it's a great game for it.

    The roleplaying is also deeper than a lot of games produced even today; dialog choices are almost always way more diverse than just the obvious binary "good" and "bad" ones, enabling you to define your character's personality on granular terms. You're also allowed to be whatever sexuality you wish and the game doesn't judge at all; it simply lets you be. Mix that in with a narrative that's actually an intriguingly poignant take on tolls of gambling on the human condition and you have a legitimately great game that successfully punches way, way above its perceived weight and still feels thoroughly fresh nearly a decade after its quiet Japanese release.

    Many of the PS2 games in this series could viably fill in this slot since they also have RPG modes of their own, with 14 arguably being an even superior game, but 13 is where I was first introduced to their idea of an open world RPG-cum-pachinko simulator, so it gets the spot on the list. As both a proper open-world game and an RPG, the translation and localization work that would be required to make this game palatable in English is not insubstantial; not only is there a lot of content that can be easily missed and requires multiple play-throughs, but the actual pachinko portion would likely require special attention in order to ensure its rules and gameplay mechanics were made thoroughly apparent to non-Japanese players who are understandably not likely to be familiar with it beyond having a passing curiosity at most. But given the chance to do it, I would happily make a translation happen, if only, again, the dialog overseas about what Japanese games are and what they can be is that much deeper and nuanced. The fact that even something as throwaway as a pachinko simulator could bear treasure taught me a lot about what could make for good, compelling gameplay and I'd love to impart that feeling upon other people sometime.

  • This is specifically with respect to the PSP remake, since that's the only one that I've played, but if the original is just as excellent in its own right, I'd be happy to work on that, too. Regardless, it's a real shame that this first installment never got a translation of any sort, as its design is so refreshingly subversive of Japanese RPG standards in so many ways that it's still an excellent game to play all of these years later. In particular, the fact that grinding is more or less mitigated by virtue of how the genealogy system works (ie: stat bonus per level up are dictated by strength of parents rather than preset values, with each level up always otherwise occurring at the same points across generations, meaning newer characters always get stronger faster than their parents), enables you to focus a lot more on party teamwork and dungeon crawling over waves and waves of combat, which, mind you, is also superb in its own right. Basically I've heard for years how this game has been a huge influence on Japanese RPGs in the wake of its release, including those that have been officially localized over the years, and having since played a good chunk of it myself, I can't help but wholeheartedly agree and I want nothing more than to put this game out in English so foreign players can get better insight into one of the genre's most iconic entries during the PlayStation years.

    While the game is pretty light on story, it is nonetheless dense with text with respect to menus, with options a plenty thrown at you from the get-go. Although there are tutorials included to help newcomers get up to speed, special care has to be taken to ensure English players don't get overwhelmed, especially with respect to the combat and family planning systems. Nonetheless, what narrative that is present in the game does have personality, so that also has to be handled carefully to ensure that original tonal appeal is retained. The game is likely riddled with the same sort of technical problems that riddle many RPGs, but in my mind, they're all thoroughly well worth surmounting for the sake of getting such an excellent game in the hands of non-Japanese players once and for all. I imagine the sequel will do a find job of introducing English players to what the series is about since that's confirmed to be coming out overseas already, but still, it's about the principle of it all!