Legends of Localization

You know how whenever the news media talks about video games, science, the internet, or anything like that and they somehow get everything completely wrong or completely miss the point? I get that same exact feeling whenever the gaming media – and sometimes gamers – talk about translation and localization. Most of the time it’s usually a lot of weird crazy talk. At best, discussions about game translation usually only focus on things non-translators can pick up – things like punctuation, grammar, names, graphical changes, and just everything else that only encompasses the final “editing” part of the process.

So I thought it’d be neat to use my professional experience to actually take deeper looks into the translations and localizations of some games. Together, we’ll look at a number of games and see how the localization process worked for each one. We’ll see how things were changed for the better or the worse, as well as the reasons behind those changes. We’ll dig into the text of popular games and see what meanings and nuances got changed. And we’ll discover plenty of interesting tidbits most people never knew about.

I also see this project as a way to revisit old games I played as a kid, this time with a completely new view. Who knows, maybe it’ll be a nice, nostalgic ride for you too!

Game Comparisons

I’ve only just recently started this project so there isn’t a lot here, but I hope to take a look at more and more games over time. For now, check these ones out!

Also, this one wasn’t done by me at all, but it’s too good not to mention here:

Game Suggestions

If you know of a game that has a good, bad, interesting, or noteworthy localization – or you just want to get a closer look at one of your favorite games – let me know in the comments below!

Doing this localization analyzation stuff is really time-consuming (it took me years to finish my EarthBound one!) so for now I’m probably going to focus more on simpler games, probably from the NES era to the early Super NES era, but I’m definitely willing to take a look at later games too.

Off the top of my head, a bunch of games I think would be interesting are:

  • Gitaroo Man
  • Symphony of the Night
  • Some of the early Zelda games
  • EarthBound Zero
  • Some of the early Final Fantasies
  • Dragon Quest
  • Super Mario RPG
  • The Working Design Lunar games
  • Secret of Mana
  • Pokemon
  • LandStalker
  • Legend of Dragoon (just because the translation’s so hilarious and crappy)
  • Soul Blazer series
  • Breath of Fire 2 (again for the famously bad translation)
  • Final Fantasy Tactics

In some cases, especially with later games, getting hold of the Japanese versions of games might be overly tough or expensive, so I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to do some games – for example, to get a complete copy of Japanese Contra (mainly to see the box and manual) I’d have to shell out $200 😯

I also have a hankerin’ to look at some of the old fan translations I did that actually turned out pretty crappy, and then explain why. And I think it’d be really interesting to see how some Western games were localized in Japan too, so maybe we’ll give that a shot too sometime.

Anyway, if you’d like any of the above games or if you have other suggestions, let me know!