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The second part of our in-depth discussion with XSEED's team leader Ken Berry and localization producer Thomas Lipschultz is now here.
Learn more about the challenges and delights of bringing beloved JRPG series into the western market, as well as why Tom loves Zwei: The Arges Adventure so darn much!

Make sure to catch up on Part 1 here.

Last week we released Zwei: The Arges Adventure, and it feels like you had a great time working on it. Can you tell us more about your work on the game and how you approach localizing its brand of humor?

Tom: I’ve been talking about this quite a bit over on our Tumblr (/shamelessplug), but that’s mostly because I can’t shut up about this game! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it’s the most fun I’ve ever had translating anything, owed entirely to the wonderful Japanese writing from Falcom. You can tell the devs just let loose here, casting away all their inhibitions and just writing whatever the hell they wanted, and the end result is a beautiful cacophony of bad puns, blunt proclamations, pure snark, and fourth-wall-breaking.
It’s funny, too, because Arges Adventure’s story is actually pretty minimalistic, when you get right down to it. There’s really not a lot that happens over its course, as far as earth-shaking events go. Instead, it focuses pretty squarely on its cast of characters, bringing every NPC to life and giving each one of them his/her own tale to tell. In a way, it’s very similar to the treatment the NPCs get in the Trails games, but because of the “podunk floating island with one main village” setting, there are far fewer NPCs, meaning each one gets to have a lot more screen time to tug at your heartstrings, make you laugh, or anything in between, really. As for how I approached localizing all of this, I just kind of… dove in head-first. Which may have been a slight mistake, in retrospect, as it turns out this is a game that had numerous prior iterations with totally different stories and very different character personalities, seemingly all of which still have some rather significant remnants left over in the game’s text files. And… well, I started translating the game before I realized this, and without playing it at the same time (having played it only once before around 12 or 13 years ago). So for the first little while, I was... really, really confused!
Once I realized what was happening, though, I started doing the “play, translate, and edit at the same time” thing, which isn’t always possible but IS always a good idea. And that’s when things really started to come together. Pokkle’s puns and Pipiro’s snark all had a certain comedic timing to it that I couldn’t really hear in my head when I was just combing through Excel files, but which came through loud and clear when I was actually playing. This allowed me to edit the text in such a way as to ensure the humor really worked in English (“worked” being a relative term, but hey, bad humor is still humor!).
I also was able to get a little creative with it, adding some puns to Pokkle’s repertoire to ensure he lived up to his groanworthy reputation in English, while also adding some snippy remarks to Pipiro’s repertoire for the same reason. Being a punster myself, I understood Pokkle’s struggle, and localized him in a very “honest” fashion, remaining true to my own life experiences… whereas with Pipiro, I channeled a couple of my coworkers, ensuring she was as charmingly blunt as humanly possible.
As a result, Pokkle’s got some bad jokes that I imagine people are going to screencap and groan about for a long time, but Pipiro’s just… got some of the best lines in the entire game, without question. Pipiro is basically everyone’s spirit animal, saying what we’re all thinking – but crucially, even when she’s saying horribly mean things, she’s never mean-SPIRITED about it.
Anyway, this is getting kind of long now, so I’ll let our localization blogs on Tumblr do their thing and answer some of these questions in a little more depth. Hopefully, though, I’ve convinced those of you who’ve bothered to read this wall of text that Zwei: The Arges Adventure is a game worth playing, because… seriously… this game is a hoot. If it doesn’t make you laugh with some degree of regularity, then I’ve failed at my job… and I really don’t feel like I’ve failed at my job!

Ys VIII is the first game in the series that you did not publish – and which prompted an official apology for the localization (which is getting completely redone for the PC release). What's your take on what happened there, and what can developers do to avoid those mistakes in the future?

Ken: Based on the very active release schedule that publisher had at the time, one can only guess that the localization team wasn’t given the time and resources needed as they were forced to meet a hard deadline for most likely financial reasons (since September is the end of a fiscal quarter for most companies). That was likely compounded by them shipping a total of four titles within four weeks of each other, one of which was the absolute localization beast Danganronpa V3, which would have required tons of their resources and have taken priority as it’s been one of their top-selling franchises for years.
The localization team over there is capable of putting out good work if given the proper support, as I’m sure they will prove once the new localization patch is released. This is true of most teams and projects, but sometimes harsh financial realities don’t afford people that luxury, so I’m not really sure there’s an easy answer on how to fix it when time and/or budgetary constraints get in the way of passionate people trying to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

Finally, have you thought about expanding into other languages (i.e. Chinese, French, Russian, German, Polish)? After all, jRPGs have a dedicated audience all over the world.

Ken: We would like to localize into as many languages as possible in addition to English, especially for our PC releases which are worldwide, but the large amount of text in JRPGs can make that quite challenging.

It’s definitely something we’re looking into, but we can’t make any promises just yet.
Post edited January 31, 2018 by maladr0Id
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kohlrak: It's possible, but is there demand?

It could also be seen as pandering. And imagine the backlash from the Japanese audience: "They got something i didn't!"

It's not like they don't already say the same things about games that don't get localized to Japan, just as we do when we don't get a game we want. Honestly, though, i'd like to see more games without region locks. 日本語も話せるので、日本語でもできますよな。
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Fenixblade33: The idea of japanese fans being peeved they didn't get the benefits of a localized version of a game amuses me a bit too much
I don't think the japanese fans follow the western releases that much for there to be a backlash but that's just hilarious to imagine
>A japanese fan tries to learn english to play the best version of their game
Yep, that's a thing, unfortunately. And like the white people who use games to learn Japanese, it doesn't turn out well.

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kohlrak: It could also be seen as pandering. And imagine the backlash from the Japanese audience: "They got something i didn't!"

It's not like they don't already say the same things about games that don't get localized to Japan, just as we do when we don't get a game we want. Honestly, though, i'd like to see more games without region locks. 日本語も話せるので、日本語でもできますよな。
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wyrdwad: Er, most games these days don't have region locks! I believe every current console and handheld is region-free, and PC games certainly are.
3ds is hardcore region locked, which has been a huge issue for alot of people, including me. I heard there's a movement to get away from that, but it's kind of hard to take chances, anymore.
Also, not to worry about adding content: the Japanese developers will usually rerelease the game themselves later on with all of our suggested content included -- and even one-up us by adding another thing or two for good measure, on occasion. ;)

-Tom
Good point. Monster Hunter, Bravely Default, etc.
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kohlrak: 3ds is hardcore region locked, which has been a huge issue for alot of people, including me. I heard there's a movement to get away from that, but it's kind of hard to take chances, anymore.
Well, yes, but technically, the 3DS isn't a current system anymore. The current Nintendo "handheld" is the Switch, which is -- AFAIK -- not region-locked.

-Tom
But personally, I feel, if Japan has a game that we want, but outright says "We're never localizing this!"

Then could they at the very least, release it as official freeware over here? And let the gaming public translate it ourselves?

They won't be making any money from North American gamers either way, so might as well.
Post edited January 31, 2018 by Dartpaw86
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kohlrak: 3ds is hardcore region locked, which has been a huge issue for alot of people, including me. I heard there's a movement to get away from that, but it's kind of hard to take chances, anymore.
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wyrdwad: Well, yes, but technically, the 3DS isn't a current system anymore. The current Nintendo "handheld" is the Switch, which is -- AFAIK -- not region-locked.

-Tom
Not sure how i feel about the switch being called a handheld, but the switch is a very special device. It's been a long time coming, though, as I knew the WiiU would fail since it was too busy competing with the 3ds. Not good to compete with yourself.
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Dartpaw86: But personally, I feel, if Japan has a game that we want, but outright says "We're never localizing this!"

Then could they at the very least, release it as official freeware over here? And let the gaming public translate it ourselves?

They won't be making any money from North American gamers either way, so might as well.
This would kill asian sales: just use your mandatory english education to play the games.
Post edited January 31, 2018 by kohlrak
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wyrdwad: Well, yes, but technically, the 3DS isn't a current system anymore. The current Nintendo "handheld" is the Switch, which is -- AFAIK -- not region-locked.

-Tom
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kohlrak: Not sure how i feel about the switch being called a handheld, but the switch is a very special device. It's been a long time coming, though, as I knew the WiiU would fail since it was too busy competing with the 3ds. Not good to compete with yourself.
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Dartpaw86: But personally, I feel, if Japan has a game that we want, but outright says "We're never localizing this!"

Then could they at the very least, release it as official freeware over here? And let the gaming public translate it ourselves?

They won't be making any money from North American gamers either way, so might as well.
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kohlrak: This would kill asian sales: just use your mandatory english education to play the games.
Use my English knowledge to play games that are in full Japanese "makes sense"

Well, it makes sense for Japanese gamers who have mandatory English...Not so much here...
Post edited January 31, 2018 by Dartpaw86
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kohlrak: Not sure how i feel about the switch being called a handheld, but the switch is a very special device. It's been a long time coming, though, as I knew the WiiU would fail since it was too busy competing with the 3ds. Not good to compete with yourself.

This would kill asian sales: just use your mandatory english education to play the games.
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Dartpaw86: Use my English knowledge to play games that are in full Japanese "makes sense"
Oh, so you'd let the japanese versions go public for free? Even worse for sales.
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Dartpaw86: Use my English knowledge to play games that are in full Japanese "makes sense"
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kohlrak: Oh, so you'd let the japanese versions go public for free? Even worse for sales.
I'm sayinng if Japan refuses to sell it to North American gamers.

That means they won't make any money off of North American gamers.

If they aren't making money off of NA gamers, and never plan to... then what difference does it make, if they just give the games to North American gamers for free?
Post edited January 31, 2018 by Dartpaw86
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kohlrak: Oh, so you'd let the japanese versions go public for free? Even worse for sales.
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Dartpaw86: I'm sayinng if Japan refuses to sell it to North American gamers.

That means they won't make any money off of North American gamers.

If they aren't making money off of NA gamers, and never plan to... then what difference does it make, if they just give them the games to North American gamers for free?
Because the free games will end back up in japan.
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Dartpaw86: I'm sayinng if Japan refuses to sell it to North American gamers.

That means they won't make any money off of North American gamers.

If they aren't making money off of NA gamers, and never plan to... then what difference does it make, if they just give them the games to North American gamers for free?
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kohlrak: Because the free games will end back up in japan.
Good point. :)
Just stopped by to say thanks XSEED on the great job on The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. I have almost finished the first game and can't wait to play the 2nd and 3rd one.
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Dartpaw86: I'm sayinng if Japan refuses to sell it to North American gamers.

That means they won't make any money off of North American gamers.

If they aren't making money off of NA gamers, and never plan to... then what difference does it make, if they just give the games to North American gamers for free?
Oriental companies are starting to sell dual-language games in Asian countries, having both English and the primary language. By doing this, it allows middlemen like J-List to offer the games to Western customers without running afoul of resistant marketplaces or hostile reporters.
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Dartpaw86: I'm sayinng if Japan refuses to sell it to North American gamers.

That means they won't make any money off of North American gamers.

If they aren't making money off of NA gamers, and never plan to... then what difference does it make, if they just give the games to North American gamers for free?
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Sabin_Stargem: Oriental companies are starting to sell dual-language games in Asian countries, having both English and the primary language. By doing this, it allows middlemen like J-List to offer the games to Western customers without running afoul of resistant marketplaces or hostile reporters.
Yeah, but then we never hear of the games. How good is the english out of them?
I'd like to see how XSEED would answer this question:

XSEED once stated in an interview that it is sometime impossible to get the rights to the Japanese VA in a game, hence why the Ys games have had only dubs from your side of publishing. OK, then does Falcom somehow favor NISA by allowing them to use the Japanese VA in Ys VIII ? Could it be that Falcom were just asking for asking for too much money which you weren't willing to invest?
Post edited January 31, 2018 by the_importer
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the_importer: I'd like to see how XSEED would answer this question:

XSEED once stated in an interview that it is sometime impossible to get the rights to the Japanese VA in a game, hence why the Ys games have had only dubs from your side of publishing. OK, then does Falcom somehow favor NISA by allowing them to use the Japanese VA in Ys VIII ? Could it be that Falcom were just asking for asking for too much money which you weren't willing to invest?
If Falcom changed their minds, would they use XSEED or a different company? I imagine lost momentum in negotiations (suddenly swinging the other way) and/or the need to save face being major reasons.
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the_importer: I'd like to see how XSEED would answer this question:

XSEED once stated in an interview that it is sometime impossible to get the rights to the Japanese VA in a game, hence why the Ys games have had only dubs from your side of publishing. OK, then does Falcom somehow favor NISA by allowing them to use the Japanese VA in Ys VIII ? Could it be that Falcom were just asking for asking for too much money which you weren't willing to invest?
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kohlrak: If Falcom changed their minds, would they use XSEED or a different company? I imagine lost momentum in negotiations (suddenly swinging the other way) and/or the need to save face being major reasons.
So Falcom would still refuse XSEED to use JPN VA in Ys Seven for PC, but then turns around and allows NISA to do it in Ys VIII ? Both games were released in 2017 BTW.