The following is a guest article written by members of XSEED’s localization staff. It offers a quick inside look at the professional localization of a comedy-filled Japanese game – check it out!
Heroland – known as WORKxWORK in Japan – is a quirky RPG adventure brought to you by some of the legendary imaginations behind MOTHER 3, Shin Megami Tensei, Legend of Mana, and Fantasy Life.
Today we, the localization team at XSEED, are parting the curtains to take you behind the screens with this sneak peek into the game’s story, characters, and the localization process that ties it all together! Now then…
Ready to depart for adventure? Here’s a handy-dandy commercial to introduce you to the game:
Okay, Cool, But Who Are YOU?
Good question! We are:
Lori Snyder – Hi there! I’m the localization translator for Heroland! This was my first professional project, but as a longtime fan of the MOTHER series (and RPGs in general) I couldn’t have asked for a cooler game to be my first! I hope you’ll love to learn about Heroland as much as we loved working on it! I am also responsible for the above scribble…please forgive me; drawing is fun.
Derk Bramer – Heya, I’m Heroland’s localization editor. This ain’t my first time at the loc rodeo – I’ve previously worked on series like Yakuza, Valkyria Chronicles, and Etrian Odyssey – but a game like Heroland is every pungeon master’s dream, so I’m delighted to take you backstage where the magic happens!
…of XSEED Games! You might know XSEED from their localization of the STORY OF SEASONS and Rune Factory series, as well as Corpse Party, Senran Kagura, and a whole bunch more!
How We Loc
We thought it’d be useful to first give some brief introductions on our respective styles of how XSEED localizers translate and edit games before we dive into the nitty-gritty.
Lori – I always aim to make my translations sound like they were in English to begin with. A lot of my mentors have been pretty creative localizers, so I always strive to do the same while keeping the core of the conveyed idea into English. If there is a joke in Japanese that doesn’t translate well, I’ll put a relevant equivalent in English. If there’s a phrase that’s going to sound like weird gibberish when it’s directly translated, I’ll try to word it as naturally as possible…and so on.
Derk – My editing philosophy is simple: localization shines brightest when it’s hidden in the shadows. It’s about smoothing over the seams in translation without adding linguistic wrinkles. But if you’ve previously seen my criminally smooth edits highlighted on Legends of Localization, my affection for alliteration and punmanship should come as no surprise.
II. THE NAME GAME
What’s (Not) in a Name?
So how’d WORKxWORK get renamed to Heroland? Before Lori’s role in production started, she was still living in Japan, so she was able to grab the game and play it ahead of time. This kind of running start, however, is super rare. Typically, translators and editors won’t get much (if any) hands-on time with a game before their work begins, as projects are often still in development during the localization process.
Experiencing the story first-hand was a fantastic springboard into Heroland’s translation. The first thing Lori noticed was that there’s a ton of wordplay in Japanese. Seriously. Even the game’s TITLE was a pun!
From the get-go, our team wanted a title that would clearly convey the game’s story and content to Western audiences. While WORKxWORK is already English, there’s more to its meaning than meets the eye. Pronunciation questions aside (Work by Work? Work Squared? Is the “x” silent?), Lori would’ve had to leave a long footnote explaining what these two “works” meant…what kind of footnote, you ask? Well, here’s an abridged version:
In both cases, the katakana for “work” is emphasized. The two protagonists each have their own ‘work’ to do, but they stem from different meanings. Lucky’s ‘work’ is pretty straightforward: it’s his job as a tour guide. For Prince Elric, who’s fallen from first in line to 18th, his ‘work’ is a mission: to reclaim the title of heir apparent…which he thinks he can do at a theme park.
The title is also a pun on ワクワク (wakuwaku), the word for “excitement.” This was used in much of the game’s Japanese marketing material, as well as on the original box art with the catchphrase “忘れられないワクワクを (wasurerarenai wakuwaku o),” roughly translating to “unforgettable excitement.”
We had to settle on a title that encompassed all this excitement and fun contained on an island resort…so why not name it after the theme park itself? This way, it’s not just the main characters in the spotlight. Everyone in the cast makes this game the quirky adventure that it is!
The Curious Incident of the Dog-Boy in the Nighttime
Heroland’s silent protagonist is called Lucky, though in WORKxWORK his nickname was originally Pochio! He’s Heroland’s newest tour guide, and his job is to give his heroic guests a helping hand during their dungeon tours.
At the beginning of the game, our boy Lucky has a real name that you get to pick for him! But we had to call him something other than Main Character, so “Lucky” is his de facto moniker.
How’d Lori come up with his English name? Well, Pochio is a play on two concepts:
- Pochi is a common dog name in Japan, roughly equivalent to Spot or Rover.
- Based on other characters’ naming schemes, it might also be a play on ポチる (pochiru), a click-like onomatopoeia meaning “to buy online.”
So after poring through a bunch of lists of popular dog names and reading game wiki articles (as people do on Friday evenings), Lori thought, “Wait, doesn’t Duster from MOTHER 3 have a nickname and an afro just as cool as this li’l guy’s?”
That DCMC band member’s name was Lucky, which checked off all the right boxes:
- Lucky is a common pet name in the West, and it sets up puns like “you lucky dog.”
- It’s a nod to Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” in keeping with the internet reference.
- It pays homage to a relevant series that’s near and dear to Lori’s heart! Nice!
…And so our hapless tour guide would henceforth be nicknamed “Lucky.” But fear not! If you prefer his original moniker, try leaving the naming screen blank and see what comes up after pressing “OK”!
While Pochio’s/Lucky’s nickname is multilayered, the playable characters (and some non-player characters, or NPCs) had a pretty straightforward naming scheme: programming languages! Programming is universal, so a majority of these names were kept in our version. Some were straightforward, like Lua the exposition fairy.
Other names went through some minor adjustments, but whenever Lori swapped one name out, it was with another programming language, preferably one that sounded more…namey.
For instance, one of your coworkers is a guy in a bear mascot suit. His name was Xaml…but that wasn’t very name-like. (If your name is Xaml and you’re reading this, you have my permission to call me a jerk; I’m so sorry.) Lori instead dubbed him Alfie, based on ALF, or Algebraic Logic Function.
As another example, Elric’s royal minister was called Awk in Japanese. Lori switched this awk-ward name to Oak, another programming language… So now when we show off the demo at conventions, people lovingly refer to him as “The Professor.”
There are some names that won’t be as straightforward as these, but still make various references to programming languages. See if you can find them all when you play!
The B-otter-fly Effect
But naming the cast of Heroland wasn’t all clamshells and tummy pats. If you’ve ever played an RPG chockablock with generic NPCs, you can probably guess how WORKxWORK named its six interchangeable mustelids: Otter A, Otter B, Otter C, Otter D, Otter E, and – you guessed it – Otter F. It stuck out to Derk as a gamey distraction long overdue for a glow-up.
Derk found himself wondering, “What’s Otter B’s story, anyway? Just who is Otter E under that fur?” He decided that NPCs are people too, and by golly he’d name them as such! So he gave them new alphabetized appellations: Otter Abe, Otter Bob, Otter Cam, Otter Dan, Otter Edd, and Otter Fry. He delivered the text and patted himself on the back…
…Cut to the QA phase, when our intrepid tester Mao pointed out that Derk’s glow-up was more of a blow-up. These six NPCs had to fill the roles of soldiers in one scene, then of schoolgirls in the next, so giving them fixed (male!) names called more attention to the gaminess of a trope Derk had hubristically tried to avert.
Thankfully, fellow XSEED localization editor Robb heroically helped Derk devise a naming scheme that subverted the “Otter A-F” trope by leaning even harder into it. Now, Heroland’s nondescript mustelid NPCs are titled Otter Alt, Otter Backup, Otter Copy, Otter Double, Otter Extra, and Otter Fill-in. Collaboration, ho!
III. FOR A GORGEOUS GLOSSARY
Building a Brand with Words
Now that you know the story behind how we named Heroland and its colorful cast of characters, we’ll let you in on how we hashed out the dialogue and system text that brings them to life.
XSEED is based in Southern California, so when it came time to pencil in a glossary’s worth of game terminology, Derk’s lifelong love affair with the Mascot Who Shall Not Be Named (please don’t sue us) naturally bled into the line-by-line lingo of Heroland itself.
First, Derk replaced Lori’s accurate yet somewhat-literal translation of Japanese (loan)words like sutaffu (“staff”) and okyaku-sama (“customer”) with English buzzwords like “cast member” and “guest” to solidify Heroland’s corporate identity.
Of course, in-game verbiage often varies based on context – a manager admonishing a temp will stick closer to the script than two coworkers chatting by the water cooler – but our aim was to emulate the sort of jargon you might overhear at any real-world resort.
Of course, WORKxWORK already had a rich vein of wordcraft to tap into. In lieu of experience points, our titular heroes level up by accumulating a cryptocurrency called モンコイン ("MonCoin"), which was punny enough to include as-is. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
As we delved deeper into the text, we found ways to take this joke and run with it by turning straightforward descriptors such as モンスターずかん (monsutāzukan, "Monster Encyclopedia") and the バトルモンスター班 (batorumonsutāhan, "Battle Monster Team") into the MonDex and the MonStar Team, respectively.
But every theme park needs, well, a theme. Ours is based off the adventures of four legendary heroes and their quest to defeat the Dark Lord. After all, Heroland’s in-game lore draws from video games and tabletop RPGs, so we tried to reflect that tongue-in-cheek meta-humor as consistently in English as possible, even down to the menu headers.
Choices for Voices
Human-ish characters like Lua and Otterman proved to be particularly fertile fields for some prime-time punnery. Derk occasionally fleshed out each speaker’s unique voice by replacing common idioms with punny expressions and quirky turns of phrase.
IV. I UNDERSTOOD THAT REFERENCE
Along with its wordplay and naming schemes, WORKxWORK is rife with pop-culture references, and Heroland was localized with this in mind. JRPG references, anime quotes, manga memes…you name it, we have it. This is where Derk and Lori had to get creative, because while some references could easily hop on through the localization radar, others could not.
More than you might think! One easy-to-demonstrate example comes in the form of a sidequest. If you’re familiar with early Dragon Quest games, you’ll probably recognize this famous quote.
There were quite a few straightforward references like these, where a localized equivalent is already well-known in the West. We kept as many as we could find…and that character limits would allow.
Given the whimsical precedent set by the Japanese writers, we naturally took that ball and ran with it by sprinkling in our own winks and nods to these RPG classics.
There were other instances where the text in translation naturally lent itself to a fun reference. Our team at XSEED refrains from rewriting content unless there’s a good reason, but if you’re gonna make pop culture and RPG homages, Heroland is the game to do it!
Let’s take another example from Chip, one of Lucky’s guests. When Chip is put in an unfavorable situation in battle, he says this:
The Japanese text reads as oshiri pen-pen, which is normally used as a taunt while you slap your butt. Real stuff. It’s a phrase that can be used in lots of contexts, but Lori knew in her heart what to do with this line: she could be accurate to the Japanese text AND add a little extra flavor!
Judging Comics by Their Covers
Dialogue and character names are one thing, but system text is a slug of a different color. Take the stat-boosting comics you can buy from Ruby’s Item Shop. In Japanese, their titles are kept subtly vague, but their in-game descriptions include subtle yet explicit nods to specific series.
Some of our titled references will be easily recognizable to the average anime aficionado. Others are deep cuts from the developers’ childhoods, are less well-known stateside, or have not been officially released in English.
In both cases, giving these comics parodic titles helped us bridge a cultural gap for our audience without having to choose between:
- Keeping a reference too obscure to understand, or…
- Removing the significance behind its inclusion.
Option C was one of those magical localization moments in which we managed to meet the game’s audience and source culture halfway. As you unlock more comics, our hope is that even if you don’t recognize all the references straightaway, you’ll have enough context clues to look them up and discover your new favorite manga series!
Sooo… What Else Changed?
If there was something that Lori felt absolutely wasn’t going to have the same comedic value in Japanese, she would often change it to something more fun or relatable to Western players. Let’s take this description of the Green Tea Slug DX Plushie, for example:
Drinking tea out of a bucket? It struck Lori as odd that they’d word it that way, but it reminded her of those Ayataka Green Tea commercials from a few years ago where they always started with “for example…” and then the narrator lady would proceed to tell you when a great time to drink their tea was while relaxing music played in the background.
Whether this was the writer’s intention or not, she couldn’t say for sure, but with so many Japanese pop culture references, it was fair game. She wanted to adjust it to something that was:
- Still relevant to green tea and the suggested consumption thereof.
- Equally eye-catching, with similar shock value to…drinking tea from a bucket.
Lori left Derk a note with the literal translation, and we agreed on this:
Rewriting the Rogues Gallery
Since the MonDex’s flavor text is fun rather than functional, we had a little more artistic leeway with monster descriptions. We kept most of the original spoofs and goofs intact, but sometimes, restrictive character limits or lack of a cultural equivalent called for a little creative reflavoring.
Oh No! How Much ELSE Did You Change?!
Not to worry! We tended to go for this approach when we absolutely knew that a line would confuse western players, or when a vague reference was at play – quest names were a serious culprit of this. As a wise tomato once wrote, “sometimes you have to localize things in games, or else the games become unplayable for the new target audience.”
If we had the flexibility to explain a concept and leave the text as-is, however, we absolutely did…so by the end of your playthrough, you too will learn what a chikuwa sausage is!
Putting Everything Together with Pumpkins
Now that you’ve got a good idea of how we do things, let’s put this all together! The following scene is a random event that occurs in-game, where a jack-0-lantern themed monster gets…pumpkinterrogated.
As you’ll see below, the main idea of the scene’s text and its intention largely remains intact, but Derk adds a brand new dimension of character to these minor NPCs that brings the same level of humor that the Japanese text did.
|JP Text||Speaker||Literal Text||Translated Text (Lori)||Edited Text (Derk)|
|みつけたぞ、パンプキンヘッド！||Bad Otter Cop||We’ve found you, Pumpkin Head!||We’ve got you now, Pumpkin Head! You’re under arrest!||Stop right there, criminal squash! You’re under arrest!|
|パンプキンヘッド！||Good Otter Cop||Pumpkin Head!||Pumpkin Head!||Keep yer vines where we can see ’em.|
|Pumpkin Head||Hm?! Who are you guys?!||Wh-What?! What’re you guys doing?!||Wh-Who are you guys?!|
|俺たちはカボチャ警察だ！||Bad Otter Cop||We’re the Pumpkin Police!||We’re the Pumpkin Police!||We’re the Pumpkin Police!|
|カボチャ警察だ！||Good Otter Cop||Pumpkin Police!||That’s us!||Aye, that we are.|
|カボチャ警察！？||Pumpkin Head||The Pumpkin Police?!||The Pumpkin Police?!||There’s a Pumpkin Police Department…?|
|Bad Otter Cop||Yeah! In this world, it’s the year 1394, in the Mediterranean Sea!||Say it, don’t spray it, bud! This is the year 1394, in the Mediterranean Sea!||That’s gourd-damn right. And this here’s the year 1394, in the Mediterranean Sea!|
|すなわち、アメリカ大陸産のカボチャはここには存在しない！||Good Otter Cop||In other words, American-raised pumpkins don’t exist here!||In other words, you’re under arrest for anachronistic activity! American-raised pumpkins SHOULDN’T EXIST HERE!||In other words, boyo, yer under arrest fer anachronistic activity. New World pumpkins don’t belong in the Old World.|
|すなわち、おまえはいてはならないのだ！||Bad Otter Cop||In other words, you shouldn’t be here!||You’re not allowed to be here, bud!||You’re a century early to the Halloween party, jackass-o’-lantern.|
|Pumpkin Head||“Shouldn’t be here…” you’re talking about pumpkins, right?! Do monsters count, too?||I’m not?! But…you’re talking about the gourds! I’m a monster, remember?! Would you still arrest me for that?!||But I’m not actually a herbaceous vine, I’m just a monster who LOOKS like one. That’s not a crime, is it?|
|モンスターでもだ！||Good Otter Cop||Monsters, too!||You bet your pumpkin patoot we would!||You bet yer pumpkiny patoot it is!|
|たまたまカボチャに似てるだけかも知れんのに！？||Pumpkin Head||Even though I just happen to resemble a pumpkin?!||Wait, what?! Even if I just happen to resemble a pumpkin?!||Y-You’ve got the wrong gourd! How do you know I’m not some OTHER kind of winter squash?|
|名前までカボチャじゃないか！||Bad Otter Cop||You’ve even got “pumpkin” in your name, don’t you?!||Well, you’ve even got “pumpkin” in your name!||For starters, you’ve got “Pumpkin” in your name.|
|じゃないか！||Good Otter Cop||Don’t you?!||He sure does, partner!||It’s right there in the nameplate, boyo.|
|JP Text||Speaker||Literal Text||Translated Text (Lori)||Edited Text (Derk)|
|Bad Otter Cop||Pumpkins are a product of the Americas, meaning they weren’t introduced to Europe until AFTER Columbus!||Pumpkins are a product of the Americas, meaning they weren’t introduced to Europe until AFTER Columbus!||Pumpkins are a product of the Americas, meaning they weren’t introduced to Europe till AFTER Columbus sailed the ocean blue!|
|すなわち、１４９２年より前のヨーロッパにカボチャがあるはずがないのだ！||Good Otter Cop||In other words, there’s NO WAY you can be here in Europe before 1492!||In other words, there’s NO WAY you can be here in Europe before 1492! How about THEM pumpkins?||In other words, there’s NO WAY you can be here in Europe before 1492! How about THEM pumpkins?|
|て言うか、それ知ってる時点で矛盾してるだろう？||Pumpkin Head||Okay, but if you know this stuff, isn’t it a contradiction?||Okay, but, like, isn’t it an anachronism if you guys know all this stuff?||Okay. But, like, isn’t it an anachronism if you guys know all this stuff?|
|この際、多少の矛盾は仕方がない！||Bad Otter Cop||At a time like this, slight contradictions can’t be helped!||It’s just our job! The occasional anachronism is unavoidable!||Save it for the judge!|
|仕方がない！||Good Otter Cop||Can’t be helped!||Them’s the rules!||Aye, them’s the rules.|
|いや、だったら俺も見逃せよ！||Pumpkin Head||If that’s the case, then let me go!||But if YOU can do that, why can’t I?! Let me off the hook, please!||But if YOU can do that, why can’t I? Please, lemme go just this once!|
|残念だが、そうはいかん！||Bad Otter Cop||Unfortunately, we’re not gonna do that.||We can’t let you do that, bud.||Not a chance! It’s the pumpkin patch for you– and by “patch,” I mean “prison.”|
|いかんのだ！||Good Otter Cop||Not gonna do that!||Not a chance!||Sorry, boyo, but if we let you off the vine, then the Potato Heads would want a free pass, and we’d have a REAL time crisis on our paws.|
We can do this the easy way, or the hard way.
Your choice, Pumpkin Head.
|Pumpkin Head||O-Okay, I get it. So…now what do I do?||Okay, fine…I admit it. I’m an anachronism. But what am I supposed to do now?||Okay, fine…I admit it. I’m anachronistic.|
But what am I supposed to do about that?
|言いたかっただけだから、もう満足。||Bad Otter Cop||We just wanted you to say it. We’re satisfied now.||Nothing. We just wanted to hear you admit it.||Nothing. We just wanted to hear you admit it.|
|もう満足。||Good Otter Cop||We’re satisfied.||We’re satisfied with your confession.||We’re satisfied with yer confession, boyo. Now run along, and stay outta the 1300s.|
|なんじゃそりゃ……。||Pumpkin Head||What the heck…||What the heck…||Great Pumpkin, talk about a trick-and-treat… I need a Me Spice Latte.|
Even after the project was translated, edited, proofread, and QA’d, our Work x Work wasn’t over yet… Everyone in the office got to vote on a title for Heroland’s limited edition! We were asked to throw out a few names that were relevant to the game and would look good on a big fancy box. Some of the suggested names were:
- Legendary Hero Edition – a name to represent the four heroes of legend who defeated the Dark Lord decades prior to the game’s main events. Will you meet them all? You’ll have to journey to Heroland with Lucky to find out!
- The Knowble Edition – “Knowble” is the name of the kingdom Elric’s father rules, and its political intrigue makes up a large part of the game’s story. Fun fact: the nation’s name in Japanese was ユイショアル王国 (yuishoaru ōkoku), literally translated to “prestigious/noble kingdom,” though it’s spelled in katakana rather than its kanji equivalent. We settled on Knowble to keep the “same pronunciation, different spelling” train running.
- Gold Mecha Slug Edition – Slugs are to Heroland as slimes are to Dragon Quest: cute, tiny mascots that come in various colors and sizes. The Gold Mecha Slug is one of these, and one of the most rare and powerful members of slug-kind that you’ll meet.
Once the vote ended, we decided on the Knowble Edition for the physical release. It’s got some extra goodies packed into it like a guide map, papercraft sumo battlers, and the adventure pouch we mentioned earlier. Enjoy your little piece of Heroland if you end up snagging one!
Thank you so much for reading our article! We hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek into Heroland’s localization. If you’re looking to go on a fantastical journey with Lucky and Elric, you won’t have to wait long: Heroland’s gates open in North America on December 3rd, 2019! Find out more at discoverheroland.com!
If you have any other questions about our process, or about Heroland in general, we’d be happy to reply! Just leave a comment and we’ll do our best to answer as many as we can!
We’ll leave you with an image of our mascot with attitude: Li’l Slug! He’s excited to meet you all, and wants you to know that you’re squeaktacular! He’s just…so emotional and happy to be here! See for yourself:
Hey, thanks for the advertising. Screw you XSEED, I’m not buying your stuff. And, honestly, I expected better of you Tomato. Going to stop following this site if it’s going to pivot to marketing.
Something tells me it’s more XSEED that this one has a problem with that any “pivot to marketing”. Bet if it was company they liked they wouldn’t even care enough to comment.
Indeed, this previous guest article worked basically the same, ending with links to buy the game in question, yet no complaints in the comments there.
For the record, I received no money, compensation, game codes, or anything else, nor do I ever expect to from guest articles. These two localization staffers who worked on the game offered to write a detailed, inside-look article about different aspects of the game’s localization process, which is exactly the sort of stuff I love to document and share here. The problem is, I can rarely ever share inside looks of my own professional projects due to contracts and NDAs, so guests articles like this offer a rare opportunity to provide something that I can’t.
I can understand Disappointed Fan’s reaction of “wtf is this, are you selling out???” but I think the amount of insight and effort put into the write-up is worth some self-promotion. Plus I think any reasonable person would allow a guest author to include at least a link or a “follow me on Twitter” sort of thing.
More to the point, there’s an awful lot on this site where Mato’s saying “Hmm, this is what it is in Japanese, and this is what it turned into, I’m not entirely certain about why this was done, but I think these are the reasons.” It’s not often we get to hear directly from localizers about their choices.
Hey I just wanted to weigh in on this. This article was a labor of love, not a greedy corporate grab. I know one of the localization team personally, and getting this article on Mato’s site is a dream come true for her. She and I have been fans of his localization articles since they first started appearing on his Starmen.net homepage, and are honestly a big part of the reason we both became interested in learning Japanese. Ten years ago we were playing MOTHER3 in my mom’s basement, and now she’s turned that passion into a career. This is her first game and we’re really excited for her. She worked through our family’s Thanksgiving weekend to help get this thing ready, because she was eager to share her first experience in the world of game localization that she worked for years to get into.
Please be respectful of the fact that it is people; individuals with feelings; who worked on this piece, not a corporation. I’ll be buying two copies of the game to make up for you not buying one, because I love Lori and want to support her career with all my heart. She’s a really good kid and it would break my heart to see her get bullied over this.
To be fair, several examples in this article suggest that Lori Snyder delivered a solid-ish base translation, which Derk Bramer then messed up beyond repair.
Irrespective of that, please consider that defending Lori Snyder because you feel bad for her is maybe supporting her as a friend or family, but downright devaluating her as a professional translator. To take this job serious means to adhere to professional standards and accept criticism.
To some degree, this reaction is indicative of and characteristic for the very community-minded localization scene of Japanese games; an amorphous blob of undifferentiated private and professional relationships, discourse-driven localization policies, and subtle peer pressure, with a telling lack of healthy self-criticism and outside perspective. It is easy to pick up bad habits there, as put on display in this article.
We’ve always seen how Tomato does it, so getting a peak behind the scenes at a well-known localization team’s thought process was actually really cool. Always fun to shake things up every now and then.
You are a jerk.
As a programmer, I have to say the language references in Japanese are actually well known, but the ones the localizers picked… aren’t. “ALF” is a research project nobody uses. Oak is an old codename for Java.
As a programmer, I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of those languages so I probably would’ve never picked up on the pattern. Languages like ‘Pascal’, ‘Ruby’, and ‘Perl’ would’ve been move recognizable (but maybe they’re used by other NPCs, who knows).
In my opinion, I find “the joke doesn’t translate”, “it’s a reference most people wouldn’t get”, “a literal translation doesn’t have the right tone”, and “it doesn’t carry over the same impression the original gives off” are all perfectly acceptable reasons to change something. However, I don’t really support “I thought the original was boring.”
I get that, y’know, obviously you don’t want to make something deliberately boring, but I think it’s easy to go overboard with trying too hard to make every single line pop. I think it’s really due to the granularity with which you’re forced to look at every individual line when translating.
Huh, I think the name change was kind of an odd decision. The original was like.. memorably weird, while Heroland sounds incredibly generic. I never would have guessed “jrpg hero amusement park” from that, just “it’s another game with jrpg heroes I guess”. Which is a shame because a hero amusement park is an amazing idea for a game and I’m excited to play this!!
Maybe you could have based the amusement park name on something else instead of Disneyland? Or if you wanted to try a similar pun to the Japanese, maybe something involving “grind” instead of “work”? Like “grinding for exp” + “the daily grind of the office”, yknow?
All the other changes seem fabulous though, I loved the change to a more videogame-related old school tea meme. Definately would be more likely for English audiences to get that one!
I don’t really get the title WORKxWORK though, even with the explanation, so I feel like it would probably go over people’s heads. Like, I understand “work” being a major concept, but why is it crossed with itself? For emphasis? Overall, I understand changing the title for a western audience. However, I totally agree with your complaint of Heroland being really generic as well as not immediately evocative of Disneyland despite the intent. I think you’re grind idea is a good one, but I can’t think of a good title…
Reading this was very sobering. I wish localization translators and editors would spend more time on self-reflection and critical evaluation than self-adulation and navelgazing. The lack of humility in the localization community is disturbing.
I really appreciate the good intentions of the localisers and this is at least a better job than some disasters like Fire Emblem but I still feel this article overall takes a threateningly liberal “eh whatever let’s just shove in some puns lol” attitude towards things
What is it with Americans and puns, anyway? Why must everything be a pun or reference? You’ll say “well the original had them too” but you added more!
Dunno. I’d be less mad about it if this didn’t end up affecting most other countries too. Everything gets changed to fit a very West Coast America mindset and sense of humour, and then someone in Lithuania has to deal with a game going SIT YOUR ASS DOWN AND DRINK YOUR TEA and go “what’s this about”. Like another comment pointed, the WORK x WORK to HEROLAND translation just robbed it of interest, since [x]land is such a generic descriptor it didn’t actually manage to grab the Disneyland reference you wanted. All the troubles around the Otter names, all I can think is “or you could just leave them be Otter A, etc etc”. “The mission names are too boring” maybe that was the joke, how they’re repetitive names? And now instead it’s a Record of Lodoss War reference. I feel overall people lose the perspective that characters are memorable often when they’re dropping some wackiness amidst normalcy, which is utterly lost when every single character’s going HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM APPLES??
I don’t know, man. Would you treat a book like this? “Oh it’s not punched up enough, bring in the dumb puns and Americanist cheesy expressions that no-one actually says outside of localisations anymore!”
I kind of think your point about treating a book like this is a little flawed. Obviously, not every book is suitable for this kind of localization, and the same goes for any kind of media. If it was a book in the same vein as this game, then it may very well be appropriate to bring in the dumb puns and cheesy expressions. You’re right that nobody talks like this, but it’s a silly jokey cartoon game where you wouldn’t expect the characters to talk like real people in the first place. And I can see what you mean that nobody will stand out if everyone is wacky, but that would only be true if everyone is the same kind of wacky (which, I haven’t played, so I wouldn’t know). They still have other personality and character design traits to make them stand out.
And the point about the Otters… It’s definitely true that they could have left it Otters A-F. I think it’s definitely in the spirit of things to change it up a little bit, and I appreciate it being there rather than just… A-F. I don’t think it was actually that big of a deal (sorry if you didn’t think that either), but giving the Otters their own section did kind of single it out as being something that was sort of important. But of course, that’s just how I feel.
The comparison with books reminds me of how the Bell & Hockridge translations of the Asterix books had a rule that the translation would have the same number of jokes as the original.
I think it’s a bit much to expect any English translation to anticipate Lithuanians’ reactions, but I (a Brit) do understand some of the OP’s frustration with ‘localisations’ sold to the entire Anglosphere.
Oh..wait.. the name is supposed to reference Disneyland??? I didn’t pick that up at all. I don’t think I ever would have. Just thought it was kind of a dull name. I’m American and I didn’t pick up most of the references in this article. I think they’re probably getting a LOT of criticism from this post here so I feel it’s redundant for me to write much else, but… yeah, I mean I think there’s a problem if the “target audience” (I assume? that’s me?) isn’t picking up on why you chose to make the changes you did.
I started reading this with an open mind but kept feeling disappointed.
My impression was that the name was meant to be a generic amusement park name (which often end with “-land”) rather than Disneyland specifically, but I could be wrong.
i have to agree that, while i enjoy localizations that take the step to improve over the original japanese text, this is a bit too “over-localized” to the point that it can have the opposite of the intended effect and make you realize that you’re playing an english writer’s take on a japanese game.
just as an example, i think the name changes were good examples of localizing things to have the same effect as the japanese version (such as naming the main character “lucky”), and the manga titles also feel more distinct with names based on what they’re referencing rather than generic ones. i also liked the more unique otter names and i don’t think that’s a bridge too far like some of the above commenters.
replacing references in the original with equivalent ones like the tea commercial, or inserting earthbound references where applicable, are also fine examples in my eyes since they allow for expounding upon the original text for a more natural reading that still makes sense to an average player.
on the other hand, having too many references can detract from the experience and lead to the impression that you’re not confident enough in your own writing to come up with your own material. as someone unfamiliar with my brother my brother and me, for instance, i was lost with the changed l’il slug description, and i prefer the original translation that talks about their lives and circumstances (giving them more character and a bit more charm).
likewise with the pumpkin head dialogue, i prefer lori’s original translation to derk’s “punched up” version since it’s more clear about the joke and has consistent timing and rhythm. in particular, the original text has a clear punchline of the pumpkin police being totally ineffectual (letting the pumpkinhead go after a simple apology, leading to a defeated “what the heck…?” in response), which the localization buries underneath a bunch of extra jokes and bloating out the last line with extra pumpkin puns. and the chikuwa thing just made me groan, honestly.
in general i think if what you’re going for is “to make it sound like it was written in english to begin with”, then you shouldn’t have to add an extra joke or reference every other line since people don’t really write like that to begin with. it makes it obvious you’re reading something overly-localized, like a fan translation. to me, games like rhythm heaven and yo-kai watch are good examples of tongue-in-cheek localizations that also aren’t overly referential; i believe it’s fine to diverge from the original text if it helps things flow better and doesn’t take you out of the experience. but punching things up just because you can isn’t really the right path to take, and just leads to really awkward writing, i think.
“in general i think if what you’re going for is “to make it sound like it was written in english to begin with”, then you shouldn’t have to add an extra joke or reference every other line since people don’t really write like that to begin with. it makes it obvious you’re reading something overly-localized, like a fan translation.”
Very much this. The screenshots in this article only read as natural English if made by an indie dev who’s already way into this culture in the first place, likely Earthbound fans, and overall very specific and niche, not like a regular game written in English. It absolutely screams “this was localised”, in the same way that recent Puyo Puyo localisations do when they have a character screaming and replace the text with the literal text “*blood-curling screaming*” as if we were typing in a 2007 invisiboards forum.
I completely agree. I think that Derk did WAY too much over-localization because it felt like nearly every line he wrote had to have a joke or pun in it and it’s just not very effective because there’s TOO MUCH of it. Nothing will stand out as funny if it’s ALL joke!
I see what they were going for with almost all of this, but there is kind of an audience mismatch since the people reading this site probably get the references the localizers have decided we’re not gonna get. I mean, I barely know Shima Kousaku but the gacha (IAPs) joke was funnier and more relevant than the vague one about a vending machine it’s turned into.
Reading some of these lines out loud also reveals where they’ve been edited – some of the new terms like “star cast member” are longer than they should be for the rhythm of the line, so it feels search-and-replacey.
Hero Land is a good name though. I think it turns it into a game people would buy for their kids, which might be what they’re going for anyway!
Thanks for this inside look! I think my personal favorite localization is the Otters A-F’s names. Those slug creature are cute, I wish I could sew so I could make one into a plush :3
Looser translations are usually the ones I prefer. But if the translated line is 14 times the length of the original, then perhaps that might be edging into _too_ loose, just a bit? I think some lines being “boring” is okay, too. If all the land is a mountain it all ends up at the same height, or something.
I’m sure that by the nature of this article they picked out the lines they changed the most, though. Perhaps they do allow people the occasional breather in between all the jokes.
Yes! Yes! Yes! This was such a fun read and a fun look inside such a fantastic localization. I love it when translators and editors work hard on improving on a game through the text to match the target audience. Translating puns, jokes, and references is so hard but it looks like the team did a great job here. It clearly was a labor of love. Thank you for sharing!!!
P.S I hadn’t heard about this game before but now I really want to pick it up.
I realise that I’m in the minority here, but I really, really enjoy this type of localization, and an in-depth article about it is just my cup of tea. You guys are great.
I genuinely admire the creativity it takes to bring a comedy-driven game with lots of punny, pop culture-based jokes over to English-speaking audiences. It definitely isn’t something anyone can do! And honestly, articles like these are right up my alley. It’s really interesting to get an insider point of view on game translations, to get a feel for the mindset they have and the process they go through to bring these games over for us.
…That said, I also feel the article shines a spotlight on all the flaws of the localization mentality. Some of these lines are seriously overwritten. They feel like the editor put too much of himself into the script instead of considering what a “true” English-language version of WORKxWORK might be. I have no problem with changing names and jokes to make sure English-speakers understand if there’s a pun there, or replacing a Japanese pop culture reference with one that English-speakers who aren’t massive weeaboos can appreciate, but large-scale changes to character, world-building, and even plot, the kind you’d see in the worst 4Kids dubs, are textbook bad localization. I’m of the firm belief that Japanese localization should tweak the script just enough to make it feel natural in English (as the two languages are very different) while keeping the author’s original intent intact, no more, no less. In other words, it should feel as much like the script was originally written in English as it possibly can. In that respect I’m a lot like Lori.
I’ll use Splatoon as an example, as always. Japanese Marina, or Iida, is Pearl/Hime’s kouhai, and treats her sempai in a generally deferential and respectful way, but is still known to crack wise at Pearl’s expense to keep her ego in check. Early English Marina, who takes constant potshots at Pearl that often seem more mean-spirited than would really be appropriate for such a kind character, is bad localization. Later English Marina, who is clearly good friends (or maybe…?) with Pearl and treats her in a very affectionate way, but–again–is still known to crack wise at Pearl’s expense to keep her ego in check, is good localization.
Just going off what’s here in the article, I feel like Hero Land is closer to bad localization than good. I get that it’s a comedy game, that it’s all in the spirit of the original script’s tongue-in-cheek nature, and that does redeem it somewhat in my eyes. But stuff like the Otter Cop dialogue is painful to read. It really feels like Derk was prioritizing maximum joke density per line over the original author’s intent. I love bad puns (see, again, Splatoon), and “you’re gourd-damn right” got a chuckle out of me… but then it just kept going. And going. There’s a limit to how many puns you can put in a script before they start blending together. If everything is a joke, nothing is.
That’s my two MonCoins. Again, I have nothing but respect for game translators–to be honest, it’s a business I’d like to get into myself–but I feel like there’s not enough checks and balances at play here. Creativity shines the brightest when it’s being challenged, when it has other people giving input and setting standards. Compare Ren and Stimpy to Cans Without Labels, or Banjo-Kazooie to the original Yooka-Laylee. An unrestrained imagination isn’t always a good thing.
I can understand some of these localization decisions, but the otter dialogue is painful to read. I do not think it was a good decision to highlight Derk’s editing like that in that table. It depicts Derk’s work in a really negative light, anyone can now tell that the final script barely resembles the original. This really feels done in bad faith against Derk.
I enjoyed reading this but I have to say, I… didn’t get most of the references. Literally most of them. I can’t really tell how I would feel playing and reading this game’s translation without having read this first. It’s weird knowing there’s supposed to be a reference or joke of some kind, but not being able to see it.
I know the localizers were working in good faith, but this is a goddamn travesty, and there’s no better word for it. Absolutely disgusting mangling of the original language. I got exhausted just reading the screenshots and excerpts, so I can barely fathom how jam packed with crappy puns and memes the full game must be. Sometimes an otter is just an otter. Return to sender.