So much happens behind the scenes while working on Legends of Localization projects, but I’d say 99% of it never gets shown or shared. I’m always poring through research materials, magazines, sites, and more, and new things are always happening. So I thought it’d be nice to set up a side “dev blog” where I and my fellow LoL members (yep, it’s not just me anymore: Heidi/Poe and Tony are also on the team) can make quick posts about what we’re up to or share some cool stuff we’ve stumbled across.
First, here’s a not-so-quick look at the current projects and general goals. It’s a lot of stuff 😯
I receive a lot of e-mail every day, usually questions about specific localization issues in certain games. It takes a long time to answer each one, so I’ve become notoriously bad at taking forever to respond to e-mail in general. I feel it’s important to answer every one, though. I’ve been chipping away at my e-mail backlog and finally have it down to just 60 e-mails, down from ten times that just a few months ago. So if you sent something since 2015 but haven’t gotten a response, hopefully one will be coming in the near future.
The newest Legends of Localization book should be out in a few weeks! It’s not a standard LoL book, though – it’s something much lighter and easier for general audiences to get into. More details soon, but on our end we gotta do a bunch of prep (product photos, product page, promo video, outreach, etc.) before it releases. We’re also thinking of doing a promo stream for it, but I don’t know what that would entail yet.
Funky Fantasy IV Academic Paper
Late last year, my Funky Fantasy IV game translation experiment made a bunch of headlines around the world. I got invited to write about it in a fancy academic journal that focuses on translation, so I’ve gotta break the rust off of my academic-style writing soon if I’m gonna make this year’s deadline.
Funky Fantasy IV Book
I’ve also been prepping a book about the Funky Fantasy IV experiment. It’s set to focus on the particularly interesting and entertaining translations in the game, with accompanying info + explanations on how said translations even happened. It’ll also touch on the technical side of things, the responses I received from surprising organizations, and general info on why machine translation and video games don’t mix as things stand now. I’m considering making it part of a “Horrors of Localization” series, or some similar name.
I still need to iron out some issues + finish some missing text, but I do hope to release the Funky Fantasy IV patch sometime too. I’ll probably do that as the book is finishing up.
Mother 3 History Project
Early this year I started to put together a blog article on the history of EarthBound fans’ hopes for Mother 3 since 1995 all the way to 2017. As I wrote it, the post got so big that I realized it’d need to have its own dedicated web page instead. Even that’s started to get so big that it makes more sense to put it into some other format. It approaches the topic from an unusual angle that isn’t about the game, but rather about the fans and one of the most wanted game localizations of all time. It’ll materialize in some form someday – maybe as a book, or maybe as something else.
“I’m Stuck In A Video Game”
A while back, Nina Matsumoto and the creator of Game Center CX/Retro Game Master put together a children’s book about a girl who gets trapped inside a video game. Recently, it was announced that Fangamer is releasing the book in English. The announcement was even on Game Center CX itself!
Anyway, the Legends of Localization team is involved in a small way! Plus it’s not every day that Japanese children’s books get localized into English, so I also interviewed everyone involved to document the process. It’s been a dream come true for me in several ways. More info on all of this later, of course!
Zelda Patch Pages
I’ve been slowly putting together some content for the “patch pages” of our Zelda 1 LoL book. Stuff keeps happening, though! The latest example is when we discovered that Nintendo quietly fixed some text for the Zelda 1 NES Classic Mini release. This stuff is lower priority, but I’d like to get some patch pages out sometime. Basically, they’ll be released as free, downloadable files that you can print out for yourself. We’ve considered also offering them as professionally-printed stickers too, but I’m not sure there’d be enough demand for it. But maybe that’ll change if there’s enough hooting and hollering.
Super Mario Bros. book
The next big, main LoL book is about the first Super Mario Bros. Just as the Zelda and EarthBound books looked at localization in different ways, this one will take a different look at localization too. After last year’s EarthBound book, we decided “no RPGs in 2017” and that it’d be beneficial to try our hand at smaller paperback books on separate topics. As such, we’re still in the early research, planning, and buying phase of the SMB book. We’ve been buying games and consoles from all over the world for the book, and as each new thing arrives I always learn something new or get a new idea to add to the book.
The main Legends of Localization site has had a very ugly design since I first created it in 2013. I have no art or design sense, so it was all meant as a placeholder for something much better.
Tony did some design work for a redesign a few months back. I’ve slowly started implementing it in HTML, but it’ll be a while until it’s ready to go live, especially with 212+ posts that will likely need to be hand-tweaked to display properly afterward. I also gotta reprogram some technical stuff to work with the new layout. The good news is that it’ll work much better on mobile devices than it does now. No real estimate on when this’ll all be ready, but it’s something else that’s in the works.
The EarthBound LoL book is selling out fast and already needs to get a reprint, so we’re completing the final steps for a new run. We’ve fixed a few typos and such for this new edition. We also got about 1500 more bonus bookplates lying around, so we’re gonna try to sign them all before the second edition arrives. More info on all of this later. As always, if you ask in the order form, we’ll gladly sign one of our books and/or draw weird things in them!
Localizing Japanese-Only Games
It’s long been my dream to translate classic Japanese-only video games and release them in an official capacity. It’s still too early to say much of anything, but the quick story is that it’s become a less impossible-sounding prospect in recent months. We’ve been putting a good amount of effort into this, so if anything develops I’ll share what I can. It’s very possible nothing will come of this, but I’m personally optimistic about it.
Amid all the books and projects and whatnot, standard site updates are always on my mind. I have a big list of topics I want to cover but I’ve learned I gotta be choosy or they’ll take up all my time. I also have an update for the next Final Fantasy IV page about 30% done. I don’t know when it’ll be ready but I at least expect it to be up by the end of the year at the latest.
A recent addition to the current LoL site is the gallery section. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years now, and it offers a way for fans to help out too. After the first two galleries, I’ve learned that they take MUCH more work than they seem at first!
We’ve been trying to brainstorm other LoL merchandise lately that ISN’T a book, but I also want to make sure that whatever we make, it’ll be helpful or useful in some way. We’ve come up with a few ideas but nothing that I’m 100% sold on yet.
Custom Emulator Sidebar Thing
Last year I showed off an experimental program that allowed me to display the Japanese scripts for Breath of Fire II and A Link to the Past while I played the English versions. With this program, I was able to compare the Japanese and English scripts live on stream while interacting with stream viewers. The program later made a bunch of headlines on gaming and translation sites.
More recently, I’ve started to develop a much more powerful program that does the same thing with more reliability and flexibility. It’s still in the early development phase but it’s got an insane amount of potential for Legends of Localization projects. It could also be used by other people for completely unrelated purposes. It’s a really cool system and I hope to be able to share it when it’s more complete. For now, I’ve been slowly developing it with different projects in mind. At the moment I’ve used it in different ways with Final Fantasy IV, Super Mario All-Stars, Super Mario World, Tecmo Secret of the Stars, and Super Mario RPG.
This will deserve an entire site section of its own sometime, but after our Super Mario RPG translation comparison stream series ends, I’ll probably use my custom program to make Final Fantasy VI T-Edition (an amazing Japanese hack that’s supposedly insane to try to hack into English) sort of playable in English. It’ll take a good amount of time but be worth it; since the hack doesn’t change much of the existing text, I can also use the same setup to do a live comparison stream of FFVI at the same time.
Speaking of streams, after Super Mario RPG ends in a week or two, I’m not sure what we’ll move on to next. It’s possible we’ll pause our stream schedule for a good while, but I’m not sure. But I DO know that I want to stream these someday:
- Super Metroid
- Final Fantasy VI T-Edition English translation + FFVI live translation comparison
- Chrono Trigger stream that compares the original Japanese script, the original English translation, and the DS English translation all at once
- Final Fantasy V stream that compares the Japanese script with the English fan translation, PS1 translation, GBA translation, and whatever else there might be
- Funky Fantasy VI
I held a poll a few months ago about what games to stream someday. Here are the results:
The problem is that streams often take 3+ hours out of my day, which eats a ton of time out of my day. I like them, though, and many of the head-turning LoL projects wouldn’t have existed without the streams. Plus they basically involve what I already normally do anyway for LoL stuff (take a zillion screenshots of games while analyzing stuff live). It’s a weird problem, so I’m still trying to figure out what’s best for everything.
Last year we were lucky enough to get giant boxes of old Japanese gaming magazines that aren’t well known outside of Japan. I’ve skimmed through many of them, and Poe has been busy cataloging their info. There are so many cool little articles, pics, and more but it’s been awkward trying to share them on the main LoL site, so hopefully this new dev blog will be filled with scans soon!
I also occasionally dump game data from the Wii U Virtual Console to see how classic games have been modified since their original releases decades ago. I don’t know if anyone out there is doing this or cares about tiny little differences, but the topic is pretty important to my books and articles, so I try to do it whenever it’s relevant. For example, I found these changes in Breath of Fire II:
Super Mario RPG also features some changes, but no text changes that I’m aware of. I noticed one enemy got fixed so that it isn’t invincible under certain conditions. If you’re interested, here’s a big text file that lists all of the changed bytes: smrpg-diffs.
A Helping Hand
By accident, Legends of Localization got a lot of attention for covering one of the earliest Nintendo Switch games that featured a particularly bad translation. Even after the developer updated the game’s text in response to gamers’ reactions, the translation somehow got worse! The game’s short enough that I’ve considered offering them a competent translation for free, but I have yet to reach out. I’m thinking I might just get screenshots of all the text I can, translate them properly, and then send it all to the CEO (who’s also the game’s designer, head programmer, and translator). Between everything else, though, this is pretty low priority.
Legends of Localization has been donating prizes for the Games Done Quick events for a little while now, and this upcoming one will have LoL representation too. Poe’s been coordinating a lot of it so I’m not sure what exactly is going on, but she’s been busy with it recently. Look for it!
All of this is happening while I also continue with my regular translation job, advise people looking to become translators themselves, do interviews, etc. It’s all pretty exhausting, so lately I’ve started to slow down on everything. I’ve started to play the latest Zelda game to relax… but even then I take screenshots of all the Japanese text for future LoL use 😆
Anyway, this is all to say that Legends of Localization has a lot going on at the moment. Check back regularly for smaller updates about stuff we’re doing or stuff we’ve found!
So much is going on with Legends of Localization that I wanted to give a quick status update on a bunch of it. Lots of book stuff, site stuff, and more!
The Legend of Zelda
Last November Fangamer and I released the first-ever Legends of Localization book, and it sold out quick! We had a second run printed earlier this year so there should be plenty for a while now. Fangamer has the book on a celebration sale until the end of June 2016, so if you get a copy this week you’ll save some money! There’s also been so much demand for the book to be sold on Amazon that we’ve been experimenting with Amazon’s marketplace. Amazon’s fees are pretty steep so it costs more than buying it from Fangamer, but it’s an option if you prefer Amazon.
- Buy on Fangamer.com! ($29 normally, $25 this week)
- Buy on Amazon.com ($36, feel free to spread the word with Amazon affiliate codes & earn some of the fees they charge us)
The response has been great, and it’s gone farther than I ever expected – bookstores around the world have been picking it up, it’s been mentioned in several magazines, and it’s even being used in the classroom 😯 The reviews have been a lot of fun to read too, here are a couple:
“I had no idea that I could be learning so much new information about a game that I thought I already knew everything about!”
“I can’t stress enough how vital it is for the video game industry to have people like Mandelin taking on projects like this.”
“It’s also great that he digs into the ‘why’ of things, instead of just stating ‘they translated it this way, the end.’”
“It’s such a niche topic that I’m so thankful it got released. I hesitate to give it a rating because there’s nothing else quite like this out there.”
“Excellent offering and even got trolled in a pretty epic way. Highly recommend.”
“The Legend of Zelda seemed to have no secrets and my impression was that whatever an overzealous translator could nitpick out of the differences would lack much substance. […] I not only stand corrected by this excellent book but also excited to see that if so much content and information few of us were aware of can come of this title, what about others (games and authors)?”
These past few months I’ve been hard at work on the next Legends of Localization book: EarthBound. It’s finally nearing completion and should hopefully be out sometime this autumn. I’ve rewritten everything from scratch, done all-new research, and made sure that every page has something new or interesting that I never knew about before. Even better, the team has been in touch with the game’s head localizer, the game’s creator, and the game’s head marketer. This book is going to be epic.
Oh yeah, we’re trying to get scratch-n-sniff things included too.
The book team and I have been prepping for some Zelda II stuff, but nothing’s set in stone yet. It’s one of the most-bashed Zelda games, but in terms of localization it’s even more fascinating than the first game in many ways. In my sparse spare time I’ve been trying to master the game semi-speedrun style… but the English and Japanese versions are different enough that I’ll probably need to master them both separately. If you can think of any interesting tips or topics I should cover or whatever else, let me know.
Thanks to the success of the books I’ve been able to focus on Legends of Localization a little more than last year. I’ve been trying to post articles a little more frequently when I can. I want to get a few Final Fantasy IV comparison updates out this year too. I’m also considering some changes to the site and the site’s design. Having guest-written articles is another idea I’ve been toying with but haven’t put too much thought into yet.
A lot of the work I do for the site and for the books requires me to play games for weird, specific reasons. I realized it might be interesting to stream these kinds of things, so I’ve been doing some test streams on Twitch, separate from my usual Poemato CX streams. I’ve been archiving them on YouTube too if you can’t make it live:
My hope is that I can do these more often and regularly as a way to level up my game knowledge, get screenshots, and get outside advice on topics. It’s also been a nice way to show off our latest progress and the latest goodies we’ve acquired for book and article research. It’s all still in the early stages but should be fun.
I’ve been trying to stay on top of my e-mails but have fallen far behind. If you’ve e-mailed me but haven’t heard back, I’ll still try to respond, even if it’s super-late. If you send a question for me to answer on the site, though, I usually move those to my little database for future updates.
I recently wrote a Legends of Localization article for issue #21 of Nintendo Force Magazine. You can check that out here. I’ve been considering writing small articles like this for other sites and magazines and such, so if you have any suggestions or recommendations let me know!
Thanks for reading this far!
A lot’s been happening this year – I recently made a deal with Fangamer to release a series of Legends of Localization books, and the first one is well underway. Sign up for a pre-order notification here!
First Book: The Legend of Zelda!
The first book is going to set the standard for all future books in the series, so we decided to go with The Legend of Zelda. The book will feature what you can read and see here, but with even more information, new content, info fixes, and lots of improvements everywhere.
I’ve been working hard on updating the content, and Tony, one of Fangamer’s designers, has been working hard on the book layout. I can’t show off any work-in-progress stuff yet, but it looks AMAZING. It’s visually entertaining AND classy at the same time. Tony’s design style matches my presentation style perfectly – it’s going to be great!
I shared more details and pics about the book during a recent Poemato CX stream, check it out below!
Currently, the book’s content and layout needs to be finished by around the end of August 2015. Fangamer hopes to release the book in November or December 2015, with preorders opening probably in October.
For preorder bonuses, we’re thinking we’ll have a fancy bookmark that matches the theme of each Legends of Localization book, but we’re open to suggestions. Some other ideas I’ve thought of include:
- Autographs for pre-order books only
- Small art books using art that I draw (my art is infamously bad)
- Maybe some sort of small Japanese-to-English dictionary for the specific game in question, so gamers can play through Japanese versions of these games themselves
If you have any other suggestions, let me know in the comments or on Twitter!
The Zelda book is going to help us figure out the book-making process. After it, we’ll be moving on to the big one: EarthBound! This is going to be a HUGE book, and it’ll have a lot of new, updated content too. We have lots of cool plans for this one – I’ll post more about it when it gets going.
A Zelda II book is also in the works – in fact, most of my work on it is already done. This was going to be combined with the Zelda 1 book originally, but it wound up being so big that we had to break them apart!
Those are the three books I’m slated to do for Fangamer so far. Beyond that, I’m really looking forward to a MOTHER 3 book. I feel like I better hurry before Nintendo finally decides to release an official translation sometime 😛
What This All Means
For the most part, Legends of Localization has just been a hobby of mine for years and years. Technically, I started doing all this back in 1999, so that’s how long this has been a part of my life. These books mark the first time I’m turning my hobby into a serious job, so I wanted to thank everyone who’s supported my work here. Whether you’ve shared the site with friends, posted comments on here, e-mailed me with info, or donated in the past, thank you!
I’d love to continue to make Legends of Localization more and more of a serious endeavor – if these books do well enough, I’ll be able to focus more and more on this site and future books. I’ll also be able to update more frequently if everything goes well! I sometimes daydream of Legends of Localization being my ONLY focus… I’m not crazy enough to make that leap yet, but let’s see how well these books do first 😛
But Patreon is a thing that exists these days, so that might be worth looking into instead. That’s a scary step to take, though. If you have any Patreon tips or suggestions, let me know! Maybe a high tier could get you each book for free as they’re released or something…
Other Questions and Topics
A common question I’ve gotten lately is: “Is Legends of Localization dead?”
The answer is no! 2015 has just been a crazy year. I had surgery a while back that I’m still recovering from, my professional translation work has been super-busy, there’ve been deaths in the family, I’m in the middle of buying a house, etc. Once things settle down – and if the books do well enough – I’ll be able to focus more time on updates here. I love this hobby of mine, so I want to get back to it!
I receive a LOT of e-mails about Legends of Localization every day, so I apologize if I haven’t replied to you. I do read all my e-mails and keep them organized, so even if I haven’t gotten back to you, you haven’t been ignored. My backlog of reader questions is huge, too! I feel so bad that I can’t keep up with them all… But I also feel glad that this little hobby means so much to other people.
Final Fantasy IV. I get asked this question more than any other: “When are you going to update with more Final Fantasy IV stuff?”
A few months ago I actually started to do some behind-the-scenes work to get updates rolling again. I’d like to get one or two updates out before the end of the year. It might be tough with everything else that’s going on, but I really miss FFIV.
I’d LOVE to do a book version of FFIV too, but I fear that it would literally wind up being thousands of pages. For reference, this page is currently 18 to 20 pages in our WIP Zelda book. I don’t want to do the math, but I think the current FFIV stuff would be several hundred pages, and it’s only halfway through the game!
Basically, I haven’t dropped FFIV. It means too much to me to ever drop it, don’t worry!
- Working on Zelda book, new content added, coming later this year, looks amazing, sign up for preorder notifications
- Site updates are slow but site isn’t dead
- Will be able to update more if books are successful
- Is Patreon worth doing?
- Final Fantasy IV updates still planned, but will be slow for a while
So there you go! Thanks again to everyone who’s ever supported Legends of Localization in any way!
Fangamer’s “You Are Now EarthBound” Kickstarter is ending soon, and I’m involved with one of the final stretch goals! Indeed, if it gets high enough within the next three or so days, I’ll be able to make a book version of my EarthBound localization analysis!
Believe it or not, I’ve been comparing games and translations since way back in 1999, when I first started a site that compared EarthBound with its Japanese counterpart:
I didn’t get too far – I soon studied the language a lot more, did a lot of projects, and even became a professional translator. Armed with all this, I eventually went back and did a full comparison of EarthBound and MOTHER 2 — and later turned that into the start of Legends of Localization.
After I finished it, I dreamed of making it into a book somehow. There was also a lot of content that I skimmed over that I’ve always wanted to go back and cover, plus I’ve actually had the honor of meeting EarthBound’s head localizer, discussing details with him, and even chatting about MOTHER 3!
So with all this, now would be a wonderful chance to put EarthBound Legends of Localization into a book form!
If this Kickstarter stretch goal is met and I’m able to work on a book, I’d be able to:
- Go back and look at stuff in more detail, especially in the first half of the game
- Cover questions and topics that have sprung up since I finished the site – I might even do a call for questions beforehand!
- Discuss topics that concern series continuity
- Include new insights and answers from EarthBound’s head localizer himself!
And more, of course! I’m still trying to figure out how I could include secret image text, but I think it might be a lost cause 😛
Anyway, if the Kickstarter stretch goal is met and the book does well enough, it could open up opportunities to do more books on a more regular basis! I’d love to be able to focus my efforts on plenty of other games and series – my MOTHER 3 translations noteswould be a perfect start, for example.
And I’ve already had the groundwork laid for a good EarthBound Zero/MOTHER 1 analysis too:
And there are the other projects I always have on my mind but not enough time for usually:
And if things go REALLY well, I’d love the opportunity to go and seek out the various people responsible for localizations and see what their experiences were!
Of course, this all rides on whether or not this stretch goal gets hit and if the EarthBound book does well enough. Even if you don’t back the Kickstarter, if the goal DOES get met you’ll still be able to order the book from Fangamer, but if you do back it I think there’s probably a tier or something where you can get a copy of the book automatically.
Depending on how things go, I might do a smaller, simpler book before the EarthBound one just to get the kinks and everything worked out. But that’s getting ahead of myself – for now, if any of this interests you, consider backing Fangamer’s “You Are Now EarthBound” Kickstarter!
I was just looking through the Legends of Localization article archive and realized that today marks one year since I started doing these single-topic articles!
The very first article, which seems like just yesterday, was about someone sending me a copy of Zelda II for the Famicom Disk System. Since then, there’ve been 145 articles, or about 1 article every 2.5 days 😯 I had no idea I’d written that many!
Anyway, that aside, here’s a quick site status update!
For a while there, I was able to keep the updates flowing at a good rate, and even managed to do the big Final Fantasy IV and AVGN updates once a month. But alas, the work of a freelance translator can get crazily unpredictable, so right now Legends of Localization is back in the hectic “update whenever a hole in time opens up” mode. More specifically:
- Final Fantasy IV: I posted an intermission thing here a while back. I’m not as burned out on FFIV anymore, so I look forward to getting back into this when I can!
- MOTHER 3: I get asked about this a lot – for now it’s on hold. I *have* started putting together the version 1.2 patch this past week, though. No expected release date yet. It’ll mostly fix a lot of bugs that existed in the original game.
- A Link Between Worlds: I announced this a few months back. I’ve fully played through both versions of the game, gathered all the screenshots and videos and stuff, and even have a good amount of work done on the layout and content, but freelance work overload last month put everything on hold.
- Blog posts: I get requests for one-topic article posts all the time – if you’ve sent any in, don’t worry if I don’t respond! I put every single request in a spreadsheet, so you haven’t been ignored. The spreadsheet’s getting pretty big, it’s amazing!
Now that I think about it, I did recently do some small updates that you might’ve missed:
- A quick look at an often-missed line in Final Fantasy II/IV
- A look at how to kill Pols Voice enemies in the Japanese 3DS version of The Legend of Zelda
Pretty much every day I wake up thinking how swell it’d be if I could monetize Legends of Localization somehow so I could focus more time on it. I fear that a Kickstarter wouldn’t succeed, and I don’t think Patreon would have enough backers. If anyone has any suggestions, though, let me know! There are a million things I’d like to dig into and write articles about sometime – just off the top of my head:
- Final Fantasy VI
- MOTHER / EarthBound Zero
- Other English->Japanese localizations
- The Wizard
- Gitaroo Man
- Symphony of the Night
- Ninja Gaiden
- Sonic stuff
- Phantasy Star
- Alex Kidd games
- Pretty much every game ever I guess, especially 80s/90s games 😛
- Maybe look at how some American shows got handled in translation
- Live translations (on Youtube or wherever) of Japanese-only games
Anyway, while that’s the dream, in reality I’ve been working on lots of really cool and rewarding professional translation projects too, the most recent of which I can mention is Attack on Titan!
It’s crazy to think back to when I first started learning the language so many years ago, and now millions of people are watching the result of those studies. It’s actually kind of stage fright-y!
Oh yeah, and Legends of Localization is apparently in the running for top professional language blog of 2014 at some language site… even though I write about poop jokes and horse wieners.
Oh, and there was a Polygon article the other day about fan translations, which includes some snippets about MOTHER 3 and some interview bits from Jeffman and me. Check it out here!
So that’s the latest so far! If you wanna keep up with more of my goings-on, follow me on Twitter, where I often post stuff that’s too small to write a whole article about here, like: