The Yakuza games are very large. For example, Yakuza 0 combines not only fights and plot, but also cabaret management, a blind dating simulator, emulators of old classic arcade games Sega, light-hearted RPG moments where we solve problems of a stranger, real estate management, and Yakuza is a surprisingly good place to learn the basics of board games such as shogi and mahjong.
From a developer's perspective, the scale of such a project seems daunting. From a player's perspective, it can be overwhelming. For example, when I finished playing games that took me 52 hours to complete, my progress was only 30%.
However, all these design elements are competently combined into one coherent story that captivates with its style. Despite all its focus on cold-blooded criminals and petty evil, Yakuza 0 is a surprisingly fun game; this gives players the freedom to move quickly from incredibly serious, dark scenes [a criminal being tortured in a warehouse] to fun [like teaching a shy punk band to act like tough, rude guys in public]. However, in order for Western players to understand all this perfectly, the game needs to be adapted.
An interview with Altus' Scott Streechart, who is responsible for the western localization of Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza 6, was released on Gamasutra, where he talked about the intricacies of translating games and their humor for Western players.
The Yakuza series has an inimitable sense of humor, how did you translate it?
- The humor in the game is a fine line on which we walk. We just want to make sure that if the developers intended to make a phrase funny, that should also be funny for our audience. Does this mean that you need to slightly change the dialog or its presentation style?
One great example: [in Yakuza 0] Majima is trying to get a girl out of a religious sect. In this quest, one of the options is to say a pun in order to force the girl to get rid of sectarian thinking. In Japanese, this pun sounds like "futon ga futon yes." This is a play on words, literally, the closest alternative is the joke "why did the chicken cross the road?".
If we literally translated this, then no one would understand anything, but if we simply left the phrase "why did the chicken cross the road?" this would not be a pun and did not fit Majima's character.
Therefore, we have come up with our own pun: “Want to avoid dangerous cults? Just join safe sects! ".
How many lines of text did you translate during Yakuza 0 localization?
In Yakuza 0 - 1.8 million JPC [Japanese characters], on average in JRPG there are from 1 million to 1.2. Thus, our workload was above average.
One way or another, the scripts come from Japan, we pass them on to specific translators and editors to agree on which sections of the text are and which ones will be translated by certain groups of translators.
So, for example, this particular pun was in subtasks, and it was handled by a team of external translators who did most of the translations of Majima's dialogues.
We don't know about localization issues until we encounter them. We literally translate the texts until suddenly someone says: "Oh shit, there's a pun here." We have to calm down and say “okay”, this will not be a direct translation. Sometimes the solution to such a problem comes down to a discussion among editors and translators, or sometimes the translator makes a note from the category: “I didn't know what to do with this, dude. Let's discuss this together. ”
It's the editor's job to come up with a way to make this pun pleasing to Western audiences. Typically this is the Atlus approach, we use an editor to refine the translated English text to make sure it makes sense for Western players.
Many companies do not do this and this is not correct. They single out one translator who can translate Japanese into English and that's it. Whereas, we use a method in which translators give the editor several options, translated words from the page, which may not be literal, but at least be suitable for a particular phrase. This allows the editor to adapt the text to make it acceptable to Western audiences, whether or not he even speaks Japanese.
Why are you so sure that it is better to use a team of translators and editors instead of just a translator?
I cannot say that this approach is not wrong, but it is not bad either. However, this has two advantages. And the first is the presence of colobaration.
If the editor gets overwhelmed, the translator can stop him and help him decide on an option that is as close to Japanese as possible in order to more accurately convey the meaning of the phrase. In turn, the editor corrects it in the question of how close the phrase can be to the original in order to remain interesting for Western audiences. You cannot achieve this alone, no matter how hard you try, because one translator simply does not have a dialogue.
The second advantage is that when editors work on something, they have no bias. We do not force editors to know Japanese thoroughly, on the contrary, we leave out the creative aspect, which otherwise could be just a literal translation. As you know, literal translation is not localization. If you just translate something directly, it is not so pleasant to read, you can kill all the humor, and quickly bore the player. What are the disadvantages? Well, besides the fact that it is more expensive, of course. We are slower. When the translation process is completed, the work is transferred to the editor, who corrects the text for a long time, at which time the translators are also involved in the process to make the edits. This all turns into a multi-level, step-by-step process that takes a long time. It would be much faster to simply translate the text and send it.
Is this the reason why games are released in the West a year or a year and a half after release in their homeland?
Of course not [laughs]. On the contrary, we are closing the gap, and it so happened that in less than a year we translated three games at once.
What problems did you face doing this kind of work?
Just the same in social interaction. The more people you have on the team, the more hands are involved in the project, and this causes inconsistencies. For example, the way the characters speak or the way the translation is written are difficult to follow.
For example, the hero, by virtue of his peculiarity, uses "jeez" instead of j - g in the word and says "geez". And if you don't take that into account, you end up with a character that seems to speak in two different ways, or worse, literally different interpretations of the character.
When we were working on Radiant Historia, I decided that one character would have a slightly British accent. And I talked about it with another editor, but we misunderstood each other ... we got a different concept of accent strength.
Do you think Japanese characters are perceived differently?
In Japan, Kiryu is more like an avatar for the player. The original version has many more ellipses than the English version. We want the audience to identify with him as a character. More specifically, in the Japanese version of the game, players assume the role of a bully and say "I am a Japanese bandit and a member of the mafia", while in the western version we want players to say "ah, I can play as this Japanese bully." This gives Kiryu more personality and character.
How do you decide when to write to the original answer, which is not in the Japanese version?
The Japanese learns, sees the moment when they can put themselves in the shoes of the hero, or they may have a better idea of what is going on in Kiryu's head, that's when we get into action. Bridging the gap the Japanese automatically perceive.
Japanese storytelling is sometimes very subtle. And sometimes we have to lead the players by the hand a little. We must look at the text and convey this subtle aspect of masculinity or honor, which is perceived automatically at home.
Give an example
The most striking, probably, will be the transformation of Majima from who he is to Yakuza 0, to a person from Yakuza Kiwami. Longtime fans of the series know that Majima is an insane clown. However, in the prequel, the developers decided to show the character in a different way. So you can understand what caused Goro to go insane.
But that's not what the developers had in mind. The whole point was not to show that Majima had gone mad, but that he was making a conscious choice to become so. And the game has such an elusive moral that even despite all our efforts, the important scenes with Nishitani, where it is clear that Majima will look up to him, were difficult for us to understand.
We asked the developers directly: “Is that what you wanted to show? Have you tried to establish a direct connection between Nishitani and Majima? " And they say, “Yes. If you feel that you can make this point more obvious, without unnecessary adjustments to the text to the extent that it matches the original, then do it. " And we did! And it's still very subtle.
The 80s are a specific time, and most of the audience knows about them only from the media. Any problems with this moment?
Yes. The Japanese at that time had many borrowed mixed words, or with other meanings, which had to be explained. For example, the Yankees are the Japanese subculture of punk rock.
How often are original devs edits?
It happened when we didn't understand what they meant. Yakuza 6 has the term Shangri-la. It can mean either heaven or a literal place in Tokyo. And we constantly asked what exactly they meant.
Returning to Yakuza 0, we did not understand how to properly adapt the answers to the questions, and asked for clarification on this point.
At the same time, if there is no way to explain something, we can also turn the script around and make it a little educational and somehow chew it up for the players so that they understand everything themselves.
In Yakuza 6, a child plays an important role in the plot, was it difficult to localize aspects of the game associated with him?
It was actually a bit difficult. In Japan, your background is important. The game often refers to the origins of Kiryu, because in Japan, an orphan has a lower social status than you might expect. He and his daughter are both orphans and do not always receive much attention. In the USA, for example, whether you have parents or not, if you grew up a normal person, it does not matter. The fact that you are an orphan often plays no role in your future, unlike Japan.
And in one of the moments of the game, confusion arises that in fact Kiryu is caring for the child like a father, but is more his grandfather, but in fact not a grandfather. In general, we could not let everything go like that. Our task was to bypass such moments to show how the state is simply destroying the Kiryu family.
I think this is part of the virtual tourism that the game offers; You will see how a situation is perceived in Japan where a former yakuza, his adopted daughter and her son will fit into the system.
Did you say "virtual tourism?"
This is part of what Yakuza offers even to Japanese audiences - an inside look at the entertainment industry, city nightlife and crime. These are the real problems faced by their participants. Not everyone can know how a cabaret manager solves problems when someone is rowdy in his club.
This is why this series attracts people. So, you have the opportunity to look at the life of the Japanese idal in the person of Haruka. You can actually get a behind-the-scenes look at what it means to be an idol and what you should give up, for example.
People often say that you don't commit many crimes in the Yakuza series. This all also returns to localization, because even in the first game there was a decision on the part of localizers that since there is about the Japanese mafia, you can call the Yakuza game for a Western audience. At the same time, the Japanese name of the series is "Ryu ga Gotoku", which translates as "Like a dragon" [that is why the seventh part, which largely departs from the mechanics of the traditional Yakuza series, was adopted and in the western version was christened Like a Dragon - WorldOfTopics].
And now, we realized that these games are Kiryu's journey, not the Yakuza's journey ... perhaps the western version itself is misnamed. But alas, it's too late, you cannot change what has been a money-making brand for 9 years. However, you must understand that the yakuza is the context, not the content of the game.
Do you think Kiryu and Majima are perceived as Americans in the eyes of Japanese gamers? Good-natured bandits?
Most likely, yes. In Japan, they look at the main character, realizing that he can change something, since he is strong and kind. In the US, we know that Kiryu changes everything that happens, because you can always change something anyway. When translating Yakuza, we are also trying to betray that.
Also read our article on how games are translated.
The Topic of Article: Jokes and more: How Yakuza was translated 0.