By Michael Fontanini / February 24th, 2017
XSEED Games Executive Vice President, Ken Barry, recently took part in an interview on the challenges of bringing Japanese games to western shores. In the interview, he was asked a handful of questions about the issues and roadblocks they routinely encounter in localization. One of the major ones that comes up is the problem of text. There are a number of cultural issues here, mainly differences between cultures.
For example, he mentions that their parent company, Marvelous recently released a new game in Japan for PlayStation Vita. It is called NetHigh and ran into several roadblocks to localization. Their hopes of localization fell when they realized most of the game’s puzzles “were based on Japanese puns and wordplay using written kanji characters which often have multiple meanings”. They also saw that the game displayed a lot of text reading from top to bottom, rather than left to right like we’re used to. These issues sealed the NetHigh‘s fate of not being localized to western markets.
There are other cultural differences at play that must be considered as well. For example he stated in the interview that:
“the Japanese culture is much more tolerant of sexuality while graphic depictions of violence are frowned upon, whereas here in the US we are very tolerant of violence but much more conservative when it comes to issues concerning sex.”
That may sound like a small detail, but it is a major headache when you’re localizing video games! He also says the Japanese culture has an affinity for “cute and innocent-looking things”. This tends to often get combined with sexuality in Japan, too. That can result in things that are sometimes shocking for people in other cultures.
As for types of adjustments are needed to make these games work in western markets, Ken says there is no one thing. You have to consider everything and figure out how to best immerse the player in this world whose author is from another culture. He points to the Senran Kagura games as an example, saying:
“all our Senran Kagura games have only the Japanese voices in them because not only were we extremely lucky to get them, but also because we weren’t quite sure how the sexual nature of the content would be received in the West when first bringing over the series years ago. Seeing something lewd happening onscreen and hearing a girl say something in a different language while the sub-title “Don’t touch me like that” appears is very different from hearing a girl in English verbally expressing her objections.”
This interview is an interesting look into the world of localization. It highlights that it’s not the mundane, simple job some people may think it to be. It is a big job and somebody’s got to do it. Also, in addition to this interview, the post has an AMA announcement:
“–AMA coming up!–
But that’s not all! If you’re looking to learn more about the intricacies involved in this process, make sure to tune in today, Friday, at 6PM UTC. We’re holding an AskMeAnything session with XSEED’s Localization Producer, Tom Lipshultz, right here on the forum!”
Lastly, you can read the full post/interview here.