Friday, July 9, 2010

Ghostlight wants to know what to localise next

The European localiser of Agarest: Generations of War, a small company called Ghostlight, is asking which game Europeans would like to see it localise next.

Actually, it’s part of a competition to celebrate the release of 32 pieces of DLC (a lot of which is free) just the other week. The prize is one of those Agarest boob-mousepads and pillow, if that’s your thing. It’s also open only to European residents, but I thought HG101’s American readers would be interested in the news, and it could stimulate debate on the many, many great Japanese games which are unlikely to ever reach us. I entered not for the prize but because I maintain a na├»ve hope that some for of unexpected localisation may result from this.
I voted for Boku no Natsuyasumi 3 on PS3, and this blog post is really just an excuse to say I’ve started this rather fine little game using Playongo’s tips to help me along, and I should have the diary entries starting this Sunday (the game starts on Sunday 1st August 1975, and while I’ve no intention of waiting until August, it would be nice to match the week’s days up). I’m 5 days in and absolutely love it - the water-colour painted backgrounds are sublime, while the activities and storyline are really nice. Having always lived on or near farms, I can totally relate to the setting, despite it being in Japan.

A more important question, pertaining to this Ghostlight competition, is would we even want them to localise anything? On the one hand they kept the Japanese dialogue for Agarest, which was a good thing, but their text translation was too literal, very dry and wholly uninteresting. I played a few chapters and found it as captivating as reading transcripts of parliament. It desperately needed some Working Designs of Aksys Games style spice. The US localisation by Aksys, while I’ve not played it, appears to have really run with the almost-but-not-quite H-game mentality of the source material, even censoring promotional images which had nothing to censor in the first place.
If Ghostlight did localise something like Boku no Natsuyasumi 3, they’d probably keep the Japanese dialogue (good) and not try to reinterpret the text too much (also good). I could imagine another company trying to Americanise the setting somehow, or at the very least remove anything too culturally specific. There’s a section involving composing haikus, which if Sega localised it, would probably be cut completely. Though with a little effort the haiku mechanic could be localised to remain functional and interesting - whether the unwashed masses have the ability to appreciate it is another thing.

Furthermore, and this is what really pisses me off with Ghostlight, it took over 9 months to release the DLC content. After Agarest was released in Europe, several months went by after which it was released in the US, and almost immediately America received DLC, both free and cost. And yet nothing in Europe. Months went by and we’re finally getting the DLC content America got, despite receiving the game before you guys. My guess is that Ghostlight saw Aksys making money from DLC and did some kind of licensing deal to convert and then release American DLC content in Europe. Whatever the truth, it portrays Ghostlight as being fairly inept.

And yet that’s what you have to put up with when taking an interest in niche titles - because hypothetically speaking, who other than Ghostlight or some other tiny publisher might see the profit in localising an overlooked game from 2007? I’m impressed Ghostlight is even asking for recommendations.

If not Boku no Natsuyasumi 3 though, I’d be tempted to list visual novels for Ghostlight. The WAHP podcast has often said good things about Steins;Gate, which is something we’ll sadly never see in the West (and for mysterious reasons isn’t being released on PS3 in Japan despite high sales). Curiously I’ve read that an American X360 magazine snuck a demo of it onto one of their cover discs - which just boggles my mind. Other titles include 428, the Shibuya mystery game. Given time I could probably list 50 current generation games from Japan which would be worthy of localisation.

Vic Ireland in an interview said the last frontier of untapped Japanese games was visual novels - and there was some talk that Gaijinworks would be looking into this. I’m inclined to agree, visual novels have been seldom brought to the west, and when they are tend to be overlooked. JBox has a few which are work safe (sister site J-list is NOT work safe though) apparently in English for PC, but I never read reports on these in mainstream publications. I'd like to see EDGE/GamesTM/EGM/GameFAN tackle the subject of visual novels. Call it 8 pages looking at the past, present and future of the genre, in Japan and the west, in Japanese and English. The best, the worst, the most curious, the fan-translated.

Having recently played through Disgaea Infinite, the visual novel set in Nippon Ichi’s Prinny filled universe and involving SUPER MAGICAL PUDDING, I have an even stronger liking for the visual novel genre. Why western companies seem SO reluctant to tackle it is baffling. With no dexterity required, they’re the perfect thing to entice non-gamers to the hobby. Not all visual novels are smutty. Disgaea Infinite is aimed at young adults but is family friendly, and is very funny throughout.

Though I guess after NIS revealed that Sony has a tendency to reject anything which appears like a visual novel (how the hell did they approve Disgaea Infinite then? Regardless Sony are swine when it comes to approving stuff), even if Ghostlight did take an interest in localising visual novels, they’d never succeed anyway. Which takes us back to Boku no Natsuyasumi 3. I hope that my intended 31 daily diary entries will show someone that it’s worth considering. If a company marketed it as being akin to Animal Crossing, I think it could succeed. And even if no one pays attention, you can live vicariously through my photos.

After BnN3 I’m probably going to attempt a visual novel playthrough, since there are a few in English which look interesting. Unfortunately they’re not easy to get hold of...


  1. So many good japanese games never get even a mention in most magazenes and sites which is a shame. Had they done a 'hot in japan' bit in each issue or month I'd have a good opinion on this topic.

    would it be to far to suggest they translate and update some older games from older systems to the new ones? this sit eis full of japanese oddities from the ages that would truely benifit from a good localisation (hey, wii's virtual console does have the import game specials).

  2. What's that bottom image from? I could discern you naming it from the text. Looks cool.

  3. If visual novels were to find success in the American market, I think it would need to be done via a portable system. Nintendo's DSiWare already has downloadable stories, but there has been no push to advertise them.

    Disgaea Infinite got critically panned because it was a full-price PSP game. Most American gamers do not attenuate a lot of value to games without visceral gameplay.

    The best route to introduce visual novels is likely through PSN, DSiWare, and through the various app stores for Mac products. I don't think American gamers can accept paying full price for a visual novel when they can download books quickly and cheaply via Kindle and other e-readers.

  4. I think the comments of SCEA not wanting visual novels was earlier in the PSP's life span. They might have more luck now - I'm sure Disgaea got through because it's an established property. It also wasn't a full price release - it retails for $20. But I agree that digital distribution is the only way to sell these, they just don't have a wide enough appeal to charge full price.

    I think that 428 game got ridiculously good Famitsu ratings, didn't it? Not that that means much, but it's something to note.

  5. Yeah, that 428 game got the highest Famitsu rating, I think

  6. Thanks for the clarification on Infinite's price.

    Japanese game companies are still very interested in bringing their more niche games to the States. Capcom jumped through a ton of legal hoops to get Tasunoko Vs. Capcom to the U.S. Nippon Ichi brought over a Sakura Wars game despite never before having brought one to North America.

    With the right push, 428 or a similar style of game could have modest success in the U.S. They might have to stick with known properties like Disgaea for now though. It could be worse.... an American company could have made a Twilight visual novel.

  7. Disgaea Infinite cost me less than £20, and for that price I'm very pleased with it.

    As for the visual novel at the bottom, I intentionally left the name out to keep people guessing. It's EVE Burst Error, if you're curious.

  8. I had never heard of Ghostlight before Agarest. Any other noteworthy games they've released?

    I'm asking because if they're a fairly new company, the quality of their localization isn't that surprising; these things cost money, and if you're s small start-up that intends to release an ultra-niche title, you won't have that much money to spend on anything, really.

  9. According to their website they published the Digital Devil Saga games in the UK. And a whole bunch of shovelware too.

  10. They've been around a while, but all the Japanese games they published until now had already been released in the US. Agarest is the only one I know of where they actually handled Japanese to English translation (although they're part of the same group as Midas, which localised a ton of obscure Japanese PS2 games as budget releases.. I miss those days).

    I seem to recall someone from the company posting on a forum about how they had to rope in Japanese-speaking friends and family members to get it finished, so I guess they were a bit cash-strapped... most likely the quality of their next localisation will depend entirely on Agarest's sales.

  11. @What's that bottom image from? I could discern you naming it from the text. Looks cool.

    Eve Burst Error

  12. I view two fundamental problems keeping Boku from being localized: 1) It's much too rooted in Japanese culture, in a way that can't easily be made appealing like in Persona 3 or something, and 2) The vertical text display would have to be reprogrammed for non-vertical languages, which could also be viewed as a potential detriment to its presentation (the side-letterboxing effect makes a strong flashback-y effect)

    It's more #2 than anything, I think. Plus, it's been 10 years of these games and still nothing, despite being a pretty well-selling Sony franchise. But apologies for sounding like a downer -- rest assured I'll be at the forefront of the happiness train if anybody decided to translate any of them.

  13. I want dream c club on the xbox 360

  14. I would love dream c club to be localised because of it's uniqueness!

  15. I voted for dream c club and you lot should to?