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Interview: NIS America Talks Translating The Badman

With NIS soon to release Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! What Did I Do To Deserve This? for PSP, Gamasutra speaks with the localization team to discuss how the game's translation will keep its off-kilter flavor.
[With NIS soon to release Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! What Did I Do To Deserve This? for PSP, Gamasutra speaks with the localization team to discuss how the game's translation will keep its off-kilter flavor.] The PSP game Yuusha no Kuse ni Namaiki da, developed by Acquire, has gained a sizable following in Japan. The clever game script revolves around an RPG villain's attempts to fortify his underground lair against the encroachment of invading storybook heroes. As the God of Destruction, personified as a floating pickaxe, it is up to you to cultivate a squadron of monsters and dig the Badman a subterranean escape route from justice. The big question facing the title's introduction into other language regions has been whether the self-referential storyline, which turns JRPG archetypes on their heads, would speak to audiences outside of Japan. As an indication that the strategy game is not about to let its energetic spirit be lost in translation, NIS America's upcoming release has been given the title Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! What Did I Do To Deserve This? Gamasutra sat down with the English-language localization team behind the game, which will be exclusively distributed digitally via PlayStation Network. Ryuta Sato translated the Japanese script into English, Steve Carlton served as editor, and Allison Walter was responsible for the translation of the French-language version. The conversation sheds some light on NISA's efforts to make the translation of Yuusha a deserving one: In terms of your backgrounds, what experiences have you found to be useful in approaching the challenge of localizing Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman. What Did I Do To Deserve This? Allison Walter: While living in Paris I did localization for a small company, translating CBS News with Dan Rather. I came to NIS America because video games are exciting and they needed somebody who could do French and a little bit of German. Ryuta Sato: I was chosen to be the translator of this game because I grew up with the same J-pop culture and was raised in Japan in the same time as the original game's creators. For that reason, I had a fairly good understanding of their jokes about old school videogames and anime. I think that played an important role in localizing "Yuusha." Steve Carlton: I’ve been editing for about four and a half years. I got a degree in filmmaking and my specialty was script writing. That helps in localizing games because it helps make the characters more natural. Badman was pretty tough because of all the references to pop culture. I had to re-watch movies and TV shows, while checking Wikis to get all the right quotes and names. The title to the game is noticeably long, which was pointed out in the Playstation Blog announcement by NISA marketing coordinator Nao Zook. What factors went into choosing the title? RS: First of all, everyone must know where the Japanese title comes from. Its origin is a quote from a popular Japanese manga, "Doraemon," which nearly all Japanse people around my age know. The main characters of this manga are Nobita (a lazy wimp), Jaian, and a cat robot who came from the future to help Nobita. When Nobita does something to make Jaian jealous using Draemon's future gadgets, Jaian says, "Nobita no kuse ni namaiki da!" It literally means, "How dare you! You're only Nobita!" Yeah, it sounds like a violation of human rights, but that's how Nobita and Jaian's relationship is. "Yuusha no kuse ni namaiki da!" is based on Jaian's famous line, except that "Nobita" is replaced with "hero." The human hero and the evil Overlord's relationship is the same way. That is the concept behind the title. Obviously, most Americans have never read this manga before, so they would not get it. I wanted a quote from an American equivalent of "Doraemon" without sacrificing the "juice" of the Japanese title. The NISA localization team came up with this quote from Batman, and we thought "Badman" could be the name of the overlord. SC: Since everyone has pretty much seen the '60s Batman TV series in the US, we figured everyone would immediately recognize the title. Ryuta wanted it to be a direct quote, like in the Japanese title, so we came up with “Holy,” the phrase that Robin always uses. What process was underlying the French script's adaptation from the original Japanese title? AW: The Japanese script was first localized into English for the American market. Being a fan of French pop culture, it was a lot of fun to then transform it into a new form for the French market. I did the original translation and my colleague Max did the editing. JRPG's are mentioned self-referentially in the game. What kind of reference materials were you using to inform the handling of this genre of videogames? AW: Often I went directly to the editors and said, "What is this?" They would explain it to me, and I could go and look it up. Localization is very fun because you are grafting a new language onto Japanese culture that everybody in the world loves. What kind of pop culture references appear in the French language script? AW: If you have seen Yuusha, the art style is pixelated, a little bit like Dig Dug or Pac-Man. We had a ton of fun looking for old songs that are still current in contemporary French culture, along with movies, TV shows, and personalities popular in the '70s and '80s. This is not too difficult to do because the French really hold on to their culture and take pride in knowing what took place in the '70s and '80s. We have our prompts from the English translation, so maybe they used a television show like The A-Team. The A-Team was in France, so I went to the A-Team page on Wikipedia in French and got the names from the translated version. There was another American television series that never made it to France. In that instance we had to draw from another television source. The game's music by the sound studio Noisycroak has a medieval festival quality to it. Did you feel it was helpful in grounding the title in a fantasy RPG setting? RS: Yes, it sounds nostalgic. It reminds me of the early games of the Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy series. It helped me remember the feel of the old school J-RPGs. Could you give a ballpark figure for the number of games, movies, shows and songs that are implicitly referenced in the game's script? SC: Less than 5 million. How did you go about finding the right comic tone to use for Badman's dialog? The sound of his voice certainly gives you an impression of puniness and malevolence. SC: After reading the first translation from Japanese to English and talking about with Ryuta, I got the idea that this guy is trying to make himself grander than he really is. RS: Yes, he is a big ass-kisser. He does not have any power. There is no way he could conquer the world without the player's help. Meanwhile, a number of knights and magicians are invading Badman's lair in an attempt to take him to justice. Was there a process behind the translation of these character names? AW: A lot of them are names of heroes from videogames and other media. France is a Mecca for manga and anime in Europe, so we have kept a lot of them. For example, we have somebody in our game who kind of sounds like Sonny Chiba, the famous martial artist and action star. We kept that name in the French text because we knew people would recognize it and it would go over. Do you feel the retro aesthetic is particularly central to the game experience? AW: It's retro, but very advanced at the same time. Within the game you have all these monsters that you, the God of Destruction, create. This is what makes the gameplay very sophisticated. All of the monsters are living in the labyrinth, and while you are digging away, you are able to zoom in and see a slime moss turn into a flower and spit out some poisonous pollen. I particularly love watching the demons stumping around the labyrinth, snoring, and doing their daily demon activities.

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