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How Final Fantasy XII benefited from giving localizers an unusual amount of freedom

Veteran localizer Alexander O. Smith recalls how parts of the iconic world of Final Fantasy XII came as a result of the amount creative freedom Square Enix granted its localization staff.
“I think I may have been credited as producer on Final Fantasy XII as well - we certainly got a lot of say on the English edition, how the recording happened and all that was put together.”

- Alexander O. Smith notes how Final Fantasy XII differed from other projects he's worked on.

As many can attest to, localizing a game for release in different languages and regions is by no means an easy process. At times, technical issues or time constraints can complicate an already difficult part of game development.

But sometimes the stars align and localizers are able to bring an added layer of depth and color to a project. As veteran localizer Alexander O. Smith recalled to Eurogamer, this was the case for Final Fantasy XII. 

Smith shares how, thanks in part to both the writing of Yasumi Matsuno and the unusual amount of freedom Square Enix granted the localization team, the English version of the game was able to further enrich the world of Final Fantasy XII.

“There's a huge spread of voices in the [English version of the] game, and obviously in Japanese that's not really there. Everyone’s speaking standard Japanese,” said Smith. “There wasn't a whole lot to go on, but again - with it being another Matsuno-related product - the background was so rich that when you take a game like that it would start to get comical if everyone had regional Japanese accents.”

Whereas factions in the original Japanese didn't have much tonal variance, Smith says the localization team set out to give each group in Final Fantasy XII its own distinct dialect and personality. 

“We had touchstones for each of the dialect groups. The touchstone for the Resistance was Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. We had similar touchtones for other characters in the Empire," said Smith. "For the Viera, we knew we wanted them to be out of the regular system - it's a different race, they have their own mystical environment, so we wanted something while being intelligible was really unusual and exotic. Joe being a big Bjork fan, an obvious go-to was Icelandic English.”

More on how the localization team contributed to the rich world found in Final Fantasy XII can be found in the full Eurogamer interview

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