"Our approach to this was how far can we draw the English into what they're actually saying without actually losing the player into a [literal translation] that would be so boring and dry that you wouldn't want to play it."
- In an interview with Michibiku, Scott Strichart explained some of the intricacies of localization.
Localizing a Japanese game for Western audiences requires more than just a literal translation, and knowing when and how to alter language for effect is a decision made many times throughout the localization process.
In an interview with Michibiku, localization producer Scott Strichart explained how he tackled the localization of Yakuza 0 and what he and his team consider when adapting a game for Western audiences.
Strichart has worked on the localizations of games like Shin Megami Tensei: Persona and Radiant Historia in the past, but Yakuza 0 was his first time working on a game from that series.
In addition to being steeped in Japanese culture and history, Yakuza games have a distinct tone that can fluctuate from silly to serious at the drop of a hat. Because of this, Strichart and his team had to work to preserve these distinctive qualities while still introducing concepts or words that might be foreign to Western players.
Strichart explained that a disconnect can form between what a player is reading and what they’re hearing when a game like Yakuza offers translated subtitles with Japanese audio. He says one such moment from Yakuza 1 when the subtitles would read "Kazuma" despite the audio calling a character "Kiryu" inspired his own desire to keep his localization faithful to the original with minimal player confusion.
“I can’t say with certainty that ‘this is exactly where we draw the line,’ because there isn’t one,” explained Strichart when asked about balancing authenticity in localization. “It has to be this case-by-case basis where, well, this is explained prior in the game, or this is voiced and we can’t work an explanation into that because that’s not what the voice is saying.”