“No spoony bard could spin a sweeter tale.”

The preview I wrote today for the PSP port of Final Fantasy Tactics is, like, super-nerdy. I can’t help it. I’m totally in love with the new localization — it’s not simply a good retranslation, it’s good writing, period. (Looks like I’m not the only one, either. The forum kids made a jump-start on the gushing while I was off doing Relationship Obligation things with the girlfriend’s family.)

I think this may become the absolute textbook example of the difference between terrible and exceptional localization. It’s not just translation — the dialogue in War of the Lions contains the same information as the dialogue in the original game. The difference is in the refinement of the raw translation, transforming Japanese syntax and phrasings into something that sounds natural in English. (And let’s face it, “tortured thieves” doesn’t make a damn lick of sense under any circumstance.)

One of Square Enix’s tricks of the trade is create massive localization bibles for its various series, a practice that pays off with an insane level of consistency that reflects even in tiny details. The renamed skill names in War of the Lions, for instance — not just the usual Cure/Cura/Curaga business, either, but more obscure things, like monk-class skills synching up with the new names for Sabin’s techniques in FFVI Advance, or the thief’s “Gilgame Heart” being renamed “Gil Snapper” to reference that stupid ultra-powerful turtle in FFV.

Oh yeah, and Algus Argath comes off as an even bigger bastard now that the sheer dogma of his bigotry is fully expressed. It felt good to roast him with a few Firas. (Because you just know that if he knew the Fira spell, he’d use it to set fire to crosses.)

I’m about to send Alicia, Lavian and Ladd (formerly Rad) to fulfill their first job propostion. I wonder if they’ll still have a good feeling.

25 thoughts on ““No spoony bard could spin a sweeter tale.”

  1. I’m not familiar with the original Tactics (being on the N64-camp during that era), but I was not aware that game also suffered from translation hell.

  2. I loved your preview of the new version on 1up. I really can’t wait to play it now. Here’s hoping the slowdown wont be too annoying.

  3. I fully believe my birthday is in October solely for the release of this game. That is the reason. That is the only reason. Nobody say anything else, because I think I just set myself up for some nasty jokes there.

  4. I’ll still miss “Surrender or die in obscurity!”, though. Sure, a good translation is great, but it’s the bad ones that stay in our hearts.

    However, I will appreciate actually being able to tell what the hell is going on.

  5. Haha, “…or this one’s blood makes crimson snow”? I don’t know if I’d call this good writing; I think it’s somebody’s idea of what good writing “sounds” like. But I find stuff like the original FFT translation vaguely compelling, and it may be for this reason: “the sheer dogma of his bigotry being fully expressed” makes Argath sound cartoonish, and the fact that so-called “bad” translations DON’T clearly express certain ideas makes characterization more subtle. I dunno, a technically more sound translation job doesn’t make something automatically better in a literary sense, and can I help that I feel those bad translations somehow more closely approach literary quality, albeit obliquely?

  6. The question becomes, for me at least, is a better translation worth the price of load times that weren’t there before??

  7. Yeesh, ouchers on that crimson snow line. There’s a fine line between “flowery speech of a long-ago never-time” and “high school theater department”.

    Dammit when is Nippon Ichi going to answer this assault on their domain with some good handheld SRPGs?

  8. I agree with Patrick on the translation; Square seems to think that using Early Modern English syntax and vocabulary automatically makes a translation respectable. It’s certainly better than the old translation, but I can see how all the mini-Shakespearin’ could eventually grow a little tiresome; though it’ll be easier to understand than the cutscenes of FFXII, where all the dialogue was spoken.

    Note: No one has made the mistake yet, but whenever people see old-timey English like this, they want to call it Old English. It’s not. Old English is really this crazy form of German that died out by the 12th century.

  9. Yeah well so very sorry that this is the only screen shot they’ve issued for the game. Screw you guys, I’m gonna go hang out with the cool people.


    See, if it were proper American videogame dialogue it would include:

    “Hell yeah!”

    “Get some!”

    and something about “curb-stomping”.

    (cries softly to self)

  11. Ha! I think this makes me one of the cool people. In your face, logic and reason!

    And yeah, when I was typing that, I was thinking of Zoidberg. So what?

  12. Screw “flowery speech of a long ago never-time.” Authentic Early Modern English (i.e. Shakespeare) is a pain to read unless you do it regularly. Even “high-school theatre” goes over the heads of most high schoolers. A good localization may not make it art, but at LEAST it’s grammatically correct. That makes it legible, and any game where you can understand the story beats one where you can’t. I’m all for this. High-flown and silly? Maybe. But it adds flavor while retaining comprehensibility, which is really the whole point.

  13. I found the 1up preview very enjoyable. So enjoyable, I’m dropping money to preorder FFT. AS WE SPEAK.

  14. So they renamed Algus? I really hope they don’t go crazy with name retranslations, like they did with Tritoch in FF6GBA, and the Ultros as “Orthros” in that bonus dungeon in FF1GBA. I don’t feel like having to get accustomed to calling Gafgarion “Garfangledangle” or something. :(

  15. “Get back now y’all. Best do it fast, or I’ll curb-stomp this bitch.”

    Nice ring to it.

  16. “Oh yeah, and Algus/Argath comes off as an even bigger bastard now that the sheer dogma of his bigotry is fully expressed. It felt good to roast him with a few Firas. (Because you just know that if he knew the Fira spell, he’d use it to set fire to crosses.)”
    So odious is Algus/Argath to all good and decent people that there can be no end to his just punishment.

  17. Renaming is fairly moderate in scope, and usually simply makes names feel less Japanese and more European. Miluda is now Milleuda, Gafgarion is now Gaffgarion. A lot of characters retain their original names, too — Larg, Goltana, Ovelia, Agrias, even Lavian and Alicia. So, yeah.

    Anyway, that screen shot really isn’t the best example. The best dialogue plays out during battles, actually, so I can’t jump into the story viewer to dig up examples.

  18. Yeah, for the people who are thinking they might prefer the old version – I’m all for a little subtlety in plotting and characterization, but subtlety that only exists because the dialog is so grammatically garbled you can barely tell what’s going on is not a bonus feature. On the other hand, I loved FFXII’s dialog, so you guys probably don’t want to hear from me anyway.

    Jeremy, I’m still dying to know whether anyone actually got a good felling, or at least guessed this job was a success.

  19. When I think of American produced/written dialogue/voicework, I think of either something great like Starcraft or something cliche like Gears of War’s “Eat shit and die!!”

  20. Really, I never thought the old translation made it impossible to understand what was happening. It was perfectly serviceable, just ugly most of the time, and “Surrender or die in obscurity!” was a line I thought flowed rather nicely. That said, I adored Vagrant Story’s translation, and was really, really happy with FF12’s. I think I just haven’t seen the best examples yet of why this one’s just as good.

    Man, why’d they have to fix the slowdown? Now I need to buy a PSP.

  21. If and when I play this, and I send people out on a job, and they come back and don’t end their report with “This is the way!” I will be sad. But otherwise, I’m sure I’ll be thrilled.

  22. Curse your black heart, Mars, *I* was going to use “Surrender or die in obscurity!”

    Life is short…bury! Steady Sword!

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