Today on the blog, we have a translator’s corner from Kouryuu!
Hi everyone, Kouryuu here! After surviving Maggot Baits I moved on to translate our second title from Lunasoft, Magic & Slash—Riru’s Sexy Grand Adventure—! I had a lot of fun working on this one too, and today I’d like to talk about why.
For me, this was the first traditional “video game” that I’ve worked on in my career, and there are a lot of differences between translating a standard visual novel and translating an Action RPG. With a standard visual novel, the translation work is generally straightforward. As the name implies, they’re written much like traditional paperback novels with every line connected to the next, and every script leading directly into the next one, creating a tightly structured order of scenes and chapters that tell its story.
The biggest difference between visual novel translation and translating say, a light novel, is that as you work you have be conscious and thoughtful of the fact that it’s more dialog based, and that you have to craft an English line that fits within certain constraints not present in novels. Namely, the constraints of text box size (something that definitely gave us issues during the localization of Koihime Musou and the dense text of Maggot Baits), and the constraints of voiced dialog.
While the constraints of voicing are much more lax for visual novel translation than they are for dubbing translation, the English lines still have to be crafted with awareness of the pacing and tone of the Japanese voice acting, or they’ll create discord in the reader’s experience. The majority of readers won’t understand the Japanese voices, but there are still many emotions that get conveyed through voice regardless of the words, and any reader will think what they’re reading is wrong if it doesn’t at least resemble the speech they hear. So to that end, while one translation may work perfectly fine in an unvoiced light novel format, a translation of the same exact line may need to be worded differently for a visual novel in order to prevent readers from experiencing a clash between speech and text.
Now, occasionally there will be very choice-heavy visual novels like Da Capo 3, where different scenes will occur at certain points in the storyline based on choices and route back into the main story line before branching off. To maintain consistency there, the translator has to track and reference all the different branching scenes at once to ensure they follow each other properly, and that the trunk scenes shared by all of them still flow well regardless of which branches the player has read. We also need to make sure those scenes don’t reveal any details players who didn’t read a certain branch wouldn’t know.
With an RPG, there’s a lot more of this back-referencing to maintain as certain NPCs issue side quests that require the player to acquire specific items, with item names and details also being used in menus and more. One good example from Magic & Slash is the Caster Class outfit that Riru can receive through an early-game quest from the repair and appraisal NPC. The quest text reveals some background on that NPC, and the item’s flavor text uses terms from that, terms which are used once again in a reveal during the final chapter of the story. So in addition to keeping the terms consistent so players can recognize the connection, we have to ensure the translation doesn’t spoil the reveal. Likewise, since many quests can be completed or left incomplete at the character’s discretion, the translation has to remember that. When the story later drops reveals surrounding terms that would only have been heard in side quests otherwise, we can’t assume players have encountered them before.
There are a lot of other unique and fun challenges associated with it being an Action game too. Many of these challenges arise in the system text used by the game. One immediate example is adjusting to the different structure of the English language. Everyone’s probably familiar with a standard item reward message of “You obtained [X]!” where X is some treasure or item, but in Japanese that item string for [X] would come at the beginning of the message, so the entire code for it needs to be rewritten. Trying to minimize the necessary rewrites was certainly complicated by Magic & Slash’s system of completely randomized traits on the equipment dropped by monsters. That also meant certain phrases needed to be used in order to avoid situations where the potential variables wouldn’t match the text, like “+1 levels to all skills.”
Another challenge was with buffs, debuffs, and other skill affects. As the player uses active and passive skills bought while leveling up, they obtain temporary buffs, inflict debuff statuses on enemies, and more. Many of these effects are announced on-screen, but only appear for a second or two, especially when the player gets swarmed by monsters and they start rapidly scrolling by. For these messages to be of any use to the player, they need to be translated so that they’re short and concise enough to read and understand in a split second out of the corner of the player’s eye.
There’s a similar issue with the Elite Monster statuses in Magic & Slash. By design these statuses only display when mousing over the Elite Monster, but they reveal the randomized bonus ability or abilities that that specific Elite Monster has. Since you also use the mouse to direct skills and attacks, players don’t have long to read those before the Elite Monster and its minions start swarming. So when translating them, we needed to choose phrases that immediately convey their effects.
Another fun part of translating this was all the references present throughout. The script is rife with throwbacks to other RPGs and action games like Diablo 3, Final Fantasy, Skyrim, and more. The Legendary Items that you can loot as the rarest drops in the game are nothing but a list of references too, with item names and flavor text drawing fromall of the above, Wizardry, Overwatch, Fate/GO, Magic the Gathering, Persona, A Certain Magical Index, and more. If you’d like a taste of that challenge for yourself, try looking up the English translation of Victor’s dying line from Romancing Saga 2!
I hope you enjoyed reading about the work that goes into titles like this! We’ll soon be posting a video from the game to showcase all the mechanics in motion as well, so I hope you’ll give Magic & Slash a try when it releases January 16th!