A cold day in hell for NIS America

You probably heard already about NIS America apologising for the terrible translation job they did on Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, and will issue a free update down the line that will fix the translation. This just doesn’t anywhere, NISA is known for their terrible practices and laughable translations. This has come to a point that sometimes a fan translation can make more sense and contains better flowing text.

NISA doesn’t offer apologies all that often. The CEO of NISA, Takuro Yamashita, is correct; this sort of terrible translation should not have happened. Ys VIII however is not alone in the list of games that NISA has put out that should be retouched from the grounds up. Ar Tonelico series is somewhat infamous for its lacklustre quality in translation, with Ar Tonelico II‘s even going so far of having no translation in the game or completely mistranslations of in-world terms and being inconsistent on the name changes they did. The quality assessment wasn’t up to par with the title overall, seeing how the end-game boss has a bug that crashes the whole thing. This is just a singular example, of course, but we could point out such things as Ar Tonelico Qoga’s English voice script being different from the Japanese one, and even at times from the English text script. If you though name changes are OK, NISA may change your mind with their take on Atelier Arland trilogy’s Esty Erhart being renamed as Esty Dee for a stupid STD joke.

Not to turn this whole post into bashing NISA, but translation really isn’t the only place they falter constantly. I mentioned the game breaking bug in Ar Tonelico II, but that’s just one example of bugs NISA introduced into their games during localisation process. Witch and the 100 Knight on the PS3 has a game crashing bug, plus causing the game to overheat the console itself to the point of it suicide. The translation aside, NISA never did issue a patch on these, and I recall them even refusing to acknowledge the overheating issue. Again, a single example, but we could talk about Disgaea D2 having a CPU melting bug at release, game crashing Skills and opening essentially off in the middle of playback.

It wouldn’t be a full three-course meal if we didn’t have censorship to throw into the mix. NISA’s release of Mugen Souls and Mugen Souls Z saw removal of some 120 CGs. There has been multiple explanations over the years, but all that really boils down to wanting to appeal the largest possible market. This is coming from a company that is release a very niche set of games to a niche audience. NISA doesn’t seem to realise that the larger Western market doesn’t like anime style, especially not in America and in parts of Europe that doesn’t have along lasting anime related pop-culture elements, like with the French and Goldorak, so trying to appeal new market with a product they have an aversion of is a terrible business move. Maybe the best example of this would be the censorship of Criminal Girls, where the player needs to give the titular characters “motivation lessons” through slight slapping and whipping with naughty overtones. Censoring the game’s main appeal, appeal that only appealed to even smaller audience than normal, is nothing short of retarded. The game itself is nothing special in content, it’s a mediocre RPG overall, but a really nice playthrough. The motivation lessons just added something extra to it, and now even that was denied.

Anyone who saw NISA grabbing the Ys license after XSEED’s deal with Nihon Falcom was over could tell you that the quality of the translation would go down. Nobody questioned that, and like some sort of collective arcane expectation, that came about. The only reason why we’re seeing an apology issued with a promise of a new, free patch being delivered, is at least partially because of a mailing campaign the fans had put up. The main reason however is without a shadow of a doubt is that Nihon Falcom put pressure on them. Hammering Falcom with information on the failures of their new partner in the Western was the best way to turn the tide, as only Falcom has the leverage to essentially force NISA’s hand on the issue.

XSEED has handled the Ys series like a pro. They essentially revived the franchise in the West and made it a household name long after people had forgotten how good Ys I and II were on the Turbografix-16. However, with NISA being a larger company and being able to offer more money, they could grab the rights and a deal with Falcom. NISA now had their hands on a franchise that fit in their overall library of titles, was already popular, and expanded their market away from naughtier games. Well, they managed to fuck that up.

It’s not everyday you see sensible English from Japanese being re-translated by a localisation company. For example, a region called Crevice of the Archeozoic Era was changed to Archeozoic Big Hole. Certainly, there are better options than Crevice in the context, but Big Hole is not only an invitation for a series of stupid jokes about some big hole being important for a character, but also sounds really stupid. That may be just a single issue that really stuck with me, but the rest of the script is no better. Character descriptions are awkward at best, treating them as in-game inanimate objects rather than characters. There is an imgur folder up for some examples used in the mailing campaign, and it’s a good thing to check out if you’re interested further. Some of the examples are weirdly selected, but they give an idea how things are.

Let’s not forget that the in-game bestiary for Ys VIII contains different area names that are in the in-game map.

OG moonlanguage version
Are you serious? A goddam Mephorashmoo? Is it a cow?

We would not have seen NISA bending their asses over this if there was no pressure from Japan’s side. Nothing would have been rectified if not for that. It’s a sad situation when NISA more often than not completely ignores criticism from their consumers and even refuse to acknowledge some of their mistakes. This isn’t even the first time the consumers have raised their voice against NISA and their translation, which is probably why some have taken an issue with it. The argument that people should be happy to even see a game translated doesn’t hold water, as XSEED would have wanted to continue with Ys series. I also have already discussed the good enough argument. NISA tends to have hardcore fans that don’t really care if they have good quality titles or not all the while there is a sect of those who won’t touch NISA’s products at all because they do care. NISA all in all is an example when can be understood-mentality extends from translation to everything else. It’s just not cutting it. NISA’s not just a blunt blade, but a blade that was left to rust on purpose.

The situation with NISA won’t change until more of companies from Japan start to care about localisation. Falcom is painfully aware of the need for their games having a demand to be well translated, as XSEED has managed their IPs like a golden egg. Most other companies simply don’t care, and translation overall gets the shaft in the processes of things.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, like all games, deserved a proper localisation. Now that the game will be getting a better one, will it be worth purchasing? Wallet voting here is a tricky one; on one hand you shouldn’t support a company with practices you don’t agree with, but in times when they do rectify their mistake, either by force or via free will, that should be appreciated. If this has peaked your interest, I recommend sitting back for a whole and waiting to see what the reworked translation is like. The fact that NISA had to employ a new translator and editor for the game should tell you about the quality they strive for normally, and much they care about their products in the end. Well, products that are owned by another company they just happen to have a license to. Personally, I can’t but hope to see Falcom giving Ys‘ license back to XSEED as soon as possible, as NISA seems unable to change their ways unless forced to.

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Don’t overdo the quality

The concept of quality is somewhat twisted among modern consumers and manufacturers. Not because there are not high quality products or the like, but because there is a certain kind of veil that goes between product quality. Granted, this veil does exist for a reason, as the consumer shouldn’t have a need to see behind the curtains in which the his product are made of. Then again, it would be better if companies would be far more transparent in everything they do rather than protect less than favourable practices.

Companies must keep the quality of their product at a certain level. While advertisement and promotional speeches often tell you that they’re aiming for the best possible quality, that’s not exactly the case. I’ve discussed the subject of things being good enough in the past, and this is the core of if all; Quality, Time and Resources are tied to each other, and extending one of them extends the other. While there are numerous versions of this triangle, I’ll present here the simplest one out there.

Tri-Angle.png

You can pick only two, and depending on the product you may only have a chance to hit one spot.

If you go for a product that’s done quick and with as little resources as possible, you’ll end up with a product with low quality. If you go for a product with fast production time and of high quality, your resources will go out of hands. Most often this just means you need to put a whole lot more money into it. If you want something with as little resource expending as possible but still maintain high quality, the time the product will be made under will increase and in the end, it’s probably a very low priority product then.

Everyone would wish to balance these three in their daily lives, be it at home or at work. We all make decision if we want to, for example, put the time and effort into washing our dishes properly, when there are other things to consider as well.

This becomes a whole lot more complex when you must consider multiple projects and expenses. Any corporation that wishes to provide products for consumption have to juggle multiple triangles, or multiple elements of each triangle. To use translation in video game industry as an example, it often ends up in the Resources-Time section, where quality is not emphasised in favour of allocating that into other sections of the production.

NIS America is an example of a company that has managed to ignore Quality most of the time and have introduced questionable translations, additional bugs that did not exist in Japanese versions of the game and removal content. An example of this would be in Ar Tonelico II; Melody of Metafalica, where a mandatory boss battle locks the game up at a certain point.

As such, a company policy towards the public often states how their quality are the highest possible quality where in reality the product is balanced between the aforementioned elements in order to have a product on the shelves making money faster. This also means that the worker must adhere to the level of quality they’ve set. This sounds counter-intuitive, especially in the craftsmanship industries, but it is a necessary level. It is far too easy to get sucked into your own work and begin to burn your own self, and surrounding resources, for the sake of quality that goes wasted.

A product that has gained its quality by burning its creator, time and resources may serve the consumer to some time, but that level can’t be maintained without sacrificing something elsewhere. To use translation as an example again, a translator can’t sit on a translation until it has become what he considers perfect. A product that sits on the production line excess time due to some element, be it translation or whatever else, costs money each day. This is where having an acceptable level of quality steps in; it protects both the worker and the company.

What about the consumer then? For the consumer this is something he rarely thinks about. A literary work like a book or a visual novel that has thousands upon thousands of sentences in it is allowed to have certain amount if typos, misspells and textual errors. Content and information errors are of different things. The consumer does spot these errors more often than not, be an extra e in a word, lacking some alphabet or sentence starting with a lower case letter. Nevertheless, they are acceptable in overall terms. The worker hates the errors and would rather have them straightened out, and the corporation might recognise that this would raise the bar higher, but in the end the effort that is needed to achieve a certain kind of perfection of quality costs the damnest amount of money. Unless you can just issue a small, simple patch on your website without extra costs.

To use an analogy of this, achieving perfect emulation of a game console is rather hard. Most people who use emulators don’t care that the games they are playing on these emulators are not running the same way as they were intended on a real console, but care little because the quality of the emulation is good enough. As long as its playable, they’re satisfied.

In order to achieve perfect emulation of a more complex machine, the requirements stack up the closer you get 100% emulation accuracy. The last few percentages towards cycle-perfect emulation square from each other, and for modern systems it is currently simply impossible due to emulation requiring many times faster CPU than the original console’s.

Similarly, achieving perfect quality towards requires increasingly high amounts of resources and time. A steel product that needs to have a mirror shine to it takes its shape in a very short time, and the bulk of the work is spend in sanding and then buffing the surface in order to get that wanted finish. Of course you could just throw some reflective coating on top, or anodise the surface, but the end result wouldn’t be the same.

There are times when we just cut the cord and be done with things. This applies to every work. Still, the best thing is, in the future we’ll have more experience and better technology to increase that quality without putting any more resources or spending more time with it.

Music of the Month; Basara + rant

It’s a late music of the month, so let’s get on with it already. Turn the bass up.

Ar Tonelico games are weird, but the music hits just the right spot with me.

It’s been surprisingly unforgiving weekend. The plans to write a larger, more elaborate entry got destroyed with turn of events that caused me to work twice as much as I usually do. It’s linked to the project post I made earlier in the week, but we can come back to that subject when we reach another deca-post.

Seems like the books I was to scan have now been lost in mail, or my friend hasn’t even sent the books. Either way, it’s a loss to those who were expecting these. Anyways, I’ve turned my head towards scanning some chapters of a more unknown series; Gekisatsu! Uchuuken.

You used to have awesome stuff with LPs. No, not Let's Plays,  Long Play Records
You used to have awesome stuff with LPs. No, not Let’s Plays, Long Play Records. This is actually a large poster

What is Gekisatsu! Uchuuken, I hear you asking. It’s comic by Hurricane Ryu, the man who later went on to be Heisei Godzilla movies suitactor. You may know him better as King Ghidorah, among others. The comic serialised in Comic Lemon People from its second issue on in 1982 and had somewhat humble beginning. Gekisatsu! Uchuuken, or just Uchuuken among friends, follows the kung-fu girl Lien Yun. Her adventures start from street brawls and escalate all the way to full blown city destroying fights against all the largest giant monster icons. The series is absolutely balls to the walls insane, using SM as its main sexploitation device and adding almost every character from the Japanese sci-fi pop culture at the time to the extent you had Lien donning a power armour that looks mistakenly similar to Macross’ Valkyrie’s FAST pack. The comic had a collected release, which is stupendously expensive and yet I’m looking for gain them. I’m sure those would have higher quality than the early Comic Lemon People issues. What made Uchuuken popular among readers, at least according to small snippets I’ve see on Pixiv and elsewhere, was the rough, high speed action combined with absolutely bombastic tokusatsu parodying from chapter to chapter. The series style improved slightly as it went on, but it does have a level of amateurish vibe to it, which will put a lot of people off. Especially when it’s 80’s stuff. That shit’s ancient in the eyes of young ones nowadays!

To fight a combination of giant monsters, you need a giant combiner of things that fight giant monsters. And Enterprise
To fight a combination of giant monsters, you need a giant combiner of things that fight giant monsters. And Enterprise

Here’s the kicker thou; Gekisatsu! Uchuuken was supposed to get a TV animation adaptation. It’s absolutely insane to think how this would have been done. It would’ve been toned down in content in order to attract younger audience, meaning removal of the sexploitation element and crafting more a family friendly approach. Still, the few paintings we have still show monsters getting slashed apart and a man standing on a machine armed with tentacles, so some of the origins would’ve been there. The adaptation might’ve been good for the series, in the end. While the comic is quite practically Reference the Comic due to its copyright infringing portrayals, the TV-series would’ve taken all these out and concentrated on the core characters and elaborated more on Lien herself, perhaps creating far more wholesome entity.

There was a record published before or after the project folded, which contains a sort of prototype to the opening music the series would have. Sadly, the instruments are very rudimentary and do no justice to the possibility the song has. The songstress carries the whole deal, really. You can listen to it on Youtube. Be sure to read the description. The rest of the LP has some similarly rudimentary tracks, but also radio drama. These radio drama bits are there to introduce the characters to us, and I admit I’m biased, but I liked what I heard. I’m intending to record the rest of the LP when I get my hands on a higher grade player, but in the meanwhile I can at least share some selected scans.

01_Front_300dpi

Seeing they even released a record and had announced the series, I have theorised that there may exist some sort of short video. At least few minute snippet how it could look. Japanese economy experienced a boom from 1986 to 1991, after which everything just fell down. The 90’s and 00’s are know as the Lost Decades due to this. Uchuuken’s series would have been done just a tad too early. It’s no surprise that OVA’s based on Comic Lemon People series were produced afterwards; Iczer-1, Zeorymer and Cream Lemon. It wasn’t until late 80’s a TV-series based on Comic Lemon People came to be in form of Lemon Angel. Too bad it was just a series of short music videos that carried a set of separated character and their racy slice-of-life adventures. If you want to see them out of some interest, I’m sure Youtube can help you with that as well.

Now for the bits not everybody like. You may want to ready a translation side to software for few upcoming links.

There’s some things I want to get out. #GamerGate has been seen some shit going on with it, and locally we’ve finally seen some news of it. Somewhat actual news, not just clickbait blog posts from people going with the narrative the press is making. Yet, the news we’ve seen do go with the narrative. That’s surprising, as I’ve though the local media and people would’ve taken more objective view and balance the issue’s sides, both from the journalists’ and customers’. However, this has not happened and I guess now that we’ve got the official statement from IDGA-Finland and Neogames Finland that they stand against any sort of harassment against game developers and gamers. This is great, because #GamerGate does support that exact same stance. However, the news is more or less baffling due to the fact that it calls #GamerGate out on the death threats and harassment it has directed towards game developers and gamers.

This is interesting because this is the first time I see anyone telling the movement is harassing gamers as well. I’m not sure what it tells about IDGA-Finland’s statement or the level of journalism the author of this article practices. The normal namedrops are made, and it saddens me that it is apparent that no actual research on the subject has made.

But wait! There’s a game researcher who states that the movement does not represent all the gamers out there. This second article has more balanced narrative, the little there is. The movement is still blamed on all the harassment that has been going on and has emphasize on the developers while ignoring the whole journalism side. It’s apparent that the writer has basically written what has been told to her, which makes a man sad.

It’s understandable, if you look at the movement from a distance. Because the movement is against a media, it is completely expected for the media to strike back and have that unbalanced view on the events. However, when you do have something like YLE, the Finnish equivalent of BBC, not making any research to their news, it seriously causes some amazement. On one hand this is treated as an American event, but that would mean that the journalists at YLE have even better option to do some journalistic research and see whether or not the allegations on either side are valid. I’ve had some good discussions about the movement and its goals, but most people seem to go into the press’ narrative more. Then again, often this narrative is shoddily built, but same minded people often buy to a narrative they want to see fit to their world view.

For this reason alone, I would recommend any #GamerGate supporter to keep yourself outside the comfort bubble and see the countering arguments and keep an objective view. The same should apply to everybody, really.