Don’t shoot the messenger

A translator, in the end, is a messenger between languages. Their work is ultimately to make the incomprehensible understandable between two people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to have a discussion. There will be cultural and tonal clashes, as often the two sides will be met with something that they find offensive, weird, funny, or just incomprehensible again due to having different cultural contexts. It’s like how in some parts of the world nodding is a sign of an agreement, while in other parts it’s the opposite. In the same manner the choice of words can cause some head scratching situations, for better or worse, and often there ends up being no real good solution.

Like any other job, translator’s job is invisible until something is got wrong or the translated text reads terrible. Doubly so when the translator is not native speaker. Yours truly has English as his third language, so a lot of local tone sneaks in all the time. Nevertheless, the text needs to be converted from one language to another without meddling with the core message itself. If that message or a joke is hard hitting or would end up causing some ruckus, well, the translator just has to roll with the punches and make the best of the situation. They’re hand in the middle and not in charge of rewriting the target text. If they were to rewrite something, change it somehow not to carry over the same intention or core, that’d be like the cashier giving financial advices while you’re making your purchases. They’re working with money all the time sure, but not exactly in the position to give it.

You get hubbub about translations all the time. Sometimes the localisation is a bit overdone to the point of obfuscating the original intentions and even removing points and elements. To some it’s a worthwhile mission to be sure the work is clean and as inoffensive as possible, even to a point of removing play elements from games (that’s not even a localisers job to decide, if we’re going to stick to our guns) while others approach their work in that the original work is comparatively sacrosanct, something that’s “simply” to translate, sticks and stones included. The latest hubbub in fan-translations concerns about Goemon 3 for the Super Famicom. Go grab the translation from romhacking.net, where all good things go to me modified. The supposed is with the word newhalf, the Japanese term for pre-operation or non-operated man-to-woman transexual. There is no English equivalent to this term and does not see use outside Japan. New original words constructed from loanwords aren’t exactly a rarity in languages, but what is a translator to do in a situation like this? In the game’s context, there is a character who is played out as a woman, and asks the player if he should tell his boyfriend that he’s a newhalf. There’s no real way to get around the topic without rewriting this bit of conversation, something that would’ve been done if Goemon 3 would have been localised back in the day due to Nintendo of America’s standards for censorship. Of course, man dating a woman who is really a man is the second oldest joke in history. The oldest joke is man dressing up as a woman, like Francis Flute in the play-within-play of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I’m always impressed when fans go the extra mile to create new graphics for their translations. This is something official release would’ve ended up doing anyway, but often I can’t help but think if this is going too far

What is a translator to do? The two extremes I had above would have very different kind of approach. One would find the best English original equivalent word in a same tone, while the other would find ways to mitigate the issue. There are no good options here really, not one that would satisfy everyone. The fantranslation went with tranny for the translated word, for better or worse. It’s short and to the point. The word is seen as derogatory at least by some of the transexuals and people around them, but at the same time it isn’t uncommon to see and hear it being used within the community as a pet term (for the lack of better word) and the like. It’s similar how despite nigger or nigga has its own negative connotations, African-Americans do seem to have the tendency to use it among each other in the same, pet-name kind of fashion. Automatically assuming the translator wanted to hurt feelings by the word choice is assuming the worst, which seems to be standard today. Yours truly is at fault in this as well. Nevertheless, in now deleted tweet in a locked-down account the translator did mention he chose the word because it is being used as a pet-name, it was the best, short equivalent. It’s a case of word having different strength depending who and in what situation it is being used in (though personally the who bit should be irrelevant, language should not be exclusive use for some but not for others.) Newhalf in itself is a term that gets used by the Japanese as much for positive as it goes for negative. It really depends what is being tried to convey there. Someone might use it as a way to put someone down, while a pre-op person uses it freely with no baggage intended. We can just as well assume that the character was using the words without any malice, but as usual, people like to contest positive interpretations like this. Japanese can change the impact they way something is said. We should assume that the original line, じつは わたし ニューハーフなのっ![Jitsu wa, watashi newhalf nano!] sounds rather playful because the scene is played for a joke. The translated line doesn’t really convey the playfulness with I’m actually a tranny… so maybe something like The thing is, I’m really a tranny! would worked better, but that doesn’t exactly convey the playfulness either. Perhaps this is one of those cases where you simply have to bring in the playfulness with an extra line. You could ask if its good comedy for sure, but that’d be an issue to be raised with the original writer. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Why locked down account, you ask? Issues like this tend to throw people into overdrive and pile on someone, and there’s no real way to sidestep it outside just ignoring the incoming bombardment if you’re intending to stick to you grounds. The more you read about stuff like this, the more contradictory statements you’ll end up finding and nobody is happy with someone else’s results. Perhaps using the aforementioned words in a far more positive manner and taking away their negative connotations would be an admirable goal, but that can really be done if they’re taken as a badge or token of pride rather than as derision. Words only have so much power over us, especially if their strength is taken away by the receiver.

At least I haven’t seen anyone causing a ruckus over the manji in the title screen. Wouldn’t be the first time either

The approach a translator becomes essential. The audience for the translated work or the translator can’t make any difference what’s in the original work; it has been published for the wider release like that. Changing the translation doesn’t change the original text. The question is if it really needs to be changed either, the original works should be untouchable in the base sense. If this was an official release, it would be probable that the bit would be rewritten either to dance around the topic, or changed completely for something else. Not in the fear of controversy or something similar, but because it’s a more sensible solution financially. It would sell better. You can see where this then starts tumbling down. While a translator in official circles has to function as a cog in the whole system and often has to lean according to whatever winds the upstairs, a fantranslator like this can decide wholly his own approach. Sometimes you might find yourself face-to-face with something like this, where translator didn’t want to mess with the original script’s content to any real extent, and other times you come across translators that end up changing whole characters and what they’re saying for whatever reason. There should be no need to raise hell towards a translator, fan or not, if the translation itself is sticking to the points of the original script. I don’t really see Konami really caring if a 1995 Super Famicom game has something that offends people in a country the game was never published in, so I guess people need to vent their heat whatever convenient target there is. Though as usual, if you look at the Internet camps, it’s divided into people who enjoy the translation nevertheless, people who find that one line offensive enough to delete the files, and then there’s the third camp that doesn’t find it offensive. Personally, I have to admit being in the first camp. I don’t have qualms about a free translation for a rom file being what it is, which is the opposite to official products I’d need to pay for. It wouldn’t be too much a task for someone to nab the translation and make whatever changes they see fit, something that isn’t exactly rare. I’ve seen old subs for shows being taken, cleaned and reworded to some extent in new releases by another group, and usually in these cases the original translators are credit.

Outside the topic of the post, I really hope you go and play those Super Famicom Goemon games somehow now that English translations are coming along nicely. The series used to be Konami at its best. As a side note, did you know a Transfan used to mean a fan of The Transformers? It certainly was a niche term, but nowadays it means something a bit different.

American localisation is global

With the recent hubbub NISA’s staff making statements about localisation in a stream and then giving respond statement, maybe it’d be time to open an issue about translation again. NISA doesn’t have a clean track record with their game releases, not by far. From game breaking bugs because of newly inserted text to removed audio all the way to completely inaccurate translations and renaming characters for the sake of memes and jokes, NISA’s translations are pretty much the Funimation of game world. Despite the translators mentioning that they need to localise the jokes to make sense in the culture they are translating them into, they seem to miss the point that NISA’s published games have very much targeted audience and a certain niche that isn’t culturally ignorant. These people don’t consider one bit that the English translation they’re doing will be used globally, not just in the US.

Of course they don’t consider this an issue. No English translator I’ve seen to date outside some small independent fan-translators do. NISA’s staff thinking that they need to localise the work they’re given to translate to be along the lines of the culture the game is being published in is laughable not only because that means they’re taking the original work and modifying its meaning and intention, but also that this culturalisation in the end means end-users have to think the games’ text from the point of view of American culture as these people see it. What passes fitting in the US or has cultural significance most often makes jack shit sense in the rest of the world. The British may speak the same language, but the culture is very much a different beast, and it only grows the more different a language goes. It’s distrusting the audience and considering them low-intelligence if you think you have to take special measures to make game’s localisation culturally fitting. If you’re going to that length, you might as well start calling rice balls jelly doughnuts.

Pokémon cartoon is an example where things were taken the whole way through and not half-assing it. Localising everything about a cartoon isn’t exactly uncommon, especially considering the target audience is children. Further down the line, other countries used the English translation as the basis for their translation, some opting to change English names to local ones. The 4KIDS version of the show was censored for sure, removing instances of violence, profanities removed, Japanese text removed and replaced (something the Japanese show runners became aware down the line and begun using in-world script) as well as banned episodes. 4KIDS localisations can be understood as their shows were for children, and children get special treatment in what they should consume. Certainly this went overboard in some cases, but again, children. Unlike with the games NISA is localising, which are aimed towards a more adult audience, despite some titles having lower age rating.

The audience that consumers games that NISA localises and publishes wants as close and accurate translations as possible without losing well scripted and idiomatic English. The same applies of Visual Novel fans, where the translation is even more important. Some video game fans seemingly take low-tier translations willy nilly, like how Bandai Namco’s Asian English translations begun with absolutely terrible quality, and how most translated Japanese mobile games use terminology that makes no sense.  Games as a standard have always had terrible translations, and NISA isn’t helping any with their takes.

However, understanding English doesn’t mean you understand the culture or its stances. In some cases, Americanisation, ends up being offensive to other cultures that end up having that same translation. Are these countries expected to understand this because the translators decided the Japanese original wasn’t fitting their culture? Should these countries then take the translation and make a new one to fit their own nation’s culture? That happens rather often, if we’re completely fair, but it doesn’t fix the underlying issue with the English translation still. This is surprisingly evident in Quiz games or games with quiz minigames that don’t get re-localised from their US translation. Too many times you come across quizzes that are very America-centric and pick up cultural motifs from there, disregarding most of the world. Mega Man Legends 2‘s quiz minigame is surprisingly good example of properly localised minigame, as it recognised the global release and has more questions about global history than anything specific to the Americas.

The Pokte Village Quiz is fun to do without any cheats because it isn’t stuck to cultural notions. Some questions may be a bit genre specific (like the ones about music), but overall it is surprisingly timeless. Also, the girl on the left was used for Yai(to) in the Battle Network series

This might not be a major issue in the end, but something I can’t see any American translator thinking about. When talking about localising text culturally, nobody has raised this global issue. We don’t have global culture. Even on the Internet, despite the unspoken etiquette there tends to be, it’s site-by-site what sort of culture of action there is. Other websites allow whatever to go free, while others require strict rules of behaviour and action. Even such small things as discussion groups via Skype or Discord have their own cultures, but none of these have one, all-encompassing culture.

With this, it could be argued that leaving the text to be more culturally related to Japan in tone, be it more sexualised for example, would be optimal way to go. It would sidestep most of criticism NISA and other similarly translating companies get, but also would trust that the main audience, which in NISA’s case are people who are already relatively well acquainted with Japanese culture via other forms of media, but also would offer cultural enrichment for the rest of the mainstream consumers who might end up buying their games by happenstance. There should be nothing wrong in being exposed to other cultures and how they function and what their values are. Text might offend, but it doesn’t hurt. It makes business sense to localise and lessen any chances of people being offended, that makes more sales. It rarely hoes hand-in-hand with whatever artistic merit one might want to coin to translations. It’s not like translations should be treated as objective texts to translate rather than a platform to rewrite and insert translator’s own thoughts and ideas over the original author, but that’s exactly what localisation ends up doing. Translators often stand next to a slippery slope, looking down and wonder how small step it takes to become Funimation.

Appreciate each others’ work

How things have been rolling as of late has reminded me of Ralph McQuarrie’s quote A real artist wakes up and does what he wants, instead of what the client wants, the agent wants, the gallery wants, etc. I consider myself a craftsman, a draughstaman. The reason for this is standards.

To use the product design industry as an example, consider your main chair back home. It may be wooden, plastic or combination of multitude of materials to create a cohesive whole that fits your taste. How many times have you given that chair a thought after your first purchase and impressions outside the few times you felt uncomfortable in it?

The best of designs tend to go unnoticed in many ways. That chair you use is most likely built to human body standards and it is made to support your back just the right way. After slight adjusting here and there, of course. Maybe it even has a headrest and an armrest pair that allows you a more supportive and comfortable positions. You may find them nice and appeasing your needs, but sweet hell does it take a forever to find that right spot during the design phase.

Design is a source of life enhancement was the motto of the late Kenji Ekuan, best known as the designer of the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle, which probably stands as the best design of the previous century. It is without a doubt a bottle that has a nice curves and size that fits your hand just right. How it’s used and it functions is even more impressive and took Ekuan long enough to fine tune it. If we were to talk about high standards, the Kikkoman bottle is up there in regards how an everyday item should be.

That’s not exactly the standards that has been muddling my mind, but they’re part of it all in the end. To return to your chair, if it is one of the workstation chairs with combination of multiple materials, you can bet your ass that each connected section has sub-millimetre standard that the producer has to adhere to in order to make a satisfactory product that will not break down, can withstand certain loads and stresses and still be economically feasible to produce. Each section has required some bit of machining at some point in the production, be it when making the moulds for the plastic or some bolt, these are within third of a millimetre standard deviation in size, and that’s not even the finest allowed standard deviation.

The welded parts of that chair of yours have standards of their own as well. If you start taking notice of welded parts, you should notice the same thing repeating in most cases; uniform look, uniform thickness and uniform methods. The common consumer most likely doesn’t give one flying fuck about this, as it is something they are never concerned with in their lives. Welding is just something that a worker does and it keeps shit together. Nevertheless it is an arduous work to gain experience in and requires both hands on training and theory studying. Credit is where credit is due, and it would seem everybody thinks that their work is least appreciated out of the bunch.

If your chair is wood and not made by your local craftsman, you can be sure that in the factory it came out they have similar standards when it comes to joint manufacturing and so on. If you picked something from IKEA and had to build it yourself, each of the part is made with standards.

This combines somewhat to the previous issue with Bandai Namco’s Asian English translations, making this a possible Monthly Three in retrospect. Translation has standards as well, yet especially companies and corporations are very willing to simply force through the translation process instead. However, imagine if companies would do the same thing with your chair. It’s good enough if it just manages to hold together and sells, the consumer be damned. The reason why consumer would not find this satisfactory is because things would break down or bend out of shape due to out of standards cheap black iron parts, terrible fragile plastics used and the most rough deviation machining used. The design itself would be somewhere out there and wouldn’t support your back or contour accordingly. That’s what Bandai Namco’s Asian English translations are, with the only difference that we don’t have any other options to choose from outside Japanese. Honestly, the scripts would look loads more polished if they were just edited properly. I can almost see some fans taking the existing English scripts and just doing that. Currently, they’re just waste of space and resources, and support further detrimentation of not just English translations, but translations overall.

To return to McQuarry’s quote, the one thing an artist doesn’t need to bother himself with is standards. That could be seen as one of the things that separate art and other fields. For example, in design you still need to adhere to standards and conventions to achieve certain desired results. Within art, there are no standards as such what you can or how. This becomes more muddles when we take into notice classical paintings that adhere to a puristic style like realism and were ordered pieces. However, art has always been about selling your piece, and the modern take on being something that shouldn’t be “sold-out” is largely laughable. Just like dada.

To assume this is valid, it is one more argument for things like literacy and movies not being largely art in themselves. For exactly that reason we have art movies that encompass that whole thing of doing whatever the hell they want however they want, sometimes even changing the concept of how a movie is played in a theatre. Books too have these takes, as some books make a statement by having hundred blank pages or a poem collection with just one word per opening. Seems like a waste of material, but who am I to judge what people buy?

We tend to not give a damn about standards unless they directly apply to us and rarely even realize how strictly standards play out in our daily lives. We don’t appreciate them to a certain degree, and while we want shit to work like it should, we also give in far too often and far too much in certain things like translations where these standards should be hold up as almost sacred things. Not just because it will create a better product, but for both culture and appreciation of each and every field of work there is, art or not.

Discussion on Muv-Luv and its Kickstarter for Western localisation

When The King of Braves GaoGaiGar was licensed and localised by Media Blasters, it came out of nowhere. It was one of those things that you didn’t expect to happen due to highly niche audience in the West. It was almost suicidal attempt in terms of business, and ultimately after the first half was released the releases were put on hold. The series didn’t sell well, and when the second half was released, they dropped the English track.

Unlike how the far too many people seem to think, English dubbing and localisation is not about destroying the sanctity of the original product. It is not about disrespect. It is the very opposite. Local language dub, especially English dub in Americas, has two things to go for it. One is that it open the product to a far larger series than previously. For GaoGaiGar, if the series had been released in the late 90’s or early 00’s on TV with dub, it could’ve been relative hit. It is a children’s cartoon, and including a localised language serves this as most kids can’t read subtitles and it often takes then until second grade to be able to read fast enough to follow subtitles. It is also a cultural thing, where the language of the local is preferred. Japanese a funny language in many ways, but more importantly a foreign one that is just as impenetrable as a gray stone wall. The syntax, the vocalisations and everything is so different from English that it would take some learning to get into it.

Second thing is that an English language localisation means the product is deemed valuable enough to have one. The original 1956 and its original English release are good examples where the original product was taken, and then stepped up for the American release. It wasn’t a matter of thinking the product needed tampering or changing. It was because the product was seen as such a good movie that everybody should be able to get into it. Dubbing a new voiceover is incredibly expensive, and not to be done lightly. With low budget voice acting and tight schedule, you will get only bad results and even that takes money. Time is money, literally in this case. Renting a recording studio is very expensive and often a dub can fall short because there simply isn’t any money left to take new takes on the lines.

The American Godzilla is an excellent showcase for an adaptation that adds scenes only to emphasize a new viewpoint character for the new audience and takes nothing away from the core of the movie. The same can’t be said of Robotech, but at its core we are able to see the same thing happening. While purists will see both original American Godzilla and Robotech as butchered pieces, both of these products opened a whole new world to an audience who would absolutely love these. Robotect was a hit with children, and while the current animation fandom seems to hate it due to Harmony Gold’s Macross blocking, the older generation that was there then has the best view how much impact it had. The exact same applies to American Godzilla. It is easy to look at hindsight at these and laugh off them as half-assed attempts at bringing some product to the lowest level to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

This, of course, is bullshit. At its core it’s about language and accessibility, two things that can make or kill a product.

With Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative getting a Kickstarter in order to aim for official English language release, language becomes something that needs to be balanced carefully. The question whether or not translation team should listen to the fans on what words they like the best is something that should be avoided, the question is how well the they are able to translate and localise the terms and names so that Muv-Luv can become something even more wider audience can enjoy. Luckily, âge has official English translations on most of their more incomprehensible terms. Senjutsuhokousentouki or Senjutsuki is Tactical Surface Fighter. For Eishi we have Surface Pilot, and variants around that. There are numerous other terms and names, and you can check those from Integral Works and other materials for overall Alternative universe for further reference, but as of now Integral Works has one of the better Glossaries on subjects and terms in the series.

Another example of IW giving a direct translation for a term, this time for Senjutsuhokousentouki
Example of Muv-Luv Alternative Integral Works giving a direct translation for a term, here for Senjutsuhokousentouki

What use it would be to release these just for the fans?, some have asked. They do have a point. With the unofficial patch, more people have been enjoying the story in its English form and that release has set certain bars to the fandom and established certain terminology. However, now with official release looming about, things can be done, arguably, correctly to the letter.

Let’s use the Surface Pilot as an example. There are two options; stick with Eishi, and to stick with form of the letter and call it Surface Pilot.

For Eishi it would make sense for a Japanese character to use that term, but not for an American or French. In-universe it has intricate value to it and stands slightly separate from the overall meaning of Surface Pilot. Eishi means more or less a bodyguard, and we can argue that this term stands for all the Japanese pilots that guard the humanity. Thus, it would be logical for the Japanese characters in the franchise to use that term in their speech.

However, that’s where sticking with Surface pilot comes in. As the VNs are not dubbed into English, something that would be absolutely awesome, the translation text is that; a translation of the language. Thus, while the character may be speaking of Eishi, the translation for that particular word, in and out of universe, is Surface Pilot. Surface Pilot is also far more sensible use, as after seeing what a Tactical Surface Fighter is we can immediately see the connection between fighter pilots and surface pilots in terms of profession.

The full title of the Fortified Suit is also Surface Pilot Fortified Suit
The full title of the Fortified Suit is also Surface Pilot Fortified Suit. Notice that the Japanese text describes Eishi as a pilot of a Tactifal Surface Fighter, further giving an indication to the meaning of the Japanes word. There is also a mention of the 8 minutes of death.  Taken from Integral Works p.331

On another hand, that is an issue for a person who is aware of these issues. A personal going straight into the story has no clue of the underlying meanings of the names and terms used. Perhaps the best translation here would be idiomatic, something that conveys the core meaning of Eishi combined with the Surface Pilot. Of course, we can argue that after the term is established in the story, then there’s no problems with it. This doesn’t apply to promotional materials or such, where the term has no weight or carries no meaning without further research.

There is another dimension that the fandom brings with it; the pre-established terminology. I have seen the term pilot used far more than any other. It seems like I among few other people tend to use Surface Pilot, but as a whole simple pilot has become a standard when speaking in context. When a separation between what sort of machine is being used, then we see some using TSF pilot, Surface pilot and so forth. Thus, in English, we can say that pilot is enough in context, and when further accuracy is needed, the prefix TSF or Surface is added. In similar manner in real life we have pilots, a person who flies, pilots or controls a (flying) craft.

It should be noted that âge themselves have also established the terminology in English to a large extent. It’s another issue whether or not fans are aware of these, as most of them are found in Japanese language source books.

What I use is not indicative of what should be used. Neither is it the job of the fans to say how things should be done, thou it has to be said that at this moment 50.4% of the voters have said that they’d prefer using the term Eishi, whole the rest would use an English term or anything that works. It’s down in the middle, and I would argue that the results don’t give too strong result what to use. Yes, the half of the voters would like to use Eishi as the term, but the other half would rather see something else. We’re not going to discuss about who is the best girl or best TSF, because we all know that those are subjective matters.

While the providers are there to provide the consumers, the fans are not only the ones. Muv-Luv has possibility to be a larger hit than just with the fans it already has. However, in the West it are multiple elements that will hold it back.

One is that it is very Japanese and that alone is something that will keep people away from it. A proper, easy to approach translation and localisation drops the bar quite well, as discussed above. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it is a Visual Novel. Visual Novels are a form of entertainment and software that are not really games, but aren’t really books or plays either. They usually need a considerable investment of time, and suffer from the stigmata of being nothing but vessels for porn. The latter isn’t really wrong either, as VNs historically were born from the need to show graphics with as little animation as possible while holding high amount of detail and quality on NEC’s PC line. At some point I read that in the 80’s people who owned PC-88 at their home were seen as dirty people who do nothing but play those porno games on their computers. As such, it understandable for anyone to want to release the All-Ages versions of the VNs. I would do that myself as well in order to maximise the possible customer base.

There’s also the issue of âge’s Engrish. I won’t hold back on any of this and directly say that all of it has to go. All of it. From the opening narration in Alternative, where they find HUMAN BRAINS to the patches saying Valkylies. While I recognize that this is an issue they can’t help to some extent, the fact is that these points just don’t fly when doing a proper translation and localisation. âge is able to modify these to the extent in fixing these, and making the changes should not be too hard or time consuming. However, they are a detail that everyone and their mothers will notice and it needs to be taken into account. The fans will laugh and take them as a nice joke and so forth, but the larger consumer group will only see these bits as large flaws that could have been corrected.

IW p.225; All members of the Valkylies group in as seen in Alternative. The whole L and R thing is known in Japanese and should be corrected in the CGs as well
IW p.225; All members of the Valkylies group in as seen in Alternative. The whole L and R thing is known in Japanese and should be corrected in the CGs as well

With that we come to the point where the fans really need to sit back and watch. Whenever something like this with a strong cult following may have its chance, the community may be a detrimental value. Or rather, the communities. For Muv-Luv there doesn’t exist one large wholesome family of fans, but separate sects. 4chan is a microcosm example of this, with the /m/echa, /a/nime and /jp/ boards having widely different nature of discussion and points of view. When you jump to different site altogether, you get completely different views on what should be and should not be.

With Japanese language we of course have the argument whether or not honorifics should be used. At the baseline, a good translation will not use them, and adding nonsensical words in English makes little to no sense. A person with no knowledge on Japanese will have no idea why the hell people are called senpais or kuns, and there are proper guidelines how to translate these. Some creativity needs to be used to convey the more exotic pet honorifics, but that’s not the largest challenge when it comes to translation.

When Mega Man X8 was being made, CAPCOM wanted the fans to be involved with its development. There were polls, discussion and questions what should and shouldn’t be. I never saw any results in any of it in the final product, but I need to question the validity in there. With Legends 3 a whole new level of transparency was added to the development, but in the end the game was never made and can’t say how much the fans would’ve had to say about the end product outside selected enemy designs and polls for character designs.

There are other examples where things have been less than successful when a provider has directly asked What you want. Tomato sauce Ragu and Pepsi are another examples of this. It is always better to observe and see what the consumer really wants, and more importantly, what they need.

Lastly, the issue of Kickstarter and Steam. Long time readers know my stance on Steam and on Valve’s practices. However, I fully recognize that digital release is the only proper way to get any of âge’s products localised nowadays. GOG version has been said to be on the to-do list, a thing that is greatly welcomed. However, all this discussion may be for nothing if the Kickstarter fails, and Kickstarter is a thing a lot of people simply hate. Some fans have already mentioned how this will be their first Kickstarter. They are willing to support the product, and I find that very heart warming. However, depending on how much money they require for the localisation and release is something that may ultimately doom this. Muv-Luv and Alternative, after all, are products many has already enjoyed and may not be willing to give money for an actual release. Then again, with Kickstarter there is a possibility to offer physical copies of the Visual Novels to those who have funded certain tier. I will be honest with you; if such tier exist, I will be putting money down for it.

This post reflects more or less how I feel about the possibility of getting Muv-Luv release here in the West as an observer and as a fan. There is validity to all sides of arguments I’ve tried to cover here, and I’ve most likely missed a whole lot more. I may spin this off into a separate series of its own and use a new page for future âge related stuff to categorise things better. For some time I’ve been having a feeling for a need to separate fan content from the actual content of the blog, despite the two overlapping each other to a large degree.

I don’t know what the future holds. It’s apparent that âge has recognized the Western, non-Japanese fandom in a way they never have before, and that’s a new page on the history of the franchise. Kimi ga Nozomu Eien was a story that had no growth possibilities, but it still stands their best story. Muv-Luv Alternative on the other hand is all about pontetial growth and expansion. Let’s hope it’ll expand to the West and support that as much as possible.

 As a sidenote, this was supposed to be Music of the Month post, but it got way too long for to be one. We’ll get back to that later on.

Irisu Syndrome, or That Which Forces Your Hand

Let’s talk about a bit about horror games. Video games are in general a nice change of pace after books and films, as they offer a sense of freedom to the player. Every action that takes place in the game is the result of players’ actions and made choices. Even Super Mario Bros. gives a lot of options to the player; do you avoid the Goomba or do you stomp it, how will you advance, do you stop collecting coins etc. When was the last time you could choose the characters’ actions in the middle of a movie or in a book? Granted, select your own adventure books have that but that’s another point to discuss. However, horror games usually make the player to choose something forceful to make the characters survive. Mostly this is to kill or escape from various hideous beings and monsters, but very few horror game make the player be one of the horrors and act against their own instincts, even if the player wouldn’t be aware of this. A friend of mine compared Resident Evil to Silent Hill once saying that Silent Hill is the better of the two in horror as “the player is forced to journey towards where he really doesn’t.” I agree with him with this sentiment, but I personally I don’t like horror games’ designs in general. Eight out of ten the survival aspect is made to hamper everything that the player can do. Sure, you’re “surviving” but where’s the horror? In the story?

A horror game should incorporate the horror element better into the gameplay. Forbidden Siren actually does this pretty well, using episodic gameplay and indirect advancement in the plot. Siren is one of those games I’d like to get into my shelf, but I wouldn’t play it in the dark for a long time. All the mentioned horror games follow the same basic horror game design of darkness + hampered gameplay + story is the horror. The freedom is very small in these games, as the player most likely always comes better ways to tackle the obstacles, but can’t do so because the game designers either didn’t think of that, or want the player to experience the game in their way. Developers, let the player choose what they want to do and go with it. You’re not here to make art. If you’re going to make a game in survival horror genre, be sure to create at least twenty different solutions to one puzzle. It would actually be a nice change of pace to have a sandbox style of horror game, where the player can choose any action they want. For example, a Shibido is tracing you and you’re running away from it on the streets. In every horror game, you’d have to find a safe location, but what if you could take that piece of pipe, smash the window in and continue from there? The Shibido would smell you for sure, but it would have to think for a second or two are you inside where the window was smashed or are you outside. This would also call upon other Shibido, but the same applies. It’s funny to think this way that Contra gives more freedom to the player how to play the game than vast majority of horror games. The freedom of choice is surprisingly small in 3D games it seems.

Let’s discuss a small game I came across recently, that doesn’t really simulate freedom of choice, but practically forces the player to do some dark things without him noticing it. The game I’m talking about is Irisu Syndrome, a game that doesn’t only mess with the player, but with the folder it resides in.
Now I’m going to go into a lot of spoiler territory, so before that be sure to test whether or not your system runs the game. It’s a simple physics based puzzle with a twist. I have to say that Irisu Syndrome is great little gem. While it’s not the best puzzle out there by far, the presentation and everything that comes with it is simply superb. It’s a freeware game so there’s very little reason NOT to play it, except if you can’t work around with Applocale. You should get one of your techfriends work on this nevertheless, if you’re into something different.
The game’s completely free and translated as well, so go grab it. Go on, play some rounds, I’ll be waiting here. Just try not to read the whole post in the blog if you don’t want to be spoiled.

Games that mess with the player aren’t that rare. There was this RPG that would send e-mails to the player and some times phone calls. There are numerous games that do something like that, and Irisu Syndrome is one of those. Spoiler text time folks; after you’ve installed Irisu Syndrome, it creates a .PNG file in the directory it resides in. Every time you lose a game, the image gets altered a bit, sometimes messing the characters or returning them to normal. Not only that, but bunch of text files appear in the same folder, messaging something to the player. When you manage to rack enough points with six tries in a row, you’ll get something… disturbing.
Irisu Syndrome’s puzzle is said to represent the main heroine’s psyche as it falls down bit by bit. In the end, the player might get the realization that he was the one gnawing her, destroying her sanity bit by bit. After that, the realization what the game has made the player do sinks in.
To those who have played Irisu Syndrome and completed it, you know that I’m broadening the truth a little bit, but not too much. In the end, Irisu Syndrome is a mean game to the player. It starts as an innocent piece of software, becomes really dark at one point and then surprises you.
It’s really hard to discuss about Irisu Syndrome without giving away what it is about. Did I mention that it has a METSU mode you can access via severed cat’s head?

Now don’t think that Irisu Syndrome is one of “those video games” that are only about violence and blood, because it’s more about the good things in life in a cleaver mask. It don’t like to tell people “to experience a game,” but in this case I recommend you to sit through everything in this game, and experience it. Also, this post has a not-so-well hidden message.

Also, I noticed how messed and incoherent this post was. Blame KoFXIII and Irisu Syndrome for that.