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.