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A deeper look at the fumbles in Persona 5's localization, and the industry in general

Saprol

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Jun 25, 2012
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I also think that the suggestions that the localization team was incompetent or incapable -- "maybe interns did that part" sentiments or "8-4 should have done it" -- are not particularly helpful. We know that large parts of the game are localized very well, which suggests the glaring issues are a result of lack of time and resources rather than skill or care. It sounds as though a capable team simply did not have enough time to do their work as well as they could. Simply saying the localization is "bad" is not as likely to resonate with the people who made the poor decisions regarding scheduling as it is to specify that a localization should not be rushed and requires the consistent attention that can only come with more time, not more bodies.

When it comes to a discussion about clarity in communication, I do think the distinction is important.

Looks like it still wasn't enough time pushing the release date from February. I can imagine it only gets harder to maintain a consistent tone when splitting the work up among even more editors.

At work so smaller screen than home, but not when you have the scroll back up multiple times just to scroll back down and read stuff. Horrible site design, the worst. Websites are not yo-yo's, for fuck sake.
It's a bit of mess UX-wise. Even at home I have to scroll back up past a page's worth of text to view the next section. I'd rather have collapsible blocks instead of replacing the area underneath.
 

Famassu

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Sep 11, 2010
16,035
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Between BoTW's framerate, Persona 5's translation, and Andromeda's faces what else will come out to contend these three as gaming's most overblown issues of 2017?
Criticizing localizations that fail to bring out personalities of a colourful cast of characters and has other issues is not an "overblown issue". Good for you if your standards in this regards are so low that you can enjoy such shoddy work, but don't expect everyone to do so without voicing out their opinions. Also, what on Earth do blind fanboys like you have against criticism? No one is saying Persona 5 is a bad game or unplayable, we aren't insulting your family or kicking your or the creators' dogs, but this IS unarguably a blemish for an otherwise awesome game and it does absolutely NO ONE any favors to let Atlus/Persona 5 get a pass on such mediocre work for a game that deserves only the best.

Neither was Zelda's issues where the game can literally freeze for brief moments when hitting enemies and which can occasionally be fairly reliant on timing for parries/dodging/counter-attacks. Framerate matters when action-y gameplay is conserned (to a lot of people it matters even if it's some slow-ass visual novel).
 

Curufinwe

Member
May 20, 2009
31,241
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725
This has actually been a bit of a problem with the discussion of this localization as it's gone on. There are obviously several lines that are inexcusably bad, but there also seems to be a disconnect between the idea that many want the characters to sound like real people (particularly teenagers), who all have distinct voices, but also want everyone to speak with proper grammar at all times. It feels like it muddies the water to see people complain about things that teenagers might say that they personally don't like hearing teenagers say because it's technically improper english.

If "He here?" is just modern-teenager speak then I accept it doesn't belong with "are serious to kill us" and "Kamoshida was a scum". But I have never heard or read any actual or fictional person use it before in my life.
 

sonicmj1

Member
Dec 2, 2007
8,973
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The issues pointed out here aren't just clunky. A few parts of the translation have actively caused confusion.

Like, take the first example cited on the site:
Older Detective: Are you Prosecuter Sae Niijima?
Older Detective: There's a call from your director.
Older Detective: Hurry and get it over with. To be frank, you're being an inconvenience.
Sae's phone rings and she answers it. It's the director.

Here's how one poster from the last thread interpreted the meaning of this conversation, without any knowledge of the Japanese.

To be honest, I just rewatched the scene and remembered that my initial impression without the Japanese was that you're supposed to be scared of the spooky, highly influential men in suits who have the power to make your boss call you. The English line of "There's a call from your director..." enforced the spooky omnipotence of the guy for me. He has so much sway that he knew the second that he could make your boss call you.

That's a fair reading from what he was given. How could the detective know she was going to receive a phone call? There must be something special about this guy.

It's also, as the site points out, entirely contrary to the meaning of what was said in Japanese. He's telling Sae about a call from the director that he received earlier. He wants her to finish the interrogation (which she is now allowed to do) quickly. He's an entirely ordinary cop. But because the translation messes up verb tense and uses pronouns in a confusing way, people get the entirely wrong idea about what's actually happening.

That's more than clunky translation. It inhibits comprehension of the actual work. That goes beyond taste.

It's not a common phenomenon in the game. It's certainly not some Breath of Fire 2-esque shitshow. But we should expect better from a company that takes pride in being best-in-business at localization, and that usually is able to live up to the standard it sets for itself.
 

TheBryanJZX90

Member
May 4, 2012
5,506
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435
If "He here?" is just modern-teenager speak then I accept it doesn't belong with "are serious to kill us" and "Kamoshida was a scum". But I have never heard or read any actual or fictional person use it before in my life.

I don't think it's even limited to teenagers, just an informal truncated way of speaking.
 

silveralen

Neo Member
Jun 10, 2015
28
0
0
To the butthurt people I love persona 5 dearly but seriously if your contribution in this thread boils down to fan parading and downplaying issues consider not participating in this discussion

"Downplaying issues" No offense, but the website was making some fairly hyperbolic claims tbh, and is fairly inconsistent in it's critiques imo.

To start off, they claim that literal translations are inherently and objectively inferior. I view this as a matter of preference, as people have been fighting back and forth on it for years, particularly in JRPGs, so that stood out as a bit silly.

Oddly, I noticed he also lists a few errors which amount to shifting the meaning slightly to create a scene that flows better or makes a bit more sense. Such as you consistently being referred to as a part timer at the cafe, rather than back and forth. I prefer the scene set up such that the person is informed they are about to get a call, kinda fits the whole conspiracy motif thing.

This all ends up striking me as the person writing it's subjective preference presented as objective fact. I know some people appreciate having a bit of literal translation, and I know some people won't mind slight shifts from the original meaning, particularly if it leads to a again subjectively better scene.

This is without getting into things like repeated phrases. In a game as large as persona 5, with that much dialogue, it'd be odd if there weren't repeated phrases.

So, when at least a third of this critique is pretty subjective (even if the author chooses to present them as hard truths) people are going to "downplay issues", because whether or not they qualify as issues is a matter of interpretation, without touching on how much of an issue each might be.

Also, listing the rough estimate as 1/3 lines being awkward and poorly formed, with an error ever 5 lines, strikes me as someone trying to play things up. This isn't even close to true from what I've seen, even if I was to outright accept everyone of his "errors" as legitimate.
 

Curufinwe

Member
May 20, 2009
31,241
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Why does the large size of P5 keep getting brought up as an excuse when the equally large P4G did not suffer from anywhere near the level of problems with its localization?
 

Spman2099

Member
Feb 9, 2015
3,268
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This whole thread is basically contending this in a substantial way and your arguments against it have lacked any kind of substance. Also nobody is dragging the translators through the mud. At least I hope not. As the compiling site states there should be the implicit understanding that we're criticizing the work not the people behind it. And generally at least in this thread I hope people know that there are multiple different reasons that don't relate at all to people's skills that this is the end result.

Also I don't know but disregarding things on the basis of their merit is very much fair play. The same way I would likely disregard a flat earther talking about certain topics. You don't automatically earn the right for valid consideration by having an opinion.

As for the last part just a blatant lack of understanding of what I was saying but sure.
The statement you make there stands for itself. I don't feel like I need to pile on that.

You saying my arguments have lacked substance is pretty ironic...
 

PSqueak

Banned
Jan 31, 2015
14,161
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Not sure. Dude is on Twitter retweeting crazy shit like Persona 5 will damage perception of Japanese culture. I mean fucking hell.

Well, Persona 5 does damage my perception of japan in the way that it seems they're still incredibly backwards with LGBTA representation.

But that's not a localization problem, the localization is fine.
 

NinjaCoachZ

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Feb 4, 2015
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To start off, they claim that literal translations are inherently and objectively inferior. I view this as a matter of preference, as people have been fighting back and forth on it for years, particularly in JRPGs, so that stood out as a bit silly.

It is inherently impossible to translate a language literally while having it still resemble what someone in the new language would actually say. Languages do not all follow the same grammatical rules and syntax structures. If your translation is making it difficult for a reader to get the information they need, it is a bad translation.

If I translated something literally from French to English, no one would ever say, "You're right", they'd say "You have reason". They wouldn't say, "What is it?", they would say "What is that that it is?" They wouldn't say, "I agree" or "Sure", they'd say, "I am of agreement". No one talks like that.

A translation is supposed to convey intent and meaning in a way that the reader can understand, not get caught up in semantics and miss the forest for the trees. That's the cardinal rule that actual, professional translators follow.
 

Velkyn

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Jan 17, 2013
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Barring the interrogation stuff (which isn't incomprehensible but a bit awkward at times) I don't think the translation irks me as much as some people. I only had to stop and reread in the first month of in-game time or so, and now pretty much everything reads as fine to me.

Are there lines that no person would actually say in conversation? Of course there are, but that's also true of a lot of games, even games from North America. The translation errors and typos that are there suck but honestly it's really not bad enough for me to be turned off of the game entirely.
 

Acid08

Banned
Feb 4, 2008
40,963
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Why does the large size of P5 keep getting brought up as an excuse when the equally large P4G did not suffer from anywhere near the level of problems with its localization?
P4G is not equally large.

Especially when taken as a single project. We're not talking about doing an entire game from scratch with P4G.
 

rucury

Banned
May 9, 2015
523
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For some reason I'm unreasonably angry about this whole thing. I'm not even that big of a Persona fan. I think its mostly the fact that Atlus USA doubled down on the whole "this is our best localization so far". Like, thats just clearly wrong. Accept it and move on. Alternatively, patch the errors and shit out. Can they do that, technically?
 
Feb 17, 2013
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The main story content is actually by far where I notice the most errors. Stuff like Confidants tend to be the best of this localization in my experience.

It felt like almost every line uttered by a shadow hardly made sense. Lots of problems with sentence structure and whatnot, but in contrast I felt like the main story dialogue, particularly the stuff that was voiced, was pretty much spot on.
 

Acid08

Banned
Feb 4, 2008
40,963
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For some reason I'm unreasonably angry about this whole thing. I'm not even that big of a Persona fan. I think its mostly the fact that Atlus USA doubled down on the whole "this is our best localization so far". Like, thats just clearly wrong. Accept it and move on. Alternatively, patch the errors and shit out. Can they do that, technically?
They could patch the text only errors probably. Voiced lines would take a lot more time and money.

The question is whether the resources are there to dedicate time to that and I'd guess they aren't.
 

suzu

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Sep 24, 2007
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Some of you guys seem a bit exasperated that a dude made a site focusing on this topic, but if he just made a post on a forum thread you would still be calling it an overreaction (see the two threads on GAF for examples). :p

I wonder how many people actually think normal Japanese conversations are overly wordy or awkward, due to subpar localization in other games / anime.
 

silveralen

Neo Member
Jun 10, 2015
28
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0
It is inherently impossible to translate a language literally while having it still resemble what someone in the new language would actually say. Languages do not all follow the same grammatical rules and syntax structures. If your translation is making it difficult for a reader to get the information they need, it is a bad translation.

If I translated something literally from French to English, no one would ever say, "You're right", they'd say "You have reason". They wouldn't say, "What is it?", they would say "What is that that it is?" They wouldn't say, "I agree" or "Sure", they'd say, "I am of agreement". No one talks like that.

A translation is supposed to convey intent and meaning in a way that the reader can understand, not get caught up in semantics and miss the forest for the trees. That's the cardinal rule that actual, professional translators follow.

Again though, I can point out some of the examples aren't impeding understanding so much as just sounding slightly awkward.

To compare to your example, a lot of it more resembles translating the literal "you have reason" as "your reasoning is sound" or even "that's reasonable", rather than defaulting to "you are right".Which yes, might sound a bit out of place in normal converstion, but more of the original meaning is kept intact.

In short, a (more) literal translation favors using reason in some regard to preserve some of the nuance inherent in such phrasing, rather than just default to the colloquial English equivalent. .
 

Fjordson

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Jul 5, 2010
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People need to understand that we can have nuanced opinions about a game. Persona 5 is probably going to be my game of the year - in a year in which I've played and loved BOTW, Horizon, and Yakuza 0.
Exactly how I feel.

It doesn't ruin an otherwise great game, but it's an issue.
 

NinjaCoachZ

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Feb 4, 2015
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Again though, I can point out some of the examples aren't impeding understanding so much as just sounding slightly awkward.

To compare to your example, a lot of it more resembles translating the literal "you have reason" as "your reasoning is sound" or even "that's reasonable", rather than defaulting to "you are right".

In short, a (more) literal translation favors using reason in some regard to preserve some of the nuance inherent in such phrasing, rather than just default to the colloquial version.

It's fine to occasionally use more formal phrasing like that. But P5's problem is also that the over-reliance on this somewhat clunky speech pattern, and the overuse of stock phrases (e.g. "the rumored (x)", "it can't be helped") makes all of the characters' voices sound similar. It creates an extremely unnatural effect. More formal style translation is fine in small doses but in essence, I don't think the game's problem is that it deliberately took the approach of a literal translation. It really sounds more like they did a rough draft and didn't get to completely go over it. The literal aspects just seem to be a side effect of the overall lack of polish.
 

PK Gaming

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Jun 9, 2010
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It was the overuse of stock phrases that really killed me. That's just... embarrassingly bad. Like early 2000s anime subbing bad. Not game ruining, but definitely something worth being worried about. AtlusUSA absolutely needs to realize that this isn't even remotely acceptable. Just what on earth happened during the localization process?
 

ElFly

Member
Sep 3, 2006
16,567
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0
The issues pointed out here aren't just clunky. A few parts of the translation have actively caused confusion.

Like, take the first example cited on the site:


Here's how one poster from the last thread interpreted the meaning of this conversation, without any knowledge of the Japanese.



That's a fair reading from what he was given. How could the detective know she was going to receive a phone call? There must be something special about this guy.

that's....a stretch

it is not rare for someone to call a person, not getting an answer, then start calling the personal cellphone, or wherever the callee is, etc etc until getting through to the person they want

it's still a stiff translation in some places, but that level of confusion is just due to people who would have gotten confused in japanese too

It was the overuse of stock phrases that really killed me. That's just... embarrassingly bad. Like early 2000s anime subbing bad. Not game ruining, but definitely something worth being worried about. AtlusUSA absolutely needs to realize that this isn't even remotely acceptable. Just what on earth happened during the localization process?

imho this is the main problem with the game. Japan just speaks weird, and some things need some translation "massage" to even sound close to natural in english. for example, nobody in english ever says "As expected from Joker" when said Joker is in the same room...at least not non ironically
 

King Gilga

Member
Sep 1, 2013
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Yeah, watching streams I deffo got those shitty anime fansub vibes from the script.

Also jesus @ the persona avatars in this htread, there's no reason to be so defensive.

Between BoTW's framerate, Persona 5's translation, and Andromeda's faces what else will come out to contend these three as gaming's most overblown issues of 2017?

None of these were overblown, I'm sorry that some people seem to have standards.
 

Phu

Banned
Jun 17, 2014
3,340
5
0
that's....a stretch

it is not rare for someone to call a person, not getting an answer, then start calling the personal cellphone, or wherever the callee is, etc etc until getting through to the person they want

it's still a stiff translation in some places, but that level of confusion is just due to people who would have gotten confused in japanese too

Your explanation doesn't make sense in the context of the scene described, especially considering the Japanese version speaks in a past-tense. The English version doesn't even hint that he's referred to a call he received earlier or that he wants Sae to get on with her interrogation. The call she receives has nothing to do with the conversation they were having, it just happens that she got it in the middle of them talking.

What it should be is more along the lines of:

-Before the scene starts, the SIU Director knew Sae was gonna show up even though she isn't supposed to and that it was no use/less trouble not to fight it and just let her do her thing [the interrogation].
-He calls the Older Detective to let him know, 'hey, this lady's gonna show up even though this isn't her thing, but just let her do it anyway'
-Sae shows up and some guy tells he she isn't allowed
-Older Detective shows up and is like, 'listen, I got a call about you showing up so just hurry and get your shit over with'
-*ring ring* Sae picks up the phone. It's the SIU director. "I knew you were gonna pull this stunt. I don't know what you'll get out of it, but whatever'

But in English it sounds like Older Detective predicted a call and wants her to finish it quickly.
 

senj

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Aug 16, 2009
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610
I don't think it's even limited to teenagers, just an informal truncated way of speaking.

Yeah, "he here?" is actually a pretty common construction. Dropping the verb "to be" in English is actually a feature of the language, and appears anywhere from informal to rather formal speech registers (consider a sentence like "Last week you thought it appropriate to travel to meet him", which drops the was for a slightly more formal tone).

It's actually a terrible example of bad translation, because "he here?" doesn't work in Japanese, where it's far more natural to drop the subject than the copular verb.
 

kewlmyc

Member
Dec 15, 2011
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540
I'm enjoying the game to the point that it's affecting my day to day life, but dear god, some of the translations shown on that webpage are pretty bad. Even if it was a reference to the meme, I can't believe "they wouldn't die even if they were killed" is in this game. Using a word that doesn't exist and most of Sae's interrogation lines are pretty bad too. Atlus can totally do better, that's all most of the people in this thread are trying to say.
 
Apr 7, 2014
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"Mental shutdown incidents" is one of my least favorite things in the script. From my rudimentary knowledge of Japanese and reading NHK, it seems in Japan they like to give things category names, like a sort of common-proper noun hybrid, and it doesn't translate well to English. People in at least the U.S. would just call them "weird news stories about people passing out" and stuff like that. I can't see people subscribing to using a common term like "Mental shutdown incidents."

Does anyone have a clue what I'm getting at?
 

clarknova156

Member
Aug 1, 2014
615
1
0
So I'm really enjoying this game but are the translation errors something to really ponder over during my experience or should I just keep enjoying it?

I support Altus doing a better job next time around for sure but I'm thinking it could be GOTY for me so far.
 

saturnine

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Sep 23, 2013
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0
"Mental shutdown incidents" is one of my least favorite things in the script. From my rudimentary knowledge of Japanese and reading NHK, it seems in Japan they like to give things category names, like a sort of common-proper noun hybrid, and it doesn't translate well to English. People in at least the U.S. would just call them "weird news stories about people passing out" and stuff like that. I can't see people subscribing to using a common term like "Mental shutdown incidents."

Does anyone have a clue what I'm getting at?

Mental Shutdown-gate.

...eh. It's mostly fine. Would be nice to have some variations instead of strict adherence to this particular term though.
 

Geg

Member
Nov 26, 2014
5,996
0
0
There are way worse localizations out there that nobody's even sneezed at.

Yeah, but those aren't Persona 5's peers. Look at any other high-profile Japanese game that's come out in the last 6 months and you won't find any of the stuff from the site linked in the OP.

This isn't some B-tier anime tie-in game for the Vita, so it shouldn't be judged by the standards of one.
 
Jan 20, 2010
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Went to Persona 5 reddit, found this post with more comments than most others on the first page.

Also, the thread started because someone literally made a website to higlight the issues.

But just GAF being GAF, amirite?

No, my entire post was criticism. This isn't a problem that can be fixed with awareness. This isn't an ethical problem. The team at Atlus woke up everyday and did their best work, and now we have a catalog of people spitting in their faces. That's the real ethical problem, and this is what I have pointed out, despite the down votes content on shaming dissenting opinion. This is why I have the thankless job of being the cold hand of karma.

woof
 

Nyoro SF

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Jul 5, 2011
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585
Polygon posted an article about it.
http://www.polygon.com/2017/4/20/15356026/persona-5-translation-localization

I am very disappointed in people doubling down on awful English writing. Please believe me when I say I am a native English speaker and that Atlus can do much better. I sincerely hope Atlus fixes the mistakes they made even though I'm pretty sure their JP interfering overlords wouldn't allow it after that nonsense they pulled with character names.
 

silveralen

Neo Member
Jun 10, 2015
28
0
0
Im willing to bet hardcore persona fans are the harshest critics of the localization, lol.

Well actually judging by the people who have written articles and/or made entire websites about it, it appears some fans of the recent fire emblem fates (or at least it's localization) are actually the biggest critics.

Fun fact: The same person who made a website about persona 5's localization defended fates as being perfect and not having issues at all. Oh and for extra fun? He defended radical character shifts and personality overhauls as part of the localization process and people complaining about them were just obsessed with "literal" translations.

Reading through the website again with that knowledge put a lot of things into context. Not to mention the rather noteworthy collection of articles that all got released at once. Looks like some people are trying to make a point about how ltieral translations are bad, so fates totally overhauling character's arcs, personalities, and tone was perfectly fine.
 

TheBryanJZX90

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May 4, 2012
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Well actually judging by the people who have written articles and/or made entire websites about it, it appears some fans of the recent fire emblem fates (or at least it's localization) are actually the biggest critics.

Fun fact: The same person who made a website about persona 5's localization defended fates as being perfect and not having issues at all. Oh and for extra fun? He defended radical character shifts and personality overhauls as part of the localization process and people complaining about them were just obsessed with "literal" translations.

Reading through the website again with that knowledge put a lot of things into context.

Hmph. As expected of liberal translation-kun.
 

saturnine

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Sep 23, 2013
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Well actually judging by the people who have written articles and/or made entire websites about it, it appears some fans of the recent fire emblem fates (or at least it's localization) are actually the biggest critics.

Fun fact: The same person who made a website about persona 5's localization defended fates as being perfect and not having issues at all. Oh and for extra fun? He defended radical character shifts and personality overhauls as part of the localization process and people complaining about them were just obsessed with "literal" translations.

Reading through the website again with that knowledge put a lot of things into context.

Fun fact : the dude in question made a post on reddit addressing this "issue".

Hey, highlel: author of the article here. I've noticed some negative comments about me on exactly that topic, and I'd like to assure you that Fates doesn't get a complete pass from me either. (From what I can tell, the source of that information is an out of context tweet that some fellow used to construct an ad hominem argument against me with.)

Fates does well on a general readability front (the editing is excellent, and the text is fun to read), but I'm rather displeased with how they altered some of the content and support conversations—that's something I'd never do in a project of my own unless forced to by the client, and then only under protest. If you read my section on translation vs localization, I do address this somewhat: the be-all and end-all is always the creator's intent, and Fates was flawed on that front.

Hope that clears things up a bit!
 

senj

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Aug 16, 2009
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610
"Mental shutdown incidents" is one of my least favorite things in the script. From my rudimentary knowledge of Japanese and reading NHK, it seems in Japan they like to give things category names, like a sort of common-proper noun hybrid, and it doesn't translate well to English. People in at least the U.S. would just call them "weird news stories about people passing out" and stuff like that. I can't see people subscribing to using a common term like "Mental shutdown incidents."

Does anyone have a clue what I'm getting at?

I don't know if there's a name for the linguistic process, but Japanese really strongly tends towards having very descriptive/self-explanatory proper nouns for things. You see it a lot in everything from news stories about trends to movie titles ("Spirited Away" -> "Spiriting Away of Sen & Chihiro", or "Up" -> "Grandpa Carl's Flying House").
 

silveralen

Neo Member
Jun 10, 2015
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Fun fact : the dude in question made a post on reddit addressing this "issue".

Considering the "out of context comment" was him discussing why literal translations weren't needed when discussing the fire emblem fates game, a game critiqued for basically ignoring the source material on multiple occasions....

and considering he made a point about how literal translations were "objectively bad"

and we had how many articles pop up in the last day or so? A couple weeks after this game was released? From how many sites that defended fates?

It can't possibly be someone trying to make an extended point about how awful literal translations are, despite most evidence suggesting people much prefer a this persona translation to the fates translation.

We know it can't be that because he said so and there is no possible reason he wouldn't be forthcoming on that subject.