AAAAAAHHHHH IT’S FINALLY HAPPENING.
I’ve been working on this game for the better part of a year now, but have been unable to say anything about it for PR reasons – namely, that it wasn’t in a showable state, and we didn’t want to confuse prospective players by having two Zwei games announced but unreleased at the same time. Which is totally reasonable, but AAAAAAAHHHH I’VE BEEN WANTING TO TALK ABOUT THIS GAME SO BADLY YOU HAVE NO IDEA.
…Ahem. First off, I guess I should bring you all up to speed, in case you missed the announcement. Falcom’s 2001 PC classic Zwei!! is coming to the Western world via Steam, GOG, and The Humble Store in early 2018, under the name Zwei: The Arges Adventure. Why the name change? Well, because we already released its 2008 sequel, Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection (which was originally called Zwei II: Sky-High Great Adventure in Japan).
That’s right. Localization work wrapped on the sequel first, and now we’re finishing things up with the original.
What are we thinking?!, you must be asking yourselves. Why would we release the sequel first, then go back and release the original? Why wouldn’t we release the original game first? And since we’ve already released the more modern second entry in the series from seven years later, can this earlier effort really hold its own by comparison?
Well, that’s why I’m so excited. Because Zwei: The Arges Adventure is good. REALLY good. In fact, I dare say it’s my favorite translation I’ve ever worked on to date – yes, even topping Return to PopoloCrois and Corpse Party. And if you’re at all familiar with me (this is Tom, BTW), that statement alone should tell you that Zwei: AA is something special, since PopoloCrois and Corpse Party are… shall we say, perennial favorites of mine. To put it very lightly.
So, yeah. Let’s address those hypothetical questions, shall we?
Why would we release the sequel before the original? Well, two reasons. One, because we can – these games each tell standalone stories, set on different floating continents with different casts of characters. Zwei: AA’s two protagonists, Pipiro and Pokkle, do make a few cameo appearances in Zwei: II, but this is done almost purely for the sake of fanservice (the literal kind, not the naughty kind). When all is said and done, these two games are completely standalone, taking place in the same world but telling very different stories with very different characters and a very different feel. Think of it kind of like the Ys series, but even more episodic (since, Ys Origin aside, Ys has the Adol-as-protagonist connection from one game to the next, whereas Zwei doesn’t even have that!).
The other reason is because of the nature of Zwei: AA’s code. The Japanese version of this game utilized DirectX 5, was formatted strictly for 4:3 resolution with no widescreen options whatsoever, offered a lovely FPS selection of 30 or 15 (seriously!), counted on players to play it with mouse and keyboard over gamepad (it supported gamepads, but… barely), and contained no fewer than six unlockable Windows desktop apps that were loosely tied to yet completely separate from the main game.
This is one of them. And that first screenshot at the beginning of this blog entry is another.
In other words… this is the kind of adaptive coding project that’s been known to give lesser programmers heart attacks. Getting a game like this to even run on a modern Windows machine at all – much less run WELL – was decidedly not a task for the meek. In fact, it’s because of the way this game is coded that we ultimately decided to translate the game in-house rather than working with any fan-translators as we did for Zwei: II, as no two programmers would handle this text the same way – and trying to convert a fan-translated script to a format that would work for us would’ve taken almost as long as translating the game from scratch.
So, yeah. Getting Zwei: II out first was pretty much just done because… erm… it was ready first. And it was always GOING to be ready first. Even with a lengthy QA process and a couple minor delays, it still inevitably got finished long before its predecessor was ready to make its debut.
Fortunately, we hired a veteran programmer to work with us on Zwei: AA… but you’ll never guess who! It wasn’t Sara, since she was busy getting Zwei: II ready at the time (and a fine job she did of it, with one of our smoothest PC launches ever!). But this wasn’t our first time working with the guy we worked with on this project, either. It was, however, our first time working with him to modernize someone else’s game – and he really did perform some miracles for us (and put up with my many, many demands for quality-of-life improvements and feature additions, to boot!).
The man in question? Matt Fielding, of Magnetic Realms. A.k.a. the guy who brought you the game Exile’s End.
Pictured: Exile’s End. Which is also an awesome game you should play!
And thanks to his technical wizardry, you guys are going to have an astoundingly up-to-date version of Zwei!! on your hands at launch. We’re talking more than just widescreen support here – there’s full in-game integration of the Pet Monitor and other desktop apps, new control functionality for more natural gamepad support across the board, inclusion of the arranged soundtrack from the Japan-only PSP version of the game, additional art and text content not present in any previous version of the game, and much, much more (to be detailed in future blog entries!).
Moving on to the second question I asked, with Zwei: II already out, can Zwei: AA hold its own by comparison?
I think you know what my answer’s going to be, on that one. Zwei: The Arges Adventure is a freaking awesome game with a lot to offer, and differs from its own successor in enough key areas that it can very easily hold its own any day of the week. Hell, you might even like it better than Zwei: II – it’s certainly a very close call for me, but I’d say Zwei: AA gets the slight edge!
Sure, they’re both dungeon-crawling action RPGs at their core, and they both use food to level-up, even sharing the same food exchange system to discourage grinding. And the two-character party (plus one pet), with one character taking the role of physical attacker while the other slings spells, takes center stage in both titles as well. Plus, both games are set on floating continents in the same world.
That’s a lot of similarities, but they’re all relatively superficial. You could say Zwei: AA is like the 2D answer to Zwei: II’s 3D world, but that would be discounting its snarkier and more tongue-in-cheek storyline (yes, even more than Zwei: II’s!), or the gorgeous and ludicrously colorful hand-drawn backgrounds, or the two games’ very different approaches to pets (you only get one pet in Zwei: AA as opposed to the veritable army of pets featured in Zwei: II, but that one dog or cat [or other?] has significantly more personality and gameplay involvement than its many Zwei: II counterparts), or the huge variety of minigames on offer (all of which have been adapted to play from within the game itself, despite formerly existing only as desktop apps)… and that’s just scratching the surface. In short, although the two games use the same basic template, they represent two very different approaches to game design within the confines of that template.
For me as Zwei: AA’s translator, though, I can’t help but laser-focus right on the game’s dialogue. Protagonist duo Pipiro and Pokkle are without a doubt the best pair to write that somebody like me could ever ask for. Pokkle constantly cracks bad puns (and I do mean constantly!), wears a tail for funsies, and is always hitting on women twice his age.
And Pipiro just has absolutely no filter whatsoever, and is full of so much snark that she’s fit to burst.
Practically every line out of these two is an absolute gem – and that’s to say nothing of the many quirky NPCs surrounding them over the course of their rather lengthy quest (such as the endlessly self-delusional “libertine fatass” that’s funding your adventure, and his extremely no-nonsense maid who gave him that nickname).
I… really can’t stress enough how much fun it was to write for these characters, and how inspired I was to come up with the perfect phrasing for every line. I’m extremely appreciative that we chose to translate the game in-house, as it gave me an opportunity to work much more deeply with this script than I ever could’ve if we’d only been tasked with editing it. As time went on, I found myself revising my work on a daily basis, making small tweaks here and there as new bits of wordplay or better puns popped into my head (much to Matt’s chagrin, I’m sure!). The end result is something that I can stand behind as a faithful interpretation of the game’s mood and intent – an attempt to convey the same degree of lighthearted fun and irreverence present in every line of the Japanese script, but formatted to sound more natural in English, accounting for context, tone, atmosphere, and individual character quirks rather than just hammering out a word-for-word translation.
I’ve never laughed so hard while playing a JRPG before, and I truly hope that when you guys play this one in English, you’ll find its English interpretation just as hilarious as I found its original Japanese to be. That would mean I succeeded at what I set out to do, and would bring me great joy and pride as a localizer!
And please do keep an eye on this Tumblr, as I fully intend to give lots more info about Zwei: The Arges Adventure (and more screenshots showing off lines I’m particularly proud of) in the weeks to come!
Until then, I hope you’re all continuing to enjoy Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection, and… well, I’mma go back to testin’ Zwei: The Arges Adventure now, ‘cause I want this game to be downright perfect when it’s released! And with translation and editing 100% complete, and coding probably somewhere in the 70-80% done range, that release date will be here before you know it…