What time is it?
*enables the “Cursed Clock” app and checks*
That’s right! It’s time to talk some more about Zwei: The Arges Adventure!
We’ve already covered AAAAAHH I’M SO EXCITED and technical improvements, so now it’s time to move on to my old friend Pearce D. Resistance (nice guy; keeps to himself most of the time and does a lot of puzzles).
I speak, of course, of this game’s script and its many interesting quirks. And I’ve gotta say, it’s hard to even know where to begin here! So, I guess I’ll just start with the meat of the script: protagonists Pipiro and Pokkle. These two kids are the heart and soul of the game, so it was absolutely essential to get their personalities just right in translation. Fortunately, they’re two of the most uniquely charming characters I’ve ever written for.
See, localization is more than just looking up words and replacing them with exact equivalents (especially from Japanese to English, since the two languages have almost no similarities in their grammar or linguistic flow); so while the script was absolutely hilarious in Japanese, a word-for-word translation wouldn’t have conveyed nearly the same sense of over-the-top absurdity and delightful self-awareness that native Japanese-speakers were getting out of the original text. To do that, I had to kind of get into Pipiro and Pokkle’s headspace – I had to translate the Japanese to English, then think to myself, “How would this character naturally convey this idea in English?”
This proved both easy and fun for both characters, largely because they reminded me so strongly of people I know (or am) in real life. Pipiro, for example, is like an odd amalgamation of current coworker Jason and former coworker Kelly. Jason’s got the same direct manner of speaking and unwavering confidence as Pipiro, while Kelly’s got the same sense of streetwise savvy, similarly strong opinions about things, and a matching degree of unfiltered expressivism. Some of you may remember Kelly as our Twitter handler for several years (perhaps most renowned for her love of skeleton GIFs), or may know Jason as our in-house fighting game expert. If you know both of them, try to imagine what a fusion of the two would be like in video game form, and that’s Pipiro in a nutshell. No lingo is too hip or unhip for her to use, no statement too blunt, no promise too untenable, and no action too outlandish. She goes where she wants, says what she wants, does things how she wants, and is all the more fun because of it. I fully expected to prefer writing Pokkle when I started working on Zwei’s English script, but in the end, I found Pipiro’s dialogue far more rewarding, since she basically is the living embodiment of “saying what we’re all thinking,” oftentimes in quite clever ways – not to mention approaching everything in life with a critical eye, and never hesitating to share her true feelings with anyone and everyone. She is, simply put, my favorite character I’ve ever translated.
Pokkle, on the other hand, is basically me. Mixed with my coworker Nick. Largely because of all the puns. Now, some may worry that I took his puns a bit too far in the English version of the game, since he definitely busts out puns a bit more often than he did in the Japanese – but this wasn’t done simply because it was fun to write (although it most definitely was!). Rather, this was done in order to really sell his character to the audience. See, the reactions other NPCs have to Pokkle fall largely within the “groan, lecture him about his life choices, and/or tell him to get out” category, and these types of reactions are ones that I know all too well (as, I’m sure, does anyone else who has a predilection toward the “dadliest” of jokes). But the degree to which he punned in Japanese didn’t really seem to warrant the severity of the reactions he was receiving – not in translation, anyway. It felt like the rest of the town was being overly harsh toward him, sticking him with a reputation he hadn’t entirely earned. So, naturally… I made him earn it. I gave him a translation that I feel accurately represents what the original Japanese intended from him, accounting for the degree of punning required to truly become beloved yet reviled by the masses as a constant source of dad jokes that often stretch the very fabric of good sense.
I had to get into various eccentric headspaces for all the other characters too, of course, but there was another step required before that: simply figuring out who the hell was talking! The way the game’s text is structured, it was mostly easy to tell when Pokkle and Pipiro were speaking (though sometimes, as when examining objects in town, there was no real indication which line belonged to which character beyond the speech style of the Japanese), but other characters were either labeled as YOU or ETC throughout the script. Much of the time, there were comments in the code specifying to whom these YOU or ETC lines belonged – but this couldn’t always be counted on, since such comments were occasionally vague, incorrect, or missing altogether. This was definitely a game best translated while playing through it in Japanese.
Another good reason to do this? Figuring out what text is actually used, and what text is not. I’d estimate the script for Zwei: The Arges Adventure contains within it about two and a half games’ worth of text, including countless scenes that no longer exist, and even a whole other storyline with heretofore unseen characters, repurposed characters, and events and backstories that have absolutely no analogues whatsoever in the finished game. The legendary hero Paradys, for example, existed in some previous draft of the game as a noble military commander from the royal capital (which itself doesn’t really exist anymore in the game’s lore) named “Paradys du Pereau” – a name Pipiro had trouble remembering, so she decided she’d just call him “Perolin.” A lot of times, this was my first clue that the scene I was translating was unused, since there are no occurrences of the “Perolin” nickname (nor even Paradys’ last name) in the game’s final script whatsoever. (Or… Or ARE there?)
Paradys was also always accompanied by his trusty “hellcat” companion, which seems to have survived into the final version of Zwei as a boss character for the Pet Monitor minigame. Additionally, Paradys had a personal pilot named Silva, and Silva doesn’t seem to exist in the final version of the game in any form; instead, the game’s sole pilot role is filled by an NPC named Miles. And this is fine by me, as Miles has a lot more personality than Silva seemed to from the bits I got to read through – plus, again, anytime I encountered a scene featuring Silva, I immediately knew it was safe to skip over in translation, since it was clearly unused.
Perhaps these large swaths of unused text were part of the game back when it was known as “PiPiRoS PoCuRus” instead of “Zwei!!” – a name some clever Japanese fans found is still represented in the original version of the game, albeit only when triggering a glitch in the launcher.
So, yeah. Because of all the stuff that no longer exists in the finished game, this was a decidedly challenging yet endlessly interesting localization project. But then when you add in all the obscure stuff that was left in the game, it becomes an even more fascinating specimen!
That’ll have to be a story for next time, however, as this is already getting pretty long. But never fear, because we just announced the game’s launch date, and it’s less than two weeks away, on January 24th! Have you seen our launch date announcement trailer yet? It’s super-cute!
There will be one more blog entry about this game sometime before launch, but until then, Zweiholics, I bid you…