Well, it looks like Murphy has struck once more! Almost as soon as I said we might get Brandish: The Dark Revenant out by the end of the year, complications arose which have delayed it until the very beginning of 2015 instead.
Obviously, this means no Brandish in time for Christmas, which is most definitely a bummer. But the good news is, this extra time has allowed us to polish the game even further, making small quality-of-life tweaks that should result in an overall better product. This includes control adjustments to remain as close to the original Japanese control scheme as possible, swapping the X and O buttons only where it’s absolutely required… as well as other little things (like submitting to PEGI for a European rating) *coughcough*– oh, pardon me!
This game has been an absolute blast to work on in general, and I can’t wait for you guys to play it. The best part from a localization standpoint, though, has been the challenge of adapting it to English without losing the feel of the original work. There are all the usual hurdles, of course – finding the space for descriptive English text in very small windows and boxes being a particularly notable one here, since this game sure does love to cram as many text windows on the screen as humanly possible sometimes – but Brandish carried with it a few unique tonal challenges as well.
See, this is a game with a very dark, creepy atmosphere to it, and Falcom’s writers tried to add to that in the original Japanese by using lots of foreign (or foreign-sounding) names. Of course, a lot of those foreign names happened to be in English… and they’re the sorts of things that might sound exotic to a Japanese-speaker, but just sound kind of “off” to an English-speaker.
And that, my friends, is what this job is all about! The difference between translation and localization is that you’re just conveying the words with translation, whereas you’re conveying the meaning and atmosphere as well with localization. Essentially, you’re trying to replicate the exact same feeling Japanese-speakers had when playing the game in their native language.
I thought it might be interesting to go over a few of the name-changes that have been made in Brandish: The Dark Revenant’s script, to give you all an idea of what this localization process entails. So, without further ado, here are some of the more noteworthy examples:
The lost, ancient kingdom which frames this tale is roughly written out in Japanese characters as “Bitōru,” and officially Romanized as “Btowls.” Obviously, this wasn’t going to fly in our version, so I had to decide on something a bit more fitting – something that would roll off the tongue while still sounding exotic and medieval.
Now, a lot of you are probably aware that the Japanese syllabary has no real distinction between R and L sounds, but a lesser-known fact is that many Japanese speakers also have trouble differentiating B and V sounds. Although modern Japanese does allow for V sounds in its foreign borrow-words, many Japanese speakers still pronounce these as if they were written with the letter B, and a lot of foreign borrow-words just use B anyway.
So “Bitōru,” ultimately, could have any of four possible English pronunciations: Bitol, Bitor, Vitol and Vitor. Of these choices, “Vitor” seemed the most promising. And since the word is supposed to be pronounced with a short i rather than a long one, the first thing I did was double the t, changing it to “Vittor.”
When referring to people who hail from Vittor, then, I naturally wrote “Vittorians.” Then, after a bit of deliberation, I decided that “Vittor,” by itself, just didn’t quite sound like a country name… so it inherited that extra “ia” from the name of its people, and blossomed into “Vittoria.” This would become the new name for the game’s setting, capturing the perfect feel while still staying true to the intent of the original Japanese.
Crab Devil and the Crab Babies
One of the first bosses in the game is simply called “Crab Devil” in the Japanese, and it’s flanked by its many “Crab Babies.” The monster in question is actually quite imposing, but it’s a little hard to take seriously with a name like that. After a bit of research, I finally decided on “Karkinos” as an English name for the Crab Devil – based on the ancient Greek word for crab, which later became known as Carcinus (the root of the modern word “carcinogen”). Its babies, then, are now called “Zoea,” which is literally the technical term for a crab larva.
Similarly to Crab Devil, it’s hard to take a foe seriously when it’s simply called “Lobster.” Ooh, the lobsters are gonna get me! Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be many lobsters mentioned in world mythology. However, since the setting of Brandish has more than a few Greek elements in it (including the name of its main protagonist, Ares Toraernos), the surprisingly badass-sounding Greek word for lobster, “Astakos,” was a perfect fit here.
This was probably the most ridiculous monster name in the entire game, and considering it was used for extremely threatening flying Cthulhu-esque octopi that inhabit the Dark Zone, it was a bit of an immersion-breaker. Curious to see if there were any mythological flying octopi I could pull inspiration from (outside of Lovecraftian lore, which is a bit overplayed), I did a bit of digging, and my searches kept coming back to a Wikipedia article on an experimental helicopter from the 1920s built by a man named George de Bothezat, nicknamed the “Flying Octopus.” Eventually, one thing led to another, and these creatures became known as “Bothezats” in helicopter dude’s honor. What can I say? The man has a really cool last name!
These are, by far, the most frightening enemies in the entire game. They’re basically Beholders, but… well, I don’t want to spoil the nightmare-inducing surprise for you all. Suffice it to say, there’s a reason they’re called “Erase Eyes”…
The name “Erase Eye,” however, is kind of awkward-sounding due to the odd word choice of verb + noun, both of which begin and end with the letter E. This also makes it a bit of a mouthful, coming out when spoken quickly as if it were one word – “Eraysai” – unless you specifically pause and make the break between the two very clear. In general, it just sounded a bit… clunky. And considering how UTTERLY TERRIFYING these things are in-game, clunky wasn’t going to cut it.
This was a hard one to replace, however, and I’m supposed to let you all know that fellow XSEEDite Kelly was really pushing for the name “Eyebliterator.” We, uh, didn’t use that, however, instead opting for the slightly less eyebrow-raising (yet appropriately badass-sounding) “Unbeholder.”
…And that’s just a taste of what’s in store for you when you’re finally able to get your hands on Brandish: The Dark Revenant sometime early next year. There are certainly other changes to be found as well, but I hope this blog has made it clear to you that nothing was changed without a good reason, and that a lot of thought and care went into every localization decision we made. Our goal was to ensure that when you play this game, your experience is every bit as engrossing and exotic as it was for the original audience in Japan, and I believe we’ve achieved that.
I sincerely can’t wait for you guys to play this. It really is something special, and I know that if you give it a chance, you’ll get lost in the dungeons of Vittoria just as I did.
And I was never heard from again…