Lux-Pain: A Lesson In Localization

By Spencer . April 3, 2009 . 5:09pm

image There is some screen scratching, but Lux-Pain is really a visual novel. As a genre, visual novels are way less interactive than action games and RPGs. What visual novels do best is immerse readers with elements books don’t offer like music, sound effects, graphics, and branching plots. Most importantly, a good visual novel needs to pick the right words to describe events since you’re passively reading about them.

 

Lux-Pain stumbles badly in this department. One disadvantage Lux-Pain has is it’s a Japanese game that had to be adapted for the west. It feels like Marvelous directly translated the game from Japanese to English and as a result the story telling suffered. This is a case where a localized product would have been superior. I’m not saying Marvelous needs to change the setting to New York and rename the main character to John Everyman. However, the localization staff should have taken steps to ensure Lux-Pain’s text didn’t sound awkward.

 

Here’s a line from one of Atsuki’s dream sequences as an example — “In a pitch black room my sister is dead, laying on the floor. The floor is a sea of blood and nothing at all is the same as it was.”

 

Does this sound like a story you want to keep reading? The voice actors tried address this by improving lines with what they felt fit rather than reading them verbatim. However, this adds another layer of confusion to Lux-Pain. It’s like the game is presenting two visions at the same time: the creator’s in text and an interpretation during voiceovers.

 

image The localization problem may have partially been technical. In Japanese you only need a few characters to create a vivid image. In English you need words made of multiple letters. Games tend to treat characters (which represent an idea) and letters (which represent part of an idea) the same way. It’s a problem many developers solve by reprogramming games with custom fonts and text limits.

 

Small bits of centered text that pop up throughout the game indicate Marvelous didn’t bother reprogramming Lux-Pain to make room for more characters. These scenes have huge borders surrounding the text so there is plenty of physical space they could have utilized by expanding text boxes. Instead of reading an eloquent translation the localization team diced the story up and crammed it back in the accommodate text limits. Don’t believe me? They use “&” to represent the word “and” many times.

 

If the interview with Takeo Higashino wasn’t clear Lux-Pain’s story is dark. Often, it feels like Lux-Pain is trying to get a rise out of players by only showing humanity’s deplorable side. Animal torture, suicide, and despair are some of the joyful topics Lux-Pain covers. Not every game needs a happy ending, but Lux-Pain’s daily dose of depression is off the charts.


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  • pedrron

    “John Everyman”, Family Guy qoute? Nintendo Power blasted this game too. So, is it even worth a rental?

    • http://www.siliconera.com Spencer

      Family Guy made that reference?

      I think Nintendo “blasted” Lux Pain for a different reason – its lack of interactivity. I’m just commenting on the translation and the resulting obtuse story. I like to believe Siliconera readers are smart enough to make decisions about their money without me holding their hand. So, this is the experience I had with Lux Pain. Is this something you’re interested in experiencing?

      • http://myanimelist.net/profile/Kuronoa Kuronoa

        Yeah it doesn’t look like I’ll have fun with it. Thank you for pointing out what Nintendo Power didn’t. ^_^

      • MadMirko

        Yes, we are smart enough, thanks for continuing to treat us that way!

        And hell yes, I’m interested in experiencing this. I don’t know if the localization will bother me, but at the very least I won’t have a superior version to compare it to. ;)

        On a somewhat related note, this seems to be unavailable to Amazon in Germany. RSG titles are not exactly widely available, but not selling through the most popular online store doens’t sound like a good idea.

  • M’iau M’iaut

    I thought ignition was just using the existing rising star translation that was done for Europe. That also could be part of the rough nature of the translation if they used a non-native translation team originally. Even a British staff would be apt to phrase things differently from one who speaks good “American”.

    That being said, it is sad to see editing issues continue to occur in translated VNs. If you are going to snag a few new game buyers who come for an interest in reading a good story, you cant give them gibberish to read.

    I am still enjoying my time with the game — but I’m also a sucker for VNs and Japanese story games in general.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Spencer

      I haven’t played Rising Star’s release, but that sounds exactly like what Ignition did.

      • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

        Wait, so Rising Star’s English script for the game is the same as Ignition’s? Who used whose?

  • http://myanimelist.net/profile/Kuronoa Kuronoa

    I might skip this one… If the localization is that bad I could wait for a price drop, but I have a feeling the game will get a price raise instead. >_<

  • Trickless

    For a game that relies so heavily on the text and dialog, the localisation is very dissappointing.

    I remember reading one scene, where the translators seem to have gotten the ‘he’ and ‘she’ mixed up. Often, it feels like the localisation team didn’t even know what they where translating.

    I thought the voice acting itself was done pretty well, it was only because it wasn’t matching the text that made it frustrating to go through at times.

  • Vino (Tim N)

    Wait for a price drop. I picked up the game, and it sorta throws you into everything. Maybe I should check the manual D:
    The spoken words doesn’t match it’s written text…is it supposed to be like that? Since a person is displayed on both screens, just one all blurry, I thought that the voice was like its inner voice, while text is one the person is saying on the outside.
    The game confuses me D: Only been at it for 2 hours though.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Spencer

      The story is really confusing since nothing is explained at the beginning. I leafed through the manual a bit and it at least explains what Fort is, but doesn’t give you much of an idea about Atsuki. Maybe everyone is supposed to read the website too? :P

  • Aoshi00

    I’ve had the import for a long time and the beginning just didn’t grab me. The opening was pretty creepy, the deplorable side of human beings reminded me of Chapter Black of Yu Yu Hakusho.

    I agree w/ localization being necessary sometimes in such a text/story-driven game. Imagine if the Western audience would have strong affinity toward Phoenix, Edgeworth, or Gumshoe, if they were known directly as Naruhodo, Mitsurugi, or Itonoko.

    Speaking of kanji characters and English alphabets, it’s interesting in Phoenix Wright they would spell out the “guilty” verdict letter by letter (6 letters) while not guilty is presented as “two words”. In Japanese both guilty (yuuzai) and not guilty (muzai) are comprised of two kanji only.

    It’s unfortunate to hear Lux Pain has bad translation, the occasional typo in Phoenix Wright was quite distracting and mars an otherwise perfect script.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Spencer

      Yeah I think Phoenix Wright is a great example of how to localize a game. It’s not literal, but it keeps the spirit of the source material.

      If you thought the occasional typo was distracting there… Lux-Pain has tons of typos and strange sentences that make understanding the game and its serious subjects difficult.

  • IDDATA

    As some ppl already mentioned, isn’t this Ignition’s fault and not Marvelous since it’s published by Ignition?

    • http://myanimelist.net/profile/Kuronoa Kuronoa

      Yeah I would think so too. Even if Marvelous has a hand with the translation, Ignition should of proof-read or something. That’s thier job to assure publishing quality, not Marvelous.

  • http://twitter.com/nameoftheyear Elliot T.

    That’s a shame. I was kind of looking forward to this, one of the few translated DS visual novels. I’ll give it a try if I have the chance, but hearing that the localization is botched definitely bumps it far down my priority list.

    This got me thinking that a solid localization is more noticeable and more valuable in games than ever before. That is to say, publishers could get away with tepid localizations in the Super NES or PS1 or even early PS2 days, but the information available to players (Internet; comparing translation changes) and the standard of quality (great localizations, like Persona 4 or Phoenix Wright) is much higher today. Not to mention the sheer amount of text that can be currently crammed into a game give errors more room to appear.

    The result is that bad localizations stick out where they wouldn’t have before.
    Or maybe I just pay way more attention to this stuff than I did as a young gamer. D:

  • http://twitter.com/matty_125 matty

    Reminds me of the situation with the N.A. release of Jake Hunter. I’ve read the localization was bland, but Aksys is giving it another chance with a more jazzed up tone this time around.
    I doubt Lux-Pain will get the same treatment, but it would definitely benefit at least from that aspect.

    • Zefiro Torna

      Ah, nice coincidence to see someone was thinking almost likewise as I was busy composing my mini rant below (or perhaps… above) as the Aksys and the Jake Hunter situation was also on my mind. Man, I remember putting the whole Jake Hunter thing behind then one fine day I learn of Aksys’ second attempt at Jake Hunter. By then I didn’t need it (due to moving on), didn’t expect it, but it was still hella cool of them.

  • Zefiro Torna

    I’d never thought I would say this in regards to a botched localization, but considering the nature of this genre and the need (not of “wanting” but of “NEEDing”) for a competent, understandable, comprehensible script in order enjoy the product for what it is… I’ll say this: This game needs a recall or a do-over. It NEEDS it.

    Let’s pretend the “visual” (and audible) aspects were to be removed from this and only the core “novel” were to remain. Well, there’s absolutely no sane editor or publisher in the print industry that would let something in this state even receive any sort of significant funding, let alone appear at retail.

    Considering the optimism I’ve had for this title, the neat-o packaging this received (I prefer Ignition’s treatment of DS games as of late in that regard even over Atlus), and the very respectable track record of the involved publishers… I must say that this is one of the greatest let downs I’ve ever experienced from a retail video game product. I’m not a cruel person, I won’t start shouting “boycott” to the involved parties other products nor will I even so much reasonably demand an explanation and/or apology, all I would like to see is a “fix” announced soon.

  • http://pto.yetikitn.com MelodyKitn

    The ‘he/she’ swaps and dialogue vs. text entries definitely threw me for a loop, and yet I’m still addicted to it for some reason. I ‘play’ it like those Choose Your Own Adventure novels (with a whodunnit theme), but it does get very distracting when they don’t bother to instruct you on the whole Silent killing gameplay portion. That, and all the big chunks of text pertaining to Fort and what the rest of the groups do. Apart from that, I’m still plugging away at it. The grammar and spelling errors are off-putting, but luckily, not enough to get me to stop. And I was a tad surprised that the voice acting wasn’t entirely terrible.

  • http://pto.yetikitn.com MelodyKitn

    Oh, and yes.. it’s quite a depression-fest.

    Also, I still haven’t gotten around to knowing what those cards you occasionally pick up tend to mean.

    One positive note? It told me when to save when it turned into a part of the game where it meant an incredibly annoying Game Over if I didn’t save the person in time (which happened about two times before I got the areas completely right).

    (Sorry for the double post, but the comment doesn’t seem to appear on my comp if I post on Netvibes unless I tab it in a new window… so thought I’d at least put something else in the second post apart from ‘sorry for the double post’ ^^)

  • Trickless

    On a slightly positive note about the game, I enjoyed the sections where you read the thoughts of characters. Revealing some of the dark secrets of characters gave off a creepy and spine chilling feel – for these parts I felt they got the music and sound effects spot on.

    One thing I absolutely hated was the ‘Silent’ boss sections, they felt like they were tacked-on in the last minute. The ones where you have to ‘stretch’ the areas to the four corners, is one of the most frustrating and unnecessary parts of the game.

  • maxchain

    I was hoping I wasn’t the only one annoyed by the inconsistency between text and voice-over.

  • BobTheCat

    I’ve just finished the game, and while I enjoyed all of it, I have to say the localization was deplorable.

    The main problem is the translation. It seriously detracts from the story when you can’t understand wth the characters are saying, and on frequent occasions the translation made simple mistakes even someone with a decent grasp of english could point out, such as female characters referred to as “he” or “him”.

    Another ridiculous mistake is the fact that they changed the setting of the game to Japan. Which just makes the game even more confusing when you take into consideration the heavy japanese influence in the game and the japanese names of people and places. I have to admit never hearing of an American city called Kisaragi City.

    While Lux Pain suffered from terrible localisation underneath all of the problems lies an incredibly fun, interesting and rewarding game., the unfortunate truth is most players will not be able to stomach all the typos and bad grammar to even try and enjoy it, which means a niche title like Lux Pain will appeal to even less gamers.

    I hope the developer’s take notice that they failed to do this amazing game the justice it deserves and do a professional job next time.

    • Moriken

      Do you mean, they changed it to the USA without renaming people etc.? O_o

      In any case, from what I read here, the localization sounds like the translator either had to work under serious time constraints or was, plain and simple, lacking in ability. (or maybe both)

      The original game itself has a decent scenario, and excellent voice actors. But still I never really figured out the entire premise about the Silent etc., it seemed underdeveloped.

      • BobTheCat

        Fixed.

        Yes, I meant they changed it from Japan to the USA.

        It’s not just that they didn’t rename the people, it’s the fact it just has so much Japanese culture in it it doesn’t make sense to set it in the USA.

        Even if there was severe time constraints it doesn’t excuse the bad translation, I’m guessing their translator was lacking.

        I also found the premise difficult to discern and there were parts in the game which were poorly explained.

  • Joanna

    T_____________T
    and I was so looking forward to this game. I guess I’ll still pick it up since the example given wasn’t too bad (and I don’t get bent out of shape with minor grammar and spelling mistakes). It just depressing to heard that Lux-Pain didn’t get the treatment it deserves. :(

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