Carpe Fulgur On Recettear’s English Build – Translation vs. Localization

By Ishaan . September 13, 2010 . 12:29pm


This post is part of a lengthy Q&A with Andrew Dice, co-founder of Carpe Fulgur and project director on the localization of Recettear.


How much of the game did you actually have to “localize” as oppose to translate? Did you find yourself having to make any changes to things like humour or was it smooth-sailing as far as cultural differences are concerned?


Carpe Fugur co-founder, Andrew Dice: I would say more went unchanged than went changed, though. Certainly nothing about the main plot was altered — it all carried forward into English well enough without needing any sweeping edits.


Where we made changes was in things like the humor, as you noted — though we left a whole lot of that untouched, as well. (As we like to point out, Recette’s famous “Do I have to sell my organs?” monologue is essentially verbatim from the Japanese.) It was mostly making sure things made sense in English — in one scene, for example, a reference to a kind of foodstuff was made into a different sort of reference (and the presentation of the joke was slightly changed) so that the meaning and spirit of the thing would carry forward.


It was mostly things like that — making sure the humor made sense and only changing things as necessary. The game was already great, after all, so there’s no need to go changing things ham-handedly. Now, admittedly, since there were a fair number of JRPG references, we did take the opportunity to slip in a few Western RPG references as well, just to balance things out. I’ll be curious to see who notices them all. ; )


There was one other “big change” we made to the game in terms of background and setting: food references. In the original script, nearly all the food references were of common Japanese dishes. The only exceptions were things like the occasional kind of alcohol Charme would drink (if it was some kind of famous French wine, for example) or Alouette’s constant going on about having various Western “upper class” dishes (Alouette being the blonde girl at the end of the demo).


This really got weird when Alouette would talk about caviar and then Recette and Tear would go on about tonburi in a setting that’s supposed to be Fantasy Not-France.


It was made even worse by the presence of a character named “Nagi”, who isn’t in the demo but appears quite a bit in the main game; part of her deal is how she’s clearly a foreigner (basically a Japanese person) in Pensee and her clothes and customs and whatnot are different… and then, multiple times, she and Recette would talk about exclusively Japanese dishes like sukiyaki and tofu and whatnot as though it was the most natural thing in the world and not at all foreign.


Basically, a Japanese person probably wouldn’t think about it too much (they’re used to thinking about such food, after all) but when we put it into English it parsed very, very strangely. So the references to characters knowing of and eating Japanese dishes was largely replaced with Western dishes — except for Nagi, who still talks about Japanese food in a way that enhances her “foreignness”.


This ties back into what I was talking about earlier — it works best for the setting to have the food talk be Western, as it makes the world seem more consistent and believable to readers. Nagi still talks about Japanese food because it makes sense for her to do so.


Truth be told, all things being equal I would’ve liked to change some of the food items in the actual item list, as well — it’s okay for the most part but there are a few more “Eastern” dishes in there than I’d really like. This is our first project, though, and it would’ve required fairly extensive graphic work on top of coming up with new food items, so we thought that was perhaps something of a bridge too far this time around.


That’s what it boils down to, though — any localization we did was with an eye toward making sure the world and story were logical and believable to the reader.


Stay tuned for more Carpe Fulgur talk in the coming weeks as we discuss the company’s future plans.

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  • I really hope Carpe Fulgur continues to translate games made by Easy Game Station; Territoire looks really good, and it’d be a shame if it never got translated. I actually payed for the game, which was rare considering thepiratebay was my best friend since, like, the seventh grade.

  • Souji Tendou

    So, uh… sorry to say this but, what is this game again?

    • Sorry to say this but, … read the tittle? the first 2 lines?

  • mirumu

    As someone who’s been playing the game fairly heavily since it’s release the other day I’m quite happy with the results of their translation. Obviously I don’t have the Japanese script to compare, but the dialog comes across very natural and doesn’t feel either under-done or over-localized.

    If they had actually gone as far as changing food item graphics though it really wouldn’t have sat very well with me. I strongly disagree with the idea that games need to be filtered through our local culture so excessively in order to appeal. Recettear itself looks to be a fairly good example of why it’s not necessary given how high the game has been ranking on the various stores carrying it.

    I very much doubt when western games like Bioshock 2 or Fallout 3 are localized for Japan they replace the food items with things like instant ramen, pocky and ramune.

    • Joanna

      I know this reply is late…but I have just gotten around to reading this article and I just want to say one thing about your comment: You are misunderstanding why CF wanted to change the food item graphics. They weren’t thinking of changing them to appeal more to “western” tastes, but simply to make the world of the game more consistent. Like CF mentioned in the interview, the town Recette inhabits is suppose to be a Fantasy make believe version of France. Why would there be Asian food in a medieval fantasy France? It just does not make sense. Thus, CF wanted to change to food graphics and description to fit the world (like they did with the food references). Calling this filtering to fit “western” culture is wrong since the reason behind it has nothing to do with appealing to westerners and making it easier for them to grasp the game. Why? because if this game was about medieval Japan, I’m certain CF would keep everything Japanese because it’s suppose to be like that and it would be weird if there weren’t Japanese foods in the game.

      Personally I agree with their decision. It makes the game look more internally consistent and doesn’t involve the gamer needing to really stretch their suspension of belief.

      • mirumu

        I do see the distinction you’re making, and CF’s intention is important. I’m certainly not suggesting the work they did is bad in any way either. Having said that I don’t think it’s accurate to say that changing items completely wouldn’t be catering to fit western culture as our expectations of fantasy not-France are defined by our regional/cultural worldview. Within Japan it would appear that it’s not quite so unthinkable that fantasy not-France may enjoy some Japanese dishes. Changes such as those may not be directly trying to appeal to western tastes, but that’s still going to be the end result whether it’s happening consciously or not.

        Putting that aside though, the issue that concerns me more is that a game changed in this way could very well result in a somewhat different experience to the original game. I don’t mean to make that sound more important than it is. We’re not talking about Shakespeare here, and the additional changes talked of in the case of Recettear would have been fairly small, but generally speaking I’d prefer to experience something close to how the creator intended rather than have a third party alter it based on assumptions of what people in my area or culture may or may not find plausible. If anything I’d argue something like Recettear with it’s lighthearted and heavily stylized visual presentation has less need to suspend disbelief than a game taking itself more seriously or aiming for realism. Various design decisions in Mass Effect 2 broke the immersion for me far more than anything in Recettear. If suspension of disbelief is the goal, then there’s a lot of games both eastern and western that need some serious work.

  • I’m a big fan of localization anyway. I know we as fans can be sensitive about these things since so many earlier works have had their meanings mangled, destroyed, or censored – but I really just want RPGs, which live or die by story, to be entertaining and natural-sounding in English and not stilted or incomprehensible.

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