How Xseed Localized Corpse Party (And Kept It Scary)
Corpse Party is a horror game, but 5pb’s game is not a playable slasher film. The grisly details in the PSP title are described in text boxes. Xseed’s localization specialist Tom Lipschultz is back to talk about how he handled this and localized Corpse Party’s subtle details.
I think the concept of Corpse Party is quite interesting. Instead of trying to scare players with HD death scenes, the game uses 2D graphics and grisly text. How did that affect the game’s localization?
Tom Lipschultz, Localization Specialist: Corpse Party does tend to rely on description and audio a lot more than a graphical powerhouse of a game would, taking every opportunity to turn out the lights or blindfold your character, then describe a scene through that character’s internal monologue, peppered with squishy, meaty sounds of mutilation and expertly-acted screams of agony for good measure. These scenes are particularly effective because they manage to be so gruesome and graphic, yet they leave the more exact details of what’s happening up to your imagination – and as everyone knows, the imagination is capable of far more terrifying images than any television, monitor or PSP screen can possibly produce.
As a result of this, though, special attention had to be paid to the localization. After all, if it were too flat, the impact of these descriptions would be lost; but if it were too over-the-top, they’d simply become silly. Finding that middle ground took a little practice, and I think by the end I was really starting to get pretty good at it… perhaps a little TOO good…
The biggest challenges, however, were all the “Japanisms.” I wanted this game script to sound completely natural in English, just as it does in Japanese… but there are lots of subtle details that arise from the meanings of names, or from Japanese wordplay, which certainly made things a bit more challenging. Even the name of the haunted elementary school presented a bit of an issue: Simply called “Tenjin Elementary School” in the Japanese, named after the city in which it stands, the kanji characters that make up the name “Tenjin” just so happen to mean “God in Heaven.” I’m pretty sure this was no coincidence, as it’s just far too ironic that the most horrific, hellish place imaginable would be named “God in Heaven”… so I ultimately settled on translating the school name as “Heavenly Host Elementary School” and the local newspaper as “Heavenly Post,” while leaving the town name as Tenjin. It’s taking a few liberties, definitely, but I think the end result is closer to the intended impact of the original name.
What makes this version different from the PC version?
I’m probably forgetting something, but these are the most notable changes from the PC version:
- The background tile graphics and lighting/shadow effects have been drastically improved.
- The character art has all been completely redrawn (and looks much, much better on the PSP, in my opinion).
- There are a lot more full-screen art stills and “jump scares.”
- A “suspend save” feature was added, allowing for limited save-anywhere functionality (in addition to more permanent save-points in the form of candles).
- A large number of musical tracks have been added or newly arranged with fuller instrumentation and a richer, more atmospheric sound.
- All voice-acting from the PC version has been completely re-recorded, and all previously un-acted scenes have now been given full voice-acting.
- Many of these new voices were recorded binaurally. Binaural recording uses two microphones to simulate depth of sound and give an auditory sense of 3D. In this particular case, a technique known as "dummy head recording" was used, with one microphone placed in each ear of a mannequin’s head. Binaural recording is pretty rare in gaming, and doesn’t translate well to stereo speakers, so we highly recommend using headphones for the best gameplay experience.
How did you work out with 5pb to pick up the title?
That is more a question for our president, Mr. Iwasaki. He frequently takes trips to Japan and comes back with lots of game licenses for us to work on. I don’t know how he does it, honestly. He must have a silver tongue, or maybe he’s some kind of sorcerer.
Does Xseed have a partnership with 5pb/Mages for any future releases?
No full partnership like our deal with Falcom, but 5pb does seem to be really excited about us working with them, and they’ve been really great to work with on our end as well, so I’m betting we’ll probably have dealings again in the future. They seem amenable to the idea, and we’re certainly up for it too!
Why did Xseed want to localize Corpse Party? Lipschultz answers that question and explains how Corpse Party plays in this interview.