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Ace Attorney Localization Director On The Differences Between Translating And Localizing



Ace Attorney localization director Janet Hsu is back with another fascinating write-up on the intricacies of localizing a game from Japanese to English, this time focusing on the differences between “translating” and “localizing”.


Hsu has been handling localization of the Ace Attorney games for the past nine years, and has seen her fair share of odd Japanese quirks that have had to be tweaked so that they would make sense for a Western audience.


“Translations are not concerned with how the reader will feel or react to the information,” Hsu writes. “The primary objective of a good translation is accuracy. However, as a piece of entertainment, the stories in games are primarily concerned with the feelings and reactions, or the ‘emotional experience,’ of the player in its original language, and therefore, any localization must strike a balance between what is ‘textually accurate’ and what is what I call ‘emotionally accurate’.


Here’s an example Hsu provides, of why emotional accuracy is important:


Case in point: What is this?


If you answered, “A kindergartener’s name badge!” then congratulations! You know a thing or two about Japanese schools! If you answered, “Oh wow, that reminds me of kindergarten!” then congratulations! You probably went to one in Japan and are feeling nostalgic now! If you answered, “Tofu on fire!” then congratulations! You probably have no idea what this thing is and are probably not Japanese. As these articles point out, Japanese netizens had a good laugh at the description “tofu on fire” for this simple emoji that they took for granted to mean a kindergartener’s tulip-shaped name badge, with some people expressing nostalgia at just seeing a picture of one.


As with her past blog posts, Hsu’s latest insights into the thought process that goes into the localization of the Ace Attorney games is very interesting to read, and will probably give you some decent food for thought. You can read it in its entirety here.

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.