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.