We sat down with the localization scholars at Atlus to discuss Class of Heroes, which, in an alternate universe, may have been called Spellblade Academy. In addition to localizing the PSP dungeon RPG Atlus revised the menu system with ZeroDiv’s help.
The team tells us what it was like working with the developer and shares tips on how to survive field trips. You’re going to want thieves in your party.
How did you come up with the name “Class of Heroes“? Were any alternate titles being considered?
Sam Mullen, Project Lead: Funny you should lead off with this question because it was the first challenge of the project. Deciding on a name for this title actually ended up being quite difficult. The Japanese name, Ken to Mahou to Gakuen Mono, roughly translates into something like ‘Those of Swords, Magic, and Academies’, which I think you’ll agree is a mouthful. Even for the Japanese, it’s a lot to say, so it’s generally abbreviated to Totomono. We toyed with the idea of having a ridiculously long title for the North American release, but eventually decided against it. We wanted something that would bring out the RPG aspects of the game, while expressing the game’s school setting, without being difficult to remember.
Scott Strichart, Editor: One of the name contenders was actually Advanced Dungeons & Classes. You can see how tapped our brains were when THAT got put on the table. Some other titles we considered were Spellblade Academy, or even just straight up calling it Particus Academy.
SM: In the end, we settled on Class of Heroes, because it’s short, to the point, and we felt that it captured what we wanted to say as concisely as possible.
SS: I was totally kidding about Advanced Dungeons & Classes. Or WAS I?
Can you tell us about the campus and why students are trekking through dungeons?
SS: Everything starts out innocently enough; your students are just there to learn the adventurer trade, which is totally the cool thing to be. Once you get past the introduction, though, there are a few different story arcs that develop. There’s a central plot concerning a mysterious girl the students find in the dungeon, and then there’s several sillier plotlines, like the school “boss” (gang leader, really) sending you on a mission to find the legendary high-tops for him.
What is the localization like? Is it full of puns?
SS: We knew this game was going to be awesome to localize when we found out that the Holy Arts teacher is constantly drunk, and that the Thievery Arts teacher speaks more or less in insults. As you can tell, the game doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the Japanese text had a lot of comedic foolishness to it. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Since Class of Heroes isn’t tied to a franchise did you have more flexibility when it came to rewriting or localizing text?
SM: Actually we did. There were some characters we felt that could bring out more with a little bit of work, so we sprinkled on a little Atlus Magic Localization Powder (TM) where appropriate. Some of the early tutorial lessons were also very difficult to follow when directly translated, so we sort of rearranged some of that text to make it a bit easier to follow. If you played the Japanese version, you might want to check out the US Localization because some of the harder-to-grasp aspects of the game are explained more clearly.
In a newsletter Atlus compared Class of Heroes to Etrian Odyssey. Is this PSP game equally brutal?
SM: Class of Heroes can be brutal, but it is a different kind of brutal than Etrian. Etrian Odyssey has a very controlled pace to it, while Class of Heroes is a little more free-form and unpredictable. For example, early on, you might get lucky and find an item drop that gets you a really good sword, allowing you to advance quickly. But later on, you open a chest without disarming it first (“forgot to bring my Thief, meh, who needs’em”), and suddenly that character gets vaporized. So in that respect, it’s brutal. But even if you were to meet some untimely end, there are save features available to make up for it.
On top of that, if a team dies in the dungeon, you can send another team in to pull them out, or hire an evac squad to go get them. So getting wiped out in the dungeon doesn’t send you back to your last save, unless it’s a boss battle.
SS: Sam had a pretty good metaphor for it. If Etrian is like climbing up a steep mountain, Class of Heroes is like a gradual incline where just when things are going right, a boulder comes rolling down the hill and annihilates you.
Class of Heroes has a lot of character options. What kind of team do you recommend for beginners?
Rob Stone, QA Lead: Like many other first-person dungeon crawls, having a balanced team is key. There are class limitations on every weapon and piece of armor in the game, so you definitely want some heavy hitters in the front line of your party. Drake Valkyries are particularly strong in this game; their Bold Move class skill is very powerful. Also, always make sure to have a class that has thievery skills with you.
As was previously mentioned, the traps on the chests in this game hurt pretty bad, and that’s basically the only way you’ll find any decent gear since even drops after battle are locked in chests. The cool thing about this game is that there are multiple classes with Thievery skills, like Ninjas or Rangers, so you don’t have to use a one-dimensional character in your party. The high-tier black magic in the game does a great job of wiping out large groups of enemies, which pop up often, so having at least one mage on your team is pretty important.
Lastly, changing majors is very powerful in this game. I don’t want to get into all of the details, but you can have some really utilitarian casters on your team if you change majors. The Evoker becomes beastly if you supplement them with black and white magic by changing majors.
Now the opposite question, what kind of team would be a nightmare or the “ultimate challenge” to beat the game with?
RS: Any team that only uses a single major would be a challenge to clear the game with. I’d definitely be impressed if someone pulled that off. A one character team would be insane, as well.
What role does alignment play?
RS: The most important aspect of alignment is that it affects your team’s affinity with one another. Affinity is actually much more important, so paying attention to alignment at the beginning of the game to make sure it doesn’t affect affinity is definitely recommended. Certain classes are restricted by alignment as well, so if you want a Devout on your team, you’ll need to pick either Good or Evil alignment, for example.
Did you get a chance to talk to ZeroDiv about the game at all? What were they like to work with? Are they excited about their first US game?
SM: It’s our first project with Zerodiv, and they were really professional and cool to work with. Sometimes you don’t know how open a developer will be to game tweaks and adjustments after it’s been released in another market, but they were really open to feedback about the game. For example, some of the Japanese consumers found a few of the menus difficult to navigate and item management to be a chore, so we tuned the menu flows to make some of the common tasks easier. They were really enthusiastic to release the best game they could in North America.
SS: There were a lot of places where the Japanese version used a single Kanji, giving us only enough space for roughly two English characters. That’s not nearly enough room to give the player any sense of coherence. We asked Zerodiv if we could replace some of those areas with icons, and Sam drew up these sad little sketches of how we thought they should look. Zerodiv took them and made them awesome.
SM: Hahaha, yeah, those were pretty sad when I drew them. But Zerodiv designed them out, and they really bring the item description screens to life, making the screens feel more native than they felt when they were just text. I’m really glad they accommodated us on that one, because Japanese conveniently can express a concept in a single character, but [Wa] or [Th] just doesn’t produce the same effect. But as nice as they were to work with in the pre-QA stages, I cannot express how easy they were to work with in QA.
RS: I want to have Zerodiv’s babies.
What does Atlus think about Acquire’s current game line up? Dungeons & Dam seems like it’s up Atlus’ alley…
Aram Jabbari, PR Manager: Oh goodness, maybe it would be best to ask Atlus directly. *looks around room* Has anyone seen Atlus recently? Wait, what, he’s out today? Darn it, that guy always finds the best days to be out of the office. We’ll definitely ask him when he’s back from his trip.