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Cygames Localization on the Fun and Difficulties of Translating

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Cygames published an interview with a member of the Cygames localization team on September 28, 2020. The article was published via the company’s digital magazine. The staff discussed some of the fun, yet thankless tasks that localization teams go through on nearly any project. In particular, they shared stories about the localization of Granblue Fantasy, Shadowverse, and Dragalia Lost.

Here are some highlights from the discussion:

  • The localization team worked hard to appropriately culturalize cowboy speech in Shadowverse. For example, a line from the main character in Japanese was, “The foolish man is poor. The wise man is rich. That’s the way things are.” But localizing the script into a cowboy manner of speech led to, “The fool man lives in rags. The wise man lives in silk. Them’s the natural order of things, I reckon.”
  • The Cygames localization team gives feedback even during development. In Shadowverse, the character “Specter” was originally going to be called “Phantom” in Japanese. However, the localization team thought “Specter” fit better, so the writers changed the source script.
  • Coronavirus has slowed down the recording process for English voice acting.

cygames localization shadowverse

  • In Granblue Fantasy, a poetic text used homonyms of the words “one” through “ten” in Japanese. When localized to English, the team incorporated words with numeric meanings into the poetry. The final localization reads, “From which the realm of the senses offers no refuge / The pain of loss clings like a hex.” Where “sense” is indicative of the number five, because of the five human senses, and “hex” refers to the number six in Latin and Ancient Greek.
  • The team spoke about the general difficulties of localizing wordplay and puns. For example, in the Chinese translation for a Dragalia Lost manga, the team had to incorporate a Japanese and English pun. A character with a name phonetically similar to the English word “try” used a pun on their name to “try” something out. In Chinese, they made a similar joke work using their own language’s wordplay.
  • The team also brought up hypothetical situations where a joke could be translated, then much later, that joke gets referenced again in a future issue or game. The team highlighted how important it is to keep threads woven together in another language if the joke has to change, which it often does.
  • Not just the Cygames localization team, but localizers everywhere struggle with different lengths between languages. For example, Japanese can convey more information in fewer written characters than many languages that use Roman characters.

cygames localization granblue fantasy

  • An ever-present difficulty with Japanese is the omission of subjects and objects in sentences. However, most other languages need to declare subjects or objects in sentences to make sense.
  • The team also stressed the importance of getting the true intention of the source across in another language—not simply translating the words. The team said that if a translation doesn’t convey the intent, it’s not a “proper” translation, no matter how “correct” the translation of the words may be.
  • Regarding expressions of politics, history, religion, race, gender, etc., communicating from one culture through the filter of another language’s translation could lead to biased translations. These situations can be avoided by sharing information with everyone on the project in advance to change the way the message is communicated so no one is inadvertently offended.

You can learn about Cygames’ work on Granblue Fantasy Versus in our recent interview.

Cygames are known for their ongoing titles Granblue Fantasy, Dragalia Lost, and Shadowverse.

Oni Dino
Oni Dino is a Japanese-English translator, localization editor, and podcaster. He has several video game credits and regularly translates columns from Masahiro Sakurai and Shigeru Miyamoto. When not knee-deep in a JRPG and wishing games had more environmental story-telling, he's attending industry events and interviewing creative auteurs to share their stories.