Looking Back At The Development Of Retro Game Challenge

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Retro Game Challenge also known as Game Center CX to some of you is a peculiar title. The Nintendo DS game is tied to a Japanese TV show license and sprinkled with humor that would fly over our heads if directly translated.

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The chances of Game Center CX being localized looked slim even though the concept of playing made up eight bit games and thumbing through virtual magazines sounded swell. I was surprised to hear XSEED picked it up days before it was properly announced as part of their E3 lineup. The first question in my mind was how was XSEED going to localize the game? Kenji Hosoi, Localization Manager at XSEED, spoke with Siliconera to tell us.


How did you get the rights to publish Retro Game Challenge.  I sense an interesting story behind the pick up…


Kenji Hosoi, Localization Manager: Originally, I think it was Ken here who noticed the game. He started doing some research and although we all expected Namco Bandai to say “No”, after playing the Japanese version and holding multiple internal meetings, we believed that it would be a great title to work on so we had to at least pursue it. As expected, it wasn’t easy asking for the license, but after many emails and many meetings by our president and Namco Bandai, we were able to get the license. It was a great day for all of us here at XSEED.


Localizing Retro Game Challenge must have been difficult since a direct translation wouldn’t have resonated well with the TV show references. Why did you decide on the 80s game culture theme?


The localization was a very interesting experience. It was definitely challenging since the development team did not make the game with US localization in mind. It was very hard working with the character limits as well as translating/editing the text to fit the US audience. A lot of trial and error was involved especially with the in-game magazines, but at the end of the day I think we were able to do a pretty fine job to bring back the ‘80s.  (Not sure if that’s a good thing!)


Most of us here are the product of the mid ‘70s to early ‘80s so we all grew up playing the NES games back in the day. When we first played Retro Game Challenge, we were amazed (and in total agreement) at how true to the ‘80s gaming experience the actual game was. It was pretty natural for us to keep the ‘80s vibe when we localized the game.


Were there any alternate themes you were considering?


We were pretty set on the ‘80s theme. Those were the golden years of gaming.


image Can you tell us about GameFan magazine? What famous journalists are we going to see? How many issues are there to read?


Funny enough, GameFan magazine was the original name of the in-game magazine in the Japanese version. We thought the name was great because as we all know, GameFan was an actual game magazine in the US back in the early ‘90s. I know the historical timeline isn’t exactly accurate but we thought the little shout out to GameFan would be pretty cool. I don’t want to give out too much detail on the actual journalists, but let’s just say we’re glad that we took the time to make everything in the game as US-friendly as possible. If you’re a true “game fan”, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.


There are 16 issues of GameFan magazine in the game. Hopefully everyone enjoys reading them when they want to rest their eyes from all the 8-bit fun.


What are some of your favorite puns and in-game jokes you got to write?


We definitely enjoyed throwing in ‘80s lingo here and there. We actually had to look some up since many of us have forgotten the ‘80s culture like a bad dream. I’m just sad we couldn’t throw in ‘80s fashion and music in the game, but that might have been just too much ‘80s and that’s never a good thing.


The localization team had lots of fun playing with the game text and there’s a little something in every corner of the game, with probably the in-game magazines affording us the most creative freedom. The “Letters to the Editor” section near the back of each magazine is probably one of my favorite areas. I just hope everyone finds it funny like we did.


image Does Guadia Quest have any jokes or is the story “serious”?


The story is serious. When I first played it, I was happy to find the story quite interesting. There are also a few plot twists here and there and I really enjoyed the ending. I actually want to play Guadia Quest 2 if it ever comes out.


We did try to keep some parts of the game humorous as well. Some funny conversation text was included as well as some funny ‘80s gaming culture references.


Did Xseed keep any references to the TV show or were they removed?


There weren’t too many references that were noticeable. However, any small references like “Arino Kacho” and the TV show’s Assistant Director’s name like “Tojima” were taken out. We had to completely rewrite the opening of the game since it was based off of the plot of the TV show, only because we didn’t think many players would understand the reference.


image How many pages of text were there to localize?


We used 2 huge excel sheets so not sure if it’s completely accurate, but I copied and pasted all the text that we translated and it came out to 495 pages in Word format (!). This project was especially challenging to localize because, as I mentioned earlier, the dev team did not plan on localizing the game when they first made the Japanese original. The character limits were unknown for the most part and it took a lot of writing >> putting into the game >> re-writing >> putting into the game, multiplied by however many times it took to find out the actual character limits. It definitely took a toll on Mike, our editor, to figure out the actual character limits. The dev team was very supportive and tried their best to proportion the fonts so that it fit inside the window space. It was definitely a collaborative effort and I think the game came out very nice.


Aside from localization are there any other changes to Retro Game Challenge? Did Xseed have to make any new art for the game?


No. We don’t usually do any graphical changes, it’s usually mostly text stuff. If something looks awkward we’ll usually ask the dev team to change or fix it (if possible). The title logo of each game in Retro Game Challenge was re-created in English by the dev team because it was mostly in Japanese characters in the original version.


image What is your favorite game in Retro Game Challenge to play?


I think we all have a different “favorite” game. Personally, I’ve always liked shooters, so “Star Prince” was a great game to play for me. As a company though, all of us here at XSEED are big fans of RPGs since it’s the main genre we usually concentrate on, so I would have to say “Guadia Quest” is our favorite. The overall story and the characters are great in that game.


Which challenge did you find the hardest?


The hardest? For me the final challenge of “Rally King” was really hard. It took a while to get the hang of the controls so I had to try and try again, but now after all my training I have become an expert drifter. The “Haggle Man” series was pretty hard too. If you ever get stuck, just remember that the magazines aren’t there for your reading pleasure only!


It’s not out in Japan yet, but what are your thoughts on Game Center CX 2?


We did some simple research on it a while back and it looks like an awesome game, doesn’t it?


I think it all depends on how well Retro Game Challenge does for us. If Retro Game Challenge does well in the US then we will definitely be interested in trying to bring over Game Center CX 2.


Is Xseed looking at any other Namco Bandai games? They have lots of titles in their vault that could fit into Xseed’s line up like Fragile: Farewell to the Moon and the Summon Night DS games.


We’re looking into anything that looks good and fun to play. If we do get lucky and are able to publish the titles you mentioned, you’ll definitely hear it in our press releases or email blasts so stay tuned!  


Images courtesy of XSEED.

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