Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a bit different from NIS America’s usual projects. The PlayStation Vita game is a mystery game where you help Makoto Naegi, an average guy at an elite school, sort through lies during class trials. Siliconera spoke with NIS America and asked about how they localized Danganronpa and about the new School Life mode.
Can you tell us about how NIS America got Danganronpa as a series? Were you waiting for the Vita version before picking it up?
David Alonzo, Marketing Coordinator: Our previous producer, Jack Niida, was a huge fan of the game and played a key role in initiating the licensing process. His enthusiasm for the game definitely got the rest of the company excited for it, and we were considering licensing the game just as the Vita version was in the works.
How is the localization for Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc different from the fan translation?
Phoenix Spaulding, Script Editor: That’s actually hard to say, since we made a point not to read anything regarding the fan translation in order to avoid any possibility of their edit influencing our own. From comments we’ve heard from fans after the announcement, it looks like there are a few minor differences regarding character name spellings and things like that. Other than that, what we can say is that we approached the localization of this just like any other project, attempting to convey the spirit and tone of the story while still making it accessible for potential fans regardless of how familiar or unfamiliar they may be with the game.
Since Danganronpa is a story driven game could you tell us about the process of localizing it? Was there anything that Spike Chunsoft requested?
PS: The only specific request from Spike Chunsoft was to keep Monokuma’s name as Monokuma. Other than that, they have been extremely flexible and supportive regarding our choices, and they went above and beyond in terms of modifying graphic text, adjusting gameplay elements to fit English audio, and things of that nature.
What was the biggest challenge when localizing Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc?
PS: Because of the mystery aspect of the game, it was crucial for us to make sure that every detail regarding each case was fully understood and expressed so that the player got exactly the right information at exactly the right time – no more and no less. The process of discovery is core to the game, so our top priority was getting those details and key moments exactly right. We’ve never worked on a game of that nature, so that was probably the most challenging aspect for us.
Can you tell us about your favorite scene?
PS: I do have a couple of scenes that I really love, but they’re all later in the game, so to avoid spoilers I’ll just say that once you start to figure out what’s really going on and everything starts getting revealed, I loved how crazy it all got. Other than that, pretty much any scene with Monokuma was super awesome to edit and voice.
What is Monokuma like in the US version?
PS: We like to think he’s not all that different from the Japanese version – which is to say, kind of all over the place. He’s bossy, condescending, smarmy, goofy, quick to anger, quick to forgive, quick to anger again, devious, and totally lovable.
Vocally, we knew there was no way we could emulate the feel and meaning of the Japanese (since he was voiced by one of the most beloved voice actors in modern Japanese history), so we went in a direction that is definitely different, but I think still works within the feel and context of the character and world. Personally I’m really happy with how the final vocal track turned out, and I think it matches his hyperactive psychopath nature really well.
Which character was the toughest to localize? Which was your favorite?
PS: The toughest was definitely Toko. In the original Japanese, she has a pronounced stutter, which is a core part of her personality. We wanted to write her in a way that carried this speech over into English faithfully without overdoing it or letting it get in the way of the dialogue. So the first challenge was writing the display text in a way that got the feel across without making it unreadable, and the second challenge was finding an actor who could express that type of speech impediment without making it sound ham-fisted or insulting to people who have real-life experience with that kind of thing.
As far as favorites, Monokuma is the runaway winner. There’s just so much variety to his personality. He’s the kind of character you know you should hate, yet you can’t help but love, and that’s my favorite kind of character to write.
Can you tell us about the additional storyline Spike Chunsoft added to the PlayStation Vita version and School Life mode?
PS: Without giving too much away, School Life mode begins after beating the game for the first time. You’ll have the choice to begin this mode, which explores what might happen if the students were all trapped in the school together but weren’t forced to begin killing each other. So this mode will offer a new storyline and new gameplay mode, and on top of that you will be able to hang out with students one-on-one to explore different parts of the school, as well as learn even more about them than you did during the main game.
There is a smartphone version of Danganronpa too. Is NIS America thinking about localizing that or perhaps other games like Super Danganronpa 2?
PS: Right now it all depends on how the first game performs. We put a lot of time and resources into this game, and if fans respond positively and we see that there’s a real audience for this series in the West, we would definitely be open to exploring what else we might be able to bring over. On a personal level, I had a blast working on the first one and I would love to see the series continue over here, so we’ll just have to wait and see how the first game plays out.