Nintendo DS

Siliconera Sounds Off: Behind The Tales Of Hearts Translation



This week, we wrap up our discussion with Crimson Nocturnal, discussing Tales of Hearts’ "love" theme, talking about the motivations behind taking on such a project, and finally, the fan-translation community in general.



Co-founder, Crimson Nocturnal — Josh Patterson, (aka neoxephon)

Siliconera — Ishaan Sahdev


Ishaan: Let’s talk a little about the game itself. The custom Namco genre for this one is "RPG of a meeting between hearts." Why the emphasis on hearts? Is there a heavy focus on romance (referring to Shing and Kohak) or does the "heart" theme refer to more than just that?


Josh: Yes, there is definitely something there between Shing and Amber as the game progresses, but the theme is not just limited to that. The game places a huge emphasis on "Spiria" or hearts. Without giving too much away, Kohak or Amber (depending upon which name you prefer) has something occur to her at the beginning of the game. This results in her "Spirune" or heart being shattered into many pieces and spread across the world. These control her emotions and the only one that remains is "Kindness". You spend a good portion of the early game retrieving her missing "Spirune" pieces. "Spiria" is essentially the life force that creates will and emotions.


Ishaan: How do you feel the romance angle holds up in the game? It’s a theme one would love to see more developers explore, but such few games get it right because either the characters aren’t convincing, or the events unfold in an unconvincing manner…


Josh: Well, as I said, there is something going on between Shing and Amber. It develops throughout the story, but ultimately ends up leaving the player hanging. To be honest, I don’t see it as anything more romantic than your typical hero and heroine falling for each other. If you’re looking for a game focusing heavily on romance, Tales of Hearts probably isn’t that. It is, however, a great Tales series entry.


Ishaan: Crimson Nocturnal have three projects that you’re working on at the moment — Tales of Hearts, SaGa 2 and Summon Knight. That’s a fair bit of work and it requires a real sense of dedication. Tell me a little bit about the team…does anyone want to get into localization as a profession, or is this purely a hobby?


Josh: It seems to be more of a hobby for everyone, I know it is for me. The people that make up the three different teams are either very passionate about the game they are working on or very passionate about ROM hacking in general. Doing it as a hobby does have its advantages, such as not having time constraints and not having to work on games that we do not care about.


Ishaan: That’s what fascinates me about the fan-translation community. Scanlation, too, for that matter…although, breaking into a career in manga is much harder because it’s not as big an industry. There’s a lot of groups that abandon projects halfway, but there’s also several that painstakingly see them through to the end for no profitable gain. And like you pointed out, it would appear that, to a lot of these people, it’s no more than a hobby.


It makes you wonder if certain publishers aren’t looking in the right places for localization staff…or even freelancers to outsource to. But then again, no one really advertises themselves that way because it’s a legally "grey" area…


Josh: I think there are a lot of people that get into game translation projects believing that it is as easy as translating the text and then pasting it into a text document. They do not realize the amount of work that it involves. It overwhelms them and it results in projects being abandoned. It can be extremely tedious at times and even occasionally boring.


Yeah, ROM hacking is definitely in a "grey" area when it comes to legality. Patches allow us to translate the games and provide the results to people, without redistributing the source files for the game. Although fan translations take a lot of the same skills localization teams use, it’s still not something you would want to put on a resume, at least I wouldn’t.


Ishaan: Yeah, that’s the sad part. I’ve spoken to game publishers and even worked at places where a lot of people just…aren’t very passionate about the medium. It’s a 9 – 5 job that earns them money, and that’s about it. I remember in scanlation, we’d occasionally have times when someone was recruited off a scanlation team to work at Viz or Tokyopop or Dark Horse…


You mentioned that a lot of people don’t think it through properly, when they opt to begin work on a project, and that it can get tedious. Obviously, there’s an advantage to not having to adhere to a budget or schedule, but on the other hand, you’ve got the community pounding on your door. Does that ever get to you?


Josh: Yes, there are times. I’ve even received hate mail because someone gets mad that we haven’t finished a game yet. Those people are extremely impatient. They expect us to work non-stop, as if our sole purpose is to complete the translation for them. I’ve learned to filter out most of it, but occasionally it can still get on the nerves. On the flip-side, there are those that are very patient and are just appreciative that the project exists, so it isn’t always bad. They realize that we all have lives outside of the projects.


Ishaan: This is a bit of a personal question, but have you found yourself making new, actual friends through fan-translations? Are you close to the team or is it more of a "professional-cum-friendly collaboration?"


Josh: All of the people within the teams I consider to be my friends. Some of them have been a part of the projects longer, allowing me to get to know them better. There are even a few that I chat with on a regular basis. There definitely appears to be friendships forming between other team members, as well.


Ishaan: That about wraps it up. Thanks so much, Josh. I really appreciate you joining me for this. Do you have anything else you’d like to add or talk about?


Josh: I’d like to thank those who have been following our work with great patience. I promise the wait will be worth it. I’d also like to make a shout-out to all of the awesome people that make up Crimson Nocturnal. Without them, none of these projects would be possible. They are all irreplaceable and extremely valuable. I have a great level of appreciation and respect for all of them.


Missed part 1? Catch up with it below:

Part 1: Translation of a Meeting Between Hearts

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.