Here’s Part 1 of our fan-powered Hyperdimension Neptunia Q&A with NIS America. All questions have been answered by Nick Doerr, Script Editor at NISA, who some of you might know from the comments as NickyD. Part 1 of the Q&A focuses on the game’s localization.
Could you explain the origins or inspiration behind using characters based on current generation consoles in Neptunia? How did it come about, and how did you go about creating their personalities and different forms?
Nick Doerr, Script Editor at NIS America: I can’t necessarily speak on Compile Heart and Idea Factory’s behalf, but I would imagine they found humor in the state of the industry and the heated “battles” taking place between specific-console advocates online. Why didn’t they use older consoles? Who knows! But there are a lot of consoles and companies out there, so there are a lot of characters that could be introduced…
The base personalities were constructed on the Japanese side, and you can tell both visually and through dialogue why the goddesses are the way they are. The “Leanbox” goddess is blond with a large bust to show how “foreign” she is. She also takes the role of the “American Otaku” by having unique tastes in Japanese paraphernalia (also the console in Japan tends to get a lot of that type of game!).
The “Lowee” goddess looks like a child, since it’s a joke how her console seems to attract mostly children and casual gamers, but she’s loud and proud because like her or not, everyone listens when she talks. She’s supposedly the most astute goddess, the most successful at what she does. The “Lastation” goddess is full of pride and arrogance, boasting the best technology in Gamindustri and striving for perfection. I’m sure you can all see the connections and find the humor in it. Neptune… well, she marches to the beat of her own drum.
So I didn’t have to do much to create the personalities, but because of their ties to the real-world industry, it was a lot of fun expounding on what was introduced. Expect more references sprinkled in than you can blast process!
Neptunia and Trinity Universe are both developed by Idea Factory. Can you elaborate on both the similarities and differences between the two games?
Do you want a technical answer or one from the heart? I’ll give both. Like many games, Trinity Universe and Hyperdimension Neptunia use the same base engine to render the world, so aesthetically they look similar due to camera angles, character size and scale, and partially familiar bestiary. Idea Factory and Compile Heart are in no way the only company to reuse an engine or assets between games; besides, the game is a visual leap compared to TriUni.
Based on the engine, you still have menus to navigate the overworld, shop, and select dungeons or events. You’ve got cutscenes with the really gorgeous moving portraits and you explore dungeons in a similar manner. You’ve still got Idea Factory’s favorite mechanic: AP. But everything else is different.
Visually, the game is vastly improved. Instead of a more active battle system, the game utilizes a turn-based one. There’s no rush to act in battle. Instead of memorizing long strings of combos to link, you create your own in sets of 4, which can be linked or used to transform… or switch to your back-row character. Stylistically, it’s way more “technological” and streamlined. I think the basic mechanics of the game were explained previously, but beyond the familiar interface, the two are different games the same way titles like Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga were.
Did companies like Gust, Compile Heart, Nippon Ichi and others that have characters based on them in Neptunia give any sort of input as how they’d like to be represented, or were they created based on Idea Factory’s visions of those companies?
I’m not sure how deeply they were involved in the actual creation of their personifications, but the incredibly talented character designer at Idea Factory doubtlessly had to show the renditions to the companies for final approval. So, who knows how many designs were scrapped? You might catch some if you pre-order and get the hardcover art book… Yes, that’s a plug… But it really is beautiful! Pre-ordering will be available very soon!
In the game, Nisa is based on NIS. Could you tell us more about her and how she resembles the actual company?
She is mocked for her flat chest. No, really, N1 embraces that ongoing critique of Etna and put a few personality traits in the Nisa character resembling her. She’s a self-proclaimed heroine of justice and she has an unquenchable thirst for righteousness.
Just like N1, right? They are so passionate about what they do and they love doing it, so whatever gets in their way they will do their best to succeed. I think that’s the underlying message with Nisa. She uses a Prinny Gun in battle, and she wears Hero Prinny’s scarf. I think she raided the Netherwardrobe.
Which studio did you use to produce the English dub, and how much of the original Japanese voice-overs were replaced with English voices? Also, would it be possible to let us know which voice-actors you used for dubbing Neptunia?
We used Bang Zoom! Entertainment to record the English dub for Neptunia and they were very great to us. But I’ll spare you my praising and get on with it. I can’t say who the voice actors and actresses are by name, but you may hear some familiar voices and they may have been cast intentionally.
How much did we dub into English? Well, well, well… we fully dubbed the main game with a few minor exceptions. A system voice was left in Japanese intentionally and an add-on from when Idea Factory updated the game in Japan to match the version NA/PAL will get (more on that later), “5pb’s Hi-Five Radio,” wasn’t recorded in English. The radio is available upon the game’s release, but it was added later in Japan. Therefore, I submit that yes, the game is fully dubbed compared to the Japanese original release!
In recent times, NIS America has taken more of a Working Designs-type of approach to localization, taking liberties with the way certain lines and memes and pop-culture references are expressed. There are fans, however, that would prefer a more strict “translation” as opposed to “localization.” Are you trying to appease both parties?
Really? Well, I suppose I can admit I went a bit crazy and had fun with Trinity Universe, but you can safely use that as the wildest we’ll probably ever get. Atelier Rorona, conversely, was kept mostly literal. I think we’re appeasing both parties, and if you refer to my ZHP Developer’s Blog post, you’ll read about why sometimes I stray from the script. It’s all for the sake of creating unique, flavorful characters with distinct personalities.
Could you give us some insight as to why you replaced the cute loli version character art (pre-Henshin) of the limited edition box with the same cover as the standard game box (with the angrier, post-Henshin look). Is this something you foresee yourself having to continue doing with future games as well, and if so, is there any chance you could manage reversible covers for your games?
Reversible covers is a swell idea! I believe we felt there would be a better appeal to a wider realm of people if they see stronger, more adult-looking characters on the box. The pre-transformation art you speak of is in the official art book, but if that were the cover it wouldn’t appeal to the right age group, we felt. A few younger kids may get it thinking it was some cute disc-collecting game, only to get slapped with crude jokes and somewhat suggestive art!
With regard to the localized version of Neptunia, did you have to censor any content within the game itself?
Oh, an easy one. Nope! It’s all intact and some of the incredibly vague references were even spiced up a little to help clueless gamers “get the joke!” Some might not understand how a silhouette wearing a gas mask represents Akira Tori… uh… I best stop myself there!
Look forward to Part 2 of our Hyperdimension Neptunia fan-powered Q&A soon!