Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was localized by an individual named Agness Kaku. As a 24-year-old freelancer, Kaku worked past considerable hindrances on the most controversial Metal Gear Solid game to date, and in a recent interview with Hardcore Gaming 101, reveals her working conditions at the time.
For starters, she had access to no artwork or screenshots from the actual game.
This is in stark contrast to Jeremy Blaustein, who worked on the first Metal Gear Solid, and was provided with access to art work, information on the locales and weapons in the game, and to series director, Hideo Kojima, himself. Recalling her own experience with Sons of Liberty, Kaku shares: “Oh no, they were all originally just Word files. I should say that I was literally never given access to Konami.”
Konami were also not the type to negotiate.
“The writing had to be cut down due to screen space concerns and Konami insisted on editing the product extensively; however, from what I understand, much of the errata corrections I performed on the original screenplay did survive,” Kaku recalls. “Many, many in-game terms/words were written in stone and non-negotiable. I remember making a case for how stupid ‘sneak’ sounded; I’ve no idea whether the agent even took these concerns to the clients.”
In addition to this, Konami required that the game’s English script match the Japanese on a micro level, despite the fact that, at the same time, there were very strict character limits on the English translation, due to the amount of text that could be displayed at any given time on the screen.
Blame also lies, to a large extent, with Kojima himself, whose writing didn’t make matters any easier.
“When a story has a plethora of cliches (‘the-government-made-me-a-killer-then-abandoned-me’ comes painfully to the mind) AND takes itself seriously, all one can do is lay on a good coat of noir and make it stick,” Kaku shares. “That, and eliminate glaring factual inaccuracies. I wish I could remember specific instances, but I know that they were mostly if not all to do with the government and military stuff.”
Ironically, despite the considerably harsh working conditions — being a freelancer, she was paid less $5,000 for the project — Kaku’s name wasn’t even mentioned in the Sons of Liberty credits, and Konami later attempted to force her to remove critical write-ups of some of their titles from her website, despite the fact that she’d never been made to sign any non-disclosure agreements.
You can read the full interview with her at the HG101 link above; it provides fascinating insight into the very different localization processes for two very different games. You can even download translation files for Metal Gear Solid 2!