Nintendo DS

When Fan Translators Outdo A Commercial Product

0 We’ve made passing mention of Absolute Zero’s Tales of Innocence translation before but never really bothered to go into details. It’s one of the many Tales fan-translation projects out there (Hearts is being covered by another group), and I’ve had my eye on it for about a year. The interesting thing about AZ’s project, though, is that it really does seem to be a cut above a rest.

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For one thing, the team have refused to release work-in-progress patches for the game in the name of wanting to put out a great end product that people will be happy with. Now, while I can’t truthfully say that I’m a fan of this philosophy — sometimes, feedback from the community helps immensely; not to mention I want to play the game already — it does give one hope that when the patch finally does make its way online in 2010, it’ll be every bit worth the wait. But that’s not what makes this a great fan-translation.


No, that comes from the extremely thorough job they’re doing with this and all the additional tweaks they’re going out of their way to make, which they certainly didn’t have to. For starters, there’s the feature that allows you to turn subtitles on and off during any cutscene just by pressing the SELECT button. I don’t know many publishers that do that on the DS. Then there’s the fact that they actually went to the effort of refining the menus and the overall UI where the original was lacking, by adding additional stat information. They even fixed bugs that were in the original!


I also like that a lot of fan-translators actually go to the effort of keeping the public updated on their progress and giving them an inside look at the translation process. It keeps people interested in the product and sometimes, it also results in some positive collaboration, which usually makes for a more solid translation patch. It also helps one understand why certain decisions were made during the localization process and above all, it helps you understand that the translation team are human beings, just like the rest of us.


It’s too bad we don’t see more publishers taking a leaf out of the fan-translation community’s book. I really do think it could do them a lot of good.

Ishaan Sahdev
About The Author
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.