Xseed On Localizing Heroland’s Charm And Japanese Jokes

FuRyu’s Heroland already sports a quirky and charming atmosphere just from the game’s artstyle and setting, but a lot of the charm comes from seeing our hapless part-timer protagonist Lucky getting closer with Prince Elric and the other regular customers at the only JRPG-themed theme park around. Recently, Siliconera caught up with Xseed’s Lori Snyder and Derk Bramer, the Localization Translator and Editor for the game, to see how the magic was brought over Westwards.

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Siliconera: How closely did XSEED’s staff work with FuRyu for Heroland’s localization and how do you feel this affected the final product?

Lori Snyder, Localization Translator: “If we had any concerns about the game or questions regarding how we should go about working with the text, FuRyu followed up with us as quickly as they could. The communication between them was really solid, and it definitely helped our process go along smoothly! I’d say it had a positive impact on the project.”

Derk Bramer, Localization Editor: “The fact that FuRyu was so generous with their time and receptive of our requests says volumes about their commitment to dazzling the Western market, as well as to the reputation XSEED had earned as a publisher long before Lori and I were brought on board. Being given the resources to devote our very best work to this project was an honor and a pleasure!”


Siliconera: Heroland tells the story of a part-timer who forms a friendship with a prince. Which episodes in this journey that stood out to you and how would you describe their friendship?

Snyder: “I love the bond between these two! I think they’re both passionate in their own way, but they also complement and bring out the best in each other. As Lucky keeps working with Elric, he realizes that yes, the prince is kind of a jerk, but he’s got these goals and aspirations to become heir apparent again. The goals may change over the course of the game, but even so, Elric doesn’t ever give up when he sets his sights on something, and I think that inspires Lucky to do his best and keep pushing on, even when things are tough.

On the flipside, Elric knows that Lucky’s got his back when it comes to following through with his goals, and that allows him to be unapologetically Elric…which, at times, can be his downfall and lead to bad decisions. Thankfully, Lucky and Lua are always there to steer him in the right direction when he needs a hand!

There are so many good little moments between them, but one that stood out to me was this scene where Lucky and Elric are trying to catch the elusive Phantom Thief Biscuit. There’s this tacit understanding between them that they have to work together if they’re going to try and catch her, and when Biscuit makes her escape by jumping up into the treetops, Elric’s like “Ready, Lucky?!” and I think you get the option to give him some kind of “Heck yeah!” answer…so Elric uses Lucky’s afro as a mini trampoline and jumps up high enough to stop Biscuit in her tracks! Even Lua is pretty shocked by how well they work together!”


Bramer: “Lori captured the beautiful friendship that blossoms between Lucky and Elric, but what stuck out to me is how organically that relationship develops over time. At first, Elric exudes big “I want to see your manager” energy and treats Lucky like a service animal—worse, even, considering that Elric even gives more respect to Philip the dog!

But without ever saying more than what snippets we could cram into the occasional dialogue prompt, our silent protagonist’s effect on Elric speaks so much louder than words. As Elric learns more about why this part-timer stoically endures every hardship thrown his way, the self-styled Prince 18 gradually begins to see others as more than numbers in a hierarchy and instead as, well, people.

It’s a creeping sort of growth that didn’t register to me until, in classic form, Elric breaks the fourth wall by loudly congratulating himself for all the character development he and Lucky have undergone. And by that point, doggone it, I had to admit that he was right!”


Siliconera: What did you think about the Heroland’s setting and how even monsters are underpaid workers?

Snyder: “When I first played the game in Japanese, I didn’t think too much of the setting. I mostly just thought, “wow, this is a super cute idea!” 

As I learned more about how hard these cast members work and devote to the park and how little they get in return, I was like “oh, no, this is too real!” Once I got to mid-game there was this creeping feeling in the back of my mind that something was definitely not right…and, well, you can see for yourself what I mean when you get to that point in the game.

Anyway, I’m of a mind that slugs should absolutely be paid more than four gummies per paycheck.”


Bramer: “Before I broke into the video game industry, I spent a decade making the minimum-wage rounds through grocery stores, restaurant chains, bulk retailers, and anywhere else I could scrape together enough cash for next month’s rent.

So, when it came to the tale of a service worker with big dreams and bigger debt, I had plenty of personal experience to help me craft the dialogue of Heroland‘s underpaid underlings. From a coworker’s cheerful acceptance of indentured servitude to a manager’s insistence that the customer is always right, especially when they’re wrong, no workplace woe was off the table.

But what truly speaks to me about Heroland is how, rather than sink into the cynicism that comes all too easily from being overworked and unappreciated, the game’s core message is that you get from life what you put into it. The hero’s journey Lucky undertakes isn’t about rescuing a princess or saving the world, it’s about finding a reason to wake up every morning, throw on your pants, and go to work.”


Siliconera: What challenges did you face localizing Heroland’s backstage scenes?

Snyder: “Trying to get the personalities of the other cast members to shine through was a bit of a challenge, especially with the three MonStars, because they’re like a little family and I wanted to make sure I did them justice in English. They’re there to help you through each dungeon, but their scenes are pretty limited, so it became a balancing act—I had to make sure their identities were clearly conveyed, all while ensuring that we included the helpful hints they give you for the dungeons! Alfie’s the big bro-type who looks out for everyone, Scala’s the goody two-shoes middle sister who’s always doing her homework, and Li’l Slug is…well, he’s Li’l Slug. He’s the sibling who could and absolutely would take you on in a fight despite how cute and tiny he is.”


Bramer: “Backstage is where the gloves come off and the claws come out. In Heroland, that applies both figuratively and literally, so I had a field day shaping the touch and feel of the behind-the-scenes dialogue. My biggest challenge was actually deciding what to call the president pulling the strings. His Japanese name was “Bossu Desu,” a play on “I’m the Boss” both as an employer and as an antagonist. The most direct translation was “D. Boss,” but “Bosse” was already Elric’s last name, so I was worried that the similarities could cause confusion among our English-speaking audience.

After workshopping it for a while, I ended up drawing inspiration from Dark Lord of Derkholme, another tale of a fantasy resort where nothing is as it seems. I’d never be so vain as to insert my own name into a game willy-nilly, but it set up a pun that fit our needs perfectly. Now, if you’re brave (or foolish) enough to wander into the President’s Office, you might meet the man behind the curtains: Derk Lorde.”


Siliconera: How big of a challenge and task was localizing Heroland? 

Snyder: “Translating this game wasn’t just a challenge—it was one big learning experience for me! I’ve been aspiring to do game localization for years, but actually getting into it was this overwhelmingly humbling and motivating (and occasionally stressful!) process. It’s about recreating an entire world in your language and making sure the heart of the game is still there—and better for it— by the time you’re done. The team at XSEED was patient with me and always had advice to offer when I needed it, and that eased the burden of taking on the whole translation by myself.

I was pretty anxious when I got started, because Heroland exudes character in every aspect of its Japanese text. This was easy to convey in the main scenario, but a little less so in the system text. The Japanese MonDex was especially packed with cute, silly stories about every monster you encounter, but we were very limited on text space in English, so Derk and I took special precautions to make sure we could include as much of that as possible within our 4-line limit.”


Bramer: “Heroland was the most challenging yet most rewarding project of my career to date. While I’d done editing work on a dozen titles before, this was both my first assignment for XSEED and the first time I was the only editor assigned to a title. The enormity of that responsibility was exciting, but it also made completing my duties before the deadline feel like a more daunting task than defeating the Dark Lord himself.

Thankfully, my supervisors have tons more compassion than Lucky’s, and they made sure that I didn’t work excessive overtime or enter the throes of “crunch.” There’s no “XSEED Magic” in our office, just collaboration among teammates. With some guidance and assistance from coworkers like fellow editor Robb Schiotis and QA tester Mao Vang, I managed to finish the text on time and at a level of quality we could all be proud of, without sacrificing my work-life balance like Heroland‘s hapless tour guide.”


Siliconera: Which elements of this translation really left you wondering, “How do I say this?”

Snyder: “The game’s humor as a whole was one big “how do I say this?” because it’s…inherently Japanese. The boke/tsukkomi (wise guy/straight man) dynamic was really strong in a lot of these scenes, so working to make these jokes accessible to Western players was both entertaining and a big head-scratcher. I absolutely had to translate these ideas correctly from the start, or it would end up as something entirely different.

At first I referenced a lot of Abbot and Costello-esque humor, and with that style as a base, I was able to transfer the idea of what kind of jokes were being conveyed. After that I got to dress the text up a little bit, and by the time Derk got to it he pushed it up to this completely different level! I remember reading some of his edits and trying not to laugh out loud in the office…

We’re both really proud of the end product, and I hope it’ll make you smile when you need something fun and lighthearted!”


Bramer: “Luckily for me, Lori took on most of the cross-cultural heavy lifting in the translation stage, which is an editor’s dream come true. But there was one particular scene that took a bit of wrangling, in which Viscount Fortran and his Investigation Team (comprised entirely of otterlads) receive a calling card from Phantom Thief Biscuit.

This scene’s direct translation, which called out the notorious criminal’s inability to commit to a schedule, relied on an understanding of the Japanese “Office Lady,” which lacks a direct parallel in Western office environments. When I tried to turn the gag into a self-deprecating one by making it about the localization industry, it unintentionally swung the opposite direction by reading as a disgruntled employee airing their grievances. This take was neither the original author’s intent nor mine, so it clearly didn’t work.

After consulting Lori and my other teammates, we settled upon a more general riff on office politics and workplace burnout, then spiced it back up by sprinkling in a few winks and nods to comedies like The Office and Aggretsuko. I’m quite pleased with the end result, as it keeps the intended humor intact without punching down or losing its punch!”


Siliconera: Are there any plans to bring over the DLC from the Japanese release?

Snyder: “All of the DLC characters are included in our version as endgame content! I’m thrilled that we were able to include these three stories, because they’ve got some extra-juicy postgame lore for players who enjoyed the main scenario!

I love all three of the “DLC” characters, but I’d definitely recommend doing Delphi’s story first—she’s this idol who comes to Heroland to get more popular, and everybody thinks she’s the coolest pop star to ever grace the island…well, mostly everybody. I had a fun time writing her different personas and her little entourage. There are some musical references we scattered about here and there, too, so keep your eyes peeled for them when you play!”

Bramer: “Along with these three heroes, we also included their unique weapons and personal sidequests. But while the original Japanese players were able to optionally unlock the DLC as early as Chapter 2, the characters’ story beats and the difficulty of their dungeon crawls were designed for the endgame. When baked into the main campaign, these characters’ Heroland debuts felt oddly out of place. Fortunately, FuRyu really went the extra mile by accommodating our request to move their introductions to later in the story. Trust me, Apple’s adventures and Cherry’s antics are absolutely worth the wait!”


Siliconera: As a personal aside, will we see a subbed version (or even an English dub) for the game’s brilliant theme song, “Hatarakitakunai?”

Snyder: “I can’t tell you how much I would absolutely love this. Not long after I found out I was translating this game I listened to this song and was like, “I HAVE to make English lyrics for this!” So I did!

Whether we’ll be able to do anything with them is…currently a mystery, I’m afraid, but I’m seriously hoping we’ll be able to do something with it eventually! This song is such a jam!”

Bramer: “I hope so! It’s perfect to set as an alarm that’ll make you jump out of bed and get ready for the daily grind. As someone obsessed with translyricization, which requires translating a song’s lyrics and then editing them so that they can be sung to the original tune, I was honestly a little jealous when I reviewed Lori’s subtitles and realized there wasn’t a darn thing I could do to improve them. But hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Lori knocked the English subtitles out of the park, but the song itself is a headbanger in any language. In fact, I’ve been rehearsing in secret to bust out my karaoke debut at our company’s holiday party!”

Heroland is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC digitally.

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Alistair Wong
Very avid gamer with writing tendencies. Fan of Rockman and Pokémon and lots more!