I think I’ve already discussed some of the features that will be added to Tales of Hearts as part of the optional Translator’s Cut edition of the game, but I’m not so sure I’ve discussed the features added to the base game. These features, are, of course, not optional.
I suppose some of the features are essentially just hacks to deal with the fact that we don’t have access to the source code and development toolkit the original programmers had. For example, dialogue boxes within the game tend to hold three lines of text. While we did expand the width of these text boxes, we did not expand the height to include more lines. Usually, if a particular line of dialogue has need of more than three lines, a new “page” of text can be added–this is nothing new, as the Japanese game did the same.
However, what is new is the option to continue a voice clip across pages. The original Japanese game would end the current voice clip when advancing to the next page of text, as each voice clip was presumably designed to have corresponding text that could easily fit into one page of text. This is not the case for the English translation; sometimes, a single Japanese voice clip will require more than three lines of translated text. Thus, a new feature was added wherein a duration can be specified, and after that duration elapses, the voice clip is paused until the player advances to the next page of text. Upon doing so, the voice clip is resumed. Essentially, this allows the voice clip to be broken into two logical parts–something the original development team could probably easily have done the usual way, by actually splitting the audio file into two, using the tools they had available, but which we didn’t really feel like figuring out how to do.
Not all the features are stopgap measures to make up for our lack of the original development environment, however. Some are intended to aid in making the text presentation more palatable to the eyes of English speakers. For example, the game now implements automatic linebreaking, which dynamically analyzes the text and inserts line breaks where appropriate. The Japanese version of the game did no such thing and simply had the script writers manually insert a linebreak where they deemed it appropriate. This would be just as good a solution if not for the existence of dynamic text expansion: for example, inserting player-customized names into the dialogue. Imagine the following dialogue:
Great! As the text reaches the end of the box (indicated by the dashed line), it moves to the next line. This is what we want. But now imagine that we rename Shing to Al:
Hmm… now there’s suddenly an unsightly gap at the end of the first line. The “are” really should be on the previous line. Still, it’s not so bad. But what if we rename Shing to Sieghart?
Uh-oh! Now the “you” is running outside the bounds of the text box! To avoid this situation, we’d have to move the “you” over to the next line, like so:
Whew! Much better. We also had to move the “time” to the next line to make it fit, but it’s okay. We’ve successfully allocated enough space in the line of text for a long custom name. But wait, what if we rename him back to Al?
Now that is just plain ugly. The right edge of the text is all over the place for no reason. Why isn’t “you are” on the previous line, with “time” remaining on the second line instead of being pushed to the third? The answer is that since the linebreaks are manually inserted, they are fixed in place and cannot be changed. Oh no! Of course, this is where Tales of Hearts: KAJITANI-EIZAN’s Patch Site Edition comes in. With dynamic linebreaking, it doesn’t matter what you name him, it will linebreak as appropriate:
It looks nice in both cases. Success!
One other change I’d like to briefly touch upon is a grammar system for item names, similar to that used in Final Fantasy XII. The original game would simply have text like
Obtained Apple Gel x9.
Obtained Ultra Mega Super One-of-a-Kind Crystal of Plot Importance x1.
We felt this was somewhat clunky and opted for more English-sounding text:
Obtained 9 Apple Gels.
Obtained the Ultra Mega Super One-of-a-Kind Crystal of Plot Importance.
Of course, along with this comes various grammar issues. It should be “Obtained a Grape Gel”, but also “Obtained an Apple Gel”. Various words in the English language have somewhat unusual pluralization rules (e.g., -s vs. -es vs. -ies). Sometimes, it is inappropriate to pluralize an object directly; one should instead pluralize a descriptor of the object (e.g., “Obtained 9 sprigs of Lavender”, as opposed to “Obtained 9 Lavenders”). Done and done. All of this is accounted for and the text dynamically adjusts to match the item name and quantity of item being obtained, given, lost, or whatever.
There are probably other really awesome features I can’t recall off the top of my head right now. I can say without a doubt that Jadeite’s Higher EMOhgee is not one of them, as that is a Translator’s Cut-exclusive feature. Ah, well, perhaps for another time. For those of you with Playstation 3s, be sure to check out Tales of Xillia, coming to Western shores within a couple weeks, and keep an eye out for news on the localization of the sequel, Tales of Xillia 2!