Bandai Namco had a localized playable demo of Tales of Zestiria available for attendees at London’s Comic Con and this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), and thanks to some fans that played it, we have some video (here: 1, 2, 3, 4) to get a sneak peek of the localized game. I’m going to be blunt here: when Hearts R videos surfaced 6 months before the game’s release, they revealed that the localization was in terrible shape. I and others called Bamco out on it and they fixed literally nothing in the following months leading up to the release. There are only 4 months left until the Zestiria release. As a longtime Tales fan with some perspective on the history of Tales localization and fantranslation, I feel I should perhaps aid their QA team with a post detailing what sorts of things are wrong with the Zestiria localization as shown in the demo.
Bamco, this post is directed at your Zestiria localization/QA team.
First, let’s get this out of the way: it’s definitely looking way better than Hearts R was at release, not that that’s saying much. I’m not sure if it’s because you had more time to work on it, spent more time/money on the translation, spent more time testing it, got a bunch of fixes in during voice recording, actually listened to my ranting from last time, or what, but that’s definitely a plus.
I will try to be brief with each criticism for ease of skimming and include a more verbose Explanation section after each point if you would like to hear the rationale for the criticism or read more information about the series. Please just skip the Explanation sections if you are short on time.
First up is various user interface issues. These should be easy to fix and really should have been caught well before now.
Explanation: For whatever reason, the font kerning is messed up so that there is a huge gap between the lowercase i and l in “Armadi llo”. There are other such examples involving weird kerning of the lowercase i, such as in “Divine Phoenix Blade”. This is especially odd because I’m pretty sure this font was used in Vesperia or Xillia or something without any issues. There should of course also be a multiplication sign character there or extra spacing to set off the numbers of enemies from the names of the enemies. The Japanese version used a full-width space; the regular English-sized space used here is not wide enough to create the visual gap you need.
Explanation: I’m honestly not sure what the explanation here is, because that looks like a monumental sprintf() or C string formatting error. I don’t know how it would even be possible to cause such an error unless maybe you are printing the integer and decimal portions of the number separately. Are you doing that? If so, why? While we’re at it, can you fix the GRADE system in this game? I can’t tell if it’s poorly designed or poorly implemented, but it seems silly to have a system where 99% of your grade for a boss fight comes from killing the boss, and your combos, stuns, blast usage, etc. count for essentially nothing. 0.00? Come on.
Please ensure that all system messages, popup text, and tutorial strings are complete and not overflowing their boundaries (see last line in screenshot). Please make sure you playtest changes you make.
Explanation: I’m not sure if you simply forgot to finish your thought (“= Mystic Arte”) or you wrote a string that was far too long for the box and got cut off. Possibly, it looked fine previously but you added extra text such as “& normal state” that pushed the rest of the text out of the box. Either way, given that this is a controls help screen right at the start of the demo and the only way for demo players to get a handy overview of the controls, you really should have QA’d/playtested this enough to notice there was an issue and fixed it. If you can’t catch an issue as huge and obvious as this, it doesn’t speak well for your ability to catch other issues. If you didn’t catch it because of a last-minute change, let that be a lesson learned: don’t make last-minute changes that you can’t test.
One final issue, though this one would be much harder to address and is more of a game issue than a localization issue. Can you fix the camera? The battle camera is atrocious whenever you’re near any objects such as walls and trees. If you could just let the camera clip through those objects and turn them transparent, that would be great.
Ever since Tales of the Abyss, the “standard” classification system for Artes has remained Base Artes (特技/Tokugi) > Master Artes (秘技/Higi) > Arcane Artes (奥義/Ougi) > Mystic Artes (秘奥義/Hiougi). For whatever reason, in Zestiria, instead of Base Artes and Arcane Artes, you have Martial Artes and Hidden Artes. If you have time to do so (including re-recording voiced lines that mention Martial or Hidden Artes), please change the terms back.
Explanation: This is bad for several reasons: 1) You are changing series terminology willy-nilly, 2) You already called the non-spell Artes in Xillia1+2 “Martial Artes” even though that was a different term (武身技/Bushin Waza) used in a different way (the equivalent to “Strike Artes”, aka everything that isn’t a spell), 3) They aren’t good translations of the Japanese, 4) They don’t offer a sense of differentiation, and 5) There are better alternatives that preserve some of the traditional terminology if you wanted to change the names to promote gameplay clarity.
Hidden Artes? Hidden from what? I have a hard time identifying what meaning or feeling is supposed to be evoked by the adjective “Hidden” as used here to describe a subset of “Artes”. The Japanese term refers to advanced techniques kept secret from all but the most senior students of a particular school of martial arts, the “innermost teachings”. The term “Arcane Artes”, whether intentional or not, managed to capture this meaning much better, both in meaning and feeling. Also, when you have Base Artes and Arcane Artes, you know from the names that the former ones will be simple moves while the latter ones will be more advanced moves. How do Martial Artes and Hidden Artes offer a similar level of differentiation? Why are the Hidden Artes not also “Martial” if they too involve sword slashes or whatever?
If the change was made for gameplay clarity reasons, to emphasize that the two have significantly different functions in this game as compared to previous games, it’s still not clear enough… something like Blitz Artes and Arcane Artes would have worked much better. The former emphasizes that you should use them to rush in and interrupt casters, while the latter is serendipitously perfect for emphasizing that you SHOULDN’T use them against casters. I honestly think Base Artes would still be fine here, too… the Japanese fanbase was expected to figure it out, after all.
When damaging enemies, the damage popups are sometimes accompanied by words indicating what kind of hit it was. Please make sure these words actually make sense. For example, change RESTRAIN! (“PENETRATE”) to IRON STANCE!
Explanation: Penetrate has been series Engrish terminology since Tales of Destiny 2 for the ability to shrug off a hit without staggering. (As an aside, the Seraphs’ Armatization Mystic Artes are also from Destiny 2.) Originally, the game would show a PENETRATE counter instead of a HIT combo counter showing how many hits the enemy can still shrug off before they start staggering und your assault. In recent games, it has often been depicted as a circular blue barrier or a wall of hexagons that intercepts attacks. The intended Japanese meaning is presumably that the enemy has pushed forward, or “penetrated”, through your assault without flinching. A native English speaker might instead interpret it as your needing to “penetrate” the enemy’s defenses before you can deal real damage to them. “RESTRAIN!” completely fails to evoke either meaning. I’m not sure if this is because the translator was In Doubt as to what was meant by “PENETRATE” and proceeded to not Don’t Fix It despite the fact that It Ain’t (as) Broke, or because the testing team checked it in battle and was unable to discern what it did. Past localized Tales games referred to this mechanic by various names depending on the context, such as “Glory” (as the name of a passive skill) or “Iron Stance”. I would recommend calling it the latter.
I didn’t see any item usage in the videos, but I’m going to preemptively mention this just in case because it was bungled badly in Hearts R. Do not localize the item gauge text that appears when you use an item in battle as “Using Item”. Call it “Item Cooldown” or something, or simply don’t touch it and leave it as it was in Japanese.
Explanation: In Tales games, items are used instantly. Their effects are applied instantly. They have a cooldown between uses. That is what that item timer in the corner is for. So please, please, do not localize the gauge’s text as “Using Item”, as if the item is being continuously used during that time, which I must reiterate is 100% false. I will have an aneurysm if I see that in the final release. I will track you down, win the lottery, drink half a bottle of Patrón, figure out a way to get onto the board of directors for whatever company you happen to be working for, drink the other half of the bottle, and then fire you. Just kidding. But seriously, don’t do it.
I covered the history of Arte naming in the West in my post about how Xillia 2’s Arte names sucked. (They were still better than Hearts R’s.) I also talked a bit about how to go about naming Artes in this post about Hearts naming decisions. Here I will touch upon a few Artes related to series traditional Artes that I happened to see in the demo videos. It might be late to rename these as it might require redoing some voicework.
Sorey’s Arte, Earth Dragon Fang (地竜連牙斬/Chiryuu Rengazan) should be Earth Dragon Swarm.
Explanation: This Arte, a fancy combo of earth-element slashes, is obviously based on Dragon Swarm (爪竜連牙斬/Souryuu Rengazan), which is also a fancy combo of slashes. It should be named accordingly.
Sorey’s Arte, Runic Circle (呪護暴陣/Jugo Boujin) should be Runic Field.
Explanation: This Arte, which creates some kind of gravity sphere, appears to be based on Guardian Field (守護方陣/Shugo Houjin), which creates a circular glyph of energy. You should try to create parallels between Arte names that have parallels in the Japanese version.
Sorey’s Arte, Lion’s Howl (獅子戦吼/Shishi Senkou)… should maybe stay as Lion’s Howl.
Explanation: This Arte has been called Beast in English ever since Arte names began to be standardized back in the original Tales of Symphonia release for the Gamecube. The original appearance of this Arte was even earlier, in the original Tales game, Tales of Phantasia for the Super Famicom (1995). As a result, there have been countless derivative Artes (literally 15+) that stem from this one iconic Arte, all of whose English names would be invalidated by such a change. However, this time around, this Arte is of some story relevance, and let’s just say that the lack of syllables in “Beast” might have posed a problem to the localization staff. Perhaps “Beast Howl” might work? If not, I guess Lion’s Howl it is… If nothing else, it’s a good translation of the Japanese.
In general, you know about the Aselia wiki, right? They’ve compiled quite a bit there regarding the Artes throughout the series and other information. You should definitely use it as a reference.
Finally, and probably the hardest to do anything about if you’ve already recorded it all, is the dialogue. We haven’t really seen that much yet and it does seem reasonably all right in cutscenes, but man, the mid-battle and victory quotes are super awkward.
“Aim right after” should be “aim for right after”. But also, what the hell are Lailah and Sorey even trying to say? Perhaps “while retreating” isn’t the best choice of phrasing here.
Explanation: This exchange made so little sense that I had to check the Japanese version of game. (Lailah: “Eagles often attack after pulling back.” Sorey: “So that means it’s best to go for them right after they attack!”) I guess they’re immobile for a moment and thus easier to catch and beat up right after they attack? The official English localization of this dialogue is totally opaque and doesn’t make that clear at all. I’ll admit, I don’t think the Japanese dialogue makes a whole lot of sense either, so maybe this is a faithful translation.
Please remove “as a seraph”. Also, please remove “for it” from Lailah’s line.
Explanation: Seraphs are a race of people. Do humans say “I want to become stronger as a human”? I think I can guess what the Japanese line was based on this translation, but translating it directly leads to some rather stilted dialogue in this case. Then we have Lailah’s follow-up. She tells him he has plenty of talent “for it”. For what? Being a seraph? Being a seraph isn’t a job. It’s a race of people. How can you have talent for being your race? This appears to be a case of translating without knowing or properly taking into account what exactly a “seraph” is.
Please check the plurality of your pronouns; “them” should be “it”.
Explanation: I don’t think Giganto monsters tend to come in packs, so this should probably be “it”. This probably came about because the translator was unclear as to how many there were since Japanese doesn’t really specify. Again, though, this is dialogue available in the demo. Was it really that hard to playtest a short demo to check context for lines you are unsure of? Did no one notice the awkward mismatch between the number of enemies onscreen and the choice of pronoun during playtesting/QA? Was there QA before the demo was finalized?
I know all this may seem super nitpicky and presumptive, and I’m hoping everything above has already been fixed in the current build of the game due to super awesome internal playtesting and QA. But let’s be real, I really can’t just sit back and trust that QA will fix any and all outstanding issues after that depressing Hearts R debacle. That’s why I am hoping that this post will find its way to them and that they can at least address the issues mentioned here. Ideally they would keep these sorts of ideas in mind as they carefully go over the rest of the game to ensure that they bring us a quality final release. Otherwise, fans and the general public will likely give the game a lukewarm reception due to minor issues of the sort that hold a good game back from being a great game. If you’re thinking I’m the only one nerdy enough to pay attention to these things, think again:
Well then, until next time! Baba-san, I hope this ends up being a quality release that sells 300k+ copies in the West and makes your detractors in Japan who are overly mad about the whole Alisha thing look like fools. I’ll be going for a PC copy so I hope the PC port and controls are awesome too! 😛