My husband and I watch EVO over the weekend, which is a large video game tournament in Las Vagus that has been running for the last 20 years. The largest tournament there is Street Fighter, and as my husband is a huge fan, he was inspired to download the DLC story for Street Fighter V, “A Shadow Falls”.

I was doing other things while he was playing it, but I couldn’t help notice just how terrible the English translation was. I had to stop and groan and roll my eyes constantly it was so bad.

How Not to Localize a Video Game

The Translation

The overall translation was understandable, but you could hear the Japanese through it. It sounded like a direct translation of the Japanese text, rather than a localization. With awkward, clunky lines like:

“It might have a connection with the hackers incident.”

“You were also receiving similar information.”

“Why don’t you also fight?”

“I will join their fight alone for now. Please tell them so.”

“When you complete your training, you must show me the result of all your effort.”

“I’ll see you all again, next time at the base.”

“The two of us can do it together.”

These sentences might read ok, but try saying them out loud. Imagine talking like this in real life. Even a non-translator can think of a better way to make these sentences flow and sound natural.

Cold, robotic, static. The sentences don’t flow at all. They convey the basic meaning but no emotion. They’re not fun or entertaining at all, and take away from the game play.

I loved the translation of Nino Kuni because they transformed the original text in a fun way that was not just understandable to the audience, but entertaining.

Why This Translation Might be So Bad

There could be a number of reasons as to why this translation is so bad.

  1. Budget issues – If you’re not willing to put the money into a good translation, to hire someone cheap or pay a low rate, then you will often get what you pay for. People need to eat, pay rent, etc, and their time is worth as much as you pay for it. No money = very little time put into the translation.
  2. Time issues – Sometimes a translation will take longer than you think. Non-translators in charge of these decisions will give tight deadlines, not understanding how long a translation can take. Tight deadlines means there is only enough time to translate the project directly and proofread a little. Certainly not enough to create a masterpiece translation.
  3. No English editor – Often an company will hire editors who know no Japanese to go through the text and re-write it in a way that flows well in English. There might not have been an editor, or if there was, they might not have had the time or money to do a thorough job.
  4. Lack of team – Often localization companies will work in a team to discuss the best tone for a project. If a company outsources individuals the tone and quality can be all over the place. Having someone else to say “why don’t you try this?” can improve a translation immensely.

Summary

If you are hiring a company or individual to translate your game (or anything really), you need to keep in mind what you want out of them. If you don’t care about the end result and only about the money then you might cut corners and get something like Street Fighter V.

I think the passion a company has for their games is evident in the quality of the translation. It’s a shame that not all companies have this passion.

How Not to Localize a Video Game – Street Fighter V

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