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The Final Fantasy Team Responds to Your Thoughts on English-Language Localization

Long-time series producer Yoshinori Kitase asked for your opinions, and you gave them. Here are his thoughts.

News by Jeremy Parish, .

A few weeks ago, I spoke to long-time Final Fantasy producer Yoshinori Kitase, and the conversation turned to the topic of localization. He asked: What do players look for in the English-language version of a Japanese game like Lightning Returns? What makes a good localization?

I offered to put the question forward to the USgamer community, and he promised to read your responses and offer his own reply in turn. It turns out you guys had a lot to say, so it's taken a while for the translators to relay your comments to him. But yesterday I got word that he (as well as Lightning Returns director Motomu Toriyama) had read through them all and, true to his word, sent a message back in response. Rather than leaving his remaks buried at the bottom of a weeks-old article, we're reposting them here.

Funnily enough, no one mentioned the importance of copy editing.

Yoshinori Kitase, producer, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII:

Hello, this is Yoshinori Kitase of Square Enix.

I read through the article as well as the comments from the readers and fans. Since we were given such a great opportunity, I would like to share my thoughts with you all.

There were two points that I found particularly interesting.

First, I’m surprised that you (the readers) know the Square Enix games very well (perhaps even more than we do!). Your analysis, which included not only information on the localization quality but the specific names of the people who worked on the translation, was extremely valuable. Sometimes we get fixated on the sales and review scores for other internal titles, so the feedback was especially helpful. Nonetheless, I was reminded once again that one of the best ways to improve the quality is to reflect on our past success within the company. I’m also very glad to hear that the overall localization quality of our titles has generally improved.

The second point I thought that was interesting is that we don’t have to be completely accurate to the original Japanese. As long as the overall direction does not deviate, it’s better to make the necessary adjustments in order to have the English sound natural. This also came up in my earlier conversation with Jeremy.

I actually had a discussion with the localization team at the Square Enix Tokyo Studio, and they too have two different ways to go about doing this. One way is to translate the original Japanese script as closely as possible and raise the quality of the English translation while doing so. The other way is to make bold modifications as needed as long as the gist of it matches up. The method varies depending on the characteristics of the original title and the timing in which the [translation] team is formed at the time. However, in the case of the Final Fantasy XIII series, we leaned towards the former approach. Although the latter is more challenging, we would like do our best to incorporate it into our development in the future, upon receiving this feedback.

Thank you to the readers and fans for providing honest feedback that we couldn’t have received elsewhere.

Lastly, I’d also like to thank USgamer for providing us with this opportunity.

Thank you,

Yoshinori Kitase, Producer

You've come a long way, baby.

Motomu Toriyama, director, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII:

Hello, this is Motomu Toriyama of Square Enix.

I’m very thankful that there was a serious and thoughtful discussion about the localization of Final Fantasy, and that there were many valuable comments that were posted on the article.

With the increasing quality of graphics, we’ve always encountered a great challenge in the Final Fantasy XIII series to accurately depict the story of the people living in a never-before-seen fantasy world. This is because with each installment, the worlds would become more and more unique. It even came to a point where I wished I could control these unique characters through Paradigm Shift!

Moving forward, we will think about the methods of crafting expressions and characters that can be easier to understand and relatable at the same time. We will also make an effort to retain the edgy and fresh appeal throughout the localization process, and will continue to take on the challenge to create a brand-new Final Fantasy world.

We appreciate your continued support.

Thank you,

Motomu Toriyama, Director

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Comments 13

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  • Avatar for adamvillarreal48 #1 adamvillarreal48 4 years ago
    Pretty cool
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  • Avatar for jmroo #2 jmroo 4 years ago
    Wow, this has got to make the USGamer staff pretty proud.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #3 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    Interesting. It isn't talked about a lot, but I do think one of the big problems with FF13 is the localization. The characters feel like they have a lot of potential to be likable, but the dialogue is often so stilted that it hampers that likabilty. It's a huge reason why the story of FF13 doesn't work as well as it could. (It's also kind of a trite and cliche story, but that's another matter.)

    On the other hand, I had big problems with FFT's new localization. While less stilted than the original, it is so ridiculously overwritten and overraught that it really ruins the tone of the story for me. I'll take the stilted original any day because it least the characters are speaking plain English.
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  • Avatar for jeffcorry #4 jeffcorry 4 years ago
    I think it is great that they took the time to evaluate the comments here. I hope they paid close attention to those that praised Final Fantasy XII. It is an amazing game as well as localization.
    I hope to see the time come again when the words "Square" on the box mean you hardly have to know what the game is to know it's going to be good. Final Fantasy IV (II), Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VI (III), and Chrono Trigger. I didn't even have a clue when I bought Chrono Trigger what it really was, but it had "Square" on it. Boy. I was pleasantly surprised...
    Bring it on back.
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  • Avatar for secularsage #5 secularsage 4 years ago
    Great job, Jeremy!

    I wish Square could take a lesson or two from Atlus, the current kings of localization. Catherine and Persona 4 stand out in my mind as two games that are both true to Japanese culture and easy for Western audiences to play and enjoy. (Both had many cutscenes that required clever scripting for lip synch dubs, and both pulled it off with apparent ease.)

    Aksys and Marvelous (formerly Xseed) tend to do a great job as well.

    My favorite Square localization was the most Japanese game they've put out in a decade - The World Ends with You. The game was smart, the writing was sharp, and the unique culture of the Shibuya district remained intact, J-pop and all. The lesson Yoshinori Kitase says he learned about sticking to the spirit of the script rather than the letter of the words is an important one!
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #6 jeremy.parish 4 years ago
    @jmroo Yep, I'm proud that you guys gave such great responses to an off-the-cuff question from E3 that Kitase was like, "Hey, I can't wait to see what they say now."
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  • Avatar for Critical_Hit #7 Critical_Hit 4 years ago
    Man oh man; this is an unexpected treat!

    Thank YOU, Misters Toriyama & Kitase! A hearty, hearty thank you! I know it must be TERRIFYING to actually look at feedback to anything in this modern age - it's the internet, there's anonymity involved, and people (well, their comments at least) are generally soooooo negative. Especially for the Final Fantasy series - a series which many Westerners loved back in the day (so we're still invested in it), but nowadays proves fairly divisive. Particularly the XIII sub-series of this past generation.

    But to us, it's really important to actually see that you guys are doing what you say you're going to do. And that you're listening to your fans! That's awesome, especially when we hear how the new Square President was reminded - thanks to Bravely Default's success - that jrpg fans (and Square fans) are all around the World. And we'll respond to a quality product.

    I'm really, really happy to see you guys are hearing us :)

    I'm especially glad to hear Mr. Toriyama's statements about focusing on "crafting expressions" and making relatable characters. That's what made your older games so great - games that are still fantastic to play now!

    Again, Thank you!Edited 4 times. Last edited April 2014 by Critical_Hit
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #8 Kuni-Nino 4 years ago
    This was pretty awesome of them and thanks to USgamer for being relays. Much appreciated.

    I wish I could've written some feedback to them to let them know I appreciate the effort they point into the voicework and localization. It seems they got the message from other people though so all is well.
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  • Avatar for SpoonyBardOL #9 SpoonyBardOL 4 years ago
    It's really great to see developers take a more hands-on approach with fans. At least when possible. I really hope we see more exercises like this in the future. Well done, USGamer!
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  • Avatar for Daryoon #10 Daryoon 4 years ago
    Let's hope that, between this and the Bravely Default wake-up call, they finally turn things around.

    Proof that, no matter what creative field you work in, and how successful you are, a little constructive criticism can make a world of good!
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  • Avatar for docexe #11 docexe 4 years ago
    I have to say I’m usually very cynical when it comes to giving feedback to developers at big publishers like Square through the Internet, specifically when it comes to the comment sections of gaming sites. On one hand, unless you direct your comments to them through the official communication channels (and sometimes even then), I tend to be very skeptical that the developers are actually listening. On the other hand, most comments in gaming sites tend to be so incredibly negative and acidic (to say it in polite terms) that even if they listen, I doubt they would be actually helpful (rather than just depressing) for the developers.

    Well, thanks for proving me wrong, USgamer community. I didn’t participate in the original discussion (and I regret that, although rather than having to do with my cynicism, the reason was that I didn’t really had the time at the moment to provide an elaborate comment as I would have wanted). Even then, I read most of the comments on the article and I have to say I was impressed with the number of detailed suggestions, polite and measured tone of the responses, and the overall level of constructive criticism that I saw there. Bravo! Honestly, bravo! You showed not only how much we gamers care about this hobby, but that contrary to the stereotype, we are quite capable of providing intelligent and constructive feedback. For that: Thank you.

    Finally, I should also give some thanks to Kitase-san and Toriyama-san for taking the time to read the comments and respond in kindly. I wish for the success of Square-Enix on its future endeavors and for Final Fantasy to return to its place of prominence.
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  • Avatar for Mega_Matt #12 Mega_Matt 4 years ago
    This is awesome. Good job!
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  • Avatar for VegaTT #13 VegaTT 4 years ago
    If I could mention a game from another company for a moment, I enjoyed the localization of The Last Story. It seemed to be translated and dubbed in London, which was a good fit for its medieval setting with lords, ladies, counts, knights and mercenaries. If Square-Enix wanted to make a game about, say, Don Quixote, I'd be interested in that game being dubbed into Spanish in Madrid or Barcelona.
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