Saturday, March 5, 2016

The new normal and the old guard


In a recent Nintendo Direct, Tsunekazu Ishihara talked about the history of Pokemon and the release of the two newest entries in the series, Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon. The biggest announcement to come out of this is the fact that Both Sun and Moon will have 9 different languages including a choice of traditional and simplified Chinese. This is done to ensure that the game will be enjoyed by as many fans as possible in it's Holiday 2016 release window.

While that information is important, you're probably wondering if the game will suffer the same fate as Fire Emblem Fates? Well according to Niche Gamer, who took the time to contact The Pokemon Company for comment, The games have been internally localized through GAME FREAK, and clearly these two new games will be as well.

However we're not here to talk about that as much as we are here to talk about the responses. Particularly, a tweet from One Patrick Klepek formerly of Gaming-Age,, MTV. Multiplayer Blog,Giant Bomb , and currently at  Kotaku,

His tweet to Niche Gamer's article was this.

To answer your question, Yes, this may be the start of a “New normal”, but to me it seems more of a return to a more informed means of consumer advocacy, while addressing longstanding problems that have been at play since Anime and Japanese entertainment took the western world by storm.

Do you remember a company called 4 Kids Entertainment?

It's alright. I hear you have to mention the devil's name three times in order to summon him to this plane of existence.

4 Kids ( that's two if you've been keeping count) is an American licensing company originally called Leisure Concepts, was founded in 1970 by Mike Germakian (co creator of 80s cartoon Thundercats) and Stan Weston (original concept creator of G.I.Joe and Captain Action) as an independent licensing agency. In the past it has handled such licenses as Star Wars and The Legend of Zelda, and grew to prominence in the late 90's and early 2000s due to dubbing the first eight seasons of Pokemon and Kazuki Takahashi's manga turned Konami cash cow card game, Yu-Gi-Oh.

Bringing these shows to American shores had proved successful for the company, and lead to more anime series being licensed for American television, despite a growing amount of concerns from fans about editing out the original music, changing the names of characters to make them easier to relate to western viewers, altering out anything resembling Japanese culture, and ultimately attempting to downplay the subject matter to make it palatable for children.

Kids who watched Tranzor Z  saw Baron Ashura/Devleen and picked up on the implications quickly ...
Things really went south when the company licensed Eiichiro Oda's magnum Opus, One Piece, and had butchered it completely. We're talking full on edits of characters, replacing the original music score with pirate raps, removing episodes that would play a larger part into the series' plot (despite not knowing it at the time) ,and altering the story even in unedited portions to change the story around entirely. 

When asked about the issue of these edits and changes in a 2005 article with Anime News Network , former CEO of the company, Alfred R. Kahn went on to further explain that These series were picked up do to their popularity and merchandising potential, only to be “westernized” to make them better understandable to children in English speaking countries. That means that the voices, the soundtrack and the plot have to be adjusted for mass appeal and maximum profits. This also means that they had full knowledge that these shows had subject matter suited for older kids and just neutered the material to market to a younger demographic.

 Also interesting to note - it appears that when One Piece was originally shown at a licensing convention, the Japanese opening was retained with English Vocals, before being altered into the “Pirate rap” when introduced on American airwaves. Kahn's reasons were because they liked this version, and thought it would be more popular with American audiences.

C'mon.. say it with me..

Despite all of that, The 2003 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and other American made properties were handled in an entirely different way. Storytelling elements such as the depictions of Leonardo being beaten within an inch of his life had not been cut, and the series itself was actually highly acclaimed for this. So credit where it's due, however why treat one property in this way and then heavily alter another for the same audience?

actually it was to sell the uncut DVD box sets at a premium price.

Much like the aforementioned company, Treehouse's overall mistreatment of Nintendo of Japan's properties have given them a huge black mark to contend with, and if they continue on this path, Treehouse will go down in history as the 4Kids of video games, while Nintendo of America going further down in terms of quality by proxy.

Because of this situation, people are a bit more leery about whether they would like to invest money into any of Nintendo's western released products. People have even gone so far as to say that they're boycotting the company altogether.

The Pokemon Company's multi-lingual announcement plus the information gathered form Niche Gamer is a good PR move for the company and could also be viewed a preventative measure as well.
Pokemon is a big deal, after all, and the last thing The Pokemon Company or Nintendo want is to botch a chance at beating the already high sales records of past Pokemon games.

Before I leave I do want to mention one last thing.

To Jeff Gerstmann's tweet.

I will agree that learning Japanese would ultimately be the best possible way to enjoy Japanese movies, game, animation, culture what-have-you. In fact there are plenty of people who do actually take up the language, in order to do so. However, this does not excuse anyone from not only failing to perform a job they were otherwise hired to do, but deliberately shoehorn things like memes, or nonsensical dialogue into a game because that seemed like a good idea at the time.

If women come in different shapes and sizes, including in the bust area, then why are we getting rid of breast sliders in games that use the term “Character Customization ” as a selling point?

If the game already has a rating of  'M' then why are we cutting out elements of said game that lend more to that particular rating, but aren't overtly sexual in nature?

If the translation processes of the 90's consist of taking huge scores of Hiragana and Katakana script and translating it into English while keeping the information small enough to fit within the confines of the game's memory, then why now, with us having more disk space and larger memory files are we not able to easily translate the game as un-intrusively as possible without injecting memes , frill and bloat?

Hell, even Working Designs tried to retain the majority of the original game while changing around the jokes to something that Americans would actually get. Sure those jokes may have been pretty dumb but Vic Ireland was actually cool enough to include translation notes in the Working Design games to tell you what they had to change, and what they had to leave out for the sake of file size restrictions or cultural differences.

You don't get promised a full meal and receive only half of the damn meal, you don't drive half a car off the lot , and you shouldn't have to “Suck it up” and pay extra for a work-around to enjoy something that someone else in another country can enjoy freely because some whiny entitled grad student decided they wanted to put their talent-less spin on something instead of just doing the job of translating and putting the game out in the first place.

The pro-consumer short answer of course is: If you're supposed to be translating a game TRANSLATE THE DAMN GAME! , not censoring it, not adding memes that lose cultural value six weeks after their inception, not cutting out things that will affect the game later on, not hiding mini games and support conversations because someone on Kotaku didn't know how to actually ask the source for information and ran with a tumblr blog post for a quick story. And certainly not hiding the Japanese audio because you're afraid people will find out how badly you botched this game.

Granted I'm no Oliver Queen, here but God damn, Treehouse and Games Journalism You have failed this city!

The only issue now is how do we fix this problem? Nintendo of Japan may already have found the solution in keeping the localization process internally in Japan like they are doing with GAME FREAK. what do you guys think?

{roars and operatic music}

I said 4 Kids three times, didn't I?

Sheeeit .

Welp gotta go

I'll see you next boss fight

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