The fun—or the hassle depending on your perspective—of importing video games from other countries is interpreting all the non-verbal foreign language you inevitably run into. Words and menus are not the only things that get translated when a game made in one place is brought somewhere else. That’s why they call the process localization and not translation; you’re making the game societally understandable as well as clear. Some games are deemed by their makers as too culturally obtuse to bring over. Take the early PlayStation 3 game Yakuza Kenzan (pictured above). That samurai retelling of the original Yakuza game is thick with cultural artifacts that Western players just lack the context for. Is it worth it for Sega to explain the complete rules of Shogi in the middle of the game? Probably not, so it’s up to intrepid importers to play and try to figure their way through.
This week in Jetsetter, Digital Trends’ weekly column looking at the import gaming scene and the world of international game design, there are a couple fun examples of games abroad losing something in translation.
With new Ratchet & Clank comes brand new bushy eyebrows.
The dead of July is not a time for new game announcements, being stuck between E3 in June and the August blitz of Gamescom, but Insomniac games found time to announce a promising send off for the old PlayStation 3. Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus will be the first traditional run, gun, and jump Ratchet & Clank game since 2009, and it’ll be out this fall. The studio promises that this game, while shorter than epics like Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time, will be a return to form after experiments like All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault.
Why is an American made game getting a spot here in Jetsetter? Because the release of a new Ratchet & Clank means the release of a new Japanese version of the same game. Japanese Ratchet & Clank is a special, special thing. Don’t think there’s a difference. Check this out. Here’s American Ratchet:
Here’s the Japanese Ratchet:
Yes, the primary difference is gigantic Groucho Marx eyebrows. Why does Japanese Ratchet have big eyebrows? Who the hell knows? This is just one perfect example of those little cultural artifacts that make importing a strange and wonderful affair, even when you’re exporting a game first.
Asian edition of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII foregoes import-friendly touches.
Another key part of importing that many people don’t know about: the Asian edition of games not coming out in the U.S. often have an English language setting. That’s how Atlus got up the gumption to release the PlayStation 3 classic Demon’s Souls in the U.S. – the game already had a following thanks to the edition with English language options already released in Hong Kong. Asian made games generally release in that region well before the U.S. release, so import fans can get their hands on new games a little ahead of time. Anyone chomping at the bit – and frankly we don’t know who that person might be – to play Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII will be out of luck. According to Siliconera, the Asian edition of the game will only support Chinese and Korean text. This is unlike Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2, which rocked Chinese text and Japanese voices, but hid an English text option as well. What the heck, Square-Enix?
Arma 3 studio Bohemia Interactive gets hacked.
Czech developer Bohemia Interactive can’t get a break. If its employees aren’t getting arrested in Greece, its upcoming games Arma 3 and DayZ are getting delayed from release by as much as a year. To make matters worse, the studio announced that unsavory sorts on the Internet broke into their information on Friday, stealing usernames, passwords, and email addresses. The studio claims that “it is very unlikely that anything nefarious can be done with this information,” but it’s still recommending that its customers and players change their passwords.