Bringing Words to Life: The Translation Process

Hello, and a happy new year to you all! To kick off 2022, we have some wonderful news to share. We would like to officially announce that Tales of Destiny 2 is now 100% translated and 70% edited

Now, you’re probably wondering what exactly this means and what comes next. It means that the first-pass translation for the game is complete—every bit of Japanese text in the game now exists in English, from menus, skits, and the main scenario script to minigames, cutscenes, and the quiz book. All of it. The next steps will involve the remainder of the editing that needs to be done for this text, reinsertion, and internal testing of the patched game itself. During this testing phase, we will be looking for bugs and remaining typographical errors as well as checking the translation in context. We can talk more about these processes at a later date.

For now, we would like to il(lumina)te (ha) a bit of our process that went into translating the game! There were a few different things that had to be done as we translated it.

1. VANILLA TRANSLATION

The simplest thing that had to be done was translate the Japanese into English. Most of the time, this was mainly a combination of translating what was there and tweaking it based on the speaker’s speech patterns. Does the character speak like a delinquent? Do they have a sassy tone? Are they a child with simple speech patterns? Everything had to be given close attention so that the editors could properly understand what we were going for and make additional tweaks to the text accordingly. 

While dealing with those layers, we also had to do what we could to translate the text in a natural way. While the editors are there to do that wherever necessary, we still wanted to facilitate their jobs by making it sound like actual humans were speaking and not, say, robots. Japanese and English are two very different languages with different ways of expressing the same things, so oftentimes a straight translation comes off sounding stiff, which more often than not takes the player out of the experience and reminds them that it was translated from something else. Part of our job is to help keep the player engaged with the writing the way a Japanese player would be. Therefore, we tweak sentences to still mean the same thing, but read more naturally.

For example:

(Japanese) 帰ってくるんなら言ってくれればいいのに!

(Literal) If you were coming back, then it would have been good to tell us!

(Localized) You shoulda told us you were coming back!

Notice how much better it flows? 

2. PREVIOUS TALES OF GAMES

Another thing we as translators had to do was check other localized Tales of games for already-localized terms. Sometimes, if we were to directly translate something that the editors might not know existed in other Tales of games, they would leave it as such. For that reason, when we came across terms and even obscure characters, we occasionally needed to check with other games to see if official releases had already localized the term in a specific way. One example of this is a strange little character who can be found in the Katz Village in Tales of Eternia, called “Nokoh.” While the character’s name is basically just that in Japanese, we wouldn’t have known to localize it with the “H” at the end if it weren’t for us finding it in Tales of Eternia. In addition to things already localized in Tales of games, this series tends to nod to other Bandai Namco properties, which we were tasked with checking in order for fans to not miss out on those little cameos too!

One very big thing that needs to be mentioned in this section is the quiz book that exists in this game. It’s essentially one huge quiz covering not only Tales of Destiny 2 but also the Tales of games that came before it. This required a wild amount of cross-checking older games and chatting amongst ourselves as a team to reconcile any issues we came across. Some of the questions are incredibly obscure, and while some were able to be checked through let’s plays, others required actually replaying the games in question ourselves. We recommend any hardcore Tales of fans to test themselves with the quiz book when the patch is released! (It certainly tested us.)

3. CONTEXT

Context is always an important part of speech. People talk about things without mentioning them specifically all the time, because the person they’re speaking to already knows what they’re talking about. “Did you find it?” Find what? Instances like this can sometimes be frustrating experiences for a translator who’s translating off a spreadsheet. This is especially problematic for Tales of Destiny 2, wherein the script text is stored and organized by location. Everything that happens in a single location, whether at the beginning or end of the game, is all put next to each other without any indicator of when there’s a time skip or an important event occurs. This means that we needed to have played the game before (we have) to have a basic understanding of the context of certain conversations.

Many times while translating, we were picturing the area and its events in our heads in order to orient ourselves and determine what characters or NPCs are talking about. For example, if an NPC is talking about finding their lost cat in one line and then shouting about someone or someplace being under attack in the next line, we needed to have an idea of what event they were referring to so that we could use the proper pronouns and such in their speech (something Japanese doesn’t use often in general).

In addition, there are many ways that Japanese words can be misunderstood to mean one thing when they mean another—such as when a child is speaking. In this case, there’s no kanji being used in the sentence to give us an idea of what exactly they mean when they say a word that can mean a dozen different things. This will be a large part of our testing phase once all the text is finished being edited and reinserted. We’ll be making sure that everything matches in context so that anything that slipped through the cracks of our knowledge of the game can be ironed out.

4. JOKES

While a chunk of the game can be translated via the aforementioned methods, there are always going to be many lines requiring deeper thought. This includes jokes. Jokes are a process, the first step of which entailed the translator translating a very literal version of the gag and then typing up an explanation of how the punchline works. From there, we collaborated with the editors as a team to figure out how we could localize the joke in a way that English speakers would understand while maintaining its integrity. About 99% of the time, directly translating jokes results in the English player feeling as though the line is gibberish or feeling alienated for not understanding it. As we’re striving to provide as high quality of an experience as we can, we made sure to catch jokes and localize them as closely to the Japanese experience as possible by using similar themes in our text.

It’s not just jokes that get this sort of treatment, however—occasionally there were other instances that needed input from the team at large, so as to depict things as accurately and naturally as we could.

IN SUMMARY

Translating a game is no simple feat, from cross-referencing to discussing jokes and translating the text in a manner that speaks to an English-speaking player. While part of this process, and much more beyond it, is covered by the editors, there’s still a great deal that comes with translating Tales of Destiny 2 by hand. And while the game is now 100% translated into English, we’ll still be hard at work with the editors to clarify anything that needs it (and you can bet there were plenty of notes left behind for them on lines that needed special attention). It’s a team effort, and we can’t wait to show you the end product of it later this year!

35 thoughts on “Bringing Words to Life: The Translation Process

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    1. I love these updates, thanks so much for all of your hard work in ensuring that we get an awesome translation! Really looking forward to playing Destiny 2 again.

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  1. Here we are getting close to 20 years since this was released on PS2 in Japan. I didn’t think this would ever happen. Thank you so much.

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  2. Hey. New-ish Tales fan. Decided to play the mainline series in release order. Currently on Tales Of Destiny on PSX as of this note.

    Been looking at this game and never realised it was not released in the west.

    Much respect to all the folks involved in bringing this project to life.

    All the respect I can muster in this small comment. Take care and looking forward to experiencing this as fresh as possible. Means a lot that you are giving newer fans the opportunity to play in a new/fresh way.

    All the best!

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  3. Any updates on this? Been a fan since the original Tales of Phantasia and getting to play this after decades has been a dream!.

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