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In this podcast at, translator/localization specialist Richard Mark Honeywood discusses the tumult over the edgy Judeo-Christian overtones in Xenogears, especially the name of the final villain.

[They] took every biblical reference they could and tried to twist it. One of the translators was a bit worried about this and was like 'I don't want to have fundamental Christians or other religious groups being upset and blowing up our office.' And I guess in the States, at that time, it was a concern. So I had two translators walk off it and I was stuck there by myself.

  • Posted by Matt

Translator Richard Honeywood, Xenogears, and the battle over killing god

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  1. I wonder if what we got was a pure & true localization, or rather one that was ultimately twisted and filtered as a result of self-imposed censorship in the face of the angry, bloodthursty mobs running rampant in Honeywood's (or the other translators') mind.

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  2. @Matt I was going to post this earlier but I got side-tracked. Localisation fascinates me, so many factors. Do you want a literal translation? Do you want to actually localise it to some extent so it makes sense to the audience (eg removing culturally specific jokes)? Do you want to change stuff that's potentially offensive? Do you just go crazy and basically butcher the entire original story and almost write an entire new one?

    If I ever get back into studying Japanese and actually getting a degree I did want to go down the path of researching this process. How much do you change? Just because you as a fluent speaker understand it doesn't mean your average English language speaker will.

    Censorship is far more interesting. There's a lot of Christian/other imagary in Japanese media in comparison to ours - it opens a huge doorway which all debate ends when the creators often say "we did it cause it was cool" (not because of some deeper meaning - not always the case of course). Also censorship to get certain ratings/audiences - what's acceptable for example in children's media in Japan is often not in the west. Permission is often granted for these things to be cut out/otherwise changed.


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  3. These are important questions. I guess there are several schools of thought on the matter.

    You could take the Woolseyan route and both localize so it makes sense to the audience and filter out offensive content. Judging by the story told in The Expurgation of Maniac Mansion for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo of America has a strict policy of censoring anything that could be mildly offensive, filtering not just words, but also imagery (see Final Fantasy VI localization). Woolsey is quoted,

    there's a certain level of playfulness and ... sexuality in Japanese games that just doesn't exist here [in the USA], basically because of Nintendo of America's rules and guidelines

    I remember there was a small project a few years ago to retranslate Chrono Trigger in the most literal sense possible. I recall that we pretty much wrote it off as a retarded idea, since many of the colloquialisms would be completely lost in translation.

    I suppose there needs to be a sort of middle road when it comes to the localization process.

    PS, I'm playing Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together atm, and the translation is awesome. definitely up to par with Square Enix's usual aptitude for giving us great English versions of Japanese games.

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