Interview with Member of the Fire Emblem 12 Translation Team

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Hey everyone. So, for those of you who are big-time fans of Fire Emblem, like myself, waiting for Awakening really sucks right now. But, I found something for us that will make the wait just a little less painful. You see, there is a group of fellows known as the Heroes of Shadow who have been translating Fire Emblem 12 (which was never released outside of Japan). Right now, they are just days away from releasing the final patch which you will be able to download and play for yourself. Assuming you're reading this relatively closely after I uploaded it, you can use it as an excuse to wait for the patch which is helping us wait for Awakening. I just happened to be lucky enough to interview Agro, one of the 3 translators on the team all about his project, and himself as a Fire Emblem fan. He's a pretty great guy. Just read the damn thing!

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Hey Agro, thank you so much for doing this interview with us! So to start, would you mind introducing yourself, as well as tell the viewers of this site what exactly the Heroes of Shadow do?
You are most welcome! I'm Agro (sometimes known as Agromono, earlier Wander, and even earlier, Angelix), one of the translators for Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem ~Heroes and Light and Shadow~(hereafter referred to as "FE12"), and I've been a fan of Fire Emblem for a very long time. The Heroes of Shadow is basically the Fire Emblem 12 translation team. Since Nintendo so kindly decided to not localise Fire Emblem, our goal is thus: to deliver the game to the English-speaking world at the highest standard we can manage.
So what role did you play in the development of this project?
Well, as previously mentioned, I was one of three translators for this project. I joined around this time last year (November, or something) and it became my job to translate the scripts for the main story; that is, the (very long) prologue, and the 24 chapters that follow. I took over from Snow, who was the original translator for these chapters and went AWOL some time ago. I suppose you could also say that I was brought in to relieve some of the duties of TheEnd, another translator, since he was only supposed to be the "assistant translator".
Why did you originally choose to join the Heroes of Shadow translation team?
I had literally just finished secondary school ("high school" for anyone outside of Australia) and wanted a way to keep connected with Japanese, which I had really just spent the last 6 years learning. I remember that it was pretty much the very morning after my Japanese exam that I got to work on the Prologue. I was a little hung-over from my post-exam celebrations, but don't tell anyone that. I knew that I wasn't going to be able to study Japanese at university so I guess I was desperate for an opportunity to keep in touch with the language. And, of course, I love Fire Emblem. It's probably the only video game that I regularly play now outside of the occasional PC games I get. I've been in and out of the Fire Emblem community for about seven years as well so when I saw a chance to contribute, I jumped at it.
So how long has the project been going on for?
If you look at the oldest, oldest post on the blog, it's dated July 13, 2010. I guess this makes that the official starting date. It was around this time that Blazer released the first patch, which translated menus, allowing people who don't understand moonspeak (i.e. most of us) to play the game without making the selection of "Attack" or "Wait" a coin flip. But then, Blazer (the official head of the project) didn't start looking at translating the entire thing until May, 2011. By then I surmise that he and the rest of the community had gathered that Nintendo wasn't planning on an English release, and so discussions began on what, exactly, we were going to do. We didn't undergo searches for a translator and such until July, 2011. So in one sense the project has been going for well over two years, and in another, just a year and a half. Of course, I didn't join until later in 2011 so everything I've just said is guesswork and hearsay. And archived blog posts.
While translating, what were some of the main problems you and the group came across?
On an individual level, my main problem was my lack of experience in translating. I'd never done something like this before and my qualifications weren't ideal. I was small fry compared to TheEnd, who has a great deal more experience in Japanese than I do. I ended up having to make a whole forum topic dedicated to asking TheEnd how to translate some of the more complicated stuff. Still, I was determined to learn. The hardest thing was trying to get past some of the weird Japanese expressions and finding a way to phrase them and accurately portray the same message in English. Also, this is going to sound really bad, but my kanji (Chinese characters) vocabulary is pretty awful so I ended up having to go to a bunch of online dictionaries to look words up. A lot of the times they were just words I knew; I just didn't know how to write them.

As a group? The infamous "Vergil" incident and subsequent character naming fiascos. You see, one of the characters in FE12 is named "Belf" (Berufu, or ベルフ). It was widely accepted that this was a very odd name--to quote Arch, a "comic-book sound effect"--and on top of that, didn't appear to resemble any name used in a language that used the English alphabet. It didn't appear to be French, English, German, Italian, Swedish... it wasn't anything. The team decided to put it to a poll. This was a bit of a mistake, to say the least. Many (67%) voted in favour of the name "Vergil", but it was a huge departure from the original and this angered a lot of people. Some argued that it's nothing the official translators wouldn't do, while others argued that it wasn't our place to make such a change. Take, for example, the character "Mia" from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn. You'd never guess that her original name was "Wayu" (ワユ).Or Bastian, whose original name was Ulysses. Name changes have been far from uncommon in the series, but people were nonetheless upset when we attempted to make Vergil an "official" change. The ensuing argument led to some falling out amongst the team and an enraged bunch of fans and... well, you get the point.
So what did we decide to go with? You'll just have to play to find out...

My apologies, by the way, to anyone named "Belf". I'm sorry, no amount of googling led me to believe that anyone has that name. Except as a surname, at least. Fun fact: "belf" refers to "blood elf" in some other gaming language, apparently...
Does the team have any plans to work on any other patches, or will they all go their seperate ways?
Not as far as I know. Most of the team are fairly prominent members of the community doing other not-so-important stuff so we've all got our own things to work on. We haven't organised anything and if I wasn't so pressed for time at the moment between work and school I'd love to do another game. 
I take it you're a Fire Emblem fan. What's your favorite game in the series?
Radiant Dawn [FE 10]. The music is some of the best in the series and the translation is top-notch. On top of that, it has some pretty nice gameplay improvements over the past few games, even if some of the characters are so bad it's almost not funny. Still, Part I and the rest of the Dawn Brigade chapters remain my favourite in the game even if no one else seems to enjoy them. 
How does this game compare to the others (or at least the ones you've played) in your opinion?
It's like a better version of Shadow Dragon, really. Everything that was wrong with Shadow Dragon is righted in this game. Anyone who whined about lack of character development in SD will get their fair share this time around. Given that a lot of the fantasy games of FE3's era had very similar stories--those being "evil empire attacks!", FE12 has aged pretty well. Oh, and there's My Unit--though I suppose thanks to Nintendo I should start calling him/her "Avatar"--a really awesome addition to the game. I'd say it's probably the best portable FE to date, and one of the best and most enjoyable games in the series overall.
Well, thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview with us. Any last words you'd like to say to our viewers?
No worries! I'd just like to let everyone know that we've poured our blood and sweat into this translation and making sure it's the best it can be, so I hope you all enjoy it! It's been a fun year, if busy, and I haven't regretted my work on this (yet). Last but not least, buy Awakening when it's released! It's really the best way to support the creators of the game and stronger sales will hopefully eliminate the need for stuff like a translation patch.
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So there you have it. They've done an AWESOME job on this project, and I honestly cannot wait for it to be released. Fire Emblem 12 is the sequel to Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon (DS), and as Agro claimed, this one fixed everything that Shadow Dragon got wrong. If you are a Fire Emblem fan, you're gonna love this, if you are new to Fire Emblem, what better way to start than to get a free copy of one of the best games in the series? For more information on the project, you can visit it at http://www.heroesofshadow.net/. I can't wait!

5 comments:

That is so cool! I really wish I could be part of A translation team!... To bad I don't know any japanese though. xD

Haha, well if you know another language, you could always translate this patch into that :P

The translation is only one part of the job. There's usually 1-2 hacker to make everything work too, if that's something you can do ;) Or you can stay one the the numerous but needed supporter, there's never too much of those!

I'm going to name my kid Belf now.

Haha. Let's hope it catches on as a real name someday!

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