What were some of the most difficult issues to deal with when working on Virtue’s Last Reward? How did you deal with them?
There is only one issue worth talking about in localization, and that is: time. Any other issue can be fixed or avoided with the liberal addition of time, but unfortunately there is never enough to go around.
Beyond that, however, there were plenty of odd translation issues like I might run into in any game. Fortunately, Uchikoshi wrote VLR with an eye for the English audience, which kept difficult plot elements to a minimum, but there were still plenty of jokes that didn’t translate well, or didn’t translate at all.
There were also fully two instances in this game of characters who “talk like” an animal, which usually means sticking a word or syllable onto the end of their sentences. In the case of Zero III, he adds –usa to his sentences, which is the first half of the Japanese word for “rabbit” (usagi), and in the case of Sigma he adds –nya which is more or less the sound a cat makes. If you’ve played the game, you know I solved this problem how I solve lots of problems—with puns!—but it was something that caused me a fair amount of difficulty for a while, since both things were fairly integral to the portrayal of each character.
In the Japanese version of the game, Zero III doesn’t have nicknames for everyone; he just uses the –kun honorific on everybody’s name. Honorifics of every kind can be a pain, but –kun is especially difficult. What I ultimately decided was that his usage of it was supposed to convey two things: that he considered himself superior to the other characters, and that he was being a condescending dick about it. Insulting nicknames seemed like a good way to communicate that, and it also allowed me to drop hints (Moony) and call-outs to 999 (Cleaver). Fun fact: Sigma’s full nickname, which is sadly never used, was “Siggy Stardust.”
Those are just a few; there were plenty of other issues like these. My strategy for problems of this sort is usually to stare at them for 5-10 minutes and see if I can come up with anything. If I can, I leave them empty, mark them in a list, and move on. I keep them in the back of my mind, and come back to them either when I have a good idea, or when I’ve finished everything else and I need to wrap them up. There were some jokes and issues that I didn’t resolve until almost the end of editing—the conversation about what goes in the card slot in the pantry was one, as was the back-and-forth with Sigma and Tenmyouji where Sigma keeps turning around/making jokes about Tenmyouji’s threats.