A recent announcement by Square-Enix has left more than a few people amazed. The least surprising bit, probably, was that we would be receiving the PSP remake of Final Fantasy Tactics.
Somewhat more surprising was the fact that the game would be retranslated. Now… the original PSX translation of Tactics isn’t all bad. But it does suffer from a lack of editing (such as the mission where you were to “Kill Dycedarg’s older brother”), and is a bit awkward from time to time.
For all the game’s fans, however, this is a godsend. It’s a remake of a game that doesn’t try to go too far – it adds a few aspects, some new characters, et cetera – so if it were the same translation there would be more debate over whether or not to get it. With a fresh translation, though, it’s hard to argue against it – provided the rumors that it runs slow and has terrible sound are actually just rumors.
Will this convince me to get a PSP? Probably not. But I really do appreciate the precedent this follows. Final Fantasy 4 was retranslated for the PSX re-release, clarifying much that was once hidden beneath a fog of poor English. Final Fantasy 6 Advance received a somewhat lighter touch, but was also retranslated. Someone at Squeenix must appreciate their fans in North America, because this is the sort of added value everyone likes to see.
A good localization doesn’t always make or break an RPG. But it does have a huge impact on the feel of the story. While a good battle system can make up for a lacking story, it’s only when the two are both good that an RPG is truly great. If, in the case of these retranslations, the story becomes better – well, the game also gets better, as long as nothing else changed for the worse.
But I wonder how far it will go. Will games on the Virtual Console or its equivalents on other systems receive this kind of treatment? It would certainly match the upgrades some games received on XBox Live Arcade. Even if it’s a game I might not ordinarily get, like Rygar, if those damned old bald guys would finally make sense I’d buy it. So many NES and Genesis games got a poor translation due to lack of space or lack of budget that this would be a big motivation for me to buy them again. And it doesn’t take a whole lot of work to fix them, either, most of the time.
Retranslation isn’t entirely a new thing – but honestly, a lot of earlier games still need it. Mistakes made here and there tend to add up, and some series – like Wild Arms or Phantasy Star – have conflicting names for characters, concepts, places… and could really use some straightening out.
Some we’re unlikely to see, obviously. The only reason a company would go for a retranslation would be if they’re re-releasing the game – and aside from a full remake (like WA: ACF, where they dropped the ball), this won’t happen to games that didn’t sell well the first time around. We might only see this in the Final Fantasy series – but hey, at least we’re getting something.
In some places, though, fan translators have picked up dropped balls. And started playing catch, baseball, or what have you with them. Several months ago, for example, the SNES classic Actraiser was retranslated. The first two Phantasy Stars have been reworked, too. There have been a couple attempts at retranslating Chrono Trigger, though none have gotten very far. Though CD-sized RPGs tend to be a bit too text-heavy for fan groups, it’s still a possibility eventually. But with luck, there’ll be re-releases and compilations. With a bit more, we’ll get retranslations along with them.
Translations are improving – thanks to fewer size issues and better production values – but there are still several old games that could’ve used some touching up. Square-Enix has heard the fans of the older games – now we can only hope that other companies will follow suit.