And this goes to pretty much any company being stingy with localization.
Three weeks ago, one of the best console music games that doesn't involve plastic instruments finally landed stateside. You probably don't know because Sega hasn't done anything to tell people. It's called "Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F," The FIFTH game in a series based on the digital singers, "vocaloids." You want a quick review? It's got a strong set list, tons of replayability, and a freaking edit mode that lets you make tracks and videos for ANY mp3. It's great. 9/10. Only real problem is you can't set the HD lag past 99 milliseconds. Oh, and the other crap they pulled in the localization. Let's talk about that.
I pre-ordered this game thinking it was going to be Xenoblade all over again and you wouldn't be able to find it next week. Sega proved my suspicions EXACTLY RIGHT. When I came to pick it up that Tuesday, the GameStop clerk miraculously knew what I was talking about, and then told the other guy behind the desk "that's the last copy we have. We had two pre-orders and two copies" Granted, I don't know if that's GameStop or Sega's fault, but I had pre-ordered that WEEKS ahead of time. They usually order more then, right? I probably ruined the week of some 14-year-old girl because that's the only store she can get to! That's on YOUR conscience, Sega and/or GameStop!
Anyway, it's not like anybody was expecting much for the localization. However loyal the American fanbase is, it is small, not warranting a big overhaul. And English vocals is probably the last thing anyone wanted. After all, Sega's own Yakuza series has been forgoing English voices since the second installment. What WAS expected, at least by me, were English subtitles. J-pop tends to blend together enough as it is for casual fans like me, and actually knowing what's being sung about would be nice for differentiating between the songs. Yeah, some of the videos do a good job telling the story, but others are just... weird. Yeah, turns out some Japanese music videos are hard to follow. Who knew?
But, no, the subtitles are just phoneticizations of the Japanese lyrics. Who are those even made for?! People singing along or something? It's not like they move along with the music, karaoke style. I had seen it in the demo, but I assumed that would be changed for the final release which was still in a couple months.
What it means is I'm just not getting the same entertainment from the game that a Japanese audience will. For example, there's clearly supposed to be a joke at the end of the "Summer Idol" video, and there is, but I wouldn't know it without looking it up online. The drama from songs like "Time Machine" and "Black Rock Shooter" are lost. And I'm certain that "Tell Your World" and "Continuing Dream" are inspirational as all hell, but that message won't reach English users. It's a game ABOUT singers that won't tell us what they're singing! Treating the American audience like this is like telling your kids you're all going to Disney World, and then making them pay for tickets. Or maybe just dropping them off at the Florida state line.
Here's the thing, fans could have gotten this game easily, especially with the PS3 not having a region lock. And people know that because it's a music game, there's no need to understand the language. I would have gotten it myself at an anime convention I attended this summer, had the localization not been announced just that week! So, this means Sega gave NO INCENTIVE to people who already bought the games through other means. Maybe Sega ended up with money in their bottom line from those sales too, but this isn't helping U.S. retailers any.
And here's the kicker, folks: there's a Vita version of this that they DIDN'T send over! This would EASILY crack the top ten games of the Vita's library, and there's no way it would have been any more difficult to change than the PS3 version. At LEAST pull an Ace Attorney 5 and release it on PSN! And no, it doesn't do remote play! (not that you'd want to with the crappy frame rate you'd get, but it would have been a nice option)
(This article is nearly approved but I wanna throw this in.) Also, as a casual fan of the music, I was hoping there'd be something in the game or its packaging pointing me to where I can buy the songs or learn more about it. There wasn't anything like that. It's a shame, since this could have been a real marketing blitz for vocaloid music in the west, especially with English versions of the technology being made available now. It's a real missed opportunity.
My question is why Sega bothered with the localization if they were gonna half-ass it this bad? Was it really worth paying somebody to write the lyrics to "Nyanyanyanyanyanya" in English letters? (should clarify, yes, that is the "nyancat song") Why not just put the Japanese version on PSN and save the money? Seriously, what's keeping that from happening? Like, with everything? I'm honestly surprised that the national walls haven't come down on the online marketplaces yet. I get that you want the user's location to match retail prices there (sorry, Australians) I guess maybe it's a currency thing? But even then there has to be some way to get money to foreign devs easily enough to at least justify putting popular titles on international stores. I know I can access the Japanese PSN from an American PS3, so why even have that wall there? I really want to see imports on digital markets at some point. Otherwise, people will just pirate the damn things, and they'll have every right to!
Thanks for reading! ... um... sayonara... desu? Uh, I know "sayonara" is "goodbye" and... you say "desu" to, um... sound cute, right? Maybe, if I had English subtitles, I'd freaking know!!
UPDATE: On the off chance somebody reads this in the future, Sega has announced the Vita version will be made available in EU and NA as a digital download in early 2014. Coincidence? I think not!