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Localization is Good, Actually

Today on COG Considers, let's take a look at the differences between translation and localization... and why localization can be pretty awesome.

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Abriael23d ago (Edited 23d ago )

What a shallow, generalizing take. There's no such thing as something universally good or universally bad.

Good localization is good. Bad localization is bad. The primary example the writer brings is extremely bad localization, basically making the whole article crash and burn.

As someone who worked in localization for 5 years, a localization professional need to be aware that they are not authors. Their localization is exclusively at the service of conveying the message and feelings the author wants to convey. Too many localization professionals nowadays believe they're authors or even better than the authors, and their personal message should be conveyed instead. This is an extremely bad way of doing localization, and quite obviously the writer of this article has no idea of what they're talking about.

PS: if you have to put "actually" in an article headline, you likely already know you're wrong and just being contrarian.

isarai23d ago

There are many games i would gladly take a bad localization if it meant i didn't have to pay so much to import it.

annoyedgamer22d ago

Pay for the authenticity. Never compromise, that attitude is how the industry got to the state is in right now.

isarai22d ago

@Annoyedgamer

I get that for some games, but for like Uppers, a corny beat'em up about kicking ass and impressing chicks, I just want to be able to read the objectives so I can finish the game 🤷‍♂️

OneGreenMRAJ22d ago (Edited 22d ago )

I suppose, rarely do I see a localization that is just SO bad that I would rather not experience the game at all. Doesn't have to be a binary, bad localization is better than no localization IMO, especially since bad localizations usually just means simplistic and without nuance. For example, I recently played the Zero No Kiseki games, the first one was localized by Geofront, which was just downright fantastic. I didn't realize that localizations could be done that well. It felt natural, without all of the stereotypical trappings of most Jrpgs. I was gonna wait to play the second until they finished, because I was so impressed, but I eventually gave up waiting. If you know anything about these games, they are extremely text/story heavy, and despite the translation of the second game being noticeably inferior to the first, I was able to fill in the lines for the most part, and still enjoyed the game. I do get your point though, once you see it done well, it is kind of hard to go back to the mediocre localizations.

Abriael22d ago (Edited 22d ago )

The problem with this reasoning is that the choice is never limited to having either a bad localization or no localization at all.

The worst localizations are normally done by choice, because the staff working on them believes they can provide a better experience than the original authors, which inevitably leads to a crap product.

So the alternative of "no localization" is not a valid justification for bad localization. Faithful localizations that respect the original don't cost a dime more than a crap localization in which the translators believe they have suddenly turned into creatives (which is exactly what this trainwreck of an article defends).

OneGreenMRAJ21d ago

@abriael I'm not sure they think they can do it "better", probably think they can do it "well enough". I think localization is just an easy cost-cutting measure for publishers. Your theory would seem to imply that every publisher just ignores the complaints about localization, despite their desire to expand into the western market. There is really no pro-bad localization advocates, which means they only hear complaints. If cost weren't an issue, why would they ignore the complaints?

TakeTori21d ago (Edited 21d ago )

Localization means translation of software to another language. The words localization and translation are not mutually exclusive, and localization does not mean domesticated translation/adaptation of text and game elements. It just means translation of software, including text and game elements.

Just like there is the domestication paradigm and the foreignization paradigm within literal translation, these also exist within localization. Persona 5 is as much a localization as Phoenix Wright, even if Persona 5 has more direct and foreignized translations (maintaining as many source text elements in translation as possible). On the opposite side of the scale, Phoenix Wright's localization is heavily domesticated, as the article points out, meaning names, locations and cultural references are adapted to the target culture.

Therefore, saying that localization is good is a moot point, because it's the same as saying that translation of games is good. Of course it's good. How else would we get to enjoy foreign games? :)

Semantics aside, I agree that domesticated localizations are good and necessary, contrary to the hegemonic discourse, though there is a limit to everything. Localizations need to have well-functioning and correct English, unlike in Persona 5 where the localizers make a lot of direct translations from Japanese, which just do not work, but over-domestication can lead to spoken Japanese lines being very very long, with the subtitles being maybe one or two words long while being completely unrelated to what's being said, which happens often in Final Fantasy XIV, which I'm playing a lot these days.

I ultimately prefer the FFXIV style of translation over that in Persona 5, cause well-functioning, fluid English is preferable to nonsense, but the ideal is to seek as perfect a balance between domestication and foreignization as possible in my opinion. Maintain foreign words when it makes sense, don't ham-fist them in, but don't change the meaning to the point that the source text message is no longer present in the target text.

SaveFerris21d ago

As long as there isn't any censorship in the localization and translation, and the dialogue makes sense, I'm usually okay with it.