Interview: Fatal Frame 4 Translation Project

Interview: Fatal Frame 4 Translation Project


An intrepid team of modders, coders, and translators set out to do what Tecmo wouldn't: bring the latest entry in the Fatal Frame series beyond Japanese shores. A chat with the people behind the Fatal Frame 4 Translation Project.

HookedGamers: Wow. Translating both Kanji as well as spoken Japanese is certainly no small feat either. When trying to change text or dialog to its English equivalent there must always be the worry of the message being misinterpreted or even going outside the bounds of the original vision of the work itself. How does one go about balancing the message without steering into either the realm of misconception or creativity?

Colin: Translation has a lot of pitfalls, and Japanese to English is not one of the easier sets to translate between. There's a lot of cultural context both we and they take for granted which doesn't go over well. No one over here would be happy if someone told you you had a big forehead. In Japan, it's a compliment. The Japanese also have a great love for ambiguously specifying subjects. Every time I read "At that time, in that place..." it makes me want to scream. A good translation should be indistinguishable from native speech, and it kills me to read or hear what I call "Japanese-isms" in professional works. If I can tell which language you translated from, you did not do a good enough job. Hopefully we lived up to that standard.
Interview: Fatal Frame 4 Translation Project

Though we had an open translation where community contributions were welcome and encouraged, in editing it I relied heavily upon a few friends I made in Japan to supply me with cultural and religious information, historic speech patterns, context, and rough equivalents for all kinds of figures of speech. I'm really grateful for the advice I got.

HookedGamers: Was there a strict list of requirements implemented in order to prevent Google Translate users from joining the team?
Interview: Fatal Frame 4 Translation Project

Colin: As I mentioned last question, we actually allowed an open community translation. It was going well until some over eager translators started google translating a bunch of files went and thought it would be done faster if they 'helped'. In the end we were forced to limit access to invitation only, but opening it to the community helped us make a lot of early progress and immediately gave a good indication of who was eager to work and competent enough to know their limits and translate as best they could within them. I specifically wanted to thank Chelsea, who translated more lines than everyone else put together excepting myself. Editing these files to proper English was a closed processes, and mostly undergone by myself with lots of advise and review by several community members. The Beyond the Camera's Lens forums really helped a lot with translation and editing.

HookedGamers: Without delving into the realm of spoiling I’d like to talk about the story for a minute. Throughout the series there’s been an overarching plot despite having new protagonists for every title. Other than the obvious plot elements (ghosts and soul-catching cameras) what elements does Fatal Frame IV share with its predecessors?

Colin: Well, the truth is that this Fatal Frame is a little different. I attribute this to Suda51. On the surface, there are the usual ghosts, haunted mansions, Japanese rituals, gates to the underworld, etc. However, thematically things have changed, as they have in terms of presentation. I won't get into it too much, because in the end, the game is still about running around trying to figure things out for yourself, trying to survive. Oh, except the theme colour for this game was yellow. Who knows what that means.

HookedGamers: Few so-called “survival horror” titles give the player the feeling of actual fear. Recent titles such as Resident Evil 5 and Silent Hill Homecoming have failed to reignite that fear of dying that their predecessors were wrapped in. Does Fatal Frame IV, for you guys, fit this description or does it actually stay true to its roots?
Interview: Fatal Frame 4 Translation Project

Colin: Well, personally I would say that this game is a little less frightening than the other games. Previous horror games have generally aimed either for the jump scare, in the tradition of western cinema, or a more psychological horror, of which Silent Hill 2 is most notably adept. This game seems to aim for a compromise. While it doesn't bring either to extreme heights, what it does do it does much better than most of the recent horror games, and there's more than just a scare or two waiting inside the hospital walls.

Clayton: I would basically echo what Colin said. As an old-school adventure game fan, survival horror has been one of the last places I can really turn for great puzzle and exploration driven games (with the added bonus of horror, of course!) However, I've found that recent entries (Silent Hill: Shattered Memories comes to mind) have been decreasingly scary. There also haven't been any strong new additions to the genre for a while - which is very disappointing. Recent 'horror' games are most often just shooters set in a spooky environment with a few startles. I honestly hope this changes very soon - but with Silent Hill having lost its way and the official release of FFIV being so limited, I'm not sure things bode well, at least in the short term. For the moment, Fatal Frame is king of the hill when it comes to scares, in my opinion - I just hope any future releases don't continue to exclude the rest of the world.
Interview: Fatal Frame 4 Translation Project

HookedGamers: Tecmo enlisted the help of Goichi Suda’s (Suda 51) Grasshopper Manufacture to help develop parts of the game. Grasshopper is known for utilizing stylized approaches in their work a-la No More Heroes or Killer 7. Is such an approach present in this title?

Colin: Horror games in general require a stylized approach. The lack of a specific working formula is perhaps one of the reasons why the horror genre is a bit hit and miss compared to more well traveled areas. The game certainly has its own distinctive approach, but I think it's much more subtle than Suda51's previous games, and also harder to see a difference when all the other games you can compare it to are so different themselves. Long ramble short, no, the stylized approach is not very clear in this game.