Opinion: Andrew Alfonso and Capcom get localization
Now if only others would learn from their examples
[Disclaimer: This is the opinion of the author]
After Nintendo of America released an objectively terrible localization of Fire Emblem Fates, the media and blind social justice warriors moved to defend it. Why? Some of the key people responsible for the localization are SJWs, with friends throughout the industry. On top of that, a portion of #torrentialdowpour, a hashtag focused on bad localization practices, has some overlap with gamergate. As you know, sharing an element or opinion with a gamergate hashtag user means the world goes full potato, leaving us with this lovely mess.
The supporters of Fire Emblem Fates' shoddy localization claimed it was cutting down on controversy, and that anyone that didn't like it was a pervert that only wanted to rub faces and convert gays. This is classic scumbag tactics, creating a false dichotomy where you have to either love the horrible localization or you're labeled a pervert with an opinion that should be shunned.
This image is from an article I wrote on the localization, which made no mention of "face rubbing"
Ignoring the debate over whether or not people who enjoy things you dislike are human or have valid opinions, I've already dismantled this horrible spin job by writing a previous article on why the Fire Emblem Fates localization is terrible, while intentionally avoiding the “controversial” issues.
The Treehouse supporters don't stop there though: Others are trying to claim that localization is some form of creative writing, and that people demanding better work are trying to stifle their freedom to write what they want. They even try to spin that into another false dichotomy of stiff literal translation vs. Treehouse style localization, as if there are no alternative options to localization other than going horribly wrong in one direction or the other.
The desire for nearly unreadable "technically" right translation versus a better but sillier translation is a problem with the community.— Matt Arnold (@mattLarnold) March 11, 2016
I'm going to tackle this in two parts:
First, are you imbeciles f*cking serious? This isn't your goddamned fan fiction we're talking about, localization is about translating a game and then making sure the locals get the spirit of the original by tweaking foreign concepts to something more palatable. If you want to enjoy creative freedoms, how about you make your own work and stop messing things up for fans of the original that were relying on you to do your job? Localization is different from translation, but it's not a license to make up whatever you want. Seriously, why were any of these changes necessary?
Second, there exists an option beyond literal and Treehouse. In case the incompetents don't believe me, or try to use the fact I'm not in localization as some sort of grounds to discredit my claims of the Treehouse's abysmal quality, I'd like to direct your attention to the words of Andrew Alfonso, localization director for Capcom:
"I started thinking that I don't want people picking up my games on release saying, 'I like these in-style meme references,' and then another player picking up the games four years later and thinking, 'They referenced 300 — that sucks!'"
I am loathe to give Polygon clicks, but Allegra Frank's article on Alfonso's “smart translation” of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is a damn fine piece of work that highlights how a good localization team not only keeps a story from dating itself and aging terribly, but actively improves the game. Next to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, which is not a literal translation by the way, the Fire Emblem Fates localization looks like $80 of compacted shit.
This is great because having people in the field come out and say that avoiding "meme country" is the desirable route to go with localization gives our complaints a better chance of being heard and acted upon. Nintendo's localization team will do it's best to avoid our criticisms, and to an extent that's just something that comes with working in a field like this. Those filters always have to be on or it gets deafening, even when there's nothing really wrong. That isn't the case when it comes to others pros in your field though.
Especially when said fellow pro's localization adjustments were so well received that they were patched into the original Japanese version. How many times has that happened in video games? The efforts of Capcom's localization team also played a part in helping the Monster Hunter franchise finally break 1 million copies sold in the West. That's a good localization job.
Hopefully, Mr. Alfonso's views on the matter can rub off on the rest of the West's localization teams, because games like Fire Emblem Fates and Bravely Second were too damn good to get the sorry treatments they've received at the hands of garbage teams.