The Final Fantasy series has long been known for its highly addictive properties, though this has never been highlighted quite as well as in a Square Enix GDC presentation held on Friday. Localization director for the RPG powerhouse, Richard Honeywood, talked extensively about the challenges faced in the alteration of a Japanese game for Western audiences. Of course, the transition is often less than perfect, as evidenced by the English title of a scrapped Final Fantasy compilation -- Final Fantasy Heroins.
The rest of the talk, which was notably devoid of substance abuse, centered on Square Enix's central localization philosophy. The key element, said Honeywood, is constant communication between the translators and the game developers. He also pointed out several examples of why this concept, in conjunction with extended release schedules, can result in a superior game for Western audiences. Dragon Quest VIII, for instance, benefited from an overhauled interface, voice acting and an orchestral soundtrack during its localization process. Frequently, even a game's animations are motion captured again so as to include more culturally appropriate motions -- Final Fantasy X's blitzball greeting was cited as being a little questionable in the Japanese release.
Towards the end of the presentation, Richard Honeywood acknowledged the efforts of fan translators who spend so much of their personal time converting games which may not see English releases. "Legally we can't condone these fan translations," he said, "but we like reading them and seeing how others interpret the text." For a quick demonstration of why localization is so important, check out a direct machine translation of this post after the break.