Interview: Atlus on localizing 3D Dot Game Heroes

Atlus is following up the surprise PS3 hit Demon's Souls with another From Software title: The retro-inspired action RPG 3D Dot Game Heroes. While we wait for the game's May release to plunge North America into a new retrogaming renaissance (or just be fun), we spoke to Atlus's Manager of PR and Sales, Aram Jabbari, and editor Scott Strichart about the strategy for localizing the game, about its retro roots and about Spelunker.

Joystiq: How did Atlus arrive at the budget pricing for this game?

Aram Jabbari, Manager of PR and Sales, Atlus: We made a conscious decision early on to make the game as irresistible a value as possible. While the door isn't entirely closed on Atlus Spoils goodies, we are presently leaning towards passing on as much savings to our beloved fans as possible. Though we feel the game is far meatier in content than the 8- and 16-bit games it lampoons, we are also cognizant of how a simpler retro gaming experience compares to some of the epic current gen releases, at least in the minds of some gamers, and we want to do everything in our power to entice them to experience 3DDGH for themselves.
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Have you run into any legal issues either in Japan or the US with, for example, the loading screen homages?

AJ: The beauty of 3DDGH and its parody of many of the gaming classics we all grew up on is that it does it all out of tremendous respect and love for those industry defining experiences. Everyone has been incredibly supportive of and interested in what the talented people at From Software and Silicon Studios have created.

What kind of tone is Atlus using for localization? Will it be authentic Engrish like the first Zelda?

Scott Strichart, Editor: Well, first let me just clarify that we don't usually set out to change the tone of any game we localize; the goal is to stick to the Japanese script as closely as possible. For 3DDGH, that was fairly easy. The original script ranges from blatant homage to subtle parody of the classic gaming era, and it's very playful. So, translator Mason Hyodo and I worked to make sure that's exactly how it turned out in our version. We made a really good team, because Mason had played most of the original games in Japanese, and was able to pick up on the subtleties, whereas I had played their North American counterparts, and was able to give them their "localized" spin. In some cases, it was tasteful to spice things up with a little Engrish, (very authentic, mind you) but that being said, no, the entire game isn't written that way. I think a full-sized RPG written entirely in bad English would get old to even the most nostalgia driven gamers. But when you read a line and you think, "Did that just say what I think it did?" Chances are, it was on purpose.

What is the likelihood of seeing this on Xbox 360?

AJ: There are currently no plans for a release of 3D Dot Game Heroes on Xbox 360.

The game hopes to tap into nostalgia, but what about newcomers who missed out on that era? How do you think they'll react to the game?

SS: The game's going to be fun no matter how old a gamer you are. That was the appeal of the games from that era; you could sit down and know exactly what you had to do as soon as the game started up, and it was quick, simple fun for that very reason. If you know nothing of the classic age, sure, there are going to be some events in the game that have you scratching your head, but it's not like a vast knowledge of classic games is required. In fact, a lot of events are so absurd that even if you miss the parody, the joke is still there. For everyone that is in on it, your enjoyment will just be that much greater.

With the extra time between the Japanese and American release, are any aspects of the game being tweaked?

AJ: We want it to be known by as many gamers as possible: From Software and Silicon Studios have gone above and beyond the call of duty with 3D Dot Game Heroes, adding an obscene amount of bonus content and enhancements since its original Japanese release. The list of additions and tweaks, many of which have been or will be patched back into the original Japanese release, is quite extensive, ranging from functional enhancements like an optional HDD install which dramatically reduces load times to additional content like tons of new custom characters included right on the disc. It is a testament to their passion and dedication to their craft. In the end, the biggest winners are the fans.

Aside from the aesthetic, is the gameplay inspired mostly by classic games? If so, which? Just Zelda?

SS: As far as the gameplay goes, aesthetic aside, I think the inspiration comes from just about every classic game ever made: Find a dungeon, beat a boss, gain a new power, use new power effectively to progress. That formula certainly can't be limited to any one game, no matter who did it first. Script-wise, I'll say this: Nothing from the 8-bit era is safe, some titles from the 16-bit days were lampooned, and of course, anything developed by From was fair game. As far as which ones or how many, well... it's a secret to everybody.

Has IREM granted permission to use Spelunker in North America?

AJ: Any content related to the Spelunker character will be included in the North American releases of the game; there will be no omissions or subtractions.

Are you surprised by the response to Demon's Souls in North America?

AJ: Demon's Souls has been something of a phenomenon. We are endlessly grateful for the tremendous support and word-of-mouth the community has honored the game with. The developers, too, have repeatedly expressed their appreciation for how North America has embraced the game, one that many originally felt was a smidgeon too masochistic for a majority of gamers in this part of the world, a notion that the great response to the game has (for the most part) quelled.

Months after its release, it remains relevant and continues to pull in new fans. We did as much as we could as the game's publisher to prepare those unfamiliar with the title for its high level of challenge, mostly because we wanted to ensure that the last argument anyone could levy against the game was that it was misrepresented, but it seems that it is in fact that daring difficulty, coupled with the game's bold innovation, that has won over most gamers. We and From Software couldn't be more thankful for how gamers have embraced Demon's Souls.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.