Translation: Behind the Spectacular Sales of the North American version of Fire Emblem if Lies Discontent with its Localization

On February 25th, Japanese site Automaton, which tends to have a greater focus on overseas news than other gaming sites, reported on the Fire Emblem Fates situation in the context of the Torrential Downpour controversy one week after the game went on sale in North America. This wasn’t the first time Automaton has covered the Fire Emblem Fates controversy, but the translation for this particular article is below:

Behind the Spectacular Sales of the North American version of Fire Emblem if Lies Discontent with its Localization. Material was Cut Under Careful Consideration

By Minoru Umise x 2/25/2016

Nintendo of America reported that Fire Emblem Fates (Japanese name: Fire Emblem if) sold over 300,000 units in its first week. While these sales only account for the three days after it’s February 19th release date, it’s a record that is near five times above that of the previous release Fire Emblem Awaking (Japanese name: Fire Emblem Kakusei) and it’s reported that this is the most favorable opening in the franchise’s history. In Japan, this is the same game that was already on sale in 2015, and even as in Japan, two versions were separated and sold, Birthright (Byakuya Kingdom) and Conquest (Anya Kingdom) and it is said that Birthright has sold somewhat better. It has already fared well in overseas reviews, and it would appear the targets of such praise are such elements as the connection between characters, the careful game balance and the My Castle feature.

Fire Emblem is the long-running Nintendo simulation RPG series that has continued since 1990. If your compatriots die once, they won’t come back to life, a limited amount of enemies meant the amount you could level up was limited as well, etc.; it gained popularity for it’s high difficulty, known as “simulation with teeth.” The previous release, Fire Emblem Kakusei broke with the, until then, hardcore style and added phoenix mode where dead units can be revived, a free map where you can level up freely, etc.; there were measured approaches to make full-bodied features for beginners and it gained many new players and reignited the series’ popularity. Fire Emblem if had favorable sales in Japan, but even in America it has had a brisk start. Although the game content may be praised on one side, it appears the localization for the North American market has bought the criticism of a certain group of fans.

Deletions that Lack Consistency

The same sex love in Fire Emblem if was seen as problematic and in the European and American versions, part of it was deleted; this has already been conveyed by us before, but the deleted content wasn’t those expressions only. The most drastic example would be the abolishing of the skinship system. In this game, between story missions at My Castle, you can indulge in skinship with whatever character you like. This is a mechanic in which in the bottom screen, the character’s face is displayed, and if you slide or touch certain places, hearts will appear and if a certain level of hearts are reached, the character’s affinity level will be increased. In skinship, the character’s reaction is really only limited to their face. There is no special option to touch their chest and get what could be interpreted as a sexual reaction. However, during skinship, characters’ breath will quicken and they’ll give what could be described as sighs, so it is a fact that it isn’t a simple expression of “petting.” It is thought that perhaps the reason this content was deleted was out of fear over these vocal expressions. In place of such a skinship mode it appears there is a feature where one can blow and wake up a sleeping character, but in a game where the connections of characters through romance and marriage is seen as important, a skinship mode is a tantalizing feature, and the price for this “deletion out of fear” is not a small one. On the other hand, it appears that things like the hot springs where characters can bathe in bathing suits, and accessories like the shell swimsuit or the cloth of darkness that have a lot of exposed skin and are more extreme have not been deleted, and thus doubts remain about the consistency of the motive to delete sexual content.

As well, there have been changes enacted in the “support conversation” mechanic in which characters who have come to know each other more intimately on the battlefield talk and deepen their bonds. This includes not only a great deal of aforementioned same sex love dialogue, but support conversations beside it have been deleted. One that sticks out is a conversation that occurs between the Dragon Knight Belka and the ninja Saizou, a part of which has been deleted from the DLC “Invisible Kingdom.”

There are support conversations prepared from C rank to S rank, but what has been changed is the portion where the two characters begin to come closer together in the C rank conversation. Belka and Saizou are each characters who have repeatedly killed for their jobs, and it is this backdrop as peddlers of the same industry that their conversation begins. The conversation content is such that in contrast to Belka who claims from a certain period she does not remember the number of people she has killed, Saizou spills out that he cannot forget the human voices and faces he’s killed while conversing with Belka. It would appear this conversation has been completely deleted out of the North American version, neither say a word to each other and the conversation ends in this silence. Belka and Saizou aren’t talkative characters, so it’s not as if it breaks with their characters, but if you know the original writing, one feels a certain world weariness for the whole situation.

I’m not going to deny that a conversation about counting the number of people you’ve killed is a pretty extreme one, but this conversation isn’t one that affirms and encourages murder, but it could be said it is one in which you can see a flicker of Saizou’s inner conflict. As well, in Fire Emblem if, killing people is an act that cannot be avoided and in the Anya Kingdom version, that fact in particular weighs upon the player character. There is no internal logic in deleting a conversation that contributes to the question proposed by the game’s theme throughout its course.

Changes that Cannot Win Over Fans

It’s not just deletions, but changes in Fire Emblem Fates are also a part viewed as a problem. There are voices that raise the portrayal of Zophie as a potent example, saying that a part of the text does not portray the character’s charm correctly in the translation. In the Japanese version, Elfy is said to be strong, gluttonous, a little shy, but nice; in the North American version while she remains strong and gluttonous, she’s drawn as a boisterously bold older sister type. As well, in regards to Hisame, who is cool and collected in the Japanese version, the character says things to the effect of “I’m more stubborn than pickles,” which is some sort of attempt to use pickle expressions to paint the character as some kind of pickle addict. In this manner, if you were to compare the North American version and the Japanese version, it has been pointed out that there is a lot of awkwardness in the translation.

On top of that, an option to play with Japanese audio that existed in the previous game Fire Emblem Awakening isn’t featured in this one and the fact that a method to play as close as possible to the Japanese version doesn’t exist is another factor that is contributing to the discontent. Beside these, there are rumors that are trickling out such as, “the North American voice files are only 60% of the Japanese version’s” or “among the costumes, a rather sexy one has been deleted.” As time passes, it’s predicted that even more changes and deletions will be discovered.

It is in response to these types of changes and deletions that a certain group of fans appear to be preparing a specific patch for Fire Emblem Fates. Even in our country Fire Emblem fans are known for being extremely enthusiastic, but foreign enthusiasm isn’t any less heated. After the Japanese version went on sale overseas, a fan translation that would translate the scenario and support conversations from Japanese to English was created without waiting for the North American release. In order to use this fan translation and play something closer to the expression of the original Fire Emblem if release, development on a patch continues.

Emblemers and the Fate of Localization

Behind the hit sales of Fire Emblem Fates, a certain segment of Emblemers have pent up frustration at a localization that is too careful in its consideration of sexuality and violence and carelessly changes characters’ personalities. It should go without saying that the removal of the skinship system would meet criticism, but the Fire Emblem series has been supported by not only its gameplay systems, but its characters, and therefore, in a localization, even though there may be a wall between languages, when it comes to changes in personality and conversation tone, these tend to be scrutinized strictly. It’s true that even with the last release Fire Emblem Awakening and other games in the series, in the history of the North American localizations, there are any number of things that have been pointed out up till now and that a conflict between Emblemers and the localizers has existed before.

As well, the fan frustration toward “Treehouse,” the group in charge of Nintendo’s localizations may also be related to this incident. In 2015, in addition to changes to Xenoblade X and Zero: Maiden of the Black Water that were done to address concerns of sexuality, in The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes net slang was added, and along the two axes of censorship of expression and translation, Nintendo is buying complaints from its user base. In regards to censorship of expression, various Western countries are particularly strict when it comes to it and thus there’s a certain sympathetic voice to be found, but translations that sometimes crush the nuance of the original text with their own special memes seem to be split in reception. However, it should be said the final rights to change things in localization belong with Nintendo. It’s probably not the case that it’s just by TreeHouse’s decisions only that these localizations are made.

It’s not an easy feat to localize a game like Fire Emblem if with its huge amount of text without destroying some of the character’s appeal. It’s also a fact that to change a few of the expressions in the Japanese Fire Emblem if and still have a measure of consistency is a mission with a high level of difficulty. However, putting aside the question of whether some of the sexual or violent expressions went too far, it can’t just be the Americans who live in North America who wish for a localization that upholds the quality of the release in its original country. I wish that when a localization occurs, that deletions or changes could be the thing that is “toned down.”

Interesting that at the time of this writing, that was more than a month ago and much of it still holds true. Certainly, it isn’t an easy thing to localize a game like Fire Emblem if, but we’re trying here!

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