With the fresh English release of CollarxMalice -Unlimited-, it’s a good time to talk about English Localisation for Otome Games and what better way to discuss about it than from a hack like me.
I wouldn’t call myself part of the “otome armada” (hell I can’t even finish an otome game to review it), but as someone who sticks their nose close to the grind stone that is the otome genre, I can’t help but feel like I should put my 2 cents into writing about this polarising topic.
It’s a long read so buckle up buckaroo.
Table of Contents
- Localisation vs Translation
- History of Localised Otome Games
- List of Companies and Their Localised Otome Games
- Let’s Talk About the Treatment of Otome Games and Localisation
- Okay, But For Real Let’s Talk About Aksys Games
- Overall Thoughts
Localisation vs Translation
So let’s get down to business. Before I go further with my post, I think it’s best to grasp a better understanding to what “localisation” is about and why it’s not as simple as a plain old translation.
Note: When I say “target” language I mean the language you are translating into (E.g. The source material is in Japanese and you are translating that source into English [the target language]). I also hope you’re not uncomfortable with me using “localising” instead of the Amurican freedom way of writing “localizing”.
To put it simple, when “translating” you’re translating one language into the target language you’re aiming for. For some people they would say that translating is just taking a “literal” approach where one may find themselves translating language nuances that only make sense in that language and translate it into something literal in the target language (but let’s not totally attribute this to “translations” definition).
When you’re “localising” you are taking a step further than just translating one language into another. You are translating while keeping in mind of the target language’s culture, nuances and grammar so it can be easy to digest for the reader/consumer. The beauty (and the annoyance) of languages is that they hold some nuances that only makes sense in their language, the downside is that it can be impossible to literally translate it while making sense. Sometimes localising isn’t limited to just translating text, sometimes a new voice over audio track recorded in the target language is required to make things a bit more enjoyable.
An example of literal translating would be something like literally translating proverbs or sayings that only makes sense in the original language’s culture and not the intended target language someone is translating into. Example: 知らぬが仏 (Shiranu ga hotoke) a literal translation would be “Not knowing is buddha”.
An example of localising/proper translating would be translating a well-known proverb in one language, understanding what that proverb’s meaning is and then finding an equivalent that is just as well-known in the target language. Example: 知らぬが仏 (Shiranu ga hotoke), the localisation/translation would be “Ignorance is bliss”.
Though translating/localising can be a bit of tight rope trying to find that good balance of keeping the meaning but also making sure it makes sense. 仕方がない (shikata ga nai) is that good old thorn in the back for many translators/localisers—the usual go to and heavily used translation for 仕方がない is “It can’t be helped”, but for some people they would argue that it is “incorrect English”/“a phrase not naturally uttered in English”. Though with 仕方がない it is something that’s often uttered as something you would say passively, kinda like a sigh when you’re mentally defeated or giving into something, so you could interpret it any way you can depending on the context while keeping the meaning. A simple “Oh well”/“It is what it is”/“I have no choice” can suffice too. Context is very important when translating, especially in a language like Japanese that is HEAVILY dependent on context to fully understand a sentence.
A wise localiser would take awkward phrasing and translate it into something that is easier to read and perhaps a bit more relatable. Sometimes localising would mean injecting pop culture/lingo of the target language into the dialogue whenever the source language would use/reference pop culture/lingo. Though sometimes localisers may get a bit too carried away with inserting “memes”/jokes where the source language would not.
Something you would also see in localisation is “censorship”, censoring content that originally appeared in the original release to better suit the target audience that the content is being localised to, to make it more palatable. One example would be Persona 5 Royal’s global release which had scenes depicting two side characters who were gay men with a “running joke of harassing a main male character” were changed drastically in terms of context of dialogue due to it’s poor taste and could be found offensive in Western Countries. But localised censorship is not isolated to only censoring dialogue/scenes and can include censoring graphics, one example is yet again Persona 5’s release in South Korea where Ryuji’s sneakers design that has a “Rising Sun” motif (a symbol of Imperialist Japan during World War II) was removed/changed to avoid offending South Korean players due to it’s sensitive imagery. Sometimes these changes/“censorship” is done for the best, with the thought of the main target audience in mind, making sure that they will have the best experience possible even if that option wasn’t available in the original content.
Of course, when it comes to localising or translating there’s always a chance that certain tidbits and dialogue would be lost along the process. Sometimes changes like these are based on one individual‘s choices or a group’s overall consensus on how something should be translated. Either way, there really is no such thing as a 100% perfect translation/localisation.
Anyway the bottom line is translation and localisation have the one true aim and that is to provide accessibility to those who are trapped behind that language barrier. Without translation/localisation we would not have a lot of the games/books/TV shows/movies we know and love today.
History of Localised Otome Games
This excludes non-official English patches and a little bit of history on Otome Games
Angelique was released in Japan giving birth to the genre of “otome”, games for girls/women
No denying that otome wouldn’t exist today if Angelique was never made. The original game of the Angelique series for the Super Famicon was made by an all-women team for young girls but managed to garner the hearts of girls of all ages, since then NeoRomance—a subsidiary brand of Koei Tecmo–paved their way for games made for girls/women.
Idea Factory Inc. releases Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden Gaiden:Kagami no Miko to the PS2 in Japan
Idea Factory’s first branch out to making visual novels/adventure games “for girls” where the player plays through a female protagonist to explore the game’s story and maybe even romance the male cast. This was the first release of a game under the brand “IF Otomate♪” (アイエフ乙女いと), a sister brand of Idea Factory’s male oriented visual novels called “IF Mate❤️” (アイエフメイト). Idea Factory continues to create at least 6 titles under the IF Otomate brand, the majority being games adapting manga/anime into visual novels with two original IPs being born from it: Hoshi no Furu Toki and the more prominent Hiiro no Kakera series (both of these games were character designed and illustrated by Kazuki Yone).
Fushigi Yuugi was also Kazuki Yone’s first job as an artist (not character artist) for a female oriented game.
Localised release of Yo-Jin-Bo The Bodyguards (PC Game)
The first localisation of a commercial release otome game by Hirameki International.
Aksys Games was founded
Company was founded to localise and license Japanese games to English speaking audiences. Closely worked with Arc System Works to port over Guilty Gear games series and many other fighting games. Has a handful of localised otome games in the future.
Idea Factory Inc. rebrands “IF Otomate” to just “Otomate”
This rebranding changed the logo and name for the brand, making it its own separate entity while still having Idea Factory as the parent company. The rebranding became visible on the packaging of Hisui no Shizuku – Hiiro no Kakera 2 (sequel to the Hiiro no Kakera series) and thus birthing out a bunch of otome games throughout the years.
Hakuouki ~Demon of the Fleeting Blossom~ releases on the PSP for International Release
This is when the global market got its first taste of Otomate’s legacy IP “Hakuouki”. This first localisation of many for this series was done by Aksys Games and just like its Japanese counterpart the English localised version became a big hit for overseas otome game players to the point that it has become a staple, or let’s say a rite of passage for otome gamers to play.
Aksys ported not only the PSP game but also the PS Vita, 3DS and PS3 port to the international audience before Idea Factory International got the licence for the Shinkai series for Hakuouki.
Idea Factory Inc. establishes it’s International branch called “Idea Factory International”
Best known for porting/localising the Hyperdimension Neptunia series by Idea Factory Inc. as well as a couple of otome games.
NTT Solmare starts localising console Otomate games into mobile games
NTT Solmare primarily publishes English otome games developed by their company but does the occasional publishing of third-party games onto mobile devices. A few of these games are Otomate games that were once sold on consoles but are now available on mobile devices where the game is free to download but routes are behind separate paywalls. Some of the games they publish/localise aren’t as well known but series like Beastmaster and Prince and Wand of Fortune are some of the games they had localised to mobile devices under the “Shall We Date?” brand, but they’re only up on the app store for a limited time.
Idea Factory International localises Amnesia: Memories for the PS Vita
Idea Factory International’s first localisation of an Otomate game, 2 years after the Japanese release of Amnesia to the PS Vita.
Mangagamer Shows Interest in Localising Otome Games and BL Games
After some surveys and much thought, Adult VN/General VN localising company Mangagamer shows interest in broadening out their audience by localising BL Games at first (No, Thank You!! being their first in 2015) and slowly into Otome territory with their release of OzMafia! in 2016 and later on their first R18 Otome game in 2017 Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome. Though compared to their output of male oriented VN games their catalogue is not much but they do the occasional josie-muke game localisation every now and then.
Beastmaster and Prince -Flower and Snow- Localisation Kickstarter Is Unsuccessful in its Funding
Gloczus ported localised versions of Hakuouki (the OG ver) and Amnesia to mobile platforms and had set their sights to localise another hit Otomate Game series Beastmaster and Prince (preferably the PS Vita port version that includes both original and fandisc games) to Steam and eventually to mobile devices but needed the funds to make it into a reality so they turned to Kickstarter. Their goal was USD $150,000 and had only raised USD $74,294 with 1,091 backers backing the campaign–almost 50% of the campaign was funded before time ran out. According to the kickstarter 55% (USD $82,500) of the funding goal would be dedicated to localisation, 15% (USD $22,500) would be going to voice licensing. Another interesting thing is that “Otomate World” was part of promoting this kickstarter—from what I’ve gathered and what I’m coming to the conclusion is that Otomate World is basically Idea Factory International’s social media account/brand from Otomate games but it was short lived and stopped updating their Facebook and Twitter in early 2018. FYI, Idea Factory International handed over their Amnesia localisation to Gloczus to have it ported to mobile devices. Gloczus’ website seems to be no longer available and they have only 2 games under their VNDB page (both games localised by another company).
You can read more about why it failed from Figurativelyspeaking’s blog.
Idea Factory International localises the Hakuouki Shinkai series
After getting their hands back on the Hakuouki IP they localised the Shinkai series to the PS Vita and to Steam one year later (2018). The “Shinkai series” is a nickname I give to the latest Hakuouki games that remade the old Hakuouki game to give it new characters and character routes. After this localisation, Idea Factory International stopped localising otome games and probably do not plan to localise any more any time soon.
E2 Gaming Releases The Greatest Scam of the Century: Taisho x Katakana Alice
E2 Gaming, a new kid on the block with government funded licensed localisation brings in a whole new spin on localisation for otome games. Shion, founder of E2 Gaming which is prolly defunct now, decided to take on a venture on localising beloved otome game Taisho x Alice, snagging the deal between Primula and E2 Gaming with government funded money he took upon himself to “translate” the whole first volume. But alas he didn’t have enough money to buy the rights for the original voice actors so instead got his buddies with their Blue Yeti Mics™ to do the lines for the whole cast (except the heroine). Of course it was abysmally bad and very close to a mafia laundering scam.
2~3 years later after this fiasco, Taisho x Alice finally got a localisation it deserved and the first volume is available on Steam.
Read more about the scam on Figurativelyspeaking’s blog.
Aksys Games keeps the ball running, having a handful of Otome Games Localised
During the period of 2012~2015, localising otome games was just a one or two off thing per year (if you’re lucky) for Aksys. But during 2017 and the years afterwards they just kept that ball running, localising a handful of 3 to 4 otome games/visual novels per year, especially in the year of 2018 they had a special “Summer of Mystery” releasing otome games back to back for the whole of Summer. So far they have 15+ localised Otome Games.
List of Companies and their Localised Otome Games
|Idea Factory International||Amnesia: Memories (2015)|
Hakuouki: Kyoto Winds (2017)
Hakuouki: Edo Blossom (2018)
|Hirameki International||Yo-Jin-Bo The Bodyguards (2006)|
(All games except Nightshade are
The Men of Yoshiwara series (2018)
The Amazing Shinsengumi: Heroes in Love (2014/2018)
Destiny’s Princess (2015/2018)
The Charming Empire (2017/2018)
Pub Encounter (2014/2018)
My Butler (2015/2020)
Gakuen Club (2017/2018)
Dangerous Relationship (2015/2020)
My Secret Pets! (2015/2020)
|XSeed Games||London Detective Mysteria (2019)|
|Mangagamer||Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome (2017)|
Steam Prison (2019)
(Most of these are no longer available on mobile)
|Beastmaster and Prince (2019)|
Wand of Fortune series (2019)
Beast and Princess (2019)
Hiiro no Kakera 4 (2014)
Bond of Ten Demons (2015)
Princess Arthur (2016)
(All games are mobile ports
with voice acting)
|Kitty Love -Way to look for love- (2018)|
Spiral Memoria (2020)
Iris School of Wizardry (2018)
Ayakashi Koi Gikyoku (2018)
(All games are mobile ports
with no voice acting)
|Love Letter from Thief X (2014/2020)|
Enchanted in the Moonlight (2014/2020)
Kissed by the Baddest Bidder (2014/2019)
Star-Crossed Myth (2015/2019)
Our Two Bedroom Story (2014/2020)
|Taisho x Alice series (2019)|
(so far vol.1 and 2 have been confirmed)
|Aksys Games||Hakuouki ~Demons of the Fleeting Blossom~ (2012)|
Hakuouki: Stories of Shinsengumi (2014)
Sweet Fuse: At Your Side (2013)
Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ (2015)
Norn9: Var Commons (2015)
Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ (2017)
Collar x Malice (2017)
Bad Apple Wars (2017)
Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~ (2018)
Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly (2018)
Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk (2018)
Code: Realize ~Wintertide Miracles~ (2019)
Collar x Malice -Unlimited- (2020)
Piofiore: Fated Memories (2020)
Cafe Enchante (2020)
Some of these games are mobile games turned into console/PC games which is why I added them in. I’m mostly focusing on “big time” commercial releases and not all localised mobile games.
When it comes to otome games getting localised there are two types of companies that do it: the original developer/publisher company do the translating in-house or a separate company that specialises in localising games with experienced staff who knows the ins and outs of translating/localising.
In-house/Publisher localisation means no need to hire a middle man/third party to translate the game you’ve developed originally in Japanese but that also means that the quality of the translation may be lower than most professional localisation depending on the staff’s fluency on the target language. From the above list Voltage and D3P keep their localisation within their company rather than reaching out to a third party to translate. Digimerce may fall into this category though I think OperaHouse mainly does the development of their games and Digimerce does the publishing to Nintendo Switch as well as in-house translations (which aren’t as polished as a localisation company’s translations). Mobile game company Cybird is also a good example of in-house translating while residing in Japan, they develop games and have an in-house team of translators to localise their games—some of these translators which I have heard have English as their native language. Best part of this is that there would probably be no need to pay for licensing to localise the game as the company already owns the rights to the game as the developer/publisher.
Companies who only localise games specialise in publishing and translating games outside of the game’s country of origin. These companies usually pick and choose what types of games they will localise depending on the demand/popularity of the games and hopefully will be successful in getting the rights from the original developer to localise it. Companies from the list above such as Idea Factory International, XSeed, Mangagamer and Aksys Games localise a wide range of games from all kinds of genres and sometimes, once in a blue moon they will localise otome games.
Let’s Talk About the Treatment of Otome Games and localisation
As anyone familiar to the genre that is Otome Games, you will know that it is very niche, more niche than the common visual novel and even in recent years it has become something quite… dwindling. While it has a moderate/small following in Japan, otome games probably has an even smaller or on par following globally especially considering the language barrier is stopping many from enjoying the huge library of otome games available from Japan.
So what is stopping companies from making localising otome games a mainstream thing?
Well it’s simple. It’s just too niche. If I were to license a game to localise I would like to have the ease of mind that I would get back enough money to break even and then some more so I can acquire another licensed game to localise and then on. With otome games the fan base isn’t that big, and the amount of people willing to fork out money to purchase localised games may be even smaller.
Which is why you wouldn’t see a company dedicated to localising only otome games any time soon. You need the funds and resources to localise a game. As mentioned in the timeline above there was a failed kickstarter campaign to localise an otome game with the goal of USD $150,000, they calculated that 55% of that will be dedicated to localising which is $82,500 and 15% would be dedicated to getting the voice acting rights which is $22,500. Altogether that would be $105,000 towards the game. If this is the accurate representation of a game localisation that would be a lot of money put into localising one game and the best case scenario you could sell 1,000+ copies of a localised otome game at the price of USD $50 that’d be at least $50,000. Aksys Games sells limited editions at the price of USD $70, if these limited edition otome games are using left over bonuses from the Japanese release then you can save money from producing stuff like wall scrolls, game themed items, etc and all that’s left is the cost to print English packaging. It is unknown how many limited editions Aksys Games has prepared but the CollarxMalice LEs sold out quickly so thats bonus money to the sales… but in the end may not be enough to break even and that’s at best case scenario.
Companies like Aksys Games, Idea Factory International, D3P and Mangagamer can afford to dip their little feets into licensing and localising otome games with the money they make with their more popular games being sold (Aksys Games especially considering they probably have profits/revenue from Guilty Gear and Arcsys Works money). It’s all about the money, really.
Now why is it that the games some companies select to localise are very sparse?
Think of it as someone about to invest in a franchise, you gotta figure out which one is the winning horse in order to decide in what to invest into. You cannot simply localise every single game, especially the niche games where you don’t know if they will sell well. The good thing about localising games that have already been released for a year or two is that you can read the reviews and see if it was greatly received by your targeted audience… But how come Aksys Games picked losing horses like Bad Apple Wars and Period:Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ (both getting a somewhat mediocre scores) when there were other widely received games that released between 2015~2016 such as KLAP!, Nil Admirari, Yunohana SpRING etc?
Honestly my only guess would be the visuals and the premise. The visuals really sells the game for most people, its the first thing that catches their eye before they research further into what kind of game it is. For Bad Apple Wars it looks unique and aesthetically pleasing and the premise of dead school kids in purgatory finding their way to the afterlife sounds unique (just kidding, Key’s visual novel Angel Beats did that first lol). While for Period:Cube you can sell it to a wide range of audience if you tell them the premise is that you’re isekai’d in an RPG world like Sword Art Online, something both guys and girls would be interested in playing a visual novel with that premise. It’s all about casting that wide net to catch a lot of fish. And you’re gonna need that wide net if you want to make money back on this sort of business investment.
Now let’s think about it. Why is there not a lot of otome games that are purely based on fluff/slice of life out there being localised?
If you’ve noticed a lot of the big commercial otome games being localised have a running theme in common: mystery, dark/serious, action, drama, fantasy. But where are the games purely based on fluff? Yunohana SpRING! (Otomate), KLAP! (Otomate), Storm Lover (D3P) are examples of otome games that doesn’t have any big serious conflict and are love comedies with slice of life themes, just there for fluff & fun and are greatly received… and yet no company has picked them up to localise and some fans have taken it up themselves to create an English patch for Storm Lover. KLAP! is also a greatly requested game to localise due to how “unique” it’s gameplay is where you whip/discipline yokai dudes just for the comedy (and indulgence) of it. Is it purely because high school love comedies/slice of life visual novels aren’t marketable enough for localisation companies to pick up?
Well let’s look at the other side of visual novels, specifically galge/bishoujo games (visual novels aimed at male audience with a cast of beautiful girls to romance).
Tokyo School Life possibly localised by Degenzaka Labs/PQube is a bishoujo game (galge) specifically made for the western audience. You play as a foreign exchange student in Tokyo and it’s basically a short slice of life high school romance with bells and whistles attached to it. Features include English with Japanese (hiragana, katakana, kanji with furigana option) to help players learn Japanese as they play (this isn’t the first of it’s genre to do this, some may remember Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~ by Japanese adult game company OVERDRIVE is another game featuring a foreigner protagonist in Japan with features to help foreigners to learn Japanese) as well as cool graphics like using the e-mote engine for animated sprites as seen in the Nekopara series—another galge that has been localised in English due to popularity and is purely fluff and slice of life.
Wagamama High Spec localised by Sekai Project is another high school slice of life bishoujo visual novel. Nothing extraordinary in terms of plot, just romance some high school girls.
Senren ＊ Banka is localised by Hikaru Field/NekoNyan Ltd., a game where bland ass protag accidentally breaks the divine Murasamemaru blade and in turn has to marry the village’s shrine maiden to pay back for it?! Oh boy our protagonist is way over his head especially when all these hot totally 18 girls are all over him for no reason. Basically love comedy hijinks with moe blobs and also remember….
Now I could just list all the slice of life/high school/love comedy bishoujo games that have no mystery, no big dark conflict and are purely just there for fluff and indulgence that are safe to localise… but I won’t. What I’m getting at is that these games pretty much prove that a visual novel doesn’t have to be dark or serious to get a green light to be localised, they just have to have something sexually gratifying (to guys, mostly) and/or popular enough to be localised.
Back to the point what I’m making, basically otome games have to be more dark/serious than their bishoujo game counterpart to be taken seriously and localised by bigger localisation companies. It’s the stigma that otome games are “girly games” in the same vein as “Barbie’s Dreamhouse Party”, a game that was memed on by youtubers doing let’s plays because its a dumb girl game, so in order to make otome games more marketable they aim for the more serious and dark otome games to localise so guys and girls can play too.
A Siliconera interview with Aksys Games and their localisation of otome games kinda hits this stigma theory home, particularly this quote:
For context the question was “Have you noticed a difference in Otomate game “styles” with more recent games, like Cafe Enchante and Piofiore, compared to older games like Hakuoki and Code: Realize?”. This quote has hit a nerve in the otome game community, particularly the insinuation of males’ finding otome games as something “girly with butterflies and sparkles” but not anymore now that CollarxMalice and Piofiore exist with deeper and darker themes. Some people came to the conclusion that with this quote Aksys wants to aim for the male demographic as well when choosing otome games so they’ll go for the deeper and darker otome games rather than the “butterflies and sparkles” otome games that “turns guys off” from playing them. Though in reality the quote is kinda right, Otomate has been more leaning towards making serious games and the amount of love comedies/slice of life games have been in short supply meanwhile in Bishoujo games the “moe” genre that are slice of life/love comedy seems to balance out the more serious visual novel games.
Whatever this may mean, the stigma is still there, the stigma that otome games are girly and therefore not for everyone (read “guys”) thus harder to market to a wide audience. In order to be taken seriously otome games have to “double down on having a serious image” meanwhile their Bishoujo counterparts are fine to be goofy and laid back as they get ”bigger sales”.
Now to the meat of this section. Let’s talk further about the treatment of otome games in the West.
If you don’t recall, back in 2016 Spike Chunsoft (International) had a Twitter Poll asking their fans which Japanese Spike Chunsoft game they want to be localised next.
Otome game Kenka Bancho Otome was surprisingly added into the poll and otome game fans were excited, gathering friends and fellow otome gamers to vote for Kenka Bancho Otome and finally won the poll just by a slither. Otome fans rejoiced and were excited to get an otome game localised.
Shiren the Wanderer (third place in the poll) was released to the PS Vita Worldwide in 2016 before the results of the poll were posted.
2017. A year went by and no news from Spike Chunsoft. Dangan Ronpa V3 was released internationally this year. Kenka Bancho Otome’s fandisc was also released in Japan this year.
2018. Another year went by and during question time in an Anime Expo 2018 panel someone asked about the progress towards localising Kenka Bancho Otome. Spike Chunsoft responded “No Comment”. Later that year they released FMV visual novel 428: Shibuya Scramble (the second place winner of the poll) worldwide to PS4 and Windows/Steam.
2019, the production of physical PS Vita cartridges (the console Kenka Bancho Otome originally released on) ceased. Leaving KBO with no hope of being localised.
2020. Shiren the Wanderer, an expanded version was released worldwide in 2020 on the Switch and Windows.
The only game on the poll, besides KBO, that wasn’t localised was Kamaitachi no Yoru.
Maybe Spike Chunsoft dropped the ball. Maybe they didn’t think Kenka Bancho Otome would get that high up in the polls, maybe they just added the game in the poll just to please fans with no plans to actually localise it. Either way there’s no denying KBO was thrown to the wayside to shift focus on other projects.
Next up, the localisation fail of TaishoxAlice by E2 Gaming. The company antagonised their fans on their now deleted facebook page, deleting many comments that critiqued them. Only one guy was behind the localisation and it showed how little to no knowledge he had with localising/translating and even stole translations from an otome game blog with no credit. The guy behind this company also hired friends to do the voice acting as he couldn’t secure the original Japanese audio. When purchasing the game the user would be lead to an unsecured website to input their credit card details and even the game file itself could be extracted there for free. More or less this whole project was treated as a way to get cash quick for the company’s founder.
All in all it was a massive fuck up, and many were worried that Taisho x Alice would never get a second chance at being localised due to how messed up things went and the possible distrust between Primula and localisation. It was a massive punch to the guts for otome fans to be stringed along with the hope of a fan favourite game like Taisho x Alice being localised. Thankfully in 2019 they agreed to take a second shot with JAST to localise it properly this time onto Steam.
Okay, But For Real Let’s Talk About Aksys Games
There’s no doubt about it that Aksys Games localising Hakuouki back in 2012 was the catalyst to a ‘renaissance’ of otome games being localised again 6 years after the localisation of Yo-Jin-Bo The Bodyguard. Though fan translations like English patches for otome games predated Aksys, for otome games to get an official translation with commercial release at this sort of scale for a game made by a monolith company like Otomate it is a pretty big deal.
Aksys Games can be described as one of the only localisation companies spearheading big commercial otome game localisations and despite being described as a small company they manage to snag a lot of big name titles from other non-otome game companies. There are not a lot of localisation companies that have this much of an impact on the English otome game community and in my eyes may Aksys may be the only glimmering hope for getting more otome games to a worldwide audience. It’s especially good that they have an edge against the competition with some form of partnership with Otomate, the largest otome game development company.
However they are far from perfect. Aksys’ games sometimes suffers from simple mistakes like poor quality assurance/proof reading, awkward phrasing, strange translation choices, cutting corners and are known for not making patches to fix these simple errors after the game’s release. Let’s not forget about Aksys Games upsetting their otome fan base many a time such as advertising their line of otome games for ‘casual gamers’, which would be fine if they mean visual novels are for ‘casual gamers’ except they have other non-otome games that are visual novels like Death Mark that aren’t shown in the thumbnail. Not to mention about them posting a HUGE SPOILER picture for Collar x Malice on their twitter account to celebrate the release of Collar x Malice -Unlimited- as well as splitting the Japanese Switch port that included the original game and the fandisc (-Unlimited-) into one game. Either this move was to make more profits as it was -Unlimited-‘s first time being localised to the West so they wanted as much revenue as possible or because localising the 2-in-1 version would take a long time going through the process of QA-ing through 2 full length games built into one but considering CxM was localised 3 years ago then that would make half of the work done.
This decline of quality isn’t something recent, it’s been like this for more than 5+ years and it is usually the same mistakes that shows up in all their games. Goes to show that after all this time they haven’t really learnt from their mistakes.
So here’s a collection of some EPIC fails compilation 😎
Code:Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ (2015)
School Girl/Zombie Hunter (2017)
Okay I don’t have any more but for real we all want to see the latest *hip kid voice* epic fails from Aksys Games and that would be their latest release of Collar x Malice -Unlimited-, a very unpolished localisation where the guys in QA and Aksys were like “ah fuck it, just ship it”. Here’s my best compilation of errors posted on twitter:
Now that this sets the scene. It seems like Aksys dropped the ball big time with the CollarxMalice -Unlimited- release, there are much more bugs/grammar errors, etc prominent in this release compared to their previous releases. So much so that the customers decided to take it upon themselves to QA (quality assurance)/compile a spreadsheet of all the errors they could find and ended up finding 600+ errors so far. I would like to give a special thanks to Kairi and Hena for putting together the spreadsheet for the whole community to see as well as the other customers for taking their time to do a job that should’ve been done by the QA Team Aksys hired.
However this isn’t the first instance of a customer gathering and noting down errors from an Aksys localised game. Blog post by Arayuru has a good rundown of CollarxMalice’s initial worldwide release on the PS Vita where they recorded 1,000+ quality assurance fails, 164 mistranslations as well as mentions of errors with Aksys’ previous otome titles. It’s a good read and would recommend it for further reading.
For an explanation for those who may not know the process, Aksys does the majority of translating, mostly taking all the dialogue scripts from the game and then translating using them for reference. Then (hopefully) maybe it’ll go through some proof reading and editing to make sure grammatical mistakes, keyboard mistypes and phrases are corrected to be easy to read. Then, depending on the process of the QA, the translation is put into a beta build of the game to be tested by quality assurance to debug, fix errors that may have snuck into the game, and make sure everything is neat and working properly. Most QA companies just make sure the game doesn’t shit the bed and the game actually works, other QA companies that do the same job but also specialises in localisation QA does the bug squashing of translation errors as well which may be a long process when it comes to visual novels.
This time around Aksys Games hired Pole to Win International to do their QA testing for -Unlimited-, previously they hired Digital Hearts US to do QA for the original Collar x Malice according to this tweet. Considering Digital Hearts did a better job with QA only leaving a few mistakes in there, Pole to Win seems to have done more worse than good. In all honestly it doesn’t even look like they did their job at all when you look at the finished product. There are things like strange font choices, missing dialogue boxes, messed up/out of order text in the wrong dialogue box. It’s just terrible.
It’s also embarrassing on Aksys’ part for the customers having to do the QA team’s job to compile a bug report to give to Aksys themselves to realise they have some stuff to fix. This all reads as a rushed job, cutting corners making sure that it can be released on time. Also double embarrassing when you compare Aksys to Digimerce in terms of localisation. Digimerce is a Japanese publishing company and did most of their otome game localisations with in-house translations, which ended with them releasing games with machine-translation-like quality (the translations were really poor and almost unreadable), but after taking in feedback they buckled down and worked on a patch eventually releasing it 5~6+ months later. Despite English being their second language, Digimerce has been trying to improve on their translation skills which is a lot compared to Aksys’ unchanging translation/QA errors for 5+ years.
More or less this is something that has been going on for a long time, it’s not just otome games that they release with errors, some of their other games contain some translation errors or poor choices in translating like one of Death Mark’s puzzle’s being literally translated from Japanese making no sense in English so it would be harder to figure out without a guide.
Though otome gamers have been patient with Aksys Games and their consistent releases of otome games with errors hoping that they would learn from their mistakes but it has been 5+ years so I’m not surprised that Collar x Malice -Unlimited- was the straw that broke the camels back. Thankfully after the backlash and sending the spreadsheet to Aksys has helped them realise they have to fix this and are reportedly working on a patch to fix things. However the strangest thing is they have yet to announce this officially on their twitter account… I guess Aksys wants to keep up the facade that the localisation is all right to keep people buying -Unlimited-. Because if they did announce it officially then people would be deterred from buying it until the patch is released.
Hopefully from here on forward they would keep on creating patches for small mistakes for their future (and maybe past) releases. And hopefully they will at least choose better QA teams 😂.
The takeaway from this is that “western” otome gamers basically get the scraps when it comes to localisation. Only now, the market seems to be gaining more localised releases of commercial games than a couple of years ago where the only games otome gamers could recommend to those interested in the genre were Hakuouki or Amnesia. Few years ago the seed was planted with Hakuouki worldwide release and only now it has sprouted into a small sapling. It’s not quite there to be a big tree but it’s getting there with the help of the community and localisation companies.
Though it is understandable for fans to ask for more when it comes to the quality and quantity of localisations. Maybe it is asking for too much but I really do want to see the otome community grow and the reach of otome games to grow too. I want to see all varieties of otome games released, be it serious, mystery, love comedy, or light hearted. More or less these wishes of mine are particularly for those who cannot read Japanese and for past babby me who wanted to get into otome games but couldn’t because of the language barrier. I would really like more people to learn and love otome games.
As for the Aksys situation, one take away from this is that boycotting should be the last (or second option) when it comes to poor localisation. If a company sees that there isn’t money coming in they would probably reconsider picking up otome games if it means a loss in money, which in turn means less otome games will be localised. Best solution is to contact the company first hand, probably the more the merrier when it comes to contacting them to discuss about the state of the localisation. Hopefully they will listen to their customers and fix things. Also one extra advice for Aksys Games: hire women in translating/QA Testing. If your guys are finding it hard to play/go through otome games because its cringe or just wearing down their motivation because it’s not for them, then it wouldn’t hurt to hire at least one woman to be on the team that is passionate for games, especially otome games.
Whether or not Aksys improves from now on will depend on what happens in the future. As for the future of localised otome games, that is something unknown. This year Aksys hasn’t announced any otome games to localise for next year (2021) and there aren’t any other localisation companies in a rush to get their hands on localising a commercial otome game either. Of course it could be easier said to tell people to learn Japanese if they want to play otome games but not everyone has the resources or money to pour into learning another language. It would be great for more people to learn Japanese but it’s understandable that it may not be achievable for everyone.
Overall, all we can do is watch and wait for what the future has in store for otome games. (((Then again the one who gets the last say in what gets localised is the company who developed it, so maybe Otomate just ain’t interested in getting their games localised anymore.)))
Thanks for bearing with me and reading all of this. Stay safe.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. This section is specifically aimed towards localisation companies (wishful thinking that anyone from a localisation company is reading this) in hopes that maybe a few good games may be picked up to be localised.
Of course, I will try to be as realistic as possible. This means no long games, no games that are on a dead console, and maybe a little of something that won’t hurt a man’s ego playing through a “girly game with sparkles and butterflies” when localising/play testing/proof reading.
Is a love comedy with a tsundere heroine voiced by
Hatsune Miku Saki Fujita the voice provider for Hatsune Miku. Due to an ultimatum by her old man, Hibari is shacked up with 4 strange men who are her prospective fiancé. Depending on your choices you can build up a barrier to stop these men’s advancements towards Hibari or you can drop all barriers and let her fall in love without being a tsundere. Twist is that all 4 of these good looking guys aren’t prince charming, they all have awful traits and are utterly hopeless.
If you’re looking for aesthetically pleasing visuals and interesting premise that are good for marketing, then this is your game. The premise is that on this island people are born with assigned colours. The three primary colours red, blue and yellow are at the top of the hierarchy, those who have children with people of a different colour will result with that child having a mixture of both parents colour (E.G. blue parent and yellow parent makes a green child). The more “dirtied” your colour the less status you have in society. Though only rarely there is a person born with the colour white. As tradition the person who is born white must find a partner ASAP when they become 18 so they can be “coloured” their partners colour. The premise also takes on some Japanese mythology/deities as well as the idea that people are born with half a soul and that their partner is the other half.
This is from the Nil Admirari team so maybe look into localising that too, maybe.
This one is a highly anticipated game, reaching no.2 in sales for otome games on the Switch eShop during it’s release this week and no.1 popular Otomate game. Story is about a career woman making her way to the top of the bridal agency she works for, some say she is a “cupid” considering how successful her matchmaking is (in reality she really is a cupid/goddess of love come to the human world). In order to get the promotion her boss asks her to take on the “parasite 5” a group of bachelors who are having trouble finding a partner, but the catch is she has to live in the same share house as them and eventually they get their own reality TV show to promote the agency?!
This one is a bit of a love comedy, focusing primarily on romance. This game I’ve also been getting hits for on my blog and a couple others are interested in seeing a localisation release. Also by the same team as Jakou no Lyla.
Jakou no Lyla
Jakou no Lyla gets a lot of hits on my blog, just as many hits as Cafe Enchante gets so trust me when I say that this game is a good pick to localise. It features a head strong heroine who has a job as a dancer as a side job but her main job is a hired spy to seduce men for political gain and other gains for her clients. Despite how sensual this game is it has a lot of politics going on. The first volume focuses on two kingdoms with two different systems, of the two kingdoms the one that continues to reign has a male hierarchy where men rule it all and women cannot do anything. Meanwhile the neighbouring kingdom was once ruled by women only and men were locked away, but was later trampled by the other kingdom. Also due to the theming of the game it centres around love triangles and has a 3P route for each volume. 3 volumes were later ported into one game for Switch.
Also part of the same themed series is Tlicolity Eyes, it’s mostly light hearted love triangles with the setting of the entertainment industry as the theme. Also something to do with the three heroines having special powers that amps up the attributes of their targets but with the side affect of the target falling in love with the heroine
Shinobi, Koi Utsutsu
Shinobi Koi Utsutsu is the kind of fluff the otome game community needs. Basically you follow a heroine who just got into Ninja school and one of her special techniques that she has no control over is making her fellow classmates whisper sweet nothings and go crazy over her. It’s lighthearted and got a lot of romance to boot. Though the Switch version contains not only one game but 3 other parts of the series including the “PS Vita sequel” that includes an extra 4 routes. The other two “parts” are kinda like short fandiscs. Hopefully not too long of a game to localise.
This one may be wishful thinking considering eXtend says they’re not looking into getting it localised any time soon but I think it will be greatly received to the Western audience especially when it’s so good. Considering it’s set in America in a city quite like New York it won’t be too hard to localise. It’s got that mystery, corruption and dark stuff that the whole family will love with a sprinkle of comedy and romance as a cherry on top (meaning it’s not really a big thing in some of the routes I’ve played so rest assured, boys). I’m hoping either eXtend localises it or someone will be nice enough to pick it up.
Amnesia: Memories for Switch
Amnesia LATER X CROWD
This one goes out to you, Idea Factory International. Y’all prolly still hold the rights to Amnesia so now is a good time to get that Switch port localised. Hell you can use the same localised scripts for the first Amnesia. You could also take the opportunity to localise the fandiscs that had been ported into one game for the Switch and release it world wide for the first time.
Toraware no Palm series
This one is an interesting josei-muke game series. It’s by Capcom so I’m guessing the only company that can localise it is Capcom itself. Due to it’s interesting and unique gameplay such as watching an unsuspecting guy through CCTV (for plot purposes) and deep narrative of a mystery looming around not only the lead guys but also the island you are forced to reside in and the circumstances surrounding your cross with fate with the lead guys. It already has a Chinese translation so it’s only natural for an English version to come out soon. Believe me when I say that there are English speaking fans of josei-muke games who would like to play this one day in English.