Take an inside look at how a game goes from Japanese to English, and learn some cool stuff about Namco's new GameCube RPG.
Planet GameCube: Please tell us your name and explain your role in the localization for Tales of Symphonia.
Nao Higo: My name is Nao Higo, and I'm the localization producer for Tales of Symphonia. I'm in charge of creating the U.S. version of the game.
PGC: How large is the localization team on this game, and how long did the process take?
Higo: The number fluctuates throughout the project as some of the team members specialize in certain areas of production such as translation and VO, but we had up to 15 people working on the U.S. version including programmers and artists. There were 20+ testers as well.
PGC: Was the acting work outsourced to a company specializing in English anime dubs, or was Namco in charge of the casting itself?
Higo: The VO recordings were outsourced to and outside company, but I was closely involved with the casting process. Two people from Namco attended the entire voiceover session (including myself), and directed the talents.
PGC: In a game such as this, where there's a lot to be translated, how important do you feel it is to stick strictly to the Japanese source?
Higo: I think it's important to stay as close to the original while making sure it makes sense for the U.S. audience. Ultimately, it's the vision of the original developers, so it's important to make sure you respect their creation. But in turn, the developers trust our decisions regarding the changes we do make.
PGC: What's the process of determining what is and isn't suitable for the U.S. version of the game?
Higo: We try look at it from an average gamer's point of view, and if it won't make sense to the average player because it is too "Japan-centric", we'll change it for the U.S. We also change things that will prevent us from getting the right ESRB rating for the game.
PGC: Were there some things in the game that were really difficult to translate? Not just limited to words, like concepts that Western audiences might not "get?"
Higo: There are a few things here and there, but Symphonia was one of the easier games to localize in that regard. (That doesn't mean it was easy to localize. In fact, it was one of the most demanding localization projects we've encountered.)
PGC: What are some examples of character traits or plot elements that were changed for cultural reasons?
Higo: Some of Zelos' lines were toned down a bit for the U.S. version for rating reasons. He tends to be crass and makes a lot of spirited comments about Sheena's...assets. We had to tone those down while keeping the intent intact. So for the U.S. version, his comments are more like innuendos.
PGC: Why aren’t the skits voiced in the English version?
Higo: This was simply due to time. We had to hit a certain street date, and we just didn't have the time to record the skit parts of the game.
PGC: Can you tell us about some of the voice actors and their previous work?
Lloyd - Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Colette - Heather Hogan (Land Before Time)
Genis - Colleen O'Shaughnessy (Digimon, Danny Phantom)
Raine - Kari Wahlgren (Witch Hunter Robin)
Kratos - Cam Clarke (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe)
Sheena - Jennifer Hale (Totally Spies)
Presea - Tara Strong (Power Puff Girls, Fairly OddParents, Teen Titans)
Zelos - Shiloh Strong (The Mommies, Dinotopia)
Regal - Crispin Freeman (Witch Hunter Robin, Big-O)
Mithos - Brianne Siddall (.hack//SIGN)
PGC: Did the voice actors record their work together or individually?
Higo: We recorded some of the parts together, while doing the rest individually. Because there are 6+ characters in the scenes quite frequently, it's very hard to record all of them at once.
PGC: Other than the translation and the introduction song, are there any other changes in the English version?
Higo: There are a few extra scenes that are voiced that weren't voiced in the Japanese version. There are minor tweaks here and there as well.
PGC: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!
- The Planet GameCube Staff