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Monday, June 7, 2021

Intriguing Challenges in Localising The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - My reactions to Janet Hsu giving us the localisation backstory.

My most hyped product for the whole of 2021 is The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, releasing July 27. I doubt whatever will occur during E3 2021 will change that, so I'm confident this will age well.

A large part of what makes Ace Attorney such a beloved franchise is the high quality of its writing, and you can thank CAPCOM's localisation team for that. In particular, thank localisation manager Janet Hsu, who has been working on Ace Attorney since Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All. She recently had an interview with Polygon. The Polygon interviewer didn't contribute anything of interest to the discussion, but Janet sure did. Here's what I found noteworthy from the exchange—which means you should read the interview before the rest of this article for maximum effect.

The big thing with the two The Great Ace Attorney games, as it relates to localisation, is that they take place in Japan and Britain in the past—as opposed to California in the present-ish day. To Janet Hsu, that means the dialogue has to be AUTHENTIC to the time period—which is more challenging for both her localisation as well as for the readers to understand. Here's what this means for her in practice:
“To that end, I’d collected a number of dictionaries from the late 19th century, namely the [Oxford English Dictionary] from 1888 and a different Oxford dictionary from 1912. So perhaps this was more of a hurdle I created for myself. However, the Japanese is written in a sort of “faux-Meiji Era” style, so I felt it was my duty to at least bring an equally “faux-Victorian” flavor to the English localization.


After all, the English we used couldn’t be so incomprehensible or obscure that it required the player to look up the word in a Victorian dictionary!”

She bought (?) several English dictionaries to help her write the localisation, but didn't want to put players in a scenario where they'd have to do the same. Words that the Americans made up (or mean different things between countries) or words that entered the English language after the game's time period are banned from being used. At the same time, not only does this dialogue have to make sense, but it's also meant to be funny as well. (After all, KoopaTV's truth and levity mantra is taken from how the Ace Attorney series operates.) Quite the challenge.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles judicial findings court jurors contradictions
Nuanced wording is what Ace Attorney is all about, so it better all be understandable.
Or else you'll never be able to point out the contradiction.

By comparison, the mantra that Janet Hsu used while localising The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles was “Authentic, yet accessible”—which is consistent with her localisation methodology that we've discussed before on KoopaTV where if you translate too literally—especially in a game rife with cultural references and sensibilities—your audience might not know what's going on and be confused. That's especially problematic not just in terms of understanding the story and enjoying the characters, but also the gameplay experience is tied to proper reading comprehension and thinking outside-the-box—hard to do that when you don't have a full grasp of what's going on because you're stuck with obscure but authentic wording. Still, there does need to be authenticity, because a whole story beat is tied to being a foreign immigrant (Ryunosuke, the main character, being a Japanese fellow going to Britain). Janet brings up how Japanese immigrants may privately communicate among fellow Japanese people differs from public communication with Brits, and she wanted to preserve and develop a sense for that.

Additional challenges also include a very manually programmed set of animations for characters that dynamically change based on their dialogue—animations that the localisation team can't change, so the script has to also match the animations. The animations are more detailed than previous Ace Attorney games, so it's a bigger challenge than ever before to have the dialogue match them. AND there's English voice acting too, which was a risk to do given the pandemic. (Not fully voice-acted, fortunately. ...Or else the game would probably never get localised.)

There was no mention about the Sherlock Holmes/Herlock Sholmes nasty rights issue, so let's assume that wasn't actually a challenge. At least, not for the CAPCOM localisation team.

As for Janet's workload, after Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney–Spirit of Justice, she worked on localising Resident Evil 2 (the newer one), and now this—and it certainly makes a lot of sense, after reading her interview, for this project to take up all of her time for the past two years. In fact, it'd make sense for more than two years, since this is actually two games. So what's next for her? Well, she wasn't asked that, and even if she was, she wouldn't say. But she always does want to work on an Ace Attorney, as challenging as they are. Perhaps there's more Ace Attorney news to come...

...Probably not at E3 2021 though. Developer CAPCOM will be too busy with making sure people actually buy The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, as well as their Monster Hunter games! But that doesn't necessarily stop Ace Attorney from being worked on behind closed office doors...

For more information on dubbing a game during a pandemic, particularly this game, check out this based on more Janet Hsu info dumps!



    Here’s hoping she’ll be doing MOTHER 3 next!

    1. Interesting, apparently the rest of my family had blogger accounts too, that’s not my picture though, really outdated either way

    2. I'm just gonna sit here and be confused, but I figure you're Arctic Captain Stitch.

      Well, she's been at CAPCOM since Mother 3 became a thing, so... that's a long time. Probably won't give that up!

    3. I will never give it up, ever! Although I imagine the only time we’ll ever get it would be if nintendo had another wiiU flop, or somthing even worse. They know that people will buy a console just for that game, heck I would.

  2. If you love this game so much, you should do a Let's play of it or something. I'd definitely watch it!

    1. ...No, I don't like the idea of someone watching a Let's Play of Ace Attorney as opposed to playing it themselves.


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