I just wanted to offer a big thank you and congratulations to everyone involved in bringing this project to fruition. It really is an astonishingly complete translation, of a great game, and having read the thread front to back I feel I can only appreciate by the merest degrees how much blood, sweat and tears you all must have shed to bring it to our side of the globe. Especially Tom - I remember the threads on byuu's old
forum, so I know this has been a hell of a road for him to hoe.
I have cherished memories of playing this game, decades ago, with a friend on his Super Famicom. It was the first RPG I'd ever seen, and I couldn't understand why the enemies were waiting for us to take our turn. But the charming graphics and (especially) the sight of
really grabbed my imagination. Years later he returned to Japan and I've long since lost contact with him. Being able to finally play TMZ in English was a special experience for me, to say the least.
There was discusion earlier in the thread about how it's hard to put a finger on exactly what makes this game special. If you'll spare me the indulgence, I'd like to offer a few thoughts on some of the things that stuck out as special for me. This will probably be a lengthy and spoiler-riddled ramble, so if that's not your cup of tea, this is probably the point to jump off (assuming you even made it this far!)SPOILERS FROM HERE TO THE END OF THE POST!
Things in TMZ I found special: The music, the art, the whole presentation
Need I say more? The game is looks and sounds amazing. There's a bunch of great tracks and the sprite work is beautiful. I love the shrine theme and the early boss theme especially. Hisui
There's something about the way this character was handled that I really liked. She makes the world feel bigger: she's an established member of the Fire Bear nation, who already has a life and a place in the world before the hero comes along. You speak to people, learn about her, go to where she lives and recruit her. In doing so she leaves her old life behind and the world changes to reflect that (through newspaper articles and npc dialogue. In general I loved the newspapers, they really made the world feel alive, reactive, and were generally so fun to read.) This is in contrast to many games whose party members just stumble in from stage left - literally run onto the screen from nowhere during a cutscene - and force themselves into your company from out of the blue. I don't know quite how to put it... they did a great job with the party members in this game. They all have a reason to join Higan on his quest, and he doesn't pick them up like some kind of entourage. The developers really put in the spade work to made them feel like significant, fleshed-out characters.
While Higan is just starting out in adult life, Hisui knows she is coming to the end of hers. This telegraphs that your time together will be temporary, a smart move from the developers because a) nobody appreciates an Aerith-style rug-pull, so when a party death is coming it's good to be able to brace yourself for it and b) it defines their relationship of these travelling companions as, well, travelling companions - somewhat unusual when most RPG parties operate more like guilds that offer life-long membership. I feel like the reason that matters is because early on you spend a big chunk of the game, perhaps as much as 15-20%, alone. It's lonely! And kind of hard! You don't have a healer! So you value her companionship, not just as a character but as a helping hand against the hardships ahead. And when she's gone, you don't just feel sad for her passing, but also the return of the loneliness of the road. The narrative moment in the game, the emotional state of the player, is reinforced by means of the gameplay. This is a simple thing, but it's effective. Mizuki and Tenjin
Oh boy, these two. What I love about their part in the story is that, tragic as their situation is, the game never feels the need to beat you over the head about it. The back-story between the pair is built up gradually. We have to piece it together through encounters with Sara and Juri, two strongly characterised villains with a lot of their own stuff going on, who provide you with information that's clearly partial and not entirely trustworthy. We know that Tenjin loved Mizuki, but we're not quite sure what became of her or where she is. Then, in a big reveal, the mandala flute is played, and in an instant and we realise the tragedy of the pair. Alive, immortal (?), so close as to share the same body - and yet separated forever. And yet the game never resorts to melodrama. The lovers bear their pain with sad, stoic dignity.
While they're all a colourful bunch, Tenjin is the misfit in the party. He's pensive and reserved, even condescending. This contrasts with Higan and Subaru, much as their circumstances contrast - they out on their first adventure of their lives, he carting around the baggage of an accumulated 600 years. He loves to show off using riddles, which confuse everyone to whom they're offered. Mizuki seems to have a more natural affinity with the people she meets, perhaps reflective of their shared status as creations of Ninigi, and of her decision to defy him in order to defend the world.
And then we have the mirror scene. It's not a long conversation, but they manage to pack an awful lot into it. I liked that Mizuki was able to answer Tenjin's riddle immediately, confirming the strength of their bond. It's a small detail, but a well told story is one that gets its small details right. Speaking of small details, I loved that they made unique animations for this conversation, to communicate the little things that go unsaid: Tenjin looking sorrowfully at the ground as he tries to apologise (he says he 'kills her'.. I couldn't tell if he was actually confessing to have dealt her the fatal blow, or blamed himself for failing to protect her.) The gesture Mizuki makes as she says 'they're things we have within each of us', the way she wraps her arms around her chest, was heart breaking. Unable to embrace Tenjin, she instead holds herself, closing her eyes tight. I'm not ashamed to admit this scene actually made me cry! The setting and the villains
The sad, embittered emnity between Agni and Ninigi is a compelling dynamic, at least as far as RPG lore goes. I liked that most of the major villains some substance - a driving philosophy, or at least a motivation beyond common or garden evil. In the memorable scene where you meet her, Agni is able to reconcile her ambivalence, her curiosity and hostility regarding the creatures of the Earth. I'd hoped Ninigi would have a similar epiphany regarding the worlds and peoples he sought to conquer.. he almost seems to have one in his final speech ('do you hate me that much, Agni?'), but ultimately he comes off as a little flat.
His underlings are a more interesting bunch. Juri and Sara are great, Kinging too, and the Akamaru twist really managed to blind-side me. From reading the manual, you get the impression that he's the standard goofy comedic relief sidekick, and his appearance in game definitely matches up with that.. up until the moment he reveals himself as a villain! I only refused to give him the key to the airship because I was messing about -you can have a lot of fun winding up Subaru by refusing to act like a proper hero. Imagine my surprise when I initiated a fight!
Speaking of Amakamaru, I really appreciate that you went the extra mile to translate the Kansai dialect and not just substitute it out for Southern USA, my friend! Meaning is often as much bound up in the way words are spoken as it is in the words themselves, so the substitution of a foreign dialect is not a decision to be taken lightly. Localisers who are happy to substitute cultural 'nearest neighbours' risk allowing a great deal of meaning to slip through the cracks while introducing other, unintended association foreign to the original work. I know that a certain amount of this is inevitable in any translation, but I think sometimes people are too relaxed about it. And all so that an audience never has to look up, for example, what ramen is or why there's no jury in the courtroom (damn you Capcom!) The Takamagahara hermit
"Winding by without a sound, like time. Fluttering quietly, like the wind. Murmuring softly, like the stars. Cloudy Grotto, where time and wind fly by... Cloudy Grotto, where the stars do twinkle... I, the Takamagahara Hermit, am the only one here. [...] I must watch over it alone. I alone must watch the passing of time."
This was just a beautiful little piece of dialogue. I don't expressly know why the developers chose to put it in. It doesn't really exposit information relevant to the plot.. but there's nothing like ruminations on time and eternity to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
I don't know. It's just one of those moments that happen sometimes in games, where you find a character or a location that just stays with you.
Anyway. I could go on but this post is already beyond excessive in length. Really I just wanted Tom to know that people are still playing the game, enjoying the game, thinking about the game, and that it's all thanks to his efforts, as well as those of DDSTranslation, DougRPG, FlashPV, LostTemplar and Byuu. Reading the thread my feeling was that his mood was a little despondent, but rather than a funeral for the series, I hope he might come to share my perspective, which is that that his work has given this game new life.