Hi. I've been thinking about some aspects of ROM translations, from what to translate to the visual result, specifically regarding fonts.
Yesterday, I submitted my first ROM translation, which is still pending approval. I wanted to work on something fairly quick and easy in between my other ongoing translations, so I picked Mega Man II for the GB. I'm somewhat proud because I managed to get by "on my own", so to say. All text (intro, password and ending screens done, weapons - including initials - done, "You Got" screens done as well) and graphic editing (for fonts) is done. But after submitting, two things started creeping up on me.
The first has to do with manipulating fonts, and what constitutes a "good" job. For instance, the title screen was changed to this:
It's a Portuguese (from Portugal) translation. On one hand, I feel pretty good about including additional characters - there's a fair number of translations that don't go the extra mile and seem to prefer quantity over quality, though I won't go into which games/translations/translators do it (that'd seem like finger pointing and just plain rude). So, a portuguese reader will understand what's on the screen, instead of having to guess.
On the other hand, MMII is the kind of game that uses all caps fonts. Among others, English has that advantage - there's largely no need for punctuation like tilde, carats, etc. The fonts can be big, bold; they take full advantage of a tile. Portuguese, Portuguese Brazilian, French and Spanish, for instance, have no such luck. In my case, I tried to keep the font as pure as possible but characters like Ã, Ó, Í and Ç were necessary (no Portuguese translation can call itself good or even complete without Ã and Ç, actually - common english words like "action", "embrace", "exception", "description", even "emulation" need one of them, or both, when written in Portuguese).
But not moving away from the font means cramming things into that tile space. Keeping the font as is and punctuating resulted in the usual squishing of letters. Of that, I'm not proud, but at the time I had no idea how to solve it. Yet, I've seen different opinions regarding this, with some clamoring for making the best of the original font, keeping its proportions, and so on; while others suggest making a new font, or inserting/replacing a small case font, even if it doesn't quite achieve the original effect. One of my ongoing translations has that problem, too - or, it will be a problem once everything's done, because it uses caps everywhere, and I'll have to choose between funky or small letters (and I actually like the all caps font in the game I'm working on...).
Another thing that popped up is what exactly do you decide to translate. In many cases, a simple transference of nouns and proper names doesn't work. Sure, John, Phillip and William have a corresponding version. But imagine someone called John Blow - a direct translation to Portuguese would sound just as silly as it might sound in its English form (and trust me, in the time it takes you to remark "Ah! Blow!", an average Portuguese guy would have already made 23 "jokes" about blowing). In the case of MMII, I decided not to translate Robot Masters and enemy names, nor did I translate "password". Password is so ubiquitous everywhere, including in Portuguese, that it didn't seem necessary. When it comes to Robot Master names, they're meant to be silly, but in a kind of videogamey way - translating them would, I think, lose the videogamey aspect and just go with the silly. And enemy names... The Japanese originals have some puns which the English version misses most of the time.
So, apologies if this is too long already, but to summarize, what are your thoughts on these two aspects?