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ROM Hacking Discussion / Final Fantasy VI: Retranslated
« on: June 10, 2019, 03:21:58 pm »
Hello everyone, I'm a newcomer to this forum, but I have an interesting project to share with all of you.

I've recently completed work on a large scale rewrite of the script for Final Fantasy 6, using the recent 'live translation' by Clyde Mandelin (Mato) from Legends of Localization as a guide.  He posted many notes on his website about some of the most significant translation issues he found, but they are only a small percentage of the topics discussed in the videos.  While I initially started watching them only out of curiosity, it soon became apparent that the errors in the SNES script were so numerous and so extensive that the meaning of the story was often drastically different than in the source Japanese text.  The deeper down this rabbit hole I went, the harder it became to ignore the problems, and eventually I decided that the only thing to do was to go through Mato's video series with a fine-toothed comb and fix all of the problems he mentioned.

So for the past two months I have been doing a 'live edit' of the FF6 script, rewriting the dialog line by line, minute by minute while watching the videos and listening to Mato explain the meaning of what was actually being said.  I have very little knowledge of the Japanese language, so I was completely dependent on him for all of this information.  The videos also contained a comparison with the GBA script, as well as the SkyRender fan translation.  Even a cursory examination reveals that the GBA version is by far the most accurate translation out there, while the fan version is extremely problematic (he frequently likened it to the notorious J2E version of FF4).

So why not just port the GBA script into the SNES version?  Another project has already done this, and it is certainly a valid way to go.  But for myself, I felt that even though its accuracy level is so high, the GBA's specific wording often left something to be desired.  I found that I was not content merely to copy and paste lines from other versions, but instead ended up rewriting a great deal of them myself, relying solely on Mato's assessment of what they meant in Japanese.

I was careful to make the dialog sound natural in English, and often ended up changing the wording quite substantially from how it appears in any other version, but preserving the meaning and nuance of the source material was my first priority.  In cases where Mato gave the GBA script the stamp of approval on accuracy and I liked how it was phrased, I did often end up using them directly.  Lines from the SNES script that were accurately translated to begin with and did not contain errors were generally left alone.  Since there were some lines that got missed during the video series, I did occasionally have to consult other sources when there was doubt about what something meant.  I tried to use them as little as possible, however, because they tend to be accompanied by an unfortunate amount of Woolsey-bashing that can be rather unpleasant to read.  I have a lot of respect for Woolsey; that his version contains so many errors is a product of the difficult conditions in which he had to work (ie, insanely short deadline, lack of context when looking at the script, no help or resources from anyone else in the company, and severe space constraints).

It also has to be said that Woolsey displayed a higher level of creativity in his writing than other versions have done, which resulted in the large number of iconic lines that people remember fondly to this day.  I'm a newcomer to the Final Fantasy series, having only played FF6 for the first time about a year ago, so I don't really have a specific attachment to any pre-existing version of the script, but it was easy to recognize the positive qualities of the SNES version despite all its errors, and it was not uncommon to find myself choosing to retain various lines from the original release even though they were changes from the Japanese.  Kefka's dialog, in particular, really stands out and I kept as much of it as I could.  When choosing to keep this sort of 'flavor text', the general guideline I followed was that it could stay in if it made things sound better and if it had no negative impact on the story.  If the meaning of what was happening in the scene was affected, however, then it would get changed back for the sake of accuracy, though sometimes I still tried to retain the idea behind it if it made sense to do so.

I also did a great deal of research on Early Modern English, in order to make Cyan's dialog convincingly sound like someone from that time.  His frequent usage of 'thou' as a substitute for the archaic Japanese 'de gozaru' was an excellent localization choice, though its application needed strengthening.  This is the kind of thing that should be approached with caution, because it is very difficult for anyone from modern times to write in this sort of style without ending up sounding like what tvtropes calls 'Ye Butchered Olde Englishe'.  The grammar and syntax are just different enough so as to be difficult to pick up on the subtleties if you haven't been exposed them frequently enough.  I grew up being made to read the King James Bible quite a lot, so it was easy for me to identify problems and adjust them accordingly, but even so I had to do a lot of referencing to make sure I was writing in this style correctly.  I probably ended up putting more effort into this aspect of the script than any other, because I really wanted him to sound believably archaic without going too far overboard.

When I started this project, I had no intention of doing anything other than making a few minor edits to the script for my own personal use.  The whole thing kind of snowballed, however, and ended up being an enormous undertaking that more or less consumed my life for the past two months.  Because there seems to be an interest from various people in a version of the script with the qualities that my work has, I eventually decided (actually with some reluctance) that I should release this version publicly, so that others could play the game this way too.

My hesitation was very great, however, because I initially used Ted Woolsey Uncensored Edition as my base.  I like that version a great deal because it has had so much excellent work done to it, and I planned at first to retain it while editing the script in my own way.  Over time my revisions ended up becoming so extensive that it no longer fit with that version's stated goal, so eventually I ended up making it a separate project rather than an addendum in order to simplify things for the end user.

As of 7-25-2019, the project is titled Final Fantasy VI: Retranslated, and is available here:

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