Question on the subject of Turbografx CD translating.

Started by StupidSea, March 29, 2019, 03:10:27 PM

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Hi, I'm a new poster, I've enjoyed info from the site for a long time now, but I've got a question now that I felt would be answered well here. I've gotten interested in TGCD recently, and since I started paying more attention to the console I've noticed that there are a few, but not many, translations of games for the console, and I find that strange given the wealth of RPGs on the system not brought to the west, not to mention plenty of other great games in other genres.  What really struck me is finding out about the translation of Startling Odyssey II, and how the translator essentially just fed lines from the code into an auto-translate program in order to translate it.  That got me wondering, is it really that simple with these games?  Not that I would solely use a translation program like that, but are there not many hurdles to translating them?  I know that with chip based games you have more space limitations, and you need more space for the English characters than the Japanese characters, which means a bunch of micromanaging the code, but is that an issue in these disc based games that had more space to work with?  And if I'm assuming correctly, is the lack of translation on this system just due to lack of interest maybe?  My thought is, if this is a simpler system to translate a game for, maybe it would be a good way for me to learn a bit, to make a project of translating a TGCD game.  Could anyone wax poetic with me a bit on this topic?  Thanks!


I'm not sure how feasible it is to rectify the problem, but using a large font such as the ShiftJIS font on TurboCD is both kind of ugly and takes up quite a bit of screen space for English, making it hard to fit more than a few words on the screen at once.
I suppose using the BIOS font was done to save the need to load a custom font and relevant programming into the program RAM.
"My watch says 30 chickens" Google, 2018


Welcome to the site! :)

You're right that there are precious few translations of TGCD games around, and the main reason probably relates to lack of interest. The differences with translating a CD-based game for the system as opposed to a cartridge-based game are numerous. Don't forget that even though a CD can have enormous space to use, the system itself still only has the RAM that it has - although the cards used with CD games add to the RAM. Everything on the CD has to first be loaded into RAM, whereas a cartridge can be used as a type of memory.

So the system works a little differently, but in theory it shouldn't make a huge difference with translating. In fact, now you mention it, maybe I should have a go at translating something myself, just to say that I have. :)


This is actually quite a big subject, so I'll go through at a high level at first.

First, as you pointed out, it's a nice system with a ton of great JAPANESE games. But unfortunately, its marketing in North America (including the library chosen for publication here) was overall disappointing, so that even today, it's considered a niche system.

Next, you will see (not just on this site) that in North America, NES and SNES - due to their popularity - drive the largest amount of discussion, which in turn leads to the largest developer community.  And game players. And people interested in doing translations.

You can see the disparity by searching the number of translation for these systems - Nintendo dwarfs TG-16 (or PC Engine, as I will call it from here on).

In order to have get a translation done, usually there is a technical person and a translator. And both of them need to have a lot of perseverance.  There are several strong technical people in the PC Engine community, but we suffer from a dearth of translators.  As you mentioned in your post, the Startling Odyssey II translation was completed without a translator.  (As an aside, this fact generated a storm of nasty comments on this board about whether it could even be considered a translation - which is why you won't find it here).

Now, as for the differences between HuCard and CDROM, the first and most important to consider is SIZE. A CDROM game generally has a much larger script to translate, which leads to commitment issues on the sides of both the translator and the technical person.

Of course, there are technical differences as well, but basically if you don't start a project, you won't need to worry about those.  I'll give you a high-level on those next.

First, the PC Engine CDROMs are not stored in an ISO-9660 format as some modern games are.  Their disc format predates even High Sierra, so NEC chose to just stick a large blob of data there.  Consider it a giant ROM, which is loaded in sections, so you still need to observe the same practises you would on a ROM - except you can't arbitrarily extend the ROM and be able to map the new area.  This is because a new ROM area can be mapped instantly (nanoseconds), but an extension of the data track on a PC Engine disc needs to consider seek time, which will basically be hundreds of milliseconds.

On the bright side, many CDROM games were written thinking, "I have so much space, I don't need compression", so the text can often be found easily (it is often stored in SJIS, because the CDROM system card contained fonts for this).  The double-byte encoding works to your advantage, as long as you switch to ASCII and alter the print routine to match.

I have written a little 'starter series' on PC Engine translation here:

...and as a follow-up, I even made the print function modification easier with this hack:

Hopefully, this helps explain a lot of the things you asked about.  Let me know if there are more questions on the subject.



Thanks for the welcome Psyklax, and thanks for the bits of info from each of you.  Dave, I appreciate the explainations, some of that I've gathered myself but a lot of it was just the perspective I was looking for.  I also appreciate the links to your tutorials, I'll be looking through those and thanks for going through the effort to make them! 

With no disrespect to anyone intended to anyone, I have to say that any nasty comments the "translator" of Startling Odyssey II received were likely unwarranted.  I understand how some people, particularly those who work very hard on their own translations, may feel it is a cheap shortcut.  At the same time, unless anyone else is trying to do it better, the person who did it should be proud of their accomplishment.  After all, after scouring the net I could only find 3 or 4 translated PCECD games, and it was one of them.  Gaming is vastly different today so many of us go back to these older consoles, and many of us want to play these great looking untranslated games.  Unfortunately, none of us are getting any younger and time isn't going any slower.  Life only gets busier.  Some people don't have ten years to wait on someone to maybe get one of them translated.  So I understand the choice of the person who translated that game, and I think others should too.  My plan was to spend my own time running words through an auto translator to get a very basic translation.  I was going to send the original text and translated text to a friend who's worked as a translator but doesn't have the dedicated time or interest for a project like this, so they can review it for me and make corrections.  Then I planned to read it while playing through so that I can see it used in context and correct/tweak for the situation.  I don't see another way for myself to do it.  Some people may not respect the effort, but I want to play the games, and I also think it would be the easiest way to dive into the work and learn about the process of HOW to translate and work with game files without worrying too much on my language barrier.  Thanks again for the info, and I'll gladly listen to any more anyone wants to throw in! :)


If someone is waiting 10 years for a script translation, it is probably just as good of an idea to start looking at learning Japanese. At least that was my thought recently. :)
I mean, true, you'd have to be really serious about learning to turn into good translation, but you would likely at least surpass the machine at some point? :D
"My watch says 30 chickens" Google, 2018


Hah, yeah I've had that thought myself, even got some Japanese language course books that go along with videos, just, I dunno, there's something to be said for doing something like this so that you can help other people enjoy something too.  And you know, hopefully I DO start trying to learn the language since it interests me like it does, but I also just want to learn more about the technology in general, I think this might be a fun way to do some of that.