What if I told you there’s an ancient PlayStation game that mixes the persistent open world of Shenmue with the surrealism of Deadly Premonition? There is, and it’s called Mizzurna Falls. Before yesterday you would have been shit out of luck when it came to playing it in English. Thankfully, a group of dedicated fans put in a sizable amount of work to make that dream a reality with a new translation patch.
Mizzurna Falls was released by now-defunct Clock Tower developer Human Entertainment for PlayStation in December 1998. It follows a teenage protagonist through a very Twin Peaks-y story involving a missing classmate and a small town full of secrets. It didn’t make much of a splash in Japan at the time, but in the years since has become something of a cult classic due to its Lynchian sensibilities and status as one of the first open-world video games. Vice published a fantastic story in 2017 if you want to know more.
Although exclusive to Japan for decades, a complete English translation for Mizzurna Falls has existed in several different forms stretching back to 2014 thanks to the efforts of a freelance translator known online as Resident Evie. Getting those translations into the game, however, proved to be much trickier. In the conversion from Japanese to English, the Mizzurna Falls script is simply way too big, which causes issues for an ambitious game already held together by prayers and duct tape on the relatively underpowered PlayStation.
Early efforts by a developer named Gemini to release an English version of Mizzurna Falls with Evie’s translations appeared online in 2019, but were quickly taken down at Gemini’s request. The game didn’t play well due to the aforementioned space issues, and wasn’t meant for public consumption due to frequently crashing in its unfinished state. Over the last year, others took up the cause while under covid-19 quarantine, leading to the translation patch that dropped this week.
“Evie released her translated script in the hopes that another hacking group could one day use it to develop a working patch,” a readme file included with the translation patch explains. “This project does exactly that, using Evie’s script as a base. Nikita, a professional mobile game developer, and Cirosan, a professional translator and localization editor, collaborated over the course of several months to finally develop a working translation patch for Mizzurna Falls.”
Using a new compression tool developed specifically for this Mizzurna Falls project, Nikita and Cirosan were able to fit more text into the game, but the script was still too big. This meant Cirosan had to rewrite and edit most of the original script—with Evie’s blessing, of course—so that it could fit onto the Mizzurna Falls disc “without sacrificing coherence, quality, or significant plot points.”
“The result of Cirosan’s rewrites is a full localization of Mizzurna Falls that helps dialogue sound more natural and conversational, in addition to altering certain characters and elements to be more effective with Western audiences,” the readme adds.
Mizzurna Falls is an important piece of video game history. While it feels incredibly janky in 2021, especially considering the plethora of bugs that plagued the game even before issues with the English text arose, its release in the late ‘90s was an important step toward the massive open-world games we enjoy today. I don’t expect anyone to make it through Mizzurna Falls without a little frustration, but if you’re in the mood for an old-school adventure brimming with surreal charm, do yourself a favor and give it a shot. You may just find your new favorite game waiting for you.
(Updated 3/3/22 with new details)