You know that part in Final Fantasy X where Tidus tries to force himself to laugh in an attempt to cheer up Yuna? You know how it’s become sort of a running joke in video game localization? Turns out it came from an acting class.
Over at USGamer, Bob Mackey has a fun series of interviews with video game localizers Alexander Smith (Final Fantasy X, Vagrant Story), Clyde Mandelin (Mother 3), and Jeremy Blaustein (Metal Gear Solid). All three have interesting stories to share, but I was particularly fascinated by Smith’s descriptions of the localization of Final Fantasy X. Sounds like it was hellish, mostly thanks to a miscommunication over lip flaps that forced the team to rewrite much of their English script:
Essentially, it came down to having to rewrite the script to fit not just the lips, but also very, very strict length considerations. We had been aware of that when we were working on the original translation, but we didn’t realize how serious they were about not having the English voices go over the length of the Japanese voices at any point. Because the way that the game engine was triggering sound files was tied into the same system that it was using to trigger action on the screen, so if you had a sound file that went overboard by even half a second, it could throw off the entire scene and you could get a crash.
Mackey also asked about the infamous Tidus laughing scene, and got the answer all Final Fantasy fans have been awaiting for nearly two decades now:
And, I think, I talked to [Final Fantasy X writer] Nojima-san about the scene, like, “What the fuck’s going on, dude, because this is very strange.” And, “What should I tell the actor? What’s his motivation here? Because, it’s, you know, it’s a very unnatural scene.” And, Nojima-san had basically put it in there because of this laughing, making yourself laugh, forced laughter, is a thing he had been doing, and he had been taking some acting classes. And it’s something that you do in acting classes.
It is what it is, you know. It’s kind of an awkward, funny scene in both languages. I don’t think, I think to the actors’ credit, it’s not worse in English. I think it’s just about the same level of awkwardness. So, that’s a successful localization right there.
Go read the full story for some interesting tales from the localization trenches.