Nakoruru: The Gift She Gave Me - Samurai Shodown Spin-Off for Dreamcast Translated into English!

After nearly two years of hard work, I am absolutely elated to inform you that a team consisting of Derek Pascarella, Duralumin, Marshal Wong and myself have completed our English translation of Nakoruru: Ano Hito kara no Okurimono for the Sega Dreamcast, and today you will be able to play it.

Being a fan favourite character of SNK’s beloved Samurai Shodown fighting franchise (known as Samurai Spirits in Japan), it’s only natural that Nakoruru would get her own spin-off game. SNK granted developer Inter-Let's the privilege of crafting a story that explored her character in finer detail, with the result being Nakoruru: The Gift She Gave Me (as we’ve decided to dub it), a Japan-exclusive visual novel game released for Windows in 2001, with an improved Dreamcast version releasing a year later in 2002. To take a source material known for its intense arcade fighting thrills and adapt it into a quiet, heartfelt text-based adventure was definitely intriguing, so much so that it made us want to produce an English translation almost two decades later! 

To translate the game into English was no small feat, however. With over 12,000 lines of text, our translation of Nakoruru was going to take us more than a year to produce. But it honestly feels like that time has flown by, because the more we worked on translating the scripts, the more we fell in love with the game's plot and characters.

Mikato meets Nakoruru for the first time.

The game’s story is told from the perspective of seven-year-old Mikato, an orphan who is taken in by the people of the snowy village Kamui Kotan. She is selected by the village's chief to serve as assistant to the shrine maiden Nakoruru, somebody the people of Kamui Kotan admire for her strength, dependability, and outward positivity. Mikato soon realises, however, that deep down, Nakoruru is harbouring an intense sorrow. 

While Nakoruru is based in the world of Samurai Shodown, it can be played without any prior knowledge of the franchise, but if you are a Shodown fan, there are quite a few playful references to other characters in the franchise sprinkled throughout the game's script.

Nakoruru's childhood friends Yantamu and Manari.

The gameplay of Nakoruru is simple, and familiar to those who have played a visual novel before. Advance the story with a button press, and occasionally make choices, some of which greatly affect the game’s narrative.

Also included throughout the story are several basic but charming mini-games. These include quizzes, fishing, dodging enemy attacks, playing music, and more. 

While Nakoruru may lack the 3D graphics and arcade action many associate with the Dreamcast, it still boasts gorgeous, crisp, hand-drawn 2D artwork, and its beautiful coming-of-age storyline will pull at your heart strings as it deals with topics of friendship, loss and insecurity. The Dreamcast received over 100 visual novel titles in Japan, and in terms of quality, Nakoruru is up there with the best the system has to offer. For those new to the visual novel genre, you can learn more about them in this fantastic video by Bowl of Lentils.

Combat training mini-game where you dodge left or right to escape attacks.

We adopted an assembly line process to translate the game’s script. First, dialogue for an individual scene would be translated by Marshal and Duralumin, then the editors - both myself and Derek, would check over the translations for any spelling or grammatical errors, but primarily to ensure they read as naturally as possible in English. Once the script edits were complete, Derek would insert them back into the game. Working together and seeing the story come to life, and by our own making, was incredibly rewarding. 

Making an important decision in the heat of combat.  
But our translation would have been for nothing if it wasn’t for Derek’s hacking wizardry. The Dreamcast is still in an immature state when it comes to debugging and hacking, unlike other systems, such as PlayStation, which is more streamlined. A project like this for the Dreamcast required a slew of different tools to achieve. Along the way, Derek had to make many tweaks to the game so it worked with our translation, such as modifying mini-games, ensuring the character’s voice audio persisted across multiple textboxes, reallocating where RAM data was written to make room for larger text data, and more. But the biggest challenge Derek faced was implementing a half-width font (as Japanese characters are wider than English ones), which took him months, but felt incredible when he finally pulled it off. The end result of Derek's hard work is fantastic-looking English text displayed in game.

Mikato getting ready to kick demon butt.
Also translated are the game's VMU applications, which are simple but charming. As part of this game's unlockable extra content, players have the ability to download one of four clock applications to their VMU. Four of the main characters are each featured separately in these applications: Nakoruru, Manari, Rimururu, and Rera. 

When accessing one of these applications on a VMU, Pressing the A button will display an option to hold both A and B buttons to reveal a quote from the character. Pressing B again returns back to the current time. It's like a clock, but cooler 'cause Samurai Shodown characters are featured.

Also available to download is a "bonus disc", that is unique to our translation release. What Derek packaged together using the power of the Dream Passport browser is a collection of goodies relevant to the main game. These include a 30-minute pilot episode of the cancelled Nakoruru anime adaptation (complete with fansubbed English subtitles - not by us), and two wonderful renditions of songs featured in the game from members of its voice cast. Finally, a 100% fully-unlocked save file is also available to download to your VMU, granting players access to all of the game's built-in extra content.

So, if all of this has grabbed your attention, it's time to head over to the dedicated GitHub page to download the Nakoruru translation patch. For detailed steps on how to apply the patch for your desired method of play (i.e. burning to a CD-R, playing on an ODE), see the patching instructions section of the README. It's also highly recommended that ODE users (GDEMU, USB-GDROM, MODE) take a look at these important tips in order to enjoy the best gameplay experience possible. Also featured in the README are some helpful tips and guides to assist first-time players.

Download Patch (v1.2)

For those who don't own a Dreamcast, it is incredibly easy to set up an emulator on your computer and play Nakoruru on there.

Nakoruru with her hawk, Mamahaha.

Finally, the team and I also want to extend our thanks to Nico, Danthrax4, Lacquerware, Piggy, EsperKnight, SnowyAria, VincentNL, cyo, and HaydenKow for their additional assistance and support with this project.

Nakoruru: The Gift She Gave Me is the first official visual novel on the Dreamcast to receive an English fan translation. It's been a pleasure to work with such talented people to see this project to fruition. We sincerely hope that you too will fall in love with this game’s characters and story, just as we did.


Qmish said...

thank you much for this!

Tom Charnock said...

Awesome stuff!

LordJor said...

Wow! This is really, really impressive!. Thanks for your work! I'm sure we'll love it!.

Christopher Jones said...

This is pretty cool! I've never been interested in visual novels in the past, but I'll have to try this one cuz I have so much love for SamSho.

Marvin said...

Amazing work, thank you! I have always been curious about the visual novel games from Japan, but did not think I would have the chance to experience one like this. I am hours into it at this point and it is interesting. it would not be something that I would normally delve into often, even if the language barrier was not an issue. I am really enjoying this window into this side of the Dreamcast and I appreciate being able to see part of this gaming world that I would have otherwise missed.
The work done is fantastic. Thank you so much!

Kevin said...

Awesome! It's great to see the Dreamcast getting love and support even after all these years!

N said...

Just finished reading. Such a beautiful story.

To Derek Pascarella, Marshal Wong, Duralumin, Lewis Cox, Piggy, Nico, Danthrax4, Lacquerware, EsperKnight, SnowyAria, VincentNL, cyo, and HaydenKow,

Thank you all for your effort, your passion, and your love that was poured into this project. You are all true heroes for making it possible for us to finally read and enjoy this beautifully made visual novel. Thanks to you, many more people will be able to experience it for years to come.

Thank you for this gift you gave us.