Showing posts with label Visual Novel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Visual Novel. Show all posts

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.

Bounty Hunter Sarah: The Capcom Dreamcast Game You Never Knew About

Ask any Dreamcast fan about Capcom's legacy on the console and you'll be told that good old Cappy are probably as synonymous with the box of dreams as even Sega themselves. Then, if you asked those same fans what kind of games they'd associate Capcom's mighty stint on the Dreamcast with, they'd most likely tell you "fighters", maybe even shoot-em-ups or survival horror. No one, and I repeat, no one would respond: "a text-based near future crime thriller featuring a digitised actress".

Bounty Hunter Sarah: Holy Mountain no Teiō was released onto the Dreamcast and PlayStation on the 24th of May 2001. Published by Capcom, this Japanese-exclusive "sound novel" (more on that in a moment) was developed by Flagship, a fresh-faced independent studio founded by ex-Capcom developer Yoshiki Okamoto. With funding from Capcom, Nintendo and Sega, Flagship would develop or assist with the development of games from huge franchises such as Resident Evil, Kirby and The Legend of Zelda, before sadly closing its doors in 2007. Bounty Hunter Sarah was Flagship’s first and only original IP, with its big selling point being that its plot was written by the same scenario writer as Resident Evil 2, Noboru Sugimura, who had also left Capcom to be part of Flagship.

The staff of Flagship at a 2001 presentation

The game's plot takes place in the year 2060, and revolves around Sarah Fitzgerald, a bounty hunter who roams the crime-ridden Neo Tokyo with the goal of assassinating a notorious mafia boss known as the "Lord of the Holy Mountain". The game's action-packed opening cinematic sets this all up really well, with plenty of flashy stop-motion spy stuff and enough explosions to make Michael Bay blush. But then when you start a new game, all that energy witnessed in the intro suddenly takes a turn as you soon realise that Sugimura's plot is told in the form of a "sound novel," a type of game fairly similar to a visual novel. For those not in the know, visual novels are...well, novels that are visual

Some would argue that they aren’t really games due to them essentially being flashy reading exercises, with little interaction required from the player other than to progress countless paragraphs of text with a single button and, in the case of the most common type of visual novel, have them occasionally select a choice. Despite their text heavy nature, they still include plenty of varying background scenery and colourful characters (usually anime-style) to accompany the stories being told, and often feature plot lines that can devolve down branching paths to multiple endings, leading some to liken visual novels to interactive choose your own adventure books. Sound novels, on the other hand, while still including a decent helping of artwork, often have it serve as a backdrop to screens filled with text, with the game instead relying more on sound effects and music to immerse the player into the plot taking place (source). 

Sakura Wars Returns with Flying Colours (PS4 Review)

The Sakura Wars (aka Sakura Taisen) series is possibly Sega's worst-kept secret, at least for us in the West. Most Dreamcast fans have probably encountered it at some point, but without the ability to understand the Japanese language, most have not proceeded further. This Japanese steampunk-themed tactical RPG series was a massive hit in its country of origin, spawning sequels and spin-offs, as well as crossing into other forms of media. As I'm writing this, the Sakura Wars multi-media franchise has surpassed over 4 million units shipped in Japan.

Despite the series' massive success, Sakura Wars was probably deemed too culturally-different for Western gamers, probably due to its heavy use of unfamilar (at least, back in the late '90s and early 00's), visual novel/dating simulation-style gameplay. The only Sakura Wars game from the original batch to be localised into English was the fifth game in the franchise, Sakura Wars V: So Long, My Love (released on the Wii and PS2). Most would probably agree that it wasn't the best entry the series had to offer, but hey, at least it was something. The series would then remain untouched for many years.
This was no small franchise. A big thanks to our very own Mike for the pics.
But Sakura Wars has stepped back onto the stage and into the limelight once again. Sega have blessed us with a worldwide (albeit, staggered) release of a flashy modern-gen reboot of Sakura Wars, exclusively for PlayStation 4. Developed by Sega's CS2 R&D department, Sakura Wars saw involvement from new and returning staff; including veteran Sega producer Tetsu Katano, director Tetsuya Otsubo and music composer Kohei Tanaka. Tite Kubo, the creator of manga ultra-hit Bleach was responsible for the designs of the main cast of characters. Guest artists BUNBUN (Sword Art Online), Ken Sugimori (Pokémon) and Shigenori Soejima (Persona) contributed their talents towards the designs of various supporting characters. It's clear from such star studded pedigree that Sega really pulled out all the stops for this one, and as an owner of a pre-order copy that turned up three days early, I'm happy to confirm that it resulted in a big success. If you're a fan of Sakura Wars, you'll be happy to know Sega have done the franchise the justice it deserves. If you're new to Sakura Wars, this is the perfect entry point.

A Beginner's Guide to Visual Novels on the Dreamcast

Avid fans of the Dreamcast are most likely already aware that the console enjoyed a much longer life in its home country of Japan (the last officially licensed Dreamcast game, Karous, was released in 2007). For this reason, as well as the fact 90s console developers had a track record of thinking Western gamers were frightened of anything even slightly unconventional, there is an extensive list of Japan-only Dreamcast games just waiting for fans to import. The best part is that so many are playable without knowledge of the Japanese language. All you need is a boot disc or a modded Dreamcast and voilà! you've unlocked another section of the Dreamcast library. Check out our A to Z of Dreamcast Games if you want to know the best Japan-exclusives to get your mitts on.

However, for every playable game, there are just as many that are unplayable for anyone who isn't fluent in Japanese. Anyone who is insane enough to try and collect a full Japanese set will soon realise that there is plenty of "filler" - the kind of stuff you only buy for the sake of checking another game off the list and not because you are actually going to be able to play it. You know, those games with the anime girls on the front. Games like this:
 
Some might mistakenly call these things "dating simulators", but that's a different kettle of fish entirely. No, these are "visual novels", and they do exactly what they say on the tin, they are novels with visual elements. The term was coined by developer Leaf, with their "Visual Novel Series" of text-based adventure games (source). Boot up any game like this and you'll be greeted with nothing more than walls of Japanese text and images of anime characters making various expressions. They are a very niché style of game that have never had a big following outside of Japan, especially back in the early 2000s (hence their Japanese exclusivity). Some may debate whether or not they are actually games at all, but they're still something I'd recommend to keen readers and anime fans alike. 

Their "gameplay" more or less consists of reading text and (in the case of the most common type of visual novel) occasionally answering a multiple choice question on how the main character should react or respond in a certain situation. That might not sound all that interesting to some, but I like to look at visual novels as a more visual version of a choose your own adventure book, and being a fan of anime, the artwork contained within is something I'm familiar with. A lot of the stories are enjoyable, and believe it or not, the plots aren't always romantic; there are visual novels that focus on genres like sci-fi and mystery, for example.