Any gamer who’s fond of etcentric, Japanese games knows that Atlus loves us. The company has been working for years on games that other companies would probably never touch for one reason or another. Case in point is the Etrian Odyssey series, which is delightfully retro and Nintendo hard. Atlus has unfailingly brought over each installment without hesistation, guaranteeing that those among us will always have a challenge. In fact, Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan is coming on February 26, 2013 to the 3DS.
GamerTell recently was able to speak to the Atlus, in particular PR Manager Alex Armour, about Etrian Odyssey IV and we can’t wait to share what we’ve learned.
GamerTell: Let’s start this off by giving people an idea of what they’re getting into in Etrian Odyssey IV. How does the game begin and why are people going into this dungeon?
Atlus: The game starts off with you as an unknown explorer hungry for fame and fortune, answering a call put out by the government of Tharsis, which up to that point is a lot like the intros to the first three games. But where Etrian Odyssey IV starts to be its own thing is that the Outland Count sponsoring these expeditions doesn’t want you to explore a mysterious dungeon specifically. The goal for the Count is to journey to the far-off tree of Yggdrasil, which has been visible for centuries but no one has ever managed to reach.
What you have to do to get there is to board the skyship you gain from your first mini-adventure and set out across the lands, getting closer little by little to Yggdrasil. The structure of the game and the way you explore the multiple labyrinths is a lot more driven by events than previous games, which were all about going as deep (or as high, in EOII’s case) as you could in a single dungeon.
Atlus: Right off the bat there’s seven, Landsknecht, Fortress, Medic, Sniper, Nightseeker, Dancer, and Runemaster, with three more becoming available through the course of the story. Our favorite of those initial seven is the Dancer, since they can fulfill a lot of different roles depending on how you want to build them. Depending on the choices you make in spending your skill points, your Dancer can be a badass front-line attacker who can do six or seven attacks in a good round; a pure support character that keeps the party’s HP topped up in between attack and defense buffs; or a good jack-of-all-trades class to let the rest of your party focus on doing their own thing.
GamerTell: What would you say is a balanced beginner party for Etrian Odyssey IV?
Atlus: We think as long as you choose five different classes, it’s hard to build a party that can’t hold their own, but for beginners, we’d recommend a Landsknecht, Fortress, Medic, Sniper, and Runemaster. It’s not the fanciest or most fun party, but each of those five has a clearly identifiable role that it’s easy for first-time players to understand how they would fit together.
GamerTell: When you’re localizing Etrian Odyssey IV, how much of the process is direct translation and how much is localization?
Atlus: Half and half (or, depending how you look at it, all and all). The translation team who does the direct translation takes the first crack at the files and then the editors do a pass of the translated files for style and formatting within the given character limit. There’s probably not a sentence in the game that wasn’t edited at least a little bit, since we’re aiming for a very specific style of narration and dialogue in the Etrian Odyssey games.
Atlus: Definitely the narration for the traps. We don’t want to give anything away (or warn anyone off), but the series is known for its encounters in the dungeon where you’re never sure what’s going to happen to you if you pick that fruit or approach that rabbit, and EOIV has a lot of fantastic ones that had both the translators and editors laughing at how hard the game was trolling the player.
GamerTell: Given that the Etrian Odyssey games are typically less text-heavy than a standard RPG, how long would you say the translation/localization process is compared to say, a Persona game?
Atlus: It takes about the same amount of time, about six weeks or so, but with a much smaller staff. Two translators and an editor are about all we need for an amount of with text on par with an Etrian Odyssey game, whereas a Persona title is almost always an all-hands-on-deck thing.
GamerTell: Etrian Odyssey is more or less a serious RPG, but Atlus games are known for the scripts having funny asides or in-jokes. Have any managed to work into Etrian Odyssey IV? Perhaps a humorous reference to F.O.E.s?
Atlus: No FOE in-jokes, but both editors are fans of Kris Straub’s comics, and one of the sidequests ended up being called “Learnin’ on a Fish” in homage to his Chainsawsuit strip.
GamerTell: The Etrian Odyssey series has always left a lot of details up to the player’s imagination. What kinds of challenge does this present when it comes to localizing the game? What kinds of tricks do you employ to provide as much insight and character personality within these limitations?
Atlus: The hardest thing is actually structuring references to the player characters without making any reference to gender. For example, this might seem like a reasonable sentence to write: “Just as Edward reached out to pluck the fruit, a snake hiding on the branch sunk its fangs into his arm!” But “Edward” in that sentence is a variable that might refer to any of your party, and so you can’t say “his” arm. There are similar problems with a/an and s/es on plurals, none of which come up in the original Japanese, so please pardon some occasionally dodgy syntax you might see here and there!
As far as character personality, how the characters in the game speak is as important as what they say, and the language choices can do a lot to convey a character’s personality in a game without animation or voice acting. The weapon shop clerk is a good example; her portrait paints her as an ordinary, chipper young girl, who rarely talks to you about anything except her inventory, but you can tell by her accent and speech that she’s a down-to-earth, working-class person who doesn’t care much about propriety or what people think of her. We try to do something like this for everyone in the game to make the experience that much richer for players.
Hopefully, Armour and the Atlus staff’s information was enlightening! Etrian Odyssey IV will be out within a month for 3DS owners to enjoy at the tidy price of $39.99. There will also be an eShop demo appearing on February 7, 2013 that will allow players to save and pick up where they left off in the demo in the full game.