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Talking it out with Danganronpa and Danganronpa 2’s Localization Editors

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Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc was amazing and, as difficult as it may be to believe, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is even better. Combined, these two titles have made 2014 very bright for Vita owners. Which is why I just had to shoot a few questions at the people from NIS America who helped make this happen, Phoenix Spaulding, the Localization Editor for Danganronpa, and Robert Schiotis, the Localization Editor for Danganronpa 2. Both were gracious enough to answer, and here’s what they have to share about what went on behind the scenes at Hope’s Peak.

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GamerTell: How did NIS America get the opportunity to localize the Danganronpa series, and did you always know both games would be released outside of Japan?

Phoenix Spaulding: One of our producers brought the PS Vita version to us a while back and asked us to take a look at it. He had been in touch with the folks at Spike, and we were looking to find out if it was something we’d be interested in pursuing. Everyone in the office was really excited about it, so we decided to push for it, and we were lucky enough to get the chance to work on it.

I wouldn’t say we “knew” both games would come out, because the first game was kind of a risk for us – a relatively unknown series in a genre that you don’t see a lot of. But once we saw the reception the first one got, it was a pretty easy decision for us to work on the second one.

GamerTell: After working on Danganronpa 1 and 2, do you find you have a favorite? Does one installment seem stronger or more special to you, somehow?

Robert Schiotis: I’m biased since I’m the one who worked on it, but I’d have to say that Danganronpa 2 is my favorite. In my opinion, it’s one of the rare sequels that takes everything that worked in the first game, improves upon it, and forces the player to rethink their initial perception of the events of the first game.

Spaulding: For me, I can say that Danganronpa 1 is easily one of my favorite games I’ve ever edited. The characters are awesome, working with the voice actors was awesome, talking with the fanbase has been awesome, all that. But that being said, when I work on a game, it’s hard for me to just enjoy it as a game. Since I didn’t work on the second game directly and I’ve only had a few things spoiled, I’m very excited to get to play through it “fresh”.

GamerTell: Did you face any particular challenges when localizing Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair due to the gravity of the situation or cultural nuances?

Spaulding: Honestly, not really. While the story overall was more serious, it still had a certain energy and playfulness to it, and the characters are really well defined, so the edit was pretty straightforward. The most challenging thing in the first game was just making sure that the facts of each case came through clearly, so that the player knew exactly what they needed to know at exactly the right time without giving anything away too early.

Schiotis: I have to echo that sentiment. The situation that the students find themselves in did set the tone for the localization process, but it didn’t really pose that great of an obstacle. By far the biggest challenge was making sure that the player had all the information they needed exactly when they needed it.

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GamerTell: While this series is quite dark and dire, there are quite a few humorous moments – especially during “dates”. What were some of your favorite one-on-one encounters?

Spaulding: Oh yeah, the date stuff was really fun to write – it was a nice break from all the murder and
whatnot. Purely from an entertainment standpoint, I liked all of the one-on-one stuff you got with Hifumi. His soda withdrawal scenes were super dumb and awesome.

Schiotis: All the dates have their humorous moments, but some of my favorite interactions occur between Hajime and Teruteru. Hajime’s discomfort and awkwardness around someone who is so flirtatious and open-minded is pretty funny to watch. I enjoyed his dates with Sonia Nevermind as well. Her regal naïveté definitely throws Hajime for a loop on more than one occasion.

GamerTell: Did you ever find yourself surprised by one of Danganronpa or Danganronpa 2‘s plot twists?

Schiotis: Since we need to know a game’s story front and back before we begin localizing the text, it’s kind of hard for us to be truly surprised by plot twists when we already know what’s coming. That being said, there are some well executed twists and turns in Danganronpa 2 that will leave fans of the first game reeling.

Spaulding: Similar to what Robert said, since we need to know all of the plot stuff before we start our edit, we don’t really get to experience any of the twists or reveals in the normal way. So while there were definitely some surprises, we didn’t really get the full effect of it the way a player would. That kind of goes along with what I said earlier about not being able to enjoy games I work on like a normal player.

GamerTell: Who are some of your favorite characters from Danganronpa and Danganronpa 2, and do you find yourself drawn to any particular characters due to their “designations”?

Spaulding: Aside from Monokuma, who’s far and away my favorite character for so many reasons, I’d have to say I really like Toko, Celeste, and Junko. I won’t get into spoiler territory, but they all have some similarities that I really enjoy. I guess I’m a bit of a masochist…

Schiotis: Monkuma is a given, of course. Of all the students, I found myself really enjoying Teruteru, Nekomaru, and Gundham among the boys, and Chiaki, Ibuki, and Sonia among the girls. It’s hard to pick a clear favorite, though. Every character brings something to the table—or the island, in this case—that sets them apart from the rest of the cast.

Spaulding: Oh, and to answer the second part, their actual titles didn’t really factor in to my enjoyment of them, as fun as those are. For me it’s all about the character interactions and dialogue.

Schiotis: Same here, though I think Gundham being the “Ultimate Breeder” has a certain charm to it.

GamerTell: What do you think your title would be if you were a Hope’s Peak student?

Spaulding: I’d say i’m the Ultimate Smack Talker, since all I seem to do is make fun of people.

Schiotis: I’d probably be something akin to the Ultimate Film Buff. What Chiaki is to video games, I am to movies.

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Danganronpa is is available right now. Sadly, you have to wait a few more weeks before you can buy Danganronpa 2. In the meantime, go enjoy all of GamerTell’s coverage of the sequel!

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