Earlier today we got a chance to throw some questions at Scott Strichart, the Associate Localization Producer on Yakuza 0. With the release of the game in just a few hours from now we got a chance to ask about his role in the localization process and how the guys over at SEGA have been dealing with the awesome positive buzz the games have gotten in these last few weeks leading up to release.
We talk localization and the collaboration between the Japanese and western teams as well as his personal favorite parts of Yakuza 0. We even snuck in a couple of questions directly from our backers!
Thanks again to Scott, John and the rest of the team at SEGA for making one of the best games of the year, and one of the most successful launches in the franchise history in the west.
Just to quickly catch people up who may not know who you are.
Could you give a brief introduction and description of your role at SEGA?
I’m Scott Strichart, Patriarch of the Yakuza series Localization Family. Or Associate Localization producer; take your pick.
What was your perception of the series when you first took on the project?
I came into this series completely green, and like a lot of people who have never played Yakuza, I assumed it was a Japanese take on Grand Theft Auto. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yakuza isn’t a crime simulator at all, and my perception changed 20 minutes into the original Yakuza game. I insisted on finishing the series before diving into managing the product, and by the time the credits rolled on Y5, I knew I had something really special on my hands.
How much creative control are you given during localization?
We have the creative license to do a proper localization – that is, making a game written in a source language make sense and appeal to a target language. But as you well know, we don’t dub the Yakuza games, and so we’re very much beholden to the Japanese voices. We really try to straddle a very thin line between keeping the English on point with what they’re saying in Japanese while at the same time ensuring it’s interesting to read for the monolingual crowd, which is most of our players. We obviously take some more creative freedom with the substories, which, as you can tell, they were written to be funny – and humor never translates directly off the page.
How much involvement do the original devs have during the localization process or do both studios mostly keep out of each other’s way?
At the beginning, we ask a LOT of questions. If there’s anything we’re not clear about in the story, about technical challenges of implementing English text, and areas we identify as needing English translation that they may not have even considered – for instance, little one-off lines in the middle of combat.
After we have those answers, we kind of just set out to getting the localization done, and once we are, it’s back to the developers, and there’s a healthy back-and-forth about how we’d intended things to look or sound, more questions, and then one day… the game appears on our side in English, and it’s up to us again to take it through the QA paces, clean up the text, and get it ready for the disco.
How has it felt seeing such a positive buzz as we get closer to release?
Pretty incredible. Whether it’s you guys, YakuzaGAF, TojoHQ, the Friday Night post, or Nugget, the Yakuza love is well-deserved because Yakuza is a great and unique series. It’s just a matter of making sure as many people can see that as possible, and the reality is, the English text is just a small part of that. All credit to the incredible team at SEGA Japan who has created something that really resonates with people, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
Were you expecting it to be so well received? I’ve seen Y0 making GOTY lists in January!
We knew Y0 in particular was a great game among great games, but I guess at the end of the day, all I can hope is that the incredible and positive reception really translates to getting this game in more people’s PS4 consoles. It deserves it. As for GOTY, Nugget’s gotta stay fresh for a long time if we really want to get that to happen.
What’s your favorite substory and/or playspot?
How does one pick just one substory in this game? Kiryu’s substories are GREAT, and as usual, he has this desire to help people that often gets him into situations he couldn’t have expected. Kiryu the Producer is great, Kiryu finding the stolen video game is great… etc. But what I love about Majima is that it’s less his desire to help people and more a genuine curiosity about something that gets him in his over his head. From joining a cult to defending a dude in a tough jacket, Majima is a good guy at heart but it takes more… coaxing to bring it out in him. His straight-man reaction to every ridiculous substory is priceless.
What was the one thing during localization that you guys agonized over the most?
Here’s a fun story. The password to the “Password Protected” substory was actually way longer in Japanese. So long in fact, that if we’d tried to use it as is, it exceeded the default length of the Western keyboard applet that gets called when you go to enter it. But with the way Japanese works, you get to enter two letters at a time when you type. So even though our password is shorter, it’s technically MORE inputs than the Japanese.
We also agonized over how to make Kiryu mistaking a poor young lady’s request as a desire for pizza believable in English, down to the consonants she can’t pronounce. Oh, Kiryu.
Anything you’re particularly proud of and think deserves a second look (specifically localization)?
I didn’t see too many reviewers call out the cabaret special training – I spent literally three weeks straight staring at the faces of these girls, listening to each line they spoke in every single dialog tree, matching the cadence of the English to their spoken text and facial expressions, ensuring each had their unique traits being communicated in the text styling, and molding Majima’s responses around them. I hope everybody plays the cabaret minigame enough to have the same debates about which girl was best girl, like we did back in the Persona 4 days.
Any comments for fans old and new that are stepping into the world of Yakuza 0 for the first time?
Old Fans: You guys are gonna love being able to see how both Kiryu and Majima subvert your preconceived expectations. Kiryu is wild, aggressive, and rash, and Majima is cunning, suave, and balanced. Getting to see how they change into what we know them as today is a real damn treat, and it’s masterfully done in the story. Enjoy.
New Fans: Oh man are you in for a story. The everlasting question among Yakuza fans is, “Can I start here,” and the answer is absolutely and resoundingly YES. This is before EVERYTHING happened. You’re getting in at ground 0, (ha ha ha) and getting to see how two legendary characters became what the long-time fans know them as today is pretty incredible to experience for the first time. Enjoy the ride, and be ready for it all to hit the fan when Kiwami, the remake of Yakuza 1, comes around this summer!