Final Fantasy 14’s localization is legendary. The team behind the English version I’m so familiar with skillfully wields a sense of humor and keen understanding of popular culture that gives me writer’s envy. For those of us so enraptured in Eorzea’s world, these are the people who bring iconic villains like Emet-Selch to life and work on those pun-filled quest titles that make us smile. In an email interview with the team behind it all, I had the chance to pry a little, and I was offered a small glance into their creative process and just how far they go to make sure Final Fantasy 14 maintains its quality across each version. When I talk to them, the team asks I refer only to them as such—a team—to stress how much of a group effort this process is.
“We often discuss the story and the game mechanics with the translators of the other languages, making sure to share relevant information,” they explain. “It’s important to keep certain aspects─such as the spelling used for the various named characters and locations─consistent across English, French, and German, and we take the input of the other languages into consideration. One example of this is the naming for many of the Elezen characters, which is based on French names, so the French team will check that everything sounds suitably natural.”
Nearly 11 years after its initial release, Final Fantasy 14 is available in Japanese, English, French, and German. With a game as complex as a lore-heavy Final Fantasy MMO that’s constantly updating, things aren’t as simple to localize and maintain as they may be in some other single-player experiences. Each team, like those translating into French, maintains some sort of responsibility for their own portions of the game. The group goes on to explain that cutscene dialogue, item descriptions, and other sentence-based text still involves communication between the departments, but each have their own nuances for how these things are handled.
“In general, the goal is not to aim for absolute consistency across all languages, but rather to tailor the localization to resonate with speakers of each target language,” they explain. “That’s why if you were to closely compare each version, you’ll find they differ in various ways while still staying true to the story as a whole.” And that’s what makes their approach so perfect. The people behind Final Fantasy 14’s localization understand that while the humor and jokes from its original Japanese text may not work so well in English, they can find unique ways to keep things cheeky.
The conversation reminds me of some of my own experiences in studying other languages. English is my first, but when going to school for Japanese and Korean, the secondary lessons of trying to understand language and culture were much harder. My friends fluent in these languages would make jokes I couldn’t grasp, no matter how literally they were explained, and my attempts to bring phrases I used in English into my Japanese and Korean were messy. Some folks may be turned off by straying away from the literal dialogue of a joke in Japanese, but Final Fantasy 14’s team has turned conveying the feeling it creates, and not the exact words, into an art form.
The Final Fantasy 14 localization crew explains to me that they try to ensure all of those beloved puns and references you see in the game are conveyed in a way that’s still loyal to its source material. Every passing quip you encounter in Eorzea aims to prioritize immersion and maintain the spirit of the Japanese version, borrowing from other media only when it feels appropriate. The group that brings Eorzea’s rich text to life works within their own specific set of guidelines and rules, taking great care to be respectful.
“One rule that the English team endeavors to uphold is taking care to differentiate between ‘in-world’ text (like dialogue), and ‘system’ text (like quest names) when determining whether modern turns of phrase are appropriate,” they say. “The latter category offers more freedom in terms of English styles of expression and humor and such, as you will likely have noticed. Nevertheless, maintaining the overall atmosphere is important, so if it’s an emotional quest, we avoid anything dissonant even in the ‘system’ text, like puns in the quest name or sarcastic phrasing in item descriptions.”
This consistency extends across the entire game. But while the English localization mostly sticks to the system text for its cheekier lines, there’s one specific character who has a slightly different personality when transported across from the Japanese original. Iconic Shadowbringers villain Emet-Selch is much more dry and sarcastic in the English version of Final Fantasy 14.
The team put extra effort into depicting him in a way that did his Japanese characterization justice without feeling unnatural. But while the two versions differ, both maintain who he is at his core. “You might notice that he’s rather sarcastic, which is something that we certainly made a point of emphasizing in the localization,” the team explains. “In Japanese, sarcasm tends to be used sparingly, whereas in English and many other languages, it’s very commonly used even in day-to-day situations, like, ‘Oh great, it’s raining,’ which is kind of an odd thing to say when you think about it, but perfectly natural.”
Emet-Selch “generally speaks in a more direct fashion in the Japanese, whereas in English, sarcasm is used to a greater extent to express his playful mockery and general air of exasperation.”Final Fantasy 14’s localization team are a humble bunch, and they make sure to pass on the credit for bringing Emet-Selch to life to his voice actors and writer Natsuko Ishikawa. Over the years, though, their localizations have brought some of my favorite characters─like the Warrior of Light─to life. With Endwalker just around the corner this Fall, I wrap up my chat with the team feeling like my favorite franchise continues to be in the best hands possible and holding a new respect for the people making it happen.
Next: When Will Final Fantasy 14’s Warrior Of Light Stop Tanking And DPSing? Make Him A Healer Already
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Andrea Shearon is a news editor at TheGamer who loves RPGs and anything horror related. Find her on Twitter via @Maajora.
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