Like a Dragon Localizers Explain the Challenges of Localization

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth’s lead editor Josh Malone and senior translator Dan Sunstrum discussed the challenges of localization in a recent interview. The topic of localization has become something of a hot button issue among some fans. However, Like A Dragon’s localizers explained a little of what they do, as well as some of its unique challenges.

Like a Dragon localizers describe translating humor and balancing accuracy with accessibility
A frequent accusation against localizers is that they attempt to erase elements of Japanese culture. However, Like A Dragon’s localizers explained how localization involves a careful balance of preserving the original culture while making it accessible to an international audience.

“There are no one-size-fits-all solutions,” Malone told The Gamer. Ultimately, every decision we make has to serve the scene and make sense to the player while still being entertaining.”

Humor is particularly difficult to translate as it relies heavily on cultural context. Malone gives the example of Kasuga’s viral video in Infinite Wealth. The scene pays homage to the Japanese film series Otoko wa Tsurai yo. While Japanese audiences will understand the reference, most Westerners won’t. Like a Dragon’s localizers saw that he was “hamming it up” and turned the scene into something resembling a kabuki performance.

Other changes can be more subtle, and localizers also need to consider what is worth preserving as it is. Malone gave the example of Japanese honorifics, which enough Americans are familiar with that they could be left in. On the other hand, it’s not reasonable to assume that Like A Dragon’s global audience will understand the nuances of Yakuza hierarchy.

Malone also talked about ways localizers can introduce concepts to their audience by analogizing them to something familiar. “One substory I constantly refer to is Stadium Jumper Strut in Yakuza 0,” Malone explains. “What sticks out to me is that ‘sutajans’—the central item of the substory—were not only explained as stadium jumpers but also compared to American varsity jackets. To me, that’s a good way of introducing a foreign term—making use of a clear definition, visual representation, or point of comparison to aid the player’s understanding.”

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At least they clear stuff up for players and fans.


I'm glad they've cleared that up