Patrick Gann
Why XSEED Will Localize Falcom Games Better Than Anyone Else To Date
You should be able to tell just from the title who wrote this month's editorial...
05.31.10 - 11:34 PM

It was recently announced that XSEED Games, a North American publisher founded by former Square executive Jun Iwasaki, will be localizing many recent titles from Nihon Falcom. Falcom is, of course, the company best known for their action RPG series Ys.

In the past, English-speaking fans have been "treated" to a variety of Falcom games from a variety of companies. In the last five years, Falcom games have been localized and published in North America by Atlus, Konami, Hudson, Namco Bandai, and Mastiff. Traditionally, Falcom developed their titles for the PC first and then ported to consoles; recently, Falcom has shown preference to the PSP, porting almost all of their recent titles to the handheld and even developing Ys SEVEN exclusively for the platform.

Looking at the PSP-specific localizations in particular, Falcom's North American history is, to put it bluntly, quite weak. Namco Bandai brought the "Gagharv Trilogy" of the Legend of Heroes series to North America. In doing so, they re-ordered and re-numbered the series, gave us a pathetic and flawed translation, and put zero effort into marketing the games. The result was disastrous. This well-respected trilogy of traditional RPG titles was met with much criticism, and at least half of that criticism belongs to Namco Bandai for simply not caring about making a decent product. It should also be noted that, in Japan, Bandai (before the Namco Bandai merge) handled the PSP porting, and that port destroyed a lot of what was great about the most recent PC-based revamps of the trilogy.

Konami had released Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim (dropping the "VI" so as not to confuse Americans who didn't know the series order) for the PS2 in 2005. That console port was respectable, but when the game was moved to PSP a year later with the help of Hudson, the result was (again) disastrous. An exceptional action RPG was riddled with lag and bugs. Yikes!

The only two worthwhile handheld releases from Falcom in North America to date have been Mastiff's localization of Gurumin for PSP and Atlus' localization of Ys I & II for the DS. While Mastiff did a decent job with their localization, and Gurumin is an enjoyable action RPG, it doesn't hold the level of respect in terms of branding that the Ys series holds. And, as for Atlus' Legacy of Ys DS game, it was a good port, but it will pale in comparison to the PSP Ys I & II Chronicles. Not for any localization reasons, mind you, but simply because Chronicles is a much fuller and richer remake, based on the same engine that powers Ys VI, Ys: The Oath in Felghana, and Ys Origin.

So, what is XSEED bringing? To date, we know that they've confirmed the aforementioned Chronicles, as well as the recent PSP port of Ys: The Oath in Felghana (a fantastic overhaul of Ys III: Wanderers From Ys) and the newly-created Ys SEVEN. Furthermore, they've identified the Legend of Heroes: Sora no Kiseki trilogy as a series they will localize. Keep in mind that the Sora no Kiseki trilogy is in and of itself the sixth game in the series. Legend of Heroes VI was created after the Gagharv Trilogy and is well-respected in Japan for being a strong traditional turn-based RPG.

No word yet if XSEED will consider bringing out lesser known PSP games from Falcom, such as Brandish: The Dark Revenant or the planned crossover title Ys vs Sora no Kiseki (a Dissidia: Final Fantasy clone in every respect). Regardless of whether the deal between XSEED and Falcom ends with these six games or continues into the future, here's what I'm willing to say with confidence: XSEED is poised to do a better job than any previous company with Falcom properties.

A quick ranking of localizations would be Namco Bandai at dead last, followed by Hudson and Konami, then Mastiff, then Atlus (that's based on personal opinion, but I would think this ranking is nearly universal, perhaps switching up Mastiff and Atlus). I'm already ready to put XSEED well above everyone else with these games. Why? Let's take a quick look at their history.

Recently, XSEED localized Lunar: Silver Star Harmony. A true classic in our eyes, but a niche title according to more mainstream publications, the latest overhaul of Lunar received a stellar localization. They used bits and pieces of the translation turned out by Working Designs over a decade ago, completely ignored the Ubisoft localization, and added plenty of their own charm to try to capture the original Japanese meaning. It was a great blend and nearly everyone agrees that it worked. Bottom line: they did their homework and it paid off.

Then there are games like the Valhalla Knights series. Personal opinion (again) is that these are not enjoyable games. They weren't poised to sell a lot of copies. But even then, the localization was strong. XSEED cared about their product even when it was a risky venture to localize it in the first place.

Their track record in sheer talent with localizing a game's script and avoiding bugs when moving the game from one region to another is impeccable, especially in recent months. This is a company founded by people who know JRPGs, know the people that like JRPGs, and can render the Japanese language into English in a way that appears to us almost effortless, though it assuredly takes much effort.

This isn't to say that another company couldn't do the same. I think a company like Atlus USA or even a larger company like Konami could have, potentially, done a decent job with these titles. But XSEED made the deal, and it's clear that they are eager to deliver a stellar product.

So I, for one, am already backing this company by saying "this will be a successful venture." I would urge Falcom fans to stand behind XSEED Games for making a great decision. Vote with your dollars here. If you don't have a PSP, get one, because these games (particularly Ys: The Oath in Felghana) are going to rock your world. And I am sure that XSEED will give us a product that they can be proud to have put their hands on and brought to us lowly Gaijin JRPG fans.

Post Script: it is only "rumor" status right now, but word on the street is that XSEED Games will be legitimizing a fan translation of the PC version of Ys: The Oath in Felghana. Specifically, they'd be paying a fan translator for use of his translation. This would be a smart move both in cost savings and in catering to the fans (as this fan translation is very strong and very true to the original script). If this rumor is true, it will be an industry first as far as I know. Even if it's not true, I'm sure whatever script we see in "Felghana" and the other games will be great.