What is game localization?

Though Japan is often credited with creating some of the most innovative and beloved video games in history, not all of these games are easily playable for those who don’t understand the language. Thankfully, a number of fan-translated patches have been created over the years to change this, opening up titles like Dragon Quest, The Legend of Zelda and more to global audiences. This week we take a look at five such fan translations that have helped make classic Japanese games more accessible to all.

1. Dragon Quest

The Dragon Quest series is one of Japan’s most popular and enduring gaming franchises, with eleven mainline entries in the series released to date. The original Dragon Quest game was first released in 1986 for the Famicom, and though it would eventually be localized for North America under the title Dragon Warrior, this didn’t happen until several years after its release. In the meantime, a fan translation group calling themselves “Demiforce” took it upon themselves to translate and release their own version of the game in 1992.

2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

The third entry in Nintendo’s beloved Legend of Zelda series was originally released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in 1991. A year later, an English localization of the game was released in North America and Europe, but given the fact that the Super Famicom had only been released in Japan at this point, there was no way for global audiences to play the game in its original language.

Thankfully, a fan translation group known as ” Zelda Reorchestrated” worked to create their own version of the game’s script, which they then integrated into a ROM of the original Japanese release. This allowed players to enjoy the game in its original form, with all of its text presented in English.

3. Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger is widely considered to be one of the greatest RPGs ever made, thanks in part to its innovative gameplay, beautiful visuals and unforgettable soundtrack. The game was originally released for the SNES in 1995, but an English localization didn’t arrive until over a year later.

In the meantime, a fan translation group calling themselves “Dejap” took it upon themselves to create their own English version of the game. This translation patch was notable not only for its quality, but also for the fact that it was one of the first to make use of an emulator’s built-in cheat code system to bypass copy protection measures on the game’s cartridge.

4. Final Fantasy VI

The sixth mainline entry in Square’s long-running Final Fantasy series was originally released for the SNES in 1994. Though an English localization would eventually be released in North America and Europe, it wouldn’t be until nearly three years later.

In the meantime, a fan translation group calling themselves “The Light Warriors” took it upon themselves to create their own English version of the game. This translation was notable not only for its high quality, but also for the fact that it made use of an emulator’s built-in cheat code system to bypass copy protection measures on the game’s cartridge. This allowed the game to be played on unmodified hardware, something that had never been possible before.

5. EarthBound

EarthBound is a beloved cult classic RPG originally released for the SNES in 1995. Though an English localization would eventually be released in North America and Europe, it wouldn’t be until nearly three years later.

In the meantime, a fan translation group calling themselves “Starmen.net” took it upon themselves to create their own English version of the game. This translation was notable not only for its high quality, but also for the fact that it made use of an emulator’s built-in cheat code system to bypass copy protection measures on the game’s cartridge. This allowed the game to be played on unmodified hardware, something that had never been possible before.

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