The careful balancing act of translating an Ace Attorney game

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The careful balancing act of translating an Ace Attorney game

The success of the long-running Ace Attorney series hinges on great writing. Like most visual novel-style games, the quirky legal dramas involve a lot of text, with players reading dialogue and poring over clues in order to help their seemingly doomed clients. This means that localization is particularly important — as each new entry is translated from Japanese to English, localizers need to make it approachable for a new audience while retaining what makes it special in the first place.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, the latest entry in the franchise, provided an extra challenge. While most titles take place in the modern day, the new game jumps back in time to near the end of the 19th century and features characters and plotlines connected to both Meiji-era Japan and Victorian England. “I think the more difficult parts of this game’s localization lie in the way the historical context compounds the cross-cultural issues,” says localization director Janet Hsu. Against this backdrop, there’s a new lead character, Ryunosuke Naruhodo who replaces mainstay Phoenix Wright, and stories full of death, surprise, and all kinds of wonderfully terrible puns.

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The game — which is actually a collection of two titles that released in Japan in 2015 and 2017 — is only finally coming out for English-speaking audiences this week. Ahead of launch, I had the chance to ask Hsu a few questions about dealing with regional differences, keeping the story accessible, and the challenges of text versus voice acting.

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