As some of our readers may have noticed, I am a big fan of retro RPGs, especially those released for the SNES. As such, I often find myself in possession of a game that, quite frankly, I should never have been able to play. I am talking about games that were never released in North America, such as Terranigma, or never translated into English, such as the previously mentioned Rudra no Hihou.
I ought to pause here to mention that pirating games is legally and ethically not-so-very-awesome. However, as the games that I am referring to are not and have never been available for sale in North America, I think that we can be forgiven. I will spare you all the semantics of copyright law and what does and does not constitute loss of income for the copyright holders in these cases.
Legal and ethical dilemmas aside, these unofficial translations are often very enjoyable and well-done, often better than what an official import would offer. I would like to offer Final Fantasy V for your consideration in this regard, with the character of Faris being Exhibit A. In the unreleased translation available only as a ROM patch, Faris is fairly, well, normal. As normal as a cross-dressing female pirate can be, anyhow. The character is delightfully nuanced, and subtle enough that her unbelievable persona actually is believable. In the official release that came many years later in Final Fantasy Anthology, however, Faris transforms into an over-the-top reject from a bad 1960s pirate movie and is not at all relatable or endearing. Effigies of Ted Woolsey are still burning in some fans’ yards for that one.
The plain and simple truth is that the dedicated teams who work on these fan translations do it primarily out of love for the games and the sheer enjoyment of the process. They are under no deadlines, have no corporate taskmasters breathing down their necks, no ESRB to worry about, and so on. They can translate some of the more risque Japanese humor without fear of censorship, and unlike the corporate monkeys doing some of the official translations, they actually understand the genre they are working with. An example of this, we’ll call it Exhibit B is Bahamut Lagoon, particularly the character of Sendak. He is, to be blunt, a creepy, filthy old pervert. He is not too in-your-face about it, but make no mistake, he would have been butchered by an official localization team.
If by chance you are interested in fan translated games, I would highly recommend Bahamut Lagoon, Rudra no Hihou, Mother 3, Star Ocean 1 and Tales of Phantasia. Of course any measures that you can take to support the official developers and publishers of these titles is encouraged. As always if you have any recommendations, please leave them in the comments.