Fan Translation

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A phenomenon that goes hand-in-hand with Emulation, Fan Translation (or “Fanlation”) is pretty much what it says: The translation of games that only appeared in other languages (almost always Japanese) into the player's native language (almost always English) as a fanmade Game Mod or ROM Hack.

This most often occurs on Japanese RPGs that were released prior to Final Fantasy VII. Before that game's breakout success, American publishers shied away from Japanese RPGs because of their relatively poor sales compared to action games. In fact, the fan translation hobby largely began from the efforts to localize Final Fantasy V and Seiken Densetsu 3, Square Enix games that were heavily hyped as coming to the US, then mysteriously canceled.

Licensed games can also receive this treatment. Often, it takes years before an Anime series is brought over and becomes popular in the West, and the Japanese games based off that series are now obsolete in the eyes of the distributors.

While no legal dispute over a fanmade patcher has ever occurred, a handful of cease and desist orders have been issued regardless of any actual validity. Since ROM patchers contain no assets from the original game and no derived assets that are viable without it, no likely basis for arguing infringement is known. The resulting translated ROMs themselves, of course, fall under the same rules as any other ROM dump if distributed.

Plus, No Export for You already garners enough bad PR, exacerbating it among fans would definitely not be a good idea.

See also Fansubs for the Anime version and Scanlations for the manga version.

Examples of Fan Translation include:


Literature[edit | hide | hide all]


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Digital Devil Story, the original source material for the Mega Ten video game series, was translated by a fan. Well, the first two novels were, anyway.
  • Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was fan-translated many years before an official translation appeared as an Embedded Precursor game in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
  • Final Fantasy V, which was eventually officially released on the PlayStation and Game Boy Advance.
  • Similarly, Final Fantasy III. The eventual English version for DS was heavily "reimagined"; it's likely that the fan translations will remain the only way to play the original game in English.
  • Seiken Densetsu 3.
  • Fire Emblem: Sword of Seals and Fire Emblem: Genealogy Of The Holy War are both mostly translated.
    • Also Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, the SNES remake/sequel to the original Fire Emblem.
    • As well as Fire Emblem Gaiden.
  • Dragon Quest V and VI. V and VI have finally been remade on the DS.
  • Sailor Moon: Another Story, the Sailor Moon RPG.
  • Tenchi Muyo! Game-Hen, the Tenchi Muyo strategy RPG.
  • Super Robot Wars 3 and Alpha Gaiden by Aeon Genesis, with Alpha hopefully coming soon.
  • Super Robot Wars Judgment was released by The Romhacking Aerie right after Christmas 2010.
  • DeJap's translation of Tales of Phantasia is beloved by some fans of the game. There was a mini-controversy in 2005 regarding Nintendo's official translation due to the fact that some of the character's names were changed (e.g. Cless Alvein -> Cress Albane) and some of the adult dialogue was supposedly toned down. However, this was a case of Misblamed, as a lot of it was actually added in to the fan translation.
    • Interestingly, despite their loyal fanbase, DeJap is absolutely awful in terms of fidelity to the Japanese. One needs only to look at the Tales of Phantasia tech list to see an example, to say nothing of DeJap surgically extracting subtlety from certain scenes in the name of humor.
    • However, the Nintendo translation had its own set of issues. One particularly notable error could only be gleaned from Microsoft Word's spellcheck program; at a certain bit of backstory, the Norse Apocalypse Ragnarok was mistranslated as "Kangaroo", turning the entire scene into somewhat of a Narm. For those who are interested in a third option, there is now a relatively faithful Fan Translation of the PSX version of Tales of Phantasia online which remedies a large number of problems with both translations.
    • Recently, Absolute Zero released a full translation patch for Tales of Innocence - the first full translation of a Tales game not called "Tales of Phantasia".
    • While we're at Tales, at least one very popular fan translation of one of the series' games is active right now - Kajitani-Eizan's Tales of Hearts' translation. There is also a years-old project translation of Tales of Destiny 2 by Phantasian Productions, but it seems to be suffering from lack of active staff to work on it. It is still active, though.
    • DeJap was also responsible for English-speaking audiences being able to play the original Star Ocean (at least, until the 2009 remake) and Bahamut Lagoon.
    • And other fine folks are translating Vesperia PS3 too!
  • While many of Square/Enix's older Japan-only RPGs have been receiving red carpet Updated Rereleases thanks to retro platforms like cellphones and the GBA, Live a Live seems to have slipped off the radar, but for an excellent fan translation ROM patch. Over the years, some of their older titles were also translated or even re-translated, though this practice died out around the time Square starting up on their remake kick.
    • The Famicom versions of Enix's early Adventure Games The Portopia Serial Murder Case and JESUS have been fan translated into English.
  • L.A. Noire has also been subject to fan translation - a team of hackers from Xentax and elsewhere came up with their own Czech translation of the game in 2011.
  • The Front Mission Series Translation Team have released a complete fan translation of Front Mission 5, which never made it outside of Japan. They are currently working on fan translations for Front Mission 2 and Alternative. Likewise, they are also covering other Front Mission media, having just completed translating the Gun Hazard radio drama series. You can learn more here.
  • The translation group Aeon Genesis has released 70 finished game translations (including indie games Cave Story, La-Mulana and Warning Forever) as of this entry, and currently have 37 more in various stages of progress.
  • Fallout 2 is currently being translated to Brazilian Portuguese since 2004, and while there is no release date, it's quite certain that it's in a very advanced state.
  • Wonder Project J, a Pinocchio-inspired raising sim (and a rare male one!) was fan translated in 2001. Almost six years later, a much-anticipated patch for the N64 sequel, Wonder Project J2 was finally released.
  • The Super NES Famicom Detective Club remake, which had many people curious because one of the lead characters, Ayumi Tachibana, was a trophy in Smash Bros. Melee. Rather notable is that it was an early fan translation project by Tomato, one of the translators who handled MOTHER 3.
  • Remember Persona 2 and how Executive Meddling kept one-half of the two-game series in Japan? October 2008 finally saw the fan translation of the missing half, Innocent Sin.
    • As of this writing, the same group responsable for Innocent Sin (Really, it's just a translating duo) is nearly finished with Soul Hackers. No word as to if they'll do the same for Devil Summoner.
  • There is a fan translation hack of Pokémon Green. The spelling and grammar however, left much to be desired.
    • Of course, there's no point in playing Green, since the only difference is Pokémon encounter rates, etc.; the Bonus Dungeon map used in the international Red and Blue was pulled from Green anyway. There's also the point of the bad translation job, which falls into "why bother", as the script is almost entirely the same as the good No A translation that could be copied (Only conversations dealing with in-game trades, that are not for the same thing, are changed).
      • Green is sprited differently. For example, Oak's lab, and the Pokemon, such as Mew.
        • Poor quality translations appearing a few months before English releases is practically a staple of Pokemon games. Especially during a new Generation. For reference, a new main series game comes out in September in Japan. It will come out in March, April, or May of the next year in America, depending on the amount of new terms to translate, and over the summer everywhere else.
          • However, some members of Project Pokemon made a superb, 98% complete translation of Pokémon Black and White before it was released.
  • Touhou Project fans have to rely on Fan Translation because of ZUN's reluctancy on licensing the series to the West.
    • In fairness, Touhou's not licensed to any publishers in Japan either; it's independently produced.
  • Another game with controversy over the fan translation is Phantasy Star Gaiden, which mistranslates the revelation that Minima is a clone of Alis.
  • Radical Dreamers, the other sequel to Chrono Trigger.
    • Also, there are a French and a German Fan Translation based on the English one.
  • Treasure of the Rudra and Treasure Hunter G, two underappreciated Square Enix offerings. The entire magic system had to be reworked for the translation, since it was originally based on Japanese words.
  • Aroduc is a one man Battle Moon Wars translating machine.
  • Bare Knuckle III, the Japanese version of Streets of Rage 3, was fan-translated in response to the unnecessary changes to the American version.
  • Final Fantasy IV is a similar case. It already had an official American release known as Final Fantasy II (no relation), but differences between the American and Japanese versions as well as a Porting Disaster on the PlayStation prompted for a fan translation.
  • The original Parodius for MSX was translated by Takamichi Suzukawa, who was also responsible for the Metal Gear 2 translation mentioned above. Interestingly, he chose to render Vic Viper's name as "Big Viper" because, as the author reasons, its name was always romanized as "biggu baipaa" rather than "bikku baipaa".
  • A translation patch for Policenauts, an early Hideo Kojima adventure game which has managed to elude export for almost 15 years, has just recently seen the light of day, and has already been dubbed by some gaming news sources as the most important Fan Translation ever produced.
  • Lately, news of a practically completed english patch for the Final Fantasy XII Zodiac Job System have surfaced.
  • Namco X Capcom received a fan translation as well (via PPF patch) since the game was never released outside of Japan.
  • Due to the cancellation of the US and European releases of the game, Fatal Frame 4 is only available in Japan, however a group released a patch that runs off of the SD card on the Wii, instead of patching the game (since the developers stated that they don't want to promote piracy). Though people have figured out how to do it anyways using their files.
  • In the early '90s, Russian and Ukrainian programmers translated games to Russian (before you ask, there was no widespread Ukrainian font at the time), some notables are: Dune II, The Legend of Kyrandia series, Lands of Lore: Throne of Chaos, X-COM: Ufo Defense, Heroes Of Might And Magic 2 and others.
    • This is reciprocated today by western fans translating much of the burgeoning Eastern European game industry's niche genre output.
  • The DS game Soma Bringer, currently in No Export for You hell.
    • Another game which had been dropped by No A despite being late in development, ASH Archaic Sealed Hut, from Mistwalker, had a partial fan-translation leaked by a beta-tester of said fan-project, which has been drropped.
  • A fan translation of the first Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side game for the Nintendo DS was worked on during 2010, and a full, bug-free patch was released during December 2010. It was the first fan translation effort which succeeded in translating anything past the first screens of any Tokimeki Memorial game. In May 2011, a complete TMGS2 patch was released, and translation patches for the PSP and the DS versions of TMGS3 were released in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
  • White Gold: War in Paradise and The Precursors by the developers of Boiling Point: Road to Hell were only released in Eastern Europe, but fans have released an English translation patch in Deep Shadow's official English forums. However, The Precursors had already been translated to English by the developers, and the patch merely unlocks it.
  • StarCraft: Brood War, had a fan-made Hungarian patch. The Hungarian version of Starcraft eventually took a different direction from the official Starcraft lore, with it's own expansion pack/GameMod, Huncraft-Genocide. Both are available for free download, in accordance with Blizzard's policies.
    • The same team also created a translation for Warcraft 3.
  • Romhack Hispano is a notable portal for fan translation groups striving to translate games into Spanish.
  • Mother 3, a victim of Troubled Production in its original Nintendo 64DD incarnation from a series chronically Screwed by the Network, itself loaded with Suspiciously Similar Song versions and other material saddled by numerous licensing issues, released brand new on a dead platform: a perfect storm of commercial infeasibility. Faced with this situation, a group of translators spearheaded by Clyde "Tomato" Mandelin coalesced around STARMEN.net, the series' major fansite, including a number of professionals from the game industry itself. The result, released on October 2008, is one of the most widely heralded fan translations ever and has received praise from members of the game development community.
  • There is a Hungarian translation on Unreal Tournament floating somewhere around the internet. Unlike most fan projects, this one actually has an excellent quality dub, laced with Double Entendres and Hungarian puns.
  • SaGa 2, the Nintendo DS Video Game Remake.
  • Master of Orion 3 got a German Fan Translation.
  • The SNES version of Breath of Fire II got a fan retranslation for at least in German and English replacing the Blind Idiot Translation.
  • Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru (For the Frog the Bell Tolls), the Japan-only Game Boy adventure/platforming game which is the Spiritual Predecessor of Link's Awakening received a fantranslation in 2011.
  • SD Snatcher was the first MSX game to get this treatment, being translated by Dutch fans in 1993.
  • Dragon Slayer Jr.: Romancia has fan translations for both the NES and MSX versions.
  • Final Fantasy VI was retranslated by a group called RPG One, but better known for one of the team member's screen names, Sky Render. This version was a literal translation, and was divisive.
  • The group TLWiki started translation work on Love Plus. It was picked up by Jjjewel and members of the Gbatemp forum some time later. As of January 2012, the translation project is considered complete.
  • A fan translation group called Dakkodango translated the original Windows version of Tears to Tiara in 2009.
  • In 2010, the same group translated a worksafe Windows version of Eien no Aselia. The next year, JAST licensed the game, and chose to work with the group in order to publish the official translation, which was released in November 2011.
  • Grandia Parallel Trippers got a translation patch in September 2011.
  • After Sengoku Rance got translated, more AliceSoft videogames have been receiving this treatment. As of now, the first two Rance games and Big Bang Age have been translated. The eight Rance game, Rance Quest, and Daiteikoku are currently in progress.
  • A group called Matt's Messy Room has translated a number of games, including a Slayers Super Nintendo game which predates the anime TV series, a Maison Ikkoku Licensed Game, and the PC-FX version of Welcome to Pia Carrot.
  • The '80s-to-'90s Glory of Heracles games were not localized when they were current. However, as January 2012, there are fan translation patches for the first three games in the series (two from the NES era, one of the SNES games), as well as a Gameboy spinoff called Snap Story.
  • RapeLay was never going to be released outside of Japan due to controversy over its content but there is a fan translation - albeit slightly buggy.
  • Magical Doropie has a fan translation that keeps the Ninja Gaiden style cutscenes of the Japanese version, which were removed in the American version and are generally considered the saving grace of an otherwise unoriginal game.
  • The translation patch for Valis for the NES was released along with a Game Mod intended to make it less frustrating to play.


Visual Novels[edit | hide]

  • There is a wiki that facilitates various translation projects for visual novels. Some of the fully translated novels include Little Busters!, G Senjou no Maou, Demonbane and Sharin no Kuni, and some of the patches for the Nitroplus games have even been turned into official releases, such as Saya no Uta. Other ongoing translations include Fate/hollow ataraxia and the Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai! Portable VN.
    • A patch for YU-NO was released on TLWiki in 2011; it goes beyond merely translating the game, adding the voice acting and other content from the Sega Saturn version and the FM soundtrack from the PC 98 version, and removing the awkward textual and visual censorship that had been inflicted on the Windows version.
  • Some Visual Novel makers allow patches to be made, since they require the original game; Why not broaden the potential audience? Some even encourage translators to do them.
    • However, between April and July 2010, several Japanese game companies sent cease and desist letters to fans striving to translate Porn with Plot visual novels. The fan translations of titles such as Yosuga no Sora and AIR were affected. Some of the translation projects ended, while others continued "underground" on /jp/.
    • Overflow, the company responsible for School Days, was a notable exception. It chose to endorse Sekai Project's translation efforts. This actually became licensed, with the fan translators becoming the official localization team.
    • After much drama and an unofficial release of Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two. on Bit Torrent, the fan translation group No Name Losers and the original company Minori decided to join forces. An official translation of Ef will be released by Mangagamer.
    • A fan translation of [[Starry Sky|Starry Sky in Spring]] was released by an anonymous group called Oge during December 2010. Fans wondered if the anonymous release was done in order to prevent a cease and desist request.
  • The original Higurashi no Naku Koro ni sound novels, the PC ones, are in the process of being fan-translated. However, the PC games have been released by Mangagamer as "Higurashi When They Cry". The licenser allows fan-translations though, though no one needs it now.
  • Narcissu, though this is acknowledged by the maker.
  • Kanon.
  • Mirror Moon has created translation patches (which still require the original Japanese game) for several games, like Fate/stay night, Utawarerumono, and Tsukihime, and is working on many more. There are even voice patches for the former two, which rip the audio from the PS2 version (that you have to provide, of course). Mirror Moon also helpfully provides links to distributors who will sell the games to you.
  • Sono Hanabira ni Kuchizuke wo is a Visual Novel series currently ten games strong. As of August 2011 the first five games are translated, with translations of at least two other games currently in progress.
  • Canvas 2 Niji-iro no Sketch received a fan translation in October 2010. (A manga based on Canvas 2 has an ongoing scanlation. A TV anime based on the original Porn with Plot Visual Novel was fansubbed, and later released on Crunchyroll.)
  • Between 2005 and 2008, a group known as Insani translated several demos of commercial visual novels, and several freeware/independent visual novels. (The demos made it clear that the full games had harem plots, and often adult content. However, the freeware VNs had no harem elements, and few of them contained offensive content.)
  • Amaterasu Translations has translated a number of visual novels, including CROSS†CHANNEL, Sekien no Inganock, Shikkoku no Sharnoth, Muv-Luv, and Muv-Luv Alternative.