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On Steam Releases of Visual Novels, or Why I Hate MangaGamer

Steam had a long history of shunning visual novels, until one day they pissed off the wrong crowd; and so we now have wonderful Southeast Asian shovelwares scripted in XML, and a diverse array of Western Ren'py pretentiousness. But of course, these are only a side effect. Let's have a look into the most common reasons you should not buy visual novels on Steam, nor from any Western store.


Common Practices of Localization

The common man just wants to play what he plays. He buys or otherwise obtains things from the first place he runs across, but that first place is now almost always Steam. However, Steam ports of novels are often nothing like their original counterparts. Inaccurate and subversive translations, badly-approximated engine ports, unwanted graphical overhauls, and most importantly, removed content are things you can regularly expect.
In contrast, fan-translators do their work out of a labor of love; there would almost never be a "lazy" Western fan-translation. Were they not conscientious about their work, they wouldn't have done it at all.
And what of the high-profile publishers? Money. Demand. More money. When you're not the #1 fan of the work you're translating, surely it would be fine to cut corners here and there. Surely, no one would mind if you leave out non-essential content. If it takes effort to get the rights to something in the game, why even bother? Leave it out. Make the game look the way you and your superiors want it, and not the way that suits it best and is true to the source. Change the dialogue to say what you think it should say. Push your agenda. Modernize. Ugly art? Commission it to be redrawn. Low-bitrate music? Replace it altogether! The people should thank you! You're doing them a favor, riiiiiight?!


SekaiProject

You can skip this part and go straight to the MangaGamer slander. Seriously.

Undoubtedly the most relevant localizer of novels these days, SekaiProject has brought you Steam releases of Clannad, Planetarian, Narcissu 1st and 2nd, Muv-Luv, Nekopara, and... the entire Sakura cock tease series. Admittedly, SekaiProject is a good group, and their releases seem fine, although do be warned that the Steam version of Narcissu lacks Haeleth's British English translation of the first novel. Insani (gp32) and Haeleth had collaborated to make two separate English translations for the Voiced and Unvoiced versions of the novel, respectively. Author Tomo Kataoka wanted bring two different experiences in the two versions, and the translators took that a step further. Agilis removed Haeleth's translation (Unvoiced comparison 1, Comparison 2) for the Steam release of his Narcissu 1st and 2nd compilation, as Haeleth has been missing from the internet for over a decade and no permission can be given. There is a non-Steam version of the compilation, but most importantly, you can still get the original Insani/Haeleth ONScripter-EN release of the first novel from their site. Agilis' Narcissu 1st and 2nd compilation is a port of both novels to PONScripter, which has a larger RAM footprint. Basically, the Steam release of Narcissu consists of fan-translations, the compilation is fanmade, its non-Steam version is fine... but, the Steam version is still inferior. Besides, Narcissu is free even on Steam; there is no reason to download it from there.
(Also note that the Steam version of Muv-Luv removed the text boxes and one music track, though otherwise it's a good and faithful remake.)


MangaGamer

And here we are, having arrived at the main focus of this article, on the Great Satan of visual novel localization.
MangaGamer was founded as an eroge localization company, starting out in the late 2000s with atrocious translations from non-native English speakers. And for some God-forsaken reason, they got the rights to Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni and have been handling official 07th Expansion English releases ever since.

One Attempt at Higurashi

Let's look at the FUNK:

  • Borderline unreadable translation; mistakes in nearly every single page, highly questionable translation practices.
  • Entire soundtrack replaced by cheap, clumsy, short, occasionally unfitting tracks by Dai and some other artists; all sound effects replaced with annoying and/or generic ones.
  • Almost all omake content removed: no minigames, no staff room, no music room.
  • Ported to Buriko's General Interpreter; runs bad, contains many porting mistakes, missing visual effects, only runs on Windows, renders text like ass.
  • If you patch the original sound and music back in, half the sound effects will cause the engine to crash.
  • Higurashi arcs 1-8 were translated and released in a bit over one year. There was no quality control whatsoever.

The missing soundtrack is particularly unforgivable, comparing to the French translator of Higurashi (one man!) going so far as to get the licenses to all of the music, re-rip the severely-clipped MIDI tracks by himself, and include the minigames; not to mention translating the ENTIRE game by himself, in PONScripter (which was needed for French text). This is the greatest example of fans always going above and beyond, and companies falling short.

Two Attempts at Higurashi

Yes thank you MangaGamer please fix your mistakes thanks for the Steam release oh no oh God no you're making it worse again ah SHIT

  • Liberal translation; appears to be a simple recheck of the old one. Many things are incorrect that were correct in the old version. Many things are still incorrect. Incorrect name rendering apparently stolen from Uncle Mion's translation. Random changes made at will; would expect political agendas having been smuggled in.
  • Almost entire soundtrack replaced again by Dai (FUCK YOU), some random crappy tracks, and clipped MIDIs have been re-ripped with weak synth. Many sound effects replaced, terribly so.
  • All omake content that was missing in the old version is STILL missing. Now with the added inability to view tips across all the chapters, since each of these chapters are separate releases.
  • Ported to 3D game engine Unity; still using the script from the crappy BGI version. Many visual effects still missing. Ugly text rendering. Heavily blurred image assets. Refuses to scale correctly. Eats a LOT of CPU.
  • Most people don't know that the music was replaced, so few are using original sound mods.
  • These releases have been in the works since 2015; they're STILL not finished, while making practically no improvements. Chapter 7 was only recently released as of the time of writing.
  • MangaGamer commissioned redrawn sprites, and they were so ugly that everyone died. So, they commissioned them again. And they're still fucking hideous.

Something notable is that these new MangaGamer releases are called Higurashi When They Cry Hou, but they're not related to Hou at all. The real Higurashi Hou from 07th Expansion runs on NScripter, features new graphical save menus from Umineko, contains original sprites with some added new ones drawn by Ryukishi07 in his original style, and includes new arcs with new characters also drawn in the orignal style. But the West never got a real translation of that. Now and forever, Death to MangaGamer.

The Umineko Botching Project

Of course, all of your favorite visual novels have to be licensed and sold in the West. They have to be remade. You have to pay for them. Pay us for them.

  • Merely copies the Witch Hunt fan-translation. Good translation, though.
  • Ported to PONScripter. Less compatibility. Absolutely decimates your CPU. Somehow uglier text.
  • Animated rain effects are gone; butterfly effects are changed.
  • A community is dedicated to modding all these crappy releases, but I digress.
  • New, HD sprites are included from the Umineko pachinko game. They look like mortal horror, they're selected by default, and where some sprites are missing it falls back on original sprites. (Battler is brown now, by the way.)

Don't buy from MangaGamer. Really, just don't.

Parting remarks

Thanks to 07th Expansion and only that, MangaGamer is recognized as a legitimate localization company. Until recently, you could not even go on their website without being bombarded by literal porn, and we're supposed to take these kikes seriously and give them money for the one good franchise they ever touched. By the way, Ciconia no Naku Koro Ni is being handled by MangaGamer. Runs in PONScripter. Higurashi Rei has been confirmed to be in the works. A certain someone on Twitter is trying to get them to rerelease Higanbana. Random retards have been requesting they localize Fate stay/night and Mahoutsukai no Yoru. Please, the lot of you, fall into Hell.



(9/5/19)