When your favorite game receives a localization you're not happy with, should you still support it?
“YESSS!” you exclaim. After years of hoping, wishing, begging, one of your favorite series has finally, FINALLY been licensed. You stalk the Internet for news. You preordered the release. And now, after years of waiting, you hold it in your hands. You open the package to begin reliving the magic.
Then it happens.
That huge grin you’ve been wearing on your face slowly starts slipping. Your eye starts twitching. By the end, you are thoroughly upset.
The much anticipated title recieved a subpar release.
The “Buy Buy Buy” Dilemma
One recurring theme from this column seems to be “buy it!” You love it? Buy it! You want similar titles? See the series find success? Viewed it through less-than-legal means? Buy, buy, buy!
I’ve also talked about ways to show your support without breaking the bank. But what should you do when you are torn between the licensor and the series? When a company just completely drops the proverbial ball on a product? That their primary focus seemed to be just to get the product out with the least amount of effort? Or, like in the current case of the latest Fire Emblem games, the publisher removes content?
Modern anime, manga, and video game fans outside of Japan have more options than ever. There’s streaming, rental services, and tons of review sites. Occasionally, however, there’s the bad release. If it’s a series you never really heard of or cared about, you’ll probably just scratch it off your list for consideration.
But what if you were already a fan? Do you accept the weak product, or do you reject it?
A Personal Example
Years ago, I found out that NIS America was bringing over Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure for Nintendo DS, an enhanced port of a PlayStation game released by Atlus in the U.S. The official site boasted about the game’s changes and the new bonus chapter. NIS America’s Disgaea DS was also due out the same day. Their official store was offering three exclusive packages: Rhapsody with a bonus CD, Disgaea with a Prinny stylus, and a dual package with both games, both bonuses, and a figure. I was torn on buying just Rhapsody or both games. I already had the PSP version of Disagea which I still hadn’t played, and shipping was a little high. I already owned (and had played) Rhapsody on PS1, but I was looking forward to revisiting the story and experiencing the new content.
Shortly before release, I decided to splurge on the deluxe package, which was still available to order. Well, things got off to a bad start when the company announced they had run out of the CD, but no worries! They were “kind” enough to actually take a black marker and cross out the item on the receipt. No apology in the package, and no compensation for it being out of stock. The only excuse was, “We sold out. You should have ordered it before we ran out.” Well, they were the ones to list the game with all three bonus items and the ones who took my money. I should have returned it, but I was worried about paying for return shipping.
I should also mention Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure for PS1 had both English and Japanese versions of the songs, and many fans liked the English versions. Many people were disappointed to learn the English audio would not be included due to the new content in the port.
Things only got worse when reports of glitches started emerging. I was fortunate enough to escape the game-freezing ones, but many people were frustrated. In addition, the text was literally cut and pasted from PlayStation version from Atlus, typos and all. NIS America didn’t even bother to remove the credits for the English voices that were no longer present!
But then the piece de resistance: no one could access the new scenario. A representative from NIS America insisted it was translated and would look into the issue, and some reviewers with early access copies claimed to have seen the extra chapters. After several weeks, NIS America released a statement that basically said, “Well, we just copied the Japanese site. Oops. Just be grateful you got it at all.”
Yeah, I was upset.
What are the Options?
So, in the opening or in my example, what would you do?
Perhaps two of the most common knee-jerk reactions are to protest and boycott. Others may roll their eyes but still buy future releases. Still others may just be grateful to have a legit copy, low quality or not.
I’ve already discussed the importance of supporting creators. For some people, they may choose to bite the bullet and still buy it. It’s certainly a viable — and significant — option. If you don’t want to feel like you are “rewarding” the publisher, borrow or rent a copy. While companies still get some sort of compensation, you are still giving some support without investing a lot of money. Go to a library or a rental/streaming service.
Let’s move on to protesting. While the Internet has a reputation for being outraged over minor things, there’s no doubt that fans have helped drive many positive changes. I do not think protesting should be the first step. I think it should be more of a progression. Start with contacting the company. Explain what issues you have with their release. Detail the problems you have and provide examples. Raise awareness about the release, and encourage others who bought and/or were intending to buy it to do the same. There’s no need to be rude and demanding, but state your case. Be firm and factual. If the company doesn’t acknowledge the issues, then further action should be considered. Many people will still buy the releases, some with little complaint, others full of them. You may want to wait for reviews on any upcoming volumes.
Now, boycotting. This isn’t an easy decision to make. Ultimately, you have to balance whether any perceived sleights against you and the fandom in general is worth risking the series — or even the company — going under. In my earlier example with Rhapsody, this is pretty much the action I took. I have occasionally picked up a few NIS America titles when their games have been marked significantly down. Even though they have changed their online store, I haven’t ordered anything from them directly, and I really don’t have any desire to. I reached out, got a very unsatisfying response, and felt like the fandom was deemed unimportant. After that, I pretty much put the publisher on my own ignore list. I spend my money on other games.
There is also another option to consider. I recently saw a post on Twitter about a fan who was upset with the way a company was treating her country’s fans. So what did she do? She bought the original Japanese DVDs, which definitely cost more than the buy the North American releases. Many people would just see her reasoning as an excuse to pirate; she backed up her views while still supporting her favorite fandom. For anime and manga, obviously, the first option is to buy the Japanese version. If you can’t read Japanese, then look for another country’s release. Romance languages like French and Spanish are much easier for an English speaker to grasp due to their popularity, loan words, and similar grammar. Quite a few anime and manga titles can be found in one of these languages.
What Not to Do
Don’t overreact. No two translations are alike. There will be differences. Know when to fight your battles. Balance the cost of the release versus the quality. A $200 release billed as a collector’s edition should look and feel more impressive than a $20 budget release. Some things the company may have been forced to change. If so, the company should, on a matter of good faith, disclose these changes well in advance and explain why.
Don’t harass fans and employees. If someone enjoys the release, don’t try to guilt them by saying, “Well, you don’t know how good it really is!” or hijack every thread by posting, “Well, I don’t buy from company so-and-so!” You also can be upset at certain companies or workers without engaging in the online equivalents of shouting matches. Post your opinions when appropriate, and post them in a factual way. “I’m wary of releases after the x debacle…” is less obnoxious than “COMPANY SUX!! THEY RUINED X!” In my own example, I was upset, but I didn’t make it my mission to see them go bankrupt. I said my piece and shared my opinion. Do the same. Post your thoughts without being obnoxious.
Don’t use scanlations and fansubs as an excuse. Again, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: creators and companies don’t get any financial benefit from these, and if you’re a fan, you should be finding ways to support series you are a fan of. I personally have releases where I despise the official English versions and think fan versions are better. I bought them, but I do wish I had just bought the original Japanese versions over the subpar English release.
Unfortunately, some products are licensed and not given the treatment they deserve. It is incredibly frustrating and disappointing to fans, and the lackluster release may also turn off potential newcomers. Hopefully, companies take steps to correct their mistakes, but if they don’t? It’s a tough decision, but I would still urge you to find ways to support the original creators if you are a fan of the series. You should feel free to express your displeasure to the publishers, but just don’t annoy or badger others during your quest.
What do you do when something you’re interested in gets a bad release?