Gematsu sat down with ANONYMOUS;CODE localization producer Yu Namba at Game Developers Conference 2023 to discuss the latest entry in the Science Adventure series, with a focus on its localization and bringing the game to an English audience.
Get the full interview below.
You’re the localization producer on ANONYMOUS;CODE. Can you give us a little rundown of what your day-to-day work involves?
Yu Namba, Localization Producer: “For this particular project, we have contacted a translator who specifically caters towards the Science Adventure series since ANONYMOUS;CODE is the latest game in the series and has a decent amount of ties to the past titles—anywhere from small cameo appearances here and there, to some very important core concepts that were discussed in, let’s say, STEINS;GATE, that carries over to ANONYMOUS;CODE.
“So we wanted to keep the integrity of the terms and concepts from throughout the series. That’s why we reached out to this gentleman by the name of Andrew Hodgson, who also goes by the name of Steiner, who did the translation for STEINS;GATE. He tag teamed with an editor to provide us with localized text. And then on our end at Spike Chunsoft, myself and other editors went through the localized text to double check everything before we implemented it into the game itself and began English voice recording.”
This is the first game in the Science Adventure series that’s getting English voice acting. Is that correct?
Namba: “Yes. STEINS;GATE had an English dub for the anime, but I believe in terms of games, ANONYMOUS;CODE will be the very first to feature English voice-overs.”
So why now? What was the process like for selecting and working with the English voice actors?
Namba: “So I’m going to be totally honest with you. This was my very first time playing through a Science Adventure game from start to end. And I had a little bit of knowledge about previous titles in the series, but I didn’t play through or watch any in its entirety. That being said, I really, really enjoyed playing ANONYMOUS;CODE. I really liked the story, despite me not having that much knowledge from the past titles in the series. And that’s exactly what we’re aiming for with players. We want to both cater towards our existing fans—the hardcore Science Adventure fans—and expand the audience so that more people will learn about the Science Adventure series through ANONYMOUS;CODE. And we believe that adding English voice-overs will make the title much more accessible to the general audience.
“I know that there are people out there who prefer to play games in their most original, authentic form. And in visual novels, let’s say, text may be English, but they prefer to go through the game with Japanese audio. But at the same time, I think there are a lot of people out there who are a little bit intimidated by listening to a foreign language, voice-wise. So that’s why we wanted to add English voice-overs to this particular title. We thought it was a very good title as an entry point to the series.”
Going back to the Science Adventure series as a whole, it has such a large and dedicated fan base worldwide. You mentioned it being accessible to newcomers, because you’re a newcomer yourself. So how do you think ANONYMOUS;CODE is going to appeal to both long-time fans and to newcomers of the series? And where does it all fall into place within the context of the whole series?
Namba: “So, yeah, I can’t go too deep into the storyline because of spoilers. I mentioned just a little bit earlier that ANONYMOUS;CODE carries over a certain concept that was discussed in previous Science Adventure titles and expands upon it. So I think core fans will enjoy the kind of new and advanced things that will be discussed in ANONYMOUS;CODE.
“For the general audience: it takes place in the future, but not so far into the future. It has a lot of technology that’s fictional and introduced in this game, but not too far from what we have right now. Plus the game mainly takes place in Tokyo, Japan, as opposed to some foreign country or whatever. And we also have a lot of real-world topics like blockchain, virtual friends that you can create, or AI friends that you can make and customize yourself… I think all of those give the general audience the feeling that they’re going through a story almost like real life. So I’m hoping that will be the core point that entices the general audience to enjoy a story that they can relate to.
“The Science Adventure series has this motto of 99 percent science, one percent fantasy. As for the science part, there are a lot of things that have been talked about in past titles, and a lot of them in here also that gives more of that concrete basis that adds to that feeling of, ‘yeah, we’re experiencing this story in real life.'”
Speaking of some of those real world concepts that have been used to craft the story of ANONYMOUS;CODE…. can you speak to some of those concepts? There was the 2036 / 2038 Problem, the Arecibo message, living within a simulation… can you speak to how these concepts were all brought together to build the story?
Namba: “Have you seen the recent trailer already?”
Not the recent one, no.
Namba: “I see. In that trailer, they discussed this almost-internet celebrity called Cicada 3301—this person or group of people—which is more like an existence you’d see on 4chan… back in 2010 or so when they started posting these cryptic messages and challenges. In ANONYMOUS;CODE, they come back pretty early in the story and start challenging all the 4chaners and hackers again with these crazy quests. The protagonist, Pollon is a hacker, so there’ll be a lot of technology talk that he’ll be doing with his partners, and even the police, to deal with Cicada’s quests.
“You mentioned Arecibo message—I’m not going to touch that because of spoilers. But other things like… the kind of communication that airliners use: modern times versus how it’s going to be maybe 10 years from now. What’s the advantage of that? What’s the danger of that?
Those are some of the things that are discussed in the story.
“I mentioned blockchain earlier—the whole thing about cryptocurrency, values going up and down all over. How safe is it? How accessible is it? Do we really want to run our PCs 24/7 to mine those? Things like that. Whatever we hear pretty regularly, those topics are kind of weaved into the story.”
The Science Adventure series is known for its complexities and intricacies. How did you guys approach localizing this? Were there any aspects of the story that you found particularly challenging to convey to an English audience?
Namba: “I think the two things that we really wanted to be careful about were, first and foremost, the connection with the other Science Adventure titles. And then number two, all the facts—the real world facts that are referenced in the game.
“For the first, we heavily relied on the translator Andrew Hodgson to get that part as authentic as possible.
“For the second part, Google is your friend. I did a lot of searching and whatnot, looking through Wikipedia, different articles, making sure that whatever is discussed in the game is correctly represented. Especially numbers, proper names, etcetera. ”
Can you speak to how the game explores the boundary between the digital and the physical worlds?
Namba: “That is going to be a huge spoiler, so I can’t go too deep into that. But that being said, the majority of the world population in the 2030s, when the game takes place, has this interface—I guess a man-machine interface—called ‘BMI,’ which lets you connect to the internet, any kind of mass media really, without the need of any external peripheral.”
“Let’s say you’re chatting with somebody on video, you can see that person’s face in your vision without using glasses or goggles or anything. It’s basically hooked up into your brain and nervous system completely. If you had to do a quick search on something—let’s say, a certain idol group’s name—you can either think about it or use external devices like a small keyboard or something to type it up. But you can enter the search and then immediately see the result in your vision.”
“Let’s say, for AR—there are a bunch of different AR games out there, even now. Imagine playing those things as you actually see in that way… Imagine playing Pokemon Go and actually getting out your Pokemon in front of you without using your cell phone. That’s the kind of technology that the people in ANONYMOUS;CODE are very familiar with. That’s their day-to-day life.”
Were there any significant changes that had to be made to the script during the localization process?
Namba: “No. I can strongly say that nothing was censored text-wise or graphically in the U.S. and European release of ANONYMOUS;CODE.”
What do you hope that players take away from playing ANONYMOUS;CODE, and are there any specific moments or scenes in the game story that you’re particularly excited for players to experience?
Namba: “It would be super spoiler-ish for me to say… but I really would like for people to go through the game from start to end and cover everything that we have to offer. I think the finale is very exciting, touching, and also very relatable to everybody here in this world. I really look forward to getting people’s reactions after they get the game and play through it.”
Thank you so much for your time, Mr. Namba!
ANONYMOUS;CODE is due out for PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC via Steam on September 8 in North America and Europe. It is available now for PlayStation 4 and Switch in Japan.