Game Translations
or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Rom
Posted by:
Date: April 01, 2008

Being that it is the site's birthday (at the date of this posting), I figured some new content should be posted. This is what came to mind, a feature article on game translations. Many people aren't aware of game translations, how to use them, and where to find them so the idea is to introduce you all. The article is split up into 4 parts:

Part I: What are game translations?
This is an overview of what game translations are and how they work (in easily understandable terms, the technical stuff is a real mess to figure out)

Part II: What does one need to use patches?
This details what software and files you need to use a translation patch and how to use them.

Part III: Where can I find patches?
This section provides a links on where to find news on translation patches and some of the more well known translation groups.

Part IV: What are some of the more popular translations?
This is just a quick look at some of the more popular game translations out there in the chance you didn't know the translation existed or had never heard of the games.

Read on to experience our whirlwind tour of the wonderful world of game translations.

Part I: What are Game Translations?

So what exactly is a game translation? Well, in the simplest terms it's the conversion of one language to another of the text in a game. You know how all those great games come out in Japan and are announced to come to the US but take a while? That's because the companies have to translate the games from Japanese to English (which is what most game translations are made to do).
Most game translations are the culmination of many hours of work on the part of any number of people. Usually, there will be more than one person involved with at least one person who knows the languages to translate the text and another who knows how to hack (in other words, edit) a game. Since games usually come in the form of a rom file (which is the data of a game cartridge extracted into one file), these people are called rom hackers.
The creation of a patch is not as simple as editing text though. Rom hackers must spend time finding the text data in a rom file then discovering how to extract it. Then the translator must spend a great deal of time translating the text from the original language into the language they want. The work's not over yet though. Now the script (all the text) must be proofread and made so that it'll make sense to a person playing the game. Next the rom hacker must insert the translated text back into the rom. Finally, the translated game must be tested for any problems which the rom hacker must figure out how to fix. It wouldn't be good to have a translated game that nobody could play because it crashed.
The entire process of creating a patch can take anywhere from days and weeks to years. There's a lot of work involved in creating a patch. The amazing part about all this is that these people do this work for free. They put in the hard time and effort to make a patch that anybody may freely acquire and use.
Translation patches are available for a variety of games on a variety of systems (anything from NES games even up to more modern PSX and PC games). They are also available in a wide selection of languages such as french, russian, spanish, and the language most patches are made in, english.
Now that you know a little something about patches, let's find out what you need to use them.

Part II: What does one need to use patches?

What you need to use a patch depends on the patch in question. We'll use an SNES translation patch as an example.
First of all, you'll need the patch file (where to find patches is covered in part III of this little article). Most patch files will be compressed into a file (with an extension such as .zip or .rar) for smaller size and easier distribution. So you'll need a program like winzip to decompress them. The actual patch file will usually have a file extension of .ips . However, you may find that playstation patches have a file extension of .ppf instead. For our SNES translation patch example, it'll be filename.ips .
Ok, you now have the patch of the game you want to translate. Next you need to find the rom file (or in the case of playstation games, you'll need to find the iso, aka cd image, file). I'll not tell you specific places to find rom files, but the best place to start would be Google. In our example, you'd go to Google and try searching for something like 'SNES roms'.
Now, you'll need an Emulator. Emulators are programs that emulate (in other words mimic or copy) the actual game system. This allows you to run these rom files on your computer. A good place to look for emulators is Zophar's Domain. Back to our example, we'd go to Zophar's and find an SNES emulator for our computer (let's say Windows). Popular windows SNES emulators are ZSNES and Snes9x.
It's now time to run the game. Our SNES translation example is unique in that emulators can provide patching of a rom as you play. So in order to play the translated game, you'd put the patch (filename.ips) and the rom (filename.smc usually) in the same folder. You'd also make sure that the filenames are the same. You would then load the emulator, select the game in the emulator menu, and run the game. It should run the game in english (or the language of your translation).
However, most emulators can't do this type of "real-time" patching as you play. For those that don't, you'll need to get a program such as SNESTool. This will allow you to manually apply the patch to the rom. Then you would only need to run the rom file in its' respective emulator. Also note that SNESTool only works for .ips patches. For playstation patches (.ppf files), you'll need to use a program like PPF-O-Matic to apply the patch to a playstation cd-image.
That covers the basic idea of using a patch. Be sure to read the "readme.txt" files that usually come with patches. They will cover details of the patch (including anything special you may need to do to get the game to run) as well as list any issues the game might have. By reading the readme.txt file, it'll save both you and the people who made the patch time as you won't need to ask questions that are already answered in the file.
Some might be saying, "I'm eager to try out some translations. Where do I find some of these amazing patches so I can get playing?" Time to move on to part III of this article and find out.

Part III: Where can I find patches?

Of course, one can't play a translated game without the translation patch. So this section will give you links to find patches. The first obvious place to find translation patches is by searching on Google, but to save time and effort, see below.
Emulation news sites are a good source for finding translation patches. Such sites include:
Getting more specific, you can go directly to Translation News sites. These sites are limited in number and specialize in translation news.
Finally, you can go straight to the source (the websites of the actual translation groups). Listed here are just a sampling of the many groups out there.
Now you have a collection of sites you can go and look for patches at. Overwhelmed by the number of patches out there? Need some suggestions on patches to give a try? Step on over to the final part of the article for some ideas.

Part IV: What are some of the more popular translations?

So here we are. There's a large number of translation patches out there, but what should you try? There's a large number of great games that have been translated. In this small space, I'll just mention a few of them worth playing to get you started. Once you've tried these out, head on over to some of the sites mentioned in Part III to find yet more great translations to play.

Chaos World (NES) - Translated by: AGTP
Chaos World is a little known NES RPG that has a variety of great features. It has 14 playable chracters, an adventurer's guild, and day/night cycles.

Final Fantasy III (NES) - Translated by: Neill Corlett, SOM2Freak, and Alex Jackson
If you haven't heard of Final Fantasy before, then there's a problem. Final Fantasy 3 for the NES is the only game in the series to not have an official release in the US by Square. One day we may get it, but for the time being you can play it in english with the excellently done translation.

Chronicle of the Radia War (NES) - Translated by: Jair
The game is an action RPG of sorts. As you play, you can acquire up to 4 other characters to fight in battles with you. It also has one of the best stories I've seen in an NES RPG.

Sylvan Tale (GameGear) - Translated by: AGTP
Sylvan Tale is an excellent action RPG made for the gamegear. It has an intriguing story and plays much like Zelda except you get a bunch of special abilities.

Bahamut Lagoon (SNES) - Translated by: DeJap
If you're a strategy RPG buff, then this game is for you. One of Square's games that never got released in English, this game features great gameplay, superb graphics, and good music. Give it a try.

Dragon Quest V (SNES) - Translated by: DeJap
Back in the days of the NES, people knew of the series known as Dragon Warrior. Four games were released on the NES, but no sight of the games existed afterwards until Dragon Warrior 7 on the PSX. So what happened to 5 and 6? They were released on the SNES but never crossed the ocean. Thanks to the people at DeJap, #5 (Dragon Quest 5) has been translated.

Front Mission (SNES) - Translated by: Front Mission Translation Project
Front Mission by Squaresoft is a series of games that use the strategy RPG formula but involve modern times and mechanized combat vehicles known as Wanzers. The game that started the series out has been translated thanks to the Front Mission Translation Project.

Gundam Wing: Endless Duel (SNES) - Translated by: AGTP
Those who enjoy anime most likely know something about the Gundam shows. Gundam Wing is one of the more popular ones of which this mech combat game is based off of. This I consider to be the best Gundam based fighting game around.

Radical Dreamers (SNES) - Translated by: Neo Demiforce
This game is basically a visual novel by Square. What makes this game so interesting to people? Well, it's a spinoff of Chrono Trigger and is the game that Chrono Cross was based on. A number of the characters in Chrono Cross made their first appearances in this title.

Seiken Densetsu 3 (SNES) - Translated by: Neill Corlett
Secret of Mana is considered by many people one of the best games made for the SNES console. Seiken Densetsu 3 is the next title in the series and is the successor to Secret of Mana, keeping the action RPG style people have come to love.

Tales of Phantasia (SNES) - Translated by: DeJap
Tales of Phantasia has acquired a bit of a cult-following. It's unique battle style mixed with great music, graphics, and story, has made it a time-honored classic. Unfortunately, it hasn't been released in the US (though two of its' sequels - Tales of Destiny 1-2 have).

So there's just a few of the many games you can give a try. Other good ones that come to mind include Star Ocean (SNES), Monstania (SNES), and Treasure of the Rudras (SNES). Look around and you'll find a number of fun games you'll enjoy.


That concludes our quick tour of the world of fan game translations. I've given you an idea of what they are, how to use them, and where to find them. I'm sure you can find at least a few games that you will enjoy. Be sure to let the rom hackers and translators know you appreciate their hard work and thank them for making the patch. But please, do NOT bug them about where to find roms or when patches will come out. They hate that stuff. Just be curteous and patient, they deserve it.
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Originally Posted 4/26/04
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