Let’s talk about the Flowers demo

FLOWERS.(Innocent.Grey).full.1699536

JAST USA released the demo for the highly anticipated yuri visual novel Flowers -Le volume sur printemps- onto Steam, only to suffer immediate backlash for the unprofessional state of the English translation. Let’s take a closer look at what happened.

It was a big surprise when JAST announced Flowers back at Anime Expo in July, since Innocent Grey titles had previously been published in the West exclusively by MangaGamer (and they’ve done an excellent job with them, too). It was also originally scheduled for Fall 2015, but no one believed they’d make this deadline. They didn’t, and 2015 turned into 2016, then, after not hearing much about it for a while, the demo was released on February 25. There was actually little fanfare, so perhaps they were at least somewhat aware of the state it’s in. And what state is that? Let’s cut to the chase.

This demo is a mess. It is nowhere near the quality I would expect from a commercial release. This should be JAST’s flagship release to stake out their place as a main player in the increasingly competitive VN market. Flowers is a perfect combination – Innocent Grey already has a good reputation and fan following in the West, it’s an all-ages title so it can be released on Steam without censorship, it has girl/girl relationships which will bring in yuri fans, as well as a school-based coming-of-age story that can appeal to anyone. It’s also the first in a four-game series that is still currently being released in Japan, with the third volume having just recently opened for preorders. So why oh why would they not put their best translator on the job, and edit each line to perfection? It baffles me to think of what decisions within the company could have led to this release.

So what is actually wrong with it?

The first, and probably most egregious issue, is that there are problems with the translation which include flat out mistranslations. Now as a translator myself, I don’t want to shit all over a fellow translator, so I’m not going to say something like “this translator is terrible”. What I am going to say is that the translator was not up for a project like this, and someone should have noticed the problem early on in the process.

@KurosakaRyuuko has an excellent, detailed breakdown of all the issues with the translation here. I highly recommend you check it out and see for yourself.

Next are the frequent spelling and punctuation mistakes, which indicate to me that these scripts did not go through even a single proofread.

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Spot the spelling error.

Then there’s the flow, in terms of both language and text placement. Many of the sentences, even if properly translated, are stilted and awkward. This is common when translating from Japanese to English, and if your translator isn’t particularly prose-oriented, then an editor with an excellent grasp of written English is indispensable. Also, from the awkward breaks in the text, it would seem that no one even played through the game after the scripts were inserted to check that everything fit together correctly.

2016-02-27_00001

Sense, it makes none.

Also, the font is horrible. Bleh.

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???

The demo is less than an hour long, and with so many issues cropping up in a relatively small amount of text, it doesn’t fill one with hope for the game overall.

Furthermore, JAST’s reaction has done little to alleviate fans’ concerns.

On the one hand, it’s great that JAST has listened to the feedback and is promising to fix the issues before release. On the other hand, it may be a case of too little too late and, judging from personal tweets from JAST owner Peter Payne, I’m not certain whether a lesson has really been learnt.

This is a totally unprofessional and unnecessary response. Can you blame fans for the hate? As I’ve discussed above, this release was in an unacceptable state. In gaming, a demo exists to advertise your game and encourage people to buy it. It’s meant to showcase your product at its best. Why would you release a demo that’s in an “alpha” state? What’s the point?

Furthermore, the translation has fundamental problems that can’t be fixed just through editing. It will require a complete “translation check”, and by that point they might as well just redo the whole thing from scratch, since they’ll need to find and hire a bilingual speaker anyway.

I’m glad that they took on board criticism, but the update didn’t fix all the issues, and it even added in further spelling errors! Again, I don’t see how they thought a half-assed response would be better than waiting a few days and putting out something that would actually change peoples’ opinions.

By this point the fans are basically doing their jobs for them. Quality assurance is supposed to come from inside the company, not from the consumers. Not only was the demo release a disaster, but the PR follow-up has been uncoordinated and unprofessional, too.

JAST appears to still be aiming for a March 20 release date, but with the script in the state that it currently is, I don’t see how that will be possible without releasing an inferior product and further damaging their reputation. I would very much like to see them prove me wrong, but from my outside perspective there are some things going very awry within the company that need fixing if they are going to release a quality title.

((Thanks for reading. As a translator working in the visual novel industry, issues like this are close to my heart. I want to support all the companies and individuals working to bring more visual novels and eroge to the West, but I also want to raise issues such as the above so that these releases are of the highest quality, for the sake of both the fans and the Japanese developers.))

9 thoughts on “Let’s talk about the Flowers demo

  1. I haven’t become cynical to the game’s release just yet but I do agree that a 2nd delay would be the best course of action. Maybe JAST USA will surprise us if they stay on course but I’m not so sure. I guess what I’m sating is I’m more concerned than cynical since I REALLY want FLOWERS to sell well.

  2. Why do they even change the font. The original would look fine for the English too. It’s a PC release so they don’t have to worry about if the Vita/3DS has the font or whatever excuse Aksys is using to poss off that shit Hakuoki/Norn9 travesty. Are they still stuck in the 80s/90s with that old VN system font? It’s 2016!

    Seriously I DO HOPE they get a better font, unless that IS the fot the game uses D: I have a few better Mincho fonts with better Latin alphabets T_ T

    Also who would release an ALPHA build as a DEMO. As far as I see, game companies will actually call it an Alpha build or a Beta.

  3. meru, there is numerous technical issues, do they plan to fix it or not? Like music lagging in config (happen not only in jast release, but in original as well), text going into next box in backlog (this is because of translation).

    maverynthia, font is same as in japanese trial. It is 100% same as in original.

    • Unfortunately I can’t answer any questions regarding the technical side of things, as I’m not involved with that. I hope they will, though, and I will strongly encourage them to do so!

      • Issue is that technical issues seems considered by them as “non-existant”, because I never got any replies on twitter posts or anything like that. Is there really a person from whom I could get any answers about tech things? As even great translation would be flawed, if this would be accompanied with lagging and screeching music/sound along with crampled backlog…

    • Just wanted to let you know that I passed on your concerns to the project manager, who will in turn pass them on to the dev side (I’m afraid I don’t know who the person/people involved actually is/are). Hopefully they are working on it as we speak!

  4. Pingback: Flowers update | もう~ 我慢できない!

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