Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is on the way soon, giving the iconic Capcom franchise another major opportunity to take off in the West. Though it's a sales phenomenon in Japan, it's struggled to create the same level of success elsewhere in the world.
Will Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate change that? Time will tell, but with an increasing 3DS userbase and a relatively clear run in terms of the release schedule it has a chance to appeal to committed gamers. Localisation is clearly key to that, and there's an interesting post over on Capcom Unity that outlines some of the thought processes and decision making.
Take the opening segment and quests, for example, which serve as tutorials on how to play the game. The localisation team was keen to make a notable change in order to speed up the whole process, in a debate with the development team in Japan that focused on the differing audiences for alternative regions. It was all about a message that consistently appears - in Japan - after key instructions.
If you can't read Japanese, this message translates to "Do you want to hear that again?", and automatically appears after every tutorial message. The cursor also defaults to Yes, so if you're mashing buttons to get through the tutorial, you can accidentally select Yes and you're sent through the entire thing again.
This was one of the first issues I brought to the Monster Hunter team, because I felt Western gamers wouldn't respond well to it. After the director, Fujioka-san, explained their reasoning, I understood why they had made this decision. During the development of Monster Hunter 4, the team was directed to aim for a younger audience because the Nintendo 3DS' market is younger than other platforms. To make sure the younger kids knew what do to, they added that question at the end of each tutorial just to be safe.
Overseas, the audience for Monster Hunter is older and more experienced with games, so they typically don't need to read things twice to get the gist. With that in mind, we asked the team if we could remove that from our version of the game and they agreed. Woohoo! Victory #1! We also were able to naturally cut down on the tutorial length through shorter, but still entertaining dialogue – and no, we didn't cut out anything from the tutorials – which means you can get back to the action a lot faster.
Further examples are given for locales and specific monsters, showing some cases where names were changed and others where - after discussion - the original Japanese was retained. It's well worth reading the full article to appreciate the work that goes into these localisations.
Are you looking forward to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and are you one of those most dedicated fans that'll insist on using the original Japanese names for every monster? Let us know.