Persona 5 has a lot of text, and obviously, all of it had to be translated from Japanese by a localisation team -- not the kind of job that we envy. The role-playing title was incredibly well received when it launched in 2017, but there were some criticisms made over its localisation, which is a little shaky in places.
Again, localising such a huge game can't be easy, and going by a new Game Informer article, it certainly sounds like the localisation team had a particularly difficult job on their hands. SEGA localisation director Sam Mullen outlines the experience in the aforementioned article: "In order to even attempt to get [Persona 5] done on time, so we didn't have to release the game two years after the Japanese release, we had to start translating mid-development."
"But text is being churned through, they're making changes so stuff that they we were already done with was getting ripped out and thrown away. And then like, oh s***, if you change that then this reference I wrote in doesn't make sense now and now I gotta go back and [frustrated groan]." Yeah, the process doesn't sound especially smooth does it?
Mullen continues: "Keeping up with it is a big mess and keeping character consistency is one of the biggest challenges, so our localisation team spends a lot of time doing what we call pre-production, which is where they map all the characters, they say this is a sample of their speech, this is what they sound like, the kind of stuff they say, they don't say things like this, they don't have this kind of attitude, but they do these things, and they say things like this."
"With that understanding, the editing team tries to walk toward a single goal, but just by virtue of two different people writing for the same character, they're going to sound different at different parts of the game. Ideally, someone comes through and does a whole pass over the text and says it's all fitting in, but sometimes that's just like not possible," Mullen explains.
It's an explanation that perhaps sheds some light on why Persona 5 is, at points, a bit hit and miss with its English translation. Interesting stuff.