Best Localization

Localization is a category for which it is often particularly hard to pick a "best" of. This is because the best localization is one in which the player cannot tell that the game was ever localized in the first place. A good localization will make the player forget that a game was originally written in a language other than their own. Bad localization, on the other hand, makes itself readily apparent. Nothing can ruin a great story quicker than poorly worded sentences, unwieldy grammatical constructions, or inexcusable misspellings in the text. With the advent of voice acting in RPGs, a new layer of difficulty is added to this process. Voice actors must be chosen who can not only perform well, but can also in some way emulate the qualities that the original Japanese actor brought to the role. This year's winners encapsulate exactly how a localization should be done, and highlight how a good localization can elevate a game above its competitors.

Both the Staff here at RPGamer and our readers agreed that the top honor in localization this past year without a doubt belonged to Kingdom Hearts. Square has once again proved that it can localize a game better than anyone else out there. Long accustomed to translating deep, lengthy narratives, Square has now demonstrated that it can do the same quality work with voice acting that it has with text dialogue. Leading an all-star cast was Haley Joel Osment as Sora, who did an amazing job with his role. Furthermore, Square took advantage of Disney's clout to recruit actors for the Disney roles, even snagging Hollywood bigwigs like James Woods to reprise their roles. Even more impressively, Square lined up the perfect actors to give voices to famous Final Fantasy characters who had never spoken before. In the end, Square's English localization was so good that the company released the North American version to an eager Japanese public as Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix. And that speaks volumes on its own.

The Staff and readers also agreed that Suikoden III was highly deserving of recognition, placing 3rd with the Staff, and 2nd with the readers. Suikoden III's localization was another superb job from Konami, which localizes games in many genres year after year. Suikoden III, having a great number of characters (108 to be exact), necessitates having distinct personality traits for each character in order to keep them straight. Konami's team not only managed to properly convey this in their localization, they did it without the annoying wealth of regional dialects and accents that appeared in other largely populated games such as Chrono Cross.

This year, a pair of Game Boy Advance games were also recognized for their excellent localizations. Placing 2nd was Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis. This game featured an intruiging story about one young man's journey that could have come off as clichéd or uninspired, but it was smartly translated and carefully worded. Additionally, the game featured a wealth of tactical units, battle techniques, and items, all of which were localized in a way that helped to give the game a strong sense of cohesion. The readers, meanwhile, chose Lunar Legend as their 3rd pick for Best Localization. This is astounding in light of the fact that this is the first Lunar game to hit the states without the assistance of the much-vaunted Working Designs localization staff. Despite the lack of the inane jokes and pop-culture references that marked the earlier versions of the game, Ubi Soft managed to provide an excellent rendition of the adventures of Alex and his friends. The portrayal of Alex' journey in a more serious, earnest light has won Lunar Legend some serious, earnest praise from our readers.

Best Localization
Kingdom Hearts Reader
Kingdom Hearts
Staff Runner-Ups
Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis Suikoden III Reader Runner-Ups
Suikoden III Lunar Legend

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