[Wormlight is a spotlight feature where we introduce someone/something awesome and explain why itʼs worth your time]
In a few months, Japanese Visual Novel company minori, in partnership with Mangagamer, will release their first official western release in ef – the first tale. This release will be a landmark move for visual novel fans here in the west. To have a release like this come from a company that had at one time attempted to block their product from all foreign markets is incredible.
With the history involved in this title, it stands as one of the biggest moves in localization to date.
Standing behind all this drama is one little group of fan translators that found a way to bring one of their favorite studios to the west. When ef – the first tale finally releases, it is because of No Name Losers.
No Name Losers is a fan translation group that has gone from a short attempt at anime subbing to full game translation. Early on the group found out that the week in week out lifestyle of speed subbing anime was a bit too tedious, so they decided to venture into some unexplored territory. Visual Novels. At the time, not many were doing visual novel translation in a community where most hackers and translators were either sticking with rom hacks or moving into manga as an option.
The group at No Name Losers did it a bit differently. First they tinkered around with game intros. In short they did about 30 videos for games like Baldr Force EXE, Tales of Graces F, and Adult Video King. While game openings were their biggest claim to fame, they did dabble in a few AMVs as well.
After doing this for awhile, they became interested in loftier goals. No Name Losers would fully translate a visual novel. With the help of early visual novel fan translator insani, they finished and released minori’s second game Wind -a breath of heart-.
With the success from this release, the team at No Name Losers would push forward with translating minori’s biggest title to date, ef. After a few years of working on the project, they were starting to build towards a big release. They already had a test chapter out for people to demo the game and they were pretty far along when the controversy around Rapelay hit in 2009.
All of a sudden, suburban mom’s in America were getting upset over an unlocalized Japanese game. The uproar was heard by these Japanese developers and the group that responded the loudest was minori. Not only was minori now very aware of the American market, but they feared them. This was a company that made Japanese games for Japanese gamers in an industry under attack by Americans. minori then decided to make a move that made headlines. They would bar access to all content from foreign viewers to their website.
This was a huge moment for the group as the team at No Name Losers saw this and took a stand. Instead of releasing the game as a stand alone patch to minori’s retail games, they would release a full downloadable build of both titles with their own adjustments to it. The game would come out in phases with the basic package as a starter for those that simply wanted to play the game. This would then be followed by an upgraded package with the addition of many fan disc materials and finally finishing it would finish with a “Supah” build that had all the last touch up improvements and the at the time new Angel Sunday fan disc.
It was shocking to the community. There was no understandable intent to support the developers with this action. No Name Losers were simply going to give it all away.
And they did indeed release that first fully playable build of ef – a fairy tale of the two, because minori showed that the west wasn’t a market they wanted anything to do with.
It was the actions of minori that began steam rolling this idea for the group. Not only was the company coming in with threats of legal action to NNL and others, but they even went forward with sabotaging all the data from a wiki that the translators of eden* – they were only two, on the planet were using. In an interesting move, deleting this data opened a back and forth dialog between the fans, fan translators and the company itself.
So minori had shut down the eden* translators and ef had just come out leaving the translators at No Name Losers with a project they could push forward with. Finally, minori decided to open a line of dialog with the team that would eventually turn them in to an official translation group for Mangagamer.
With this move, No Name Losers shed most of the content on their website and went forward with work on fine tuning and changing their work on ef.
[Why Should I Care?]
Because these guys have been adding to the western visual novel scene for years. This build for ef was never a quick patch translation, it was fanservice. The reason you should care is simple.
If you like playing visual novels, whether its Ace Attorney or Season of the Sakura, this move brought one of the hottest game developers towards recognizing the potential in foreign markets. In effect, this is a step forward in bringing bigger and better projects to our shores and more diversity in games is never a bad thing.
Not only that, but it is unheard of for a group known only for fan localizations to be placed in charge of a company’s first official English release. Expanding localization essentially expands gaming options. Sure this might just be an eroge, but it is a good game first. The actions of these fan translators got this deal rolling forward and we as gamers are reaping the benefit. This is probably the first visual novel in history to have an English anime and game brought out.
While this deal won’t yield as nice of a package as No Name Losers original aspirations, it will have a much more focused and professional translation moving forward. Less words like the groups infamous use of “Supah” will be thrown in, but the work and translation are night and day. Most of all, it means minori is open to bringing out more games in the west. This opens Mangagamer and other Japanese developers to a new distribution method and could bring in more quality visual novels to market. A successful ef means that gamers can have a better option than choosing between the smuttier titles like Boob Wars: Big Boobs vs Flat Chests or Slave Witch April.
More importantly, this makes these types of visual novels viable to translators eyes. People have given up and left the scene after their builds led to the rampant piracy of these indie developers. When these options are now opened up, new lines of dialog are there for communication. Developers like NekoNekoSoft who officially licensed their game Narcissu in English through fan translators, gave up on the market. No Name Losers has opened up a new dialog that can prove fruitful for Japanese developers.
[Where Can I See More?]
Well unfortunately since No Name Losers went official, they have shrugged off everything old and started anew. This means that if you want to find these AMVs, game openings and visual novels, you’ll have to scour the internet.
Currently the group is celebrating it’s tenth year as a group by giving a run down of site history and controversies. Did you know they were the ones who kick started the Jast USA controversy with Family Project which resulted in a direct apology to fans from the company head Peter Payne? Yup, that’s consumer advocacy for you.
I have a majority of the groups AMVs and openings on Gametrailers, for those of you that are curious of their prior works.
[How Can I Help?]
This is an easy one. Mangagamer has their website up and ready to go, so just buy the game when it comes out July 27th. That’s all these guys want.
That might seem silly, but success with this title means that No Name Losers can move forward with their two planned projects as well as fast tracking the game’s second episode ef – the latter tale. Currently they have work started on the ef fan disc called Angel Sunday (after the lead artist Hayama Mizuki) with hopes for an official license pending minori’s approval.
The team at No Name Losers has hopes to finish ef up to the best of their abilities. Hopes for more official work on some of the titles the group has already stuck their hands inside, like Footsteps of Spring and eden* , all hinge on the success of this game for the team. Currently sales of minori’s latest game Supipara didn’t do too hot which has added a bit more pressure on this experiment.
The series of events that have surrounded the localization of this project has been one of the most interesting things I have seen come from this community. Fan translation is usually a side to the industry that hides itself in the backgrounds of the internet. We all know people are modifying these games, but it has never come to the forefront like it did with No Name Losers.
Best of all, is that it has yielded a positive ending. The team is still working on translation work, but in an official capacity. We as gamers now have a way of directly supporting the Japanese developers without having to mess with navigating Japanese sites like Getchu. It was a ballsy thing for the group to do by releasing ef “lite,” and we will all benefit from it.
It’s finally almost here. July 27th is the day western gamers can finally enjoy minori’s biggest visual novel.