trans1.jpg['Quiz Me Quik' is a weekly GameSetWatch column by journalist Alistair Wallis, in which he picks offbeat subjects in the game business and interviews them about their business, their perspective, and their unique view of life. This time, an eclectic Japanese game translator gets quizzed.]

If there's one thing you can take away from the previous week's column, it's that I have absolutely no idea about programming. Forgetting the fact that I also have zero knowledge of other languages aside from what I've learnt from Serge Gainsbourg, the technical implications of translating even a NES game scares the living hell out of me. Translating a PlayStation 2 game? Fergeddaboutit.

But hey, at least there are people out there who have an idea of how to work with computers beyond, you know, writing words on them and making them say “Hello World”. People like TransGen founder and webmaster Saito. He's only been translating games since February of last year, but he's already worked his way through NES dodge-ball title Honoo no Doukyuuji: Dodge Danpei and its sequel on his own, and Kakuge Yaro Fighting Game Creator along with the rest of the team.

And now TransGen is working on Namco X Capcom. And Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories remake Re:Chain of Memories. They're both PS2 games. Oh, and Saito is Spanish, so English isn't even his first language.

Some people really are overachievers, you know?

But how could I not talk to him, and ask about what TransGen does? Oh yeah, and there's also the matter of enquiring exactly how much confusion comes from the fact that the group shares a name with a (seemingly abandoned) transgendered support website. That's gotta be worth a query of two.

GSW: When did you first start translating?

Saito: I started to translate games around February 2007 or so.

GSW: What got you interested in translating?

S: Well, I always liked the SNES fan translations that were released by translation groups like Dejap or AGTP, so after playing some of them I started to wonder how they could release such great translations.

Also, I was a little "irated" because a great number of excellent games were left in Japan without any hope to get them to the occidental world.

GSW: Have you always been interested in import games?

S: Yes, many people tried to persuade me to translate some already localised English games into my own language, but I didn't like the idea. I really wanted to translate Japanese games.

GSW: When was TransGen first formed?

trans1.jpgS: It was officially formed on May 1, 2007. But before that, elnegro492003 and I were planning some projects.

GSW: How many people are generally involved with the projects?

S: If we talk about Honoo no Doukyuuji: Dodge Danpei, I did it alone. But a great number of people are involved in Namco X Capcom: around ten romhackers, programmers and translators, and more than thirty beta testers.

GSW: Was the idea always to work with more recent consoles?

S: Yes, that was the general idea at first, but at some point I decided to hack some old system games, that experience helped me to understand some technical aspects that I didn't understand well before.

GSW: Are you aware that you've used the same name as an online transgendered support group? Ever any confusion there?

S: Nope, actually it is TransGen, a composed word - Translation Generation. But yes, I recall that some time ago a genius romhacker called Gemini joked about the name a bit.

GSW: How hard was it to decide what to work on with TransGen?

S: It could look from the outside that picking a game to start a translation isn't very difficult, but a great amount of work is done before a translation project is even started. First, we have to realize what we can do, how difficult it is to hack the game, and lastly if the game is worth the effort.

GSW: How do you select projects?

S: Sometimes we select them using our personal tastes and criteria, and some other we pick requests that people posted in our board.

trans1.jpgGSW: How many do you normally have going at one time?

S: No more than two at a time. If we had more manpower maybe that number would be increased up to three or four.

GSW: When you select projects, do you typically choose games that you've played before?

S: No, actually I only play them a bit before starting a project.

GSW: Why translate Zill O'll Infinite? It's a fairly obscure game, isn't it?

S: Yes, but it's great. It reminds me of Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song [which is also a PS2 remake of a PlayStation game]. The gameplay differs each time you play, there's a great number of playable characters, the music is charming and the graphics are beautiful.

It's a great - yet relatively unknown - game.

GSW: Are you planning on finishing the project at any point?

S: I don't really know the answer. I just decided to drop that project at the moment, because we lack manpower and skill. Maybe we will resume that project in the future if someone else has not started a translation project by then.

trans1.jpgGSW: On a similar note: why translate Honoo no Doukyuuji: Dodge Danpei and its sequel?

S: Well, I wanted to get as much experience as I could from hacking a NES game. I came across some images of that game, played a bit and I liked it. About the sequel: almost the same. I liked it and realized that I could port some code from the first game to the sequel, so I did it.

GSW: What challenges are thrown out by working with more recent games?

S: Mostly that there are almost no tools or information around for the new systems. So, you have to learn through trial and error by your own.

GSW: How much of a stroke of luck is finding a text extraction tool for Kingdom Hearts: Re:Chain of Memories?

S: Well, actually it's not a stroke of luck to find one. A gentleman by the nickname of Rhys started to code a tool to deal with all the compression. He sent me the extractor some months ago and I started to collect some technical data and feeback for him.

He is, right now, coding an inserter, but I don't know how much time it will take to code a stable tool.

GSW: Is it a good game?

S: Yes, it's a great game. Better than the Game Boy Advance release, in my opinion.

GSW: Are you anticipating a high amount of downloads for that?

S: Yes, the beta patch was very famous when it was released. Three translation teams contacted me because they wanted to translate the beta patch to other languages: Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

GSW: How many downloads do your projects normally reach?

S: I don't have an answer for this question, because the file is hosted in several websites, I just can say that we did run out of bandwidth once, and we were force to move on to another server.

GSW: What's Namco X Capcom like? I heard it's got its share of flaws.

trans1.jpgS: Well, the game's just like a Super Robot Wars title, with the exception that the battle phase is in a pseudo action mode using the pad and buttons.

It can be sometimes boring, due to the amount of text and the lack of a challenge. In other hand, the game has an amazing soundtrack, charismatic characters and an entertaining story.

GSW: Do you think you'll be hosting more projects done by others in the future, like you have with aishsha's translation of Columbus: Golden Dawn?

S: Sure, it's not a bother for us to host the work of other authors.

GSW: Any other future plans you can let slip?

S: Well, what we want at the moment is to finish a stable patch for Namco X Capcom. After that, we can rest a little and resurrect some secret projects, like our Rent-A-Hero translation for the Genesis, or the Monster Hunter 2 translation for the PS2.