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Helvetica Standard

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  1. Like
    Helvetica Standard reacted to Darbury for a blog entry, The One Easy Tip for Good Type [VN Image Editing]   
    If you’re the image editor for a VN translation, you’ll probably spend at least half your time setting English type. Lots of it. (The other half will be spent laboriously retouching out all the Japanese text you’re about to replace.) Sounds simple on the surface, right? Any pixel monkey can copy/paste from a translation document.
    But there’s a lot more to good typesetting than just clicking with text tool and banging away on the keyboard. Just like good prose, there’s a certain rhythm to good type. A practiced designer will make numerous small adjustments along the way that allow the to reader glide effortlessly through whatever’s being said. Reading good type should be like driving on a well-paved road.
    And the one thing all good display type has in common: someone took the time to kern it.
    The Basics of Kerning
    I won’t go into a detailed discussion of kerning here — the terminology, the history, the fact that it sounds like something you’d have to pay an escort extra for. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, there are lots of sites out there for you to read. Better yet, buy yourself The Elements of Typographic Style, the best book about type you could ever hope to own. Call it an early Christmas present to yourself. For our purposes, it’s enough to say that kerning means to adjust the empty space between any two adjacent characters, either bringing them closer together or pushing them father apart.
    And why would you want to do that? Otherwise, you’ll have gaps and crashes in your type that’ll make things feel ever so slightly off.
    To illustrate, I browsed over to a free font site and downloaded a typeface at random. (There’s a very good reason I did this, rather than using some industry-standard font like Helvetica or Times Roman. I’ll get to that in a minute.) Downloading, downloading … done! Okay, let’s set some type.

    Here we have a few words set in Font X — name redacted to protect the innocent. At first glance, everything seems fine. But then you look closer and start noticing little things. Like what are these weird gaps between the first two letters of some words? Some are almost as wide as the full space between words.

    And hey, what about these letters over here that are more or less crashing into each other? That can’t be good, right?

    Nope. These are problems. They need to be fixed.
    Kerning Pairs
    The reason I picked a free font is because most professional typefaces (aka, “ones you pay a lot of money for”) are designed to avoid the majority of such issues. Once a typographer has crafted all the characters for a font, he or she will then spend countless hours specifying “kerning pairs” for it — basically, instructions on how close each letter should sit next to every other letter. (Here’s how close A should be to B, here’s how close A should be to b, etc.) While some letter pairings may look good at default spacing, others will need to pull tighter or push father out to look right. Professional fonts will often contain hundreds of these kerning pairs. It’s mind-numbing work that takes far more time than most amateur typographers are willing to put into a freebie font project.
    That work still needs to get done, however, but now it’s on your shoulders instead. And, since most fan translation projects use free fonts for budgetary reasons, odds are you’ll have a whole lot of mess to clean up. Congratulations! Thankfully, once you’ve learned how, it’s pretty easy stuff.
    I work in Photoshop, so I’ll be showing its kerning interface here. If you use another program, it likely has something similar. Here’s Photoshop’s character palette, with the kerning field highlighted:

    The "0" you see there means there’s no kerning currently being applied to the characters on either side of your text cursor. Make this number negative, and the two letters will start pulling closer together. Make it positive, and they’ll start pushing farther apart. (Photoshop measures this in units 1/1000 ems, but that’s bar trivia you don’t really need to remember. Just know that in most cases, you’ll be entering numbers in the range of -100 to +100.) You can see the results of some sample values below.

    In Photoshop, you also have the option of “Metrics” (apply whatever kerning pairs the typographer included in the font, if any) or “Optical” (let Photoshop guess what looks good, basically). Play around to get a feel for things, then advance your cursor through your type, letter pair by letter pair, and adjust this value until the two letters are the right distance apart. Rinse and repeat. And what’s the “right” distance? The one that looks right, of course. It’s a subjective thing, and this is where practice and design experience come into play. 
    Like The Sands Through The Hourglass
    One of the first art directors I worked under offered me this analogy, which I’ve always rather liked: Imagine the negative space between letters as vases lined up in a row. They’re all different shapes, these vases, but you want each to be able to hold an equal amount of sand (or M&Ms or whatever). Kern until your vases all look like they could all hold the same amount. This is an imprecise rule, of course, and you’ll often want to make your “vases” bigger or smaller for visual effect, but it gives a beginner a good baseline approach.
    So let’s take that approach here. Let’s go through, fix all the obvious gaps and crashes we noted earlier, then make smaller adjustments to even out the text overall. (We call this giving the type an even “color.”) After some quick fiddling, we end up with something like this before and after:


    It’s subtle, but the "after" type just feels nicer overall. And if your text is a UI element that some poor reader will spend countless hours staring at, you want to make sure it’s as nice as you can manage. Because the longer you spend with something, the more obvious and annoying its flaws become. (Said every roommate ever.)
    The good news is you don’t need to do this everywhere. It’d be insanity to kern entire sentences or paragraphs of text, especially since the effect is barely perceptible at those point sizes. You only really need to worry about kerning display type — things like buttons, headlines, title screens, etc. If your type is over 16pt, it probably needs to be kerned. The good news is, as you learn the keyboard shortcuts for your particular application/platform, you’ll be able to breeze through a piece of type in a matter of seconds. In fact, a lot of designers find sitting down and kerning type to be mindlessly relaxing, like knitting or playing Minesweeper or making fun of the animations in Fallout 4.
    Mind Your Gaps
    So that’s kerning in a nutshell kernel. It’s the absolute easiest way to step up your type game, and it’s quick enough that there’s no reason not to do it. As a bonus, there’s a fun little online game out there to let you practice your kerning skills in hypothetical situations and compare them to a professional designer’s solution. It’s a fun way to kill some time at work while you boost your skills.
  2. Like
    Helvetica Standard reacted to Darbury for a blog entry, Oh, The (Tricky) Editing Mistakes I Have Made (Part 2 of ∞)   
    This blog is all about owning my mistakes and putting them on public display, so let’s do this. And yeah, I knew this one was going to come back and bite me in the ass. This was my albatross. This was my giant ass-biting albatross.
    The great “tricky” debacle of 2015
    So there’s this word that shows up in the English translation of Koisuru Natsu no Last Resort. If you’ve read it, you might have noticed it once or twice.
    “Tricky.”
    Umi, the main heroine, falls back on this word a lot to describe the protagonist. She uses it when he’s being nice. And when he’s being a jerk. And when he’s chewing food. And any other opportunity she can think of. Basically, I think she gets paid 100 yen every time she manages to work that word into a sentence. And let me tell you: girl is pulling down bank.
    Of course, this is a translation, so she’s not actually saying “tricky.” She’s saying something similar in Japanese. And therein lies a tale of woe and sorrow.
    The backstory
    But let’s rewind a bit first.
    When I came aboard the KoiRizo team, it was to edit a single route: Nagisa’s. Makes sense — I was a first-time VN editor, and Nagisa’s route was the shortest in the game. Moreover, it was an unlockable, which meant that comparatively few people would end up reading it. Other editors were already hacking away at most of the remaining routes anyway, so that was all fine by me.
    As I worked my way through Nagisa’s scripts, I saw the word “tricky” pop up once or twice in Umi’s dialogue as a personal insult and it just seemed ... odd to me. Tough math problems are tricky. Opening a stubborn jar of peanut butter is tricky. People? Less so. I’m an editor, though, not a translator, so I did what I was supposed to do: flagged it for TLC review, left a comment with my concerns, edited the line as best I could, then moved along. The translator on the project had made it clear he wouldn’t be reviewing any edits until all the routes were finished being edited, so that’s about all I could do at the time.
    When I finished cleaning up Nagisa’s route, I was asked if I wouldn’t mind tackling Shiori’s scripts as well, which no other editor had gotten around to yet. “Sure,” I said, and set about tidying that up as well. The word “tricky” popped up a couple more times, so I did the same thing: flagged it, reiterated my concerns, then kept on editing.
    I finished Shiori, and was asked if I’d pick up the common route and Umi’s route; the editing on both of these had apparently stalled. Okay, what had started out as a quickie project for me was slowly turning into something much more time-consuming. I could see that. But I was still having fun, so I agreed. I started with the common route, where Umi has more screen time, which meant I started seeing the word “tricky” a little more often.
    And I started to worry.
    I flagged it, left a comment along the lines of “See my earlier notes on tricky,” and kept editing. I was determined not to get hung up on one silly word. It was becoming clear that this was sort of a catchphrase word for Umi, and I didn’t want to change the translation in my scripts if all the other editors’ scripts were keeping it as is. It’d be like if a screenwriter on The Simpsons decided that “D’oh!” sounded dumb, so Homer should say “Ooops!” instead — but only on the episodes he/she worked on.
    Anyway, I finished the common route and moved onto Umi’s. And lo, I gazed into a bottomless abyss of trickiness.

    You sly dumbass, you.
    Now let’s talk about the actual word. In Japanese, it’s “ずるい” — “zurui.” And, true to its definition, zurui’s a tricky word to pin down.
    It’s often translated as “unfair.” (Or so I’ve been told. Again, I’m an editor, not a translator. I took a Japanese class or two a few years back, so I have a basic familiarity with the rudiments of grammar and vocabulary. I’m good for: “Hello, I only speak a little Japanese. Sorry! What time is it? Where is the train? I am a very cute peach.” And that’s about it.) But there’s a little more nuance to it than that. Getting cancer is unfair. Having your advisor take credit for your thesis is unfair. “Zurui” implies a level of deviousness, impishness, slyness, craftiness, and yes, even trickiness. Someone who’s being “zurui” knows they’re getting away with something — and they’re okay with that.
    Moreover, it has a secondary meaning of being miserly, which is something that definitely applies to Soutarou, the protagonist of KoiRizo. I have to imagine that wordplay was not lost on the writers ... or the characters.
    There’s no one good English word to capture all those layers of meaning. When Umi uses this word to describe the protagonist in KoiRizo, it’s clear from context that her emotional shading varies from line to line. Sometimes she’s straight-up pissed at him and is telling him off: “You jackass.” Other times, she’s more of a late-game tsundere and says it playfully, even affectionately: “You sly dog you.” But she uses the same Japanese word every single time. Sometimes she’ll even say it six or seven times in a row without taking a breath.
    “Zurui. Zurui. Zurui. Zurui. Zurui. ZURUI!”
    It was her catchphrase. And in pretty much every instance, it had been translated as “tricky.”
    If the word only appeared once or twice in KoiRizo, I could have swapped in the contextually appropriate English replacements and been done with it. (I actually did this in a handful of places throughout the VN, usually when it was clear she was at one extreme of the word or the other.) But given how often it showed up, I felt somehow obligated to honor authorial intent. This was Umi’s pet phrase for this guy she’d fallen in love with. At one point, I think she even uses it as all the parts of speech in a single sentence. If I started changing “zurui” to different words every time, she’d lose a fairly important character quirk.
    After looking at all the options, the translator’s choice of “tricky” started seeming like it wasn’t a half-bad compromise after all. It got across that Umi thought the protag was dealing from the bottom of the emotional deck, but it also had a playful, teasing quality. It was never the best word in any particular instance, but it seemed like it might be flexible enough to be just sorta kinda okay in all instances.
    That argument makes sense, right? I thought so at the time, anyway. And so I left “tricky” as it was.
    Boy, was I wrong.

    Mea culpa
    I overthought it, plain and simple. I forgot my personal rule of writing and editing: Make the journey as frictionless for the readers as possible. Don’t let them get snagged on odd phrasings or slightly off words. Keep them immersed in the story.
    I’d forgotten how jarring that “tricky” word seemed those first few times I saw it in translation. As the months passed, some sort of editing Stockholm Syndrome set in and I actually started thinking it might be an acceptable option.
    In short, I messed up.
    When I read Umineko for the first time, Battler’s use (and abuse) of the word “useless” seemed so ill-fitting to me in English prose that I almost gave up reading the VN right then and there. But now, I sort of understand how the Witch Hunt team might have, over time, come to see this ungainly adjective as the best compromise for their main character’s catchphrase. It doesn’t make me like it much more, but I can see how they ended up there. (But don’t get me started on “turn the chessboard over” vs. “turn the chessboard around.” The latter works; the former leaves you with a bunch of chess pieces on the ground.)
    So here's the deal: It doesn’t matter that I had to make literally hundreds of judgment calls like this over the course of editing KoiRizo — what to do with Yuuhi’s numerous nicknames for the protagonist, as just one example — and 99% of them turned out okay (I hope).
    What matters is there’s a big lump of tricky sitting in the middle of the visual novel. And it doesn't work.
    I signed off on it. And I take full responsibility for that.
    So what to do? Not much, to be honest. It’s one of those things I’d love to revisit if given the chance, but a 2.0 KoiRizo patch seems unlikely at this time. MDZ keeps his own counsel, but he seems to have moved onto other pursuits.
    And that, as they say, is that.
    Postscript
    As I mentioned, the original intent of this blog was to put a spotlight on my many missteps as a first-time VN editor. That hasn’t changed. I might also try to throw in some helpful life advice from time to time, but I’m mainly happy to let my blunders serve as good object lessons for other aspiring editors.
    That means you should feel free to discuss any boneheaded decisions you think I might have made. Odds are I’ll own up to them. I've got a very thick skin, after all. I just ask two things:
    1. This blog is about editing. If you have issues with someone’s translation choices, I kindly ask that you take it elsewhere. I hear Fuwa has really nice forums for that sort of thing, y'know? But if you have issues with how I edited someone's translation, then bring it on.
    2. Please don’t be a giant pixelated dick about it. No one likes a pixel pick.

  3. Like
    Helvetica Standard reacted to Darbury for a blog entry, Save the Visual Novels! Eat the Whales!   
    How do you eat an entire whale? One bite at a time. Preferably with Cholula.
    How do you edit/translate/whatever a visual novel? One line at a time. Preferably with bourbon.
    Whether you’re a fan of the final product or not, one of the things that impresses me most about MDZ’s fan translation of Koisuru Natsu no Last Resort is that it got released, period. As in, if you were so inclined, you could download the installer right now, patch the original Japanese game, and go play the thing on your new-fangled Windows Pee-Cee. No demos, no one-route partial patches. The whole damned VN in English, finished on schedule and out there in the world.
    The project didn’t stall. It didn’t wind up in no-updates-in-six-months-but-we-think-they’re-still-working-on-it hell. It didn’t climb into that white panel van with Little Busters EX, never to be heard from again. The nice man was lying to you, Little Busters EX — there were no cute little puppies in the back. What were you thinking?!
    The KoiRizo team did nothing particularly special to make this happen. We just ate the whale one bite at a time.
    The rhythm method
    By his own account, MDZ worked very methodically on the project, spending an average of 30 minutes every day translating scripts into English. Not when he felt like it. Not when inspiration struck. Not when enough people harassed him with all-caps emails asking why the HELL hadn’t there been any progress updates on the KoiRizo tracker lately. He made it an expected part of his routine, like brushing his teeth or eating dinner. He scheduled regular translation sessions between classes or before heading out in the morning.
    He did a little bit. Every. Single. Day.
    There’s a word for that: consistency. That’s what gets things done in the real world, not 48-hour marathons every random.randint(1,6) weekends fueled by Red Bull, Hot Pockets, and intense self-loathing. Consistency keeps you from getting burned out. Consistency lets you make reasonable schedules and estimates, then stick to them. Consistency is like goddamned black magic.
    Over the course of the project, MDZ had consistency in spades. If he can maintain that approach to life, I have a feeling he’ll be successful at whatever he puts his mind to after college.
    When I came on board as an editor, I kept a somewhat similar schedule. I resolved to set aside my commuting time each workday for editing. And so for 40 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes in the evening, Monday through Friday, I’d park my butt in a train seat, break out my laptop, and just edit.
    Weekdays were reserved for my family. If you’re married with kids, you know there is no such thing as free time on weekends. If you’re not married and don’t have kids, please tell me what the outside world is like. I hear they came out with a PlayStation 2? That’s gotta be pretty awesome.
    Anyway, that’s what I ended up doing. Edit every single workday. For six months. Until it was done.
    (Six months? That long to edit a medium-length visual novel? Yeah, that long. KoiRizo weighs in at 36,000+ lines. Over six months, that works out to about 1,400 lines a week, or 210 lines per hour. That’s an edited line every 17 seconds or so, with most of the lines needing substantial polishing/rewriting. I have no idea what pace other VN editors work at, but I felt like this was one I could maintain over the long haul. Call it the distance runner’s lope.)

    Special topics in calamity physics
    So why all this rambling about whales and consistency? Because I just got back from vacation a few days ago and I’ve been surprised at how long it’s taken me to get my head back into the various projects I’ve been working on (or even writing this blog). And then I got to wondering how often something small like that snowballs into a stalled or even failed project. A missed day turns into a skipped week turns into a skipped month turns into a dead translation.
    Which then got me thinking about the coefficient of friction.
    It’s basic physics, which I excelled at (failing repeatedly). In layman’s terms, it’s a ratio (μ) that gives you a sense how much force two surfaces exert on each other and, therefore, how much force you need to exert to get something moving from a dead stop. Wooden block on ice? Low coefficient of friction. Wooden block on shag carpet? High coefficient of friction ... and a senseless crime against tasteful décor. Once you overcome that initial friction, it takes comparatively little force to keep an object in motion.
    I can easily imagine there’s a coefficient of friction between us and our work, some quantifiable level of resistance that needs be overcome before we get our asses in gear and be productive. And unlike the one in Physics 101, which is constant for any two materials, this one is different every single day. It depends on a bunch of different factors: how interested we are in our projects, how appreciated we feel, what other projects we’ve got going on at the same time, how much sleep we’ve gotten, what else is going on in our lives, whether or not the Mets are currently in the World Series, etc.
    Let’s call it the coefficient of slackitude.
    Once we get started on a project and make it part of our everyday routine, we can largely ignore this number. We’ve overcome the initial slackitude and, with moderate effort, can keep things rolling along fairly smoothly. But each time we let things coast to a stop, even for a few days, we’ve got to overcome the slackitude all over again. And since that value is variable, it might be much harder the second time around. In fact, it probably will be.
    Eventually, we’ll fail to do so. And our project will die.
    The takeaway
    So other than the fact that I had no business being anywhere near a physics classroom, what can we take away from my incoherent ramblings? A couple things:
    The easiest way to make sure your project gets finished is to stick to a regular schedule. Eat the whale a little at a time — every day if you can. Minimize the gaps. Avoid having to face off against that nasty coefficient of slackitude more than once. The easiest way to make sure your project gets started at all is to pick a time when that coefficient of slackitude is low — when you’re excited by the prospect, when you’re well-rested, when you have relatively few competing interests. When you can focus. Use that time to build your momentum, so when your interest wanes or real life intrudes — it always does and it always will — the project is so embedded in your routine that you can just ride it out. We need more finished translations in the world. So pull up a chair and eat your whale. Do it for your team. Do it for yourself. Do it for poor Little Busters EX, drugged and ball-gagged in a basement somewhere, forever wondering when it’ll finally get to see the puppies.
  4. Like
    Helvetica Standard reacted to Darbury for a blog entry, I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today   
    I’m on a much-needed vacation deep in the woods. There’s running water, crappy mobile service, something that could generously be described as “heat,” and not much else.   Also, I’m fairly sure an owlbear rummaged through our garbage last night.   This means you have a whole week free from my inane ramblings. It also means that on a scale from “wearing underwear today” to “not wearing underwear today,” I’m not wearing underwear today. It's vacation and I don't wannuh.     Deal with it. Then discuss.
  5. Like
    Helvetica Standard reacted to Darbury for a blog entry, Editors Are Not Proofraeders   
    If I could give you any two pieces of advice, gentle reader, they would be: don’t eat unopened mussels, and don’t proofread anything you’ve edited. Neither will end well for you.

    I always scratch my head when I see a visual novel translation project with the same person listed as Editor and Proofreader. Or worse yet, Translator, Editor, and Proofreader. Or (and I know I’ve seen this at least once) Translator, TLC, Editor, and Proofreader. I’m all for DIY, but that's a disaster waiting to happen.

    Here’s the rule: If you’ve touched a piece of copy in any one of these roles, it’s tainted for you in all others. Sorry, that’s just how it is. These jobs are meant to be a series of checks and balances to help ensure the quality and accuracy of the content. If a single person takes on two or more of these roles, you’ve got problems. If one or more of these positions goes completely unfilled, you’ve got problems.

    It’s not that you wouldn’t be capable — many editors are amazing at proofreading, and tons of translators are wonderful at TLC — but once you’ve worked with the text in one capacity, your familiarity with it makes you far less effective in any other role.

    Our stupid, stupid brains
    Like so many things in life, it all comes down our stupid brains being more helpful than we want — kind of like an overeager toddler who just handed you your iPhone. In the shower. (Thank god for Applecare+.) Whenever our brains see a gap in content, they try to fill it whether we want them to or not. “Hi, I’m your brain. Hey, is there a word missing there? Can I make a fairly good guess as to what it is? Wheee! I’ll just pretend like it was there and we read it and nothing’s wrong. Now let’s go think about boobies some more! BOO-BEES! BOO-BEES!” And the more familiar your brain is with the work in question, the easier it is for it to fill in those gaps. It already knows what to expect, and it’s just waiting to jump in and save the day.
    Our brains must be stopped before they kill again.
    The easiest way to do this is, at each step of the creation and revision process, have someone ready look at the content with fresh eyes and no preconceptions. Simple as that. You wouldn't go get a second opinion from the doctor who just provided your first opinion, would you? So don’t do it here. Don't double-up on jobs, and don’t leave positions unfilled. The final product will be better for it.
    Yeah, yeah, I know. Easier said than done. Finding good volunteers is tough and people flake out or have RL commitments all the time. So what then?


     
    The nuclear option
    When I got my first job in advertising, I was an idiot. Thankfully, my first creative director was not. A highly accomplished copywriter, she’d penned dozens of the brand slogans that had littered my youth. Suffice to say, she knew her stuff. (You’d probably know her stuff too, if you saw it.) And this was one of the first things she taught me: “Never, ever proofread your own work. But if you have to ...”

    That’s right, she had a trick. A big red button on the wall of her brain that said, “PUSH ONLY IN CASE OF EMERGENCY.” You never want to proof your own work, but sometimes you don’t have a choice. Sometimes you’ve rewritten the copy deck five minutes before the big pitch and there’s no time to send it back for proofreading. That’s where the trick comes in.

    Read it backwards.
    Start at the very last word and read your way back until you hit the first. This strips away all meaning from the text — your brain isn’t leaping in with a guess as to what comes next — so you can focus on minutiae like spelling, punctuation, repeated words, etc.

    This is a relatively laborious process, unfortunately, and it doesn’t scale well to an entire visual novel. But I mention it here in case you find yourself with a few lines or even a short script that needs a proofing pass and you’re the only one around to do it.

    .it of habit a make don’t Just.

    Full disclosure
    By the way, I’ll be the first one to admit that v1.0 of the KoiRizo English patch has typos. In my role as editor, I tried to work as cleanly as possible, but over the course of 36,000+ lines — I figure that’s gotta be at least 250,000 words — a few foxes got into the henhouse. The team didn’t have any proofreaders, and the QC process wasn’t nearly as robust as had initially been hoped. (Zakamutt touches on that here.) But you know what? For all of that, I think the launch product came out comparatively clean. I still want to drink bleach and die every time I see a typo report, of course, but that comes with the territory.

    And with any luck, there will be patch updates forthcoming that address some of these lingering issues. Which is good, since I’m running low on bleach. And lives.
  6. Like
    Helvetica Standard reacted to Darbury for a blog entry, VN Image Editing: The Skinny on Vertical Type   
    You know how you can translate Japanese far too literally and end up with stilted and nonsensical prose? It’s also possible reinterpret Japanese graphics far too literally and up with an illegible mess. Case in point: vertical type.

    Japanese text is typically typeset one of two ways: the traditional tategaki style (characters arranged in vertical columns, read from right to left), or the more modern yokogaki style (characters arranged in horizontal rows, read left to right, as in English). When editing images for visual novels, you’ll usually be dealing with a lot of tategaki, but it’s possible you’ll encounter some yokogaki as well. Unless you just bought a pamphlet from that crazy guy hanging out beneath the subway stairs — Happy Birthday to Gravy! I’m Made of Bees! — you will literally never see English typeset this way. So how do you handle it when you do?

    Typically, as long as you have the room, you’d set it the same as you would any other English text: horizontal, left to right, for maximum legibility. But what if you don’t have room? Particularly when dealing with UI elements, you might only have enough real estate for a single vertical column of characters. What then?

    Grab it by the spine
    Thankfully, generations of English-language typesetters have already solved this problem for us. Just walk over to your media shelf and look for yourself. See all those books, DVDs, video games you’ve got lined up there? Not only did you spend an obscene amount of money on those — seriously, how are you ever going to pay off your student loans this way? — but their spines all display titles the exact same way: horizontal type, rotated 90 degrees clockwise so that it reads from top to bottom. Any designer worth his or her salt will tell you that’s how it’s done.

    So there’s your answer. Do that. You’re welcome.

    But now you face a much bigger challenge: convincing non-designers that this is, in fact, the best approach.

    The vertical smile frown
    This came up once on a project where almost the entire UI was arranged in vertical lines of Japanese calligraphy. I’d painstakingly set hundreds of text elements in the correct bookspine-style, only to get a note back from the project lead asking that everything be re-typeset in the exact manner of the original Japanese, character stacked atop character.

    Y
    o
    u

    k
    n
    o
    w
    ,

    l
    i
    k
    e

    t
    h
    i
    s
    ?

    I’ve been a professional designer for enough years that, honestly, I forget not everyone gives much thought to why you don’t set type like this. So in that sense, the request didn’t annoy me; I understood the motivation behind it. But I did end up having to write a fairly lengthy defense of bookspine-style type as a result. Since I’m not the first person to face this problem, and I know I won’t be the last, I thought it might be useful to summarize a few of those points here.

    If you’re an image editor, maybe it’ll give you ammunition to back up your case one day. If you’re working with an image editor, maybe it’ll provide some insight into the thought he or she puts into typesetting. If you’re my mom, maybe you’ll finally believe I learned something in college.

    The End of the World as We Know It
    Seeing is believing, so let’s try all the options and see for ourselves what works and what doesn’t. I’ve cropped in on a small slice from a hypothetical UI sprite sheet for our discussion. I’ve also simplified it, hiding all the various hover and active states, so all we’re dealing with is the vanilla text.
    Here’s the original edited version:

    For this project, we need a script/calligraphic type that will remain legible even at very small sizes. (I do all my VN reading on an 8” tablet, so I use that as my small-screen baseline.) We land on this font here, a clean Western script that still feels right at home among traditional Eastern design elements. And since you can see that some of the UI text runs very long — these are chapter titles, I imagine — compactness is also a consideration. This typeface handles that quite nicely.
    Let’s see what happens if, rather than bookspine-style, we run these lines vertically:

    What’s wrong here? More like, what isn’t?

    It doesn’t fit: Unlike squarish Japanese characters, English letters tend to be taller than they are wide. This means if you stack them vertically, you’ll end up with something that eats up almost twice as much space as horizontal type. You’ll need to reduce the point size to make everything fit. Or worse yet, squish the letters vertically to compensate. Yuck.

    It fights against the letterforms: This is a script face, so it slants rightward, one letter leading the eye into the next. Moreover, lowercase letters set in script often physically join to one another, as if written in a smooth, flowing hand. A vertical stack is antithetical to both of these: there is no “next” letter to lead the eye into, nor is there any adjoining character to connect to.

    It looks like a gap-toothed palooka: Notice how some of the letter pairs almost overlap, while others have relatively large spaces between them. This is another reason English type wasn’t meant to stack vertically. Even though there’s exactly the same amount of space between the baseline of each letter, some have descenders (e.g., the “tails” of the letters y or q), some have ascenders (e.g., the “flagstaff” of the letters b or d), and some have neither (e.g., x or o). This gives the vertical type a drunken stagger-step of sorts, an ungainly visual gait that we’d like to avoid at all costs.

    It doesn’t handle punctuation well: There’s no graceful way to handle periods, colons, and so forth in vertical type. You could center it below the last letter, as in the original Japanese, but that looks confusing in English. And how would you handle a possessive, like “Darbury’s cat”? Stacked vertically, it would look more like “Darbury, scat.” (Fine. See ya, ingrate.)

    It’s borderline illegible: There’s been lots and lots of research into the science of how people read — how we recognize letters, words, and sentences. There’s a lot of pattern recognition going on in our brains and, for native speakers of Western languages, those patterns almost always work horizontally. Setting type vertically can literally slow down reading and comprehension speed by an order of magnitude.

    So let’s be clear: this sucks. But there are a few things we can do to slightly minimize the suckage. First, let’s set everything in all caps. Like this
    That eliminates our gap-tooth problem; uppercase letters don’t have ascenders or descenders, so all the letters now appear evenly spaced. But we’ve had to reduce the point size even further to make everything fit. (We started out at 20pt. We’re now at 12pt.) Also, our calligraphic type still slants to the right, making each letter feel like a drunk who leans against a wall only to find it isn’t there. We want a handwritten feel to the type, however, so we try switching to an upright block letter font instead:

    This is pretty much as good as it’ll get ... and it’s still not great. It’s still hard to read, and we’ve had to sacrifice the elegance of a script typeface. But wait — it gets worse. Right now, these lines have lots of padding left and right, since I’ve hidden all the other elements on this sprite sheet. What happens when they sit closer together, as they probably will in-game. You get this:

    I don’t know about you, but my brain wants to start reading horizontally adjacent words as sentences: “It birds and eye listen” Huh? It’s like trying to drive an SUV where the steering is constantly pulling to the right. It’s not what we’re looking for in a car, and it’s not what we’re looking for in our typesetting.

    In short, vertically set text is a god-awful mess. Don’t use it. (Obligatory waffling: Okay, maybe if there’s one or two vertical buttons in the whole game. And maybe if they were really, really short — you know, like “SAVE” and “QUIT”? Maybe then you could get away with it. But otherwise, nononono a thousand times no.)

    Introducing my backup singers
    I’m not the only one preaching this gospel. These fine folks agree:
     
     
     
     
     

    So the next time someone asks you to set vertical type, just say no. Then link to this blog post and tell ‘em Darbury told ya so. 
  7. Like
    Helvetica Standard reacted to Darbury for a blog entry, Oh, The Jokes I Have Broke (Part 1 of ∞)   
    As any translator can probably tell you, Japanese jokes are a huge pain to capture in English. There are unfamiliar memes, cultural references, wordplay, riffs on kanji characters — none of which are particularly easy to convey to Western audiences. If you get lucky, a few nips and tucks in editing are all you need to make one of these unwieldy beasts work in English. If you get unlucky, however, you end up having to grab the rib spreader and do some major linguistic surgery.
    Sometimes the patients pull through. Sometimes they die on the operating table. These are their stories.
    Joke 1: Pearls before swine
    In this scene from KoiRizo, Soutarou has just finished giving one of the girls a bit of helpful advice passed down to him by his grandfather. The raw translation is below:
    Soutarou: “... That's the motto that they followed back then, I think. Well you know, according to my grandfather.”
    Riho: “Your grandfather's ball bag?”
    Soutarou: “A-Although I think that he got it from my grandmother...”
    Riho: “Ha ...?!”
    Soutarou: “...”
    Riho: “I just said a really strange thing ―!”
    Get it? Get it? No, of course you don’t. KoiRizo was intended as a literal translation, and read literally, this makes zero sense. At this point in my editing, the only choice I had was to go back to the original script, break out the Japanese > English dictionaries, and see if I could figure out what the hell was going on here.
    As near as I could figure, Riho meant to use the word “chiebukuro” — literally, “sack of wisdom.” She intended to say something about Soutarou’s pop-pop being a pretty smart guy, chock full of good advice. Instead, she uses “tamafukuro” — literally, “ball sack.” You can understand Soutarou’s confusion when Riho starts talking about his grandfather’s wrinkly old nuts. Nice guy that he is, however, Souatrou tries to give her a graceful out, suggesting it was actually his grandmother who provided the advice. Riho realizes her error and is appropriately mortified.
    Great. We’ve puzzled it out ... but at this point, the joke still doesn’t work in translation. “Sack of wisdom” isn’t a common English phrase, so the reader won’t catch the intended meaning behind Riho’s mistake. It just sounds like a plain old non sequitur right now. So our next task is to change her line to something that (1) works as a Freudian slip, (2) comes out of the blue, and (3) is sexually shocking enough to catch Soutarou off guard.
    The version I eventually settled on ran something like this:
    Soutarou: “... That was the common advice back then, I think. Well, you know, according to my grandfather.”
    Riho: “Your grandfather must have really liked giving you pearl necklaces, huh?”
    Soutarou: “A-Actually, it might have been my grandmother who liked giving out pearls of wisdom ...”
    Riho: “Ha ...?!”
    Soutarou: “...”
    Riho: “I can’t believe I just said that ―!”
    Here, we’ve keep the same basic structure, but rather than “sack of wisdom,” Riho tries (and fails) to say “pearls of wisdom,” a much more common English idiom. And now, rather than Grandpa’s gnarly ballsack, we have the even more shocking image of the old guy giving his grandson pearl necklaces on a regular basis. Soutarou still gets to save the day by pivoting to his grandmother, and then the rest of the joke plays out pretty much as originally written.
    Does it work? I hope so, but one could just as easily argue that I broke it. It’s a different gag; there’s no doubting that. But at the end of the day, I’d rather have a joke that works and maintains the original’s spirit than one that’s accurate to a fault.

    Joke 2: Deflowering the girls
    Here’s a joke I know I broke during editing. Smashed it to the ground and danced on the pieces. In my defense, it was looking at me funny.
    In the raw translation of this scene, resort manager Nagisa has just asked the staff to gather in their swimsuits for a big announcement:
    Nagisa: “I have a reason for calling you all here like this today.”
    Nagisa: “I'd like everyone to become the 'detergent' of the facilities.”
    Sango: “Detergent? Us?”
    Nagisa: “Oh, sorry. By detergent, I was referring more to advertising material.... In other words, I need you guys to photograph for an advertisement.”
    Again, another joke that makes no sense when read literally. And the only TL note I had to go on said, “This translation won't work in English.” Agreed. So I hauled out the J>E dictionary again, but had much less luck this time. At best, I came away with a wisp of a shred of a guess. My hunch was that Nagisa was using one very specific meaning of the word “senzai”— the foremost part of a garden, the loveliest flowers intended to set the stage and entice visitors in deeper — and Sango interpreted it as another more common meaning of “senzai” — namely, detergent. Nagisa clarifies her meaning, everyone has a chuckle, and the scene continues.
    I wasn’t sure if I was right — I’m an editor, not a translator — but lacking any better options, I decided to go with it. And I promptly flailed about like a clown being drowned in a bathtub. Right off the bat, I knew there weren’t any good English sound-alikes that would work here. So instead, I wrote about a dozen variations on garden and flower puns, but none of them managed to weave plausible misunderstanding with Nagisa’s actual meaning. Worse yet, they just weren’t funny.
    Next, I tried a few bawdier versions, but quickly abandoned those as well. This scene is going to get more risqué in a minute, but throwing in a sex joke right now would be tipping our hand too soon. (In one draft, I had Nagisa say she wants the girls to be the hook that lures visitors to the island. Sango replies, “What?! You want us to hook for you?” — i.e., she thought her boss wanted to pimp them out as resort hookers.)
    Having hit brick wall after brick wall, I decided to strip the joke down to its essence. What’s the basic structure here? Nagisa says she wants to use the girls to help sell the resort. Sango suffers a comic misunderstanding. Nagisa corrects her. The end. So that’s what I wrote:
    Nagisa: “There’s a reason why I’ve called everyone here like this today.”
    Nagisa: “I've decided to sell you.”
    Sango: “Sell us? Is that even legal?”
    Nagisa: “Oh, sorry. By ‘sell,’ I meant using you to help advertise the resort ... In layman’s terms, I need you guys to model for some publicity photos.”
    We lose the poeticism of the original — that image of the girls as flowers drawing visitors in — but in exchange, we get something that actually works as wordplay in English while still delivering the necessary plot info (Nagisa’s marketing brainstorm). It’s still not a particularly hilarious gag, but then again, neither was the original.
    In both examples, I ended up completely rewriting large chunks of each joke. And while I'm not entirely satisfied — I wish I could have kept more of the original language — I'm okay with the result. Editing is a balancing act. You want to remain as faithful to the original text as possible while maintaining the audience’s immersion in the work. If the reader suddenly comes across a joke that clearly doesn’t parse in English, that immersion is broken. They stop. They scroll back and re-read it a few times, trying to make sense of it. They wonder if they’re missing something, or if the TL team just messed it up. BAM. They’re now completely out of the world of the visual novel. The magic is broken.
    Because magic is only magic until you notice the strings. Or that dead clown in the bathtub.
  8. Like
    Helvetica Standard reacted to Darbury for a blog entry, Ojousamas for All! (AKA, The First Reference Rule)   
    Pop quiz, hotshot.
    There’s an untranslated (i.e, romaji) word sitting there in the script you're editing, staring right up at you. It’s been left like that because the TL team figured people ought to know what it means. But will they really? And what are the ramifications if they don’t? You’re running out of time, and patch release day is breathing down your neck. What do you do?
    WHAT DO YOU DO?
    In the case of KoiRizo, I ended up relying on a journalistic standard commonly called “the first reference rule.” Here’s how it works.
    Visual novels for all!
    Let’s say you’re a journalist writing an article about efforts to improve educational standards in underdeveloped nations. At some point, you might find yourself needing to refer to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, aka UNESCO. But if just you dropped the acronym “UNESCO” in there, most people wouldn’t know what the bloody hell you were talking about. And if you went with “The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization” every time, your prose would be about as ungainly as me at my prom. So a compromise gets struck: you explain the term on your first reference to it, then use the shorter form thereafter.
    An example first reference:
    “The director-general of The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), pledged to make visual novels part of the global curriculum by 2025.”
    Or:
    “The director-general of UNESCO, the UN agency focused on international education efforts, pledged to make visual novels part of the global curriculum by 2025.”
    At this point, you’d be free to use “UNESCO” in any future references, since you’ve already explained the term. Everyone wins: the reader understands what you’re talking about, and you only have to use one word instead of eight.

    Ojousamas for all!
    The same holds true for visual novels. Let’s say an untranslated term like “ojousama” shows up in your script. if the reader has consumed a fair number of anime/manga/VNs, they might know this describes a young woman of certain means and refinement. It’s a common VN archetype, after all. But a relative newcomer to these genres would have no way of knowing that. They’d be lost if you just started dropping O-bombs out of the blue.
    So the first thing to do is determine context. Is this a one-off reference? If so, you can probably just fully translate the line and be done with it. (“She takes a limo to school? She must be an ojousama” becomes, “She takes a limo to school? She must come from money.”)
    In the case of KoiRizo, however, the word “ojousama” is used several dozen times. In fact, a character’s ojousama-ness becomes the focal point of an entire route. It would be a fool’s errand to try and excise it, particularly when there’s no one English word to replace it. So we apply the first reference rule.
    The initial mention in the translated KoiRizo script reads:
    “Because she's an ojousama, it'd be a given that she wouldn't worry about matters like money.”
    It hints at the meaning, but doesn't quite go far enough. So applying our rule, we update it to:
    “She's a proper young lady of means — an ojousama — so you'd expect her not to worry about things like money.”
    We’ve now defined the word “ojousama” in context and set the stage for its future use. This will make the rest of the VN flow much more smoothly for both new readers and purists who prefer their tropey terms untranslated. If several hours go by without us using the word again, it’s common courtesy to provide a reminder of its definition, but otherwise we should be good to go.

    All for gruel!
    You can even apply the rule in reverse. Here, two characters are about to spend 50 or so lines talking about a certain home-cooked dish. Original translation below:
    A: “Okay ... What's in the pot?”
    B: “Rice gruel with egg broth.”
    We don’t want to spend the next 50 lines saying “Rice gruel with egg broth.” Nor do we want to just say “gruel,” which sounds like something ladled out in a Depression-era orphanage. In fact, this is a steaming bowl of Japanese comfort food deliciousness. So we apply the rule in reverse, and bring back the untranslated term from the original script:
    A: “Okay ... What's in the pot?”
    B: “Ojiya — rice end egg porridge.”
    Now we can safely use the term “ojiya” for the next 50 lines. This ends up working better on several levels: it makes the dish sound more traditionally Japanese, it strikes the right emotional tone, and it helps us shave extra words from our lines.
    P.S. - If anyone knows where I can get a really good bowl of ojiya in New York City, I’m all ears.
  9. Like
    Helvetica Standard reacted to Darbury for a blog entry, VN Image Editing: Retouching Images with 8-Bit Transparency   
    And now a little something for all you image editors out there. (If you don't speak Photoshop, just keep walking; there's nothing for you here.)
    Some visual novels make image edits simple — the UI is mostly flat colors, 90º angles, and 1-bit transparencies. Easy peasy. Meanwhile, some more recent VNs like to store all their UI elements as semi-transparent overlays with full 8-bit alpha channels. If you've ever tried editing these, you know what a pain they can be.
    And so, I came to love a command I've never had to use before in all my years with Photoshop — namely because if there's a transparency on something, I'm usually the one who put it there in the first place.
    Ready? Tattoo this on your arm: Layer > Layer Mask > From Transparency
    Let's look at one possible scenario where it might come into play: Text on paper.

    At first glance, doesn't seem like it would be too hard, right? Then you get it into Photoshop and realize it's a mix of transparent elements and fully opaque type.

    If you just grabbed the rubber stamp tool and tried cloning out the text right now, you'd end up with something like this.

    That's because your cloning source is semi-transparent. The trick here is to separate out the 8-bit alpha channel from the source image so you have an entirely opaque image. So with the source layer selected, choose Layer > Layer Mask > From Transparency, temporarily disable the resulting layer mask, and you get something like this.

    From there, it's just a standard retouching job. Once you clone out the type as best you can, you're ready to add new text from your TL team. (In this case, since the type and paper are at two different levels of transparency, you'd also need to do a quick cleanup on the layer mask. If you look closely at the mask thumbnail, you can see the type as pure white on a 60% gray. Just paint over that part of the mask with more 60% gray and you'll be good to go.)

    Enable the layer mask again, export as a file with 8-bit alpha support (a PNG, most likely) and you're done. This was a fairly straightforward example, of course, but the basics remain the same no matter how complex the retouching job.
    Now rinse and repeat 500 more times with all the rest of the game files. Aren't you glad you decided to take up image editing?
  10. Like
    Helvetica Standard reacted to Nosebleed for a blog entry, Hyouka Was A Mistake   
    I can sense the raging fanboys as I type the title of this entry, but it's one I promised to do for a while and since I haven't posted anything on this blog in forever, I thought this would be a great way to come back.

    So what is wrong with Hyouka? Well, in my opinion, pretty much everything.

    I always manage to get myself caught up in one-sided discussion with people defending this anime, and no matter how many good and some even valid points those people make, I simply can not for the life of me understand how Hyouka can even be considered above average.

    Let's discuss the first problem I have with Hyouka: The Mysteries.

    "Oh boy he's just going to rant about how the mysteries were unimportant isn't he?"

    Well, not quite, I understood from the get go this anime was not trying to put forward some kind of deep detective charade and that the mysteries were meant to be simplistic and, for the most part, fairly minimalistic.

    The problem I have with the mystery elements in this show is that none of them really matter for anything.
    I don't get any sense of accomplishment from seeing the characters solve the already miniscule mysteries that they manage to come across. The characters are always triggered by silly stuff and then turn everything into a detective style, clue gathering and crime solving type of mystery, only to solve it and be done with it. The mysteries are, for the most part, unrelated to the plot (or lack thereof) and don't provide any fun addition to the show, they just feel like pointless ways to drag out and pad a way for a really uninteresting adventure.

    You can say all you want about the goal of the show being "simple mystery solving" or whatever, but that doesn't take away the fact that the mysteries, on top of being minimalistic and boring, don't add any value to the plot and are, quite frankly, really unoriginal and boring, which makes for an overall negative watching experience.

    Moving on to the second problem I have with this anime: The characters

    I absolutely hated almost every single character in Hyouka.

    This is the part where it comes more down to personal preferences, but I'll still speak my mind on it.

    Chitanda Eru made me want to commit suicide. Her whole character is based off of this retarded gimmick of wanting to solve mysteries for no reason. It's like she's brain dead and all she can say is "I'm curious!". Her character is annoying, doesn't do much for the most part, and just feels like a really sorry excuse for a main heroine of a show. She wasn't fun to watch, I just wanted her to disappear for most part of the show so I wouldn't have to deal with this utter BS.

    But what this gimmick really ruins is essentially the show's main gimmick: simple mysteries

    You see, simple mysteries can be cool and all, but not when all your main character does is look for the most fucking pointless mystery she can find, and then drag the entire cast with her in order to solve the absolutely tedious mystery. This, in my opinion, is this show's major downfall.

    Chitanda Eru was a mistake.

    This is how it felt hearing Chitanda say "I'm curious!"




    She's a hollow shell of a heroine and god forbid the person who thought she was a good character comes up with more stories like this.

    Moving on, the other two (almost side) characters: Satoshi and Mayaka

    God, these two made me want to shove forks in my eyes so I wouldn't have to continue watching this appalling show.

    Satoshi is by far one of the worst main/side characters I have ever seen, his entire premise for acting the way he does is that he feels inferior to the protagonist. And he makes sure you know this EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
    He never acts on his own accord, he makes himself inferior on purpose and overall he needlessly becomes a hindrance and a nuisance for no apparent reason other than being an edgy emo teenager.
    And what's worse, he never evolves from this. He stays like this throughout the whole show. I don't even know who thought this was a good idea.

    The last main character I didn't like, Mayaka, is the lesser bad of the main ones. While I was profoundly annoyed by her being hung over such a horrible crush like Satoshi, at the very least I could concede that she was slightly more proactive than him.
    Still though, just like her crush, Mayaka often spent her time mopping around and acting like an edgy emo teenager because we all know being a teenager really is tough.

    The sole saving grace of the plot, the protagonist Oreki, really can't salvage the whole show, but I will grant that he's the only character with meaningful and interesting development as he goes from being one of those uninterested types to a more proactive character that's interested in stuff (probably affected by the Chitanda virus).
    Still though, I find Oreki's character slightly bland as, just like every other character in the show, his sole gimmick is being OP at logic. Which, at the very least, is a good thing to be OP at, but other than that he's not really that interesting to watch as he mostly just gets dragged around by people.
    But since he's the most intuitive of the group, I'll say that he's the sole character I kind of liked in the show.

    Moving on to the third and last problem I have with this show: The pacing and the story

    When you have a 22 episode show, you have to make sure you maintain a good pacing and have an engaging story so your viewers really want to stick with you until the end. Sadly, Hyouka fails on this aspect as well.

    The uninteresting and unengaging mysteries and the generally slow paced and easygoing story only add up to an ultimately boring viewing experience that never managed to make me want to keep watching, but rather it made me feel like I was forcing myself to press on to see if ultimately there would be something worth praising at the end of the tunnel.
    Spoiler alert: there wasn't.

    Hyouka is a show with basically no plot, and shows with no plots are something I'm known to like even, but when you have no plot, you need good characterization, you need your characters to be engaging and make things happen, and Hyouka fails on pretty much every aspect of this, making for one of the worst anime experiences I've had.

    This anime might have been produced with a big budget (based Unlimited KyoAni Works), but if you have a bad source material, no matter how much you sugarcoat it, no matter how many directing tricks you use, it just doesn't work, and Hyouka will always be living proof of it.

    To those of you who defend Hyouka, I'm sorry, you're allowed to like this anime, really, I understand all the trickery that went behind in making it, I just think that it's ultimately really non engaging and boring and overall a sugercoated turd that I can not wrap my head around no matter how many times I watch it.

    Just ask yourself this: Do you find an anime based on pointless mysteries that are constantly forced upon you by an annoying teen girl that constantly shouts "I'm curious!" to be fun?
    If you do, I guess I have nothing to say to you.
    If you don't, then I hope you understand why I don't like Hyouka as well.
  11. Like
    Helvetica Standard reacted to Satsuki for a blog entry, (NSFW) Tales of the perverted swordwoman - Random Review - Sakura Fantasy Chapter 1   
    Winged Cloud. Guess I don't really need to make any introduction, since they are already well-known in visual novel community for their boobs-first-story-later "Sakura" series. Of course, after getting a mountain of money poured into their pocket with their previous titles, there is no way that they don't want more. May 29th, they released the 3rd one in the series - Sakura Fantasy Chapter 1. Yes, this is only the chapter 1, because they want to milk as much money as possible from this game (that said, the price is still the same as other "Sakura" games, which is 12$). And here I am, with my B-52 Bomb Squadron, ready to engage them.

    WARNING: 18+ 15+ MATERIAL BELOW. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.





    SYNOPSIS

    The new visual novel from the makers of Sakura Spirit and Sakura Angels.

    Sakura Fantasy Chapter 1 is an exciting visual novel fantasy adventure where you decide the development of the story by the choices you make.

    It is the tale of an aspiring female protagonist who wishes to aim to become a knight.

    CHARACTER

    1. Raelin





    Protagonist. A novice knight with the special ability a.k.a "gift" of "farseeing" (basically, let her "spirit" leaves her body and goes looking around). A perverted girl with the hobby of peeking at other people's nude private moment and getting nude herself.

    2. Gwynne






    Raelin's best friend. She handles paperwork in the barrack, and rarely participates in actual combat practice. She has the gift of lighting (summoning lighting and such).

    3. Keira






    Raelin's instructor. A serious and harsh girl, especially toward Raelin. She has the gift of stone skin.

    4. Ardena





    The Empress. An emotionless girl, or should I say, thousand years old grandma Her gift is currently unknown.

    STORY

    To summary, Sakura Fantasy is about Raelin, a novice knight that is currently training in some random barrack in some random empire. For some reason, she got the gift of farseeing from someone called "the creator". For some reason, she wanted to become an excellent knight in the army to fight again some kind of monster. One day, in her sleep, she found herself getting stucked in a swamp with a huge monster, but decided that it's just simply a dream after she woke up.







    Yup, dark.


    Sometime later, she was assigned to be the castle's guard. There, she met a strange girl who told her about "a star may soon falls from the heaven". She did not understand it well, until later of the day, when it really happened: A star fell from the sky, crashed down to somewhere outside the "wall" (which protect the city from monster).

    Despite the opposition of the Council, the strange girl - who now revealed as the Empress - decided to assemble a group of brave soldiers to seek for the fallen star. Of course, everyone can guess who would be in that group: Raelin - the protagonist, Gwynne - best friend, and Keira - the tsundere instructor.





    After crawling through the swamp filled with all kind of perverted monsters that you can expect (slime, tenta-tree) and fought a super anti-climax battle with a "slime girl" (which she soon retreated after throwing out some random attacks), Keira suddenly got shot down by a strange girl. Turned out that that girl - Ethy - mistook Keira with a monster - or something like that. The group then took a break at the small village where Ethy lived.

    Before departing, suddenly, a huge monster came to attack the village. The group fought back, and won after a deus-ex-machina battle. They had a big feast, and Ethy ended up joining them after the Empress's spirit emerged from Raelin and talked to the villagers - who had a lot of respect toward the Empress. Anddddd that's the end of chapter 1.





    Man, there are so many things to talk about that I don't even know where to start anymore.

    First off, language. When Winged Cloud first released Sakura Spirit, they got a full container of rocks for the omfg English in the game. This time, there are improvements, but STILL NOT ENOUGH. I mean...






    Yes, I'm not a native English-speaker, but I'm damn sure this is NOT how you use "wake" in a sentence! Btw, this is just the 4th sentence into the game! Other parts of the game are also trashed with random weird sentences all over the place.
    In the synopsis also: "female protagonist who wishes to aim to become a knight". No no no, you either "wish" or "aim". You don't "wish to aim". That's retarded.

    Secondly, detail. You wonder why I used so many "someone", "something", "somewhere" in the summary? That's because the game simply explained ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about those. They just throw the players into the game environment and leave them there dying with no information whatsoever. What is this empire called? Why did Raelin join the army? What are they fighting against? Where did those monsters come from? What's the current situation? What exactly is "gift"? There are simply no answer for those very basic questions. All there for players to know, is that they are soldiers with "gift" in an empire fighting against monsters. Done.
    Let's take a look at the 2nd choice, about 2 minutes into the game:






    Before this choice, they did not mentioned a damn single word about what the hell is this "gift" thing, and suddenly, they tell players to make a choice related to that "gift" thing. Are you trolling me here!?

    Next, the consistency. In a sword practice scene:






    Excuse me, girl, but those things are called "dummy", not "doll".


    Realizing their mistake, in the later scene, not far from this scene, they changed it back to "dummy", but decided to keep the "doll" in this scene as it, just to remind the players "Oh, we actually wanted to use doll but it sounded too dumb so we changed it to dummy instead".
    In another scene, when Gwynne told Raelin "You should not sleep in late." ("sleep in late", meh...), Raelin replied: "I was making strange faces? Like what?". Errr.....what? Raelin, are you still sleepy? She did not mention a damn single thing about your face you know!?

    Fourthly, "the creator". In this game, "the creator" is pretty much "God" in this empire. "He" (nah, don't know the gender) granted people with gift, for some reason. And also for some reason, only granted it for some people, not all. And because he is the "God", some sentences in the game became weirdly funny:





    Who were you thanking there, Raelin? The "creator" who granted you the gift, or did you just break the forth wall and thank Winged Cloud?

    And finally, the choice. According to Wingled Cloud, players can "decide the development of the story by the choices you make". Nooooope. Most of the choices are absolutely pointless, they affect nothing toward the story development. In like half of them, Raelin will just go ahead and do whatever she wants to do, regardless of your choice. There are only 2, or maybe 3 choices that really make a different, that will result in different CGs, but even then, nothing is actually changed in the flow of story. There is no route, no bad end, so you are free to make whatever choice you want. You want to stay loyal to one girl? Go for it. You want to make a harem (in your imagination)? Go for it. You want to be a coward and always stay in the back line? Go for it. You want to be a crazy girl who charge headfirst into the monster without a single care in the world? Go for it.

    You want to go commando? Go for it.






    GRAPHIC

    Well, it's Winged Cloud, so you know what is coming. Nice art as ever, with a heck amount of boobs, ass and fan-service. 80% (or more, I'm suck at math) of the CGs are fan-service. How did this thing even get through Steam again? No wonder why they can attract a bunch of perverts on Steam buying their games. Eeeeveryone fell for the honey trap. Not me, I pirated.






    MUSIC

    Just your normal everyday BGM, nothing to talk about. Actually, did they reuse some BGMs from their previous games...?

    CONCLUSION

    I will just say one thing: Please, stay away from this trash. Don't pour more money into Winged Cloud's pocket, giving them motivation to create more disasters. If you want something to spend your money on, then go for Grisaia (or wait for the 18+ ver if you want), Neptunia, or even Akiba's Trip. Much better.

    Pros:
    - Nice art.

    Cons:
    - Still have Engrish.
    - Unexplained story, detail.
    - Pointless choices.
    - No route (this game is not designed to be a kinetic novel).
    - Lack of consistency in wording and sentencing.
    - Overused fan-service CGs.
    - Overkill price.

    Score
    Story: 2/10
    Character: 5/10
    Graphic: 7/10
    Music: 4/10
    Overkill price: -2
    Total: 2,5/10







    My previous review:
    Love Rec. (Trial Edition)
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