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Hitokata Translation Project [Released]


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Darbury presents Darbury’s Old Visual Novels for Old People Named Darbury
Will anybody care about this TL other than me? Probably not. So let’s just agree to call it a micro-niche release, okay?

Anyway, there’s this doujin VN called Hitokata. It’s old. Came out 20 years ago, in fact. A one-person labor of love released at the turn of the century. It’s also well-regarded in the Japanese freeware VN community. Start poking around people’s top 10 lists of free VNs and you’ll be surprised how often it turns up. I mean, not Narcissu often… but enough.

Why? Nostalgia maybe. Back in the day, a 100% free VN that clocked in at 10+ hours was something of a rarity. And one that was sorta good? Doubly so. The game was also surprisingly influential, picking up the time-loop ball from YU-NO and running with it before that trope became a total cliche. Even now, you’ll often see Hitokata referenced in reviews and discussions of doujin VNs with timey-wimey narratives.

Great. So what the hell is it about, Darbury?
Glad you asked. Here’s a little write-up:

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Welcome to the quaint seaside village of Uchioi, home to fishing, festivals… and the Gyuuki, an ancient demon sealed away beneath the waves centuries ago. All that seems about to change, however, as the Gyuuki shows signs of reawakening. The fate of Uchioi now rests in the hands of one teenage boy: Mamoru, called back to the Minami family seat by a distant relative. He has only four days to defeat the Gyuuki… and they’ll prove to be the longest four days of his life.

Ancient demons, teenage angst, fresh fish… What more could you want, right?

Hitokata never made it to the West for a variety of reasons: a graphically bare-bones first release; an over-reliance on repetition; and an odd mix of cornball humor and existential dread. (Plus, if I’m being honest, the narrative can be slightly clunky at times.) It was popular enough in Japan, however, to merit a commercial remake for mobile — first for feature phones, then Android/iOS. And with that came a whole new generation of fans.

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A very stupid localization
Everyone had a COVID hobby to keep them sane over the past year, and working on Hitokata was one of mine. It started as a simple translation of the NScripter original, but when I was done, I was visited by a series of increasingly stupid thoughts:

  • Stupid Thought #1: Hey, this VN isn’t very pretty. Maybe I can just add the backgrounds from the mobile release.
  • Stupid Thought #2: Heyy, now that I’ve added the backgrounds, it probably won’t be much more work to add the sprites.
  • Stupid Thought #3: Heyyy, now that I’ve added the sprites, it probably won’t be much more work to add the sounds and music.
  • Stupid Thought #4: Heyyyy, now that I’ve added the sounds and music, it probably won’t be much more work to add the UI.
  • Stupid Thought #5: Heyyyyy, now that I’ve added the UI, why don’t I just port this whole thing to Ponscripter.

By the time the stupidity stopped, I’d more or less done a ground-up rebuild of the game. Whoops! On the bright side, it means there are now two distinct versions of the TL patch: Hitokata Classic, a straight TL of the original game; and Hitokata Enhanced, with all the added bells and whistles. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of an early screen to show how those two versions stack up.

Screenshots:
CLASSIC | ENHANCED

So, if your name is Darbury and you like old doujin VNs, you can find more info on the patch here. (You're also incredibly handsome. Good on ya.) If you’re anyone else, just go play Musicus! already.

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Surprised I never heard of this one, especially since I really like VNs from that era. You've convinced me to read this as my next VN. This is really cool work you did! Especially for not just translating the original, but porting an enhanced version as well. 

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