Top 10 Fan Translated Games in my Backlog
Many of series I enjoy come from Japanese developers, and while localization efforts of the companies involved have been very active in recent years, from time to time they develop a game that remains in Japan, and never to see an official English localization. Not all of the games on this list are from a beloved Japanese franchise. Some are interesting, standalone titles. But in either case, sometimes the only way to get an English translation of a game is to do it yourself, and that’s exactly what the people and teams mentioned in this post did. Here are 10 games from my backlog that I can only play because fans around the world took matters into their own hands, and translated them themselves!
My initial drafts of this list lacked variety, so I imposed a rule on myself: only one game per series is allowed. Otherwise Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem would take up half the list! I did list some additional games as runners up for some places in the list, choosing another game from the series with a fan-made English translation that was a close 2nd for that place.
10. The Legend of Heroes: Zero no Kiseki
Along with this one is The Legend of Heroes: Ao no Kiseki, which is a sequel to Zero no Kiseki. Both these games are part of the “Kiseki” or Trails series in The Legend of Heroes franchise. They are the 4th and 5th games in the series, taking place after the Trails in the Sky trilogy, and before the Trails of Cold Steel games.
I don’t see myself playing these games any time soon, since I’ll most likely play through the Trails in the Sky trilogy first…and that will take me a long time! That’s the main reason it’s at the bottom of this list. That will probably work out well actually, as The Geofront, the team of fans working on a Zero no Kiseki translation, are still working on it. As of September 21, 2019, the initial editing pass of the translated script has been completed! You can keep up with the progress of this patch here. By the time I’m ready to play it, I’m sure they will have a very polished translation patch completed!
Runner up for this slot: The Legend of Heroes: Ao no Kiseki
Policenauts is a pre-Metal Gear Solid Hideo Kojima work, written and directed by him. That fact alone is probably enough to draw in a significant fanbase, but the interesting premise and themes of Policenauts seem interesting in their own right. The gameplay is point-and-click style, and follows Jonathan Ingram, an astronaut with police training, after he is found drifting in space following an accident, and learns that he’s been in cryosleep for the last 28 years.
Policenauts is available on several platforms, including the original PlayStation, and there is an English translation available for that version too. However, the Sega Saturn version released later, and includes content cut from the PlayStation version, as well as higher quality visuals. This sounds like a great version to play, and thanks to the translation work of Marc Laidlaw and others, the Saturn version is fully playable in English. The Sega Saturn English translation patch can be found here.
8. Valkyria Chronicles 3: Unrecorded Chronicles
I enjoyed the first game so much, playing Valkyria Chronicles 3 at some point down the road is inevitable! I can only assume it includes more of the strategic, turn-based, wartime gameplay I loved in Valkyria Chronicles, and that sounds great to me!
Thanks to the work of the Valkyria Chronicles 3 Translation Project team, this entry in the series can be enjoyed by English-speaking people like myself! The translation patch can be found on the project website here.
7. Shin Megami Tensei
I really want to get into the mainline Shin Megami Tensei series, as I’ve currently only ever played games from one of its spin-off series, Persona. I don’t plan on starting with Shin Megami Tensei though, I’ll probably start the series with either Shin Megami Tensei 3 or 4, and go back to the first game sometime afterward.
Aeon Genesis worked on and released this patch, which can be found on their website here. They have nothing but praise for the game on the project page, which is very encouraging and also makes me especially grateful that they dedicated their time to translating it! I should note that there was an official English translation in 2014, which resulted in Shin Megami Tensei for iOS being released. But it only runs on older versions of iOS, do unless you have an outdated Apple device to run it on, or downgrade your iOS version somehow, it’s not a viable option.
Runner up for this slot: Shin Megami Tensei if…
6. Tales of Innocence
I consider myself a fan of the Tales series, despite not having much experience with its early 2D battle system days. I’ve known about the Japan-exclusive DS Tales games for a while: Tales of Innocence and Tales of the Tempest. Tales of the Tempest seems to have a bad reputation, and isn’t considered to be very good, so I’m avoiding that one. Tales of Innocence, on the other hand, has favorable reviews, and I haven’t heard anything awful about it! From what I’ve seen, it looks like an impressive game for the DS. The battle system seems reminiscent of Tales of Symphonia or Tales of the Abyss, at least in that it’s a 3D battle system. Interestingly, Innocence received a remake for the PS Vita, Tales of Innocence R. This version was also only released in Japan, and unfortunately no English translation patch is underway for that version.
This patch was completed by the Romhacking Aerie and Absolute Zero Translations, and can be found on ROMHacking.net here. The readme for the patch includes some really interesting thoughts on the project from throughhim413 and Kingcom, the translator and programmer on the project respectively, and I highly recommend reading it!
5. Sol Trigger
Sol Trigger is an excellent looking PSP JRPG, with a turn-based battle system and an interesting aesthetic. All the character designs are really focused on the colors black and purple, and that grabbed my attention right away. I don’t know much about this game, but I definitely want to give it a shot!
The English translation for this one isn’t complete, and is at version 0.9, but the last status update on the website was in 2017. From the sound of that update, and with how much time has passed since then, it doesn’t seem likely a full 1.0 release will come to fruition. The team did translate the entire script, but not all of it has been inserted into the game. Still though, I’m looking forward to enjoying the fruits of the translation team’s labor! The Sol Trigger translation patch can be found here.
4. Mother 3
Since I had such a great time playing Earthbound, it only makes sense I would have a strong desire to play the next game in the series: Mother 3. What more is there to say about Mother 3 at this point? The game’s lack of an official English localization is infamous among fans of the series. While he was president of Nintendo of America, Reggie Fils-Aime was asked when Mother 3 would be localized so many times, it became some thing of a meme. Now that he’s no longer working for Nintendo of America, he’s said that the decision to localize Mother 3 is thankfully one that he’s no longer a part of.
Anyway, as a result of the Do It Yourself Devotion Project and the work of Tomato, Gideon Zhi, demi, and Reidman, a complete English translation exists, and can be found here along with many other Mother and Mother 3 resources!
3. Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade
Edit: Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade was difficult, but definitely worth playing if you’ve enjoyed other games in the series, particularly the other GBA titles. I definitely don’t recommend you start the series with this game though, unless you’re already really good at SRPGs and don’t mind the challenge. If you don’t mind me spoiling the number of chapters in the game, the way to get different endings, or 1 epilogue spoiler about the story’s conclusion, you can read more of my thoughts on this game here.
The first Fire Emblem to be released for a handheld, and the game released prior to the series being introduced to the west, Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade actually takes place after the following game in the series. The game that the west got as simply “Fire Emblem” is a prequel to The Binding Blade.
This English patch is courtesy of Dark Twilkitri Net Translation Division and Eaichu, and can be found here on ROMHacking.net.
Runner up for this slot: Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem (DS)
2. Grand Knights History
This Vanillaware game made the top of my Top 10 PSP Games in my Backlog post, so clearly I’m really curious about it. The art reminds me heavily of Odin Sphere, the only other Vanillaware game I’ve played, and that really makes me want to give Grand Knights History a shot.
Thanks to dedicated fans, Grand Knights History is fully playable in English! You can download the patch from this GBATemp thread.
1. Custom Robo
Edit: Finished! It was an absolute joy to dive into the world of Custom Robo again. You can read more of my thoughts on it here
Custom Robo (2004) on the GameCube is one of my favorite GameCube games. I played it a ton back in the day. When I learned that it was actually the 4th Custom Robo game, I was curious to go back and try the first game in the series, to see how it had evolved over time. The first 2 Custom Robo games are for the N64, but both only released in Japan.
When I first checked for an English translation patch years ago, it didn’t exist, and there were no groups working on one either. That’s why I was surprised when I checked again this year, and learned that a patch had been released back in 2017! The patch can be found here on ROMHacking.net, courtesy of the Star Trinket group, whose site can be found here. I haven’t tried any of their translations yet, but I really love the attention they seem to be giving the N64. For whatever reason, N64 translation patches seem really rare, despite there being a number of Japan-only N64 games, like Custom Robo, so it’s inspiring to see a team of fans like Star Trinket give their time and energy to translating them. I’m really looking forward to more of the robo battles and customization I loved in the GameCube title!