Fan to Fan Translation: The Cases and Chances of Attorneys of the First | Games

Translation from fan to fan: the cases and accidents of Lawyers of the First (Image: Vitor Pádua/Tecnoblog)

Due to the lack of accessibility in relation to the language, many great games end up going unnoticed by the general public. In recent years, some developers and publishers — such as Capcom, Ubisoft and Bandai Namco — have been concerned with localizing and even dubbing their games in Brazilian Portuguese, thus attracting new players who cannot or do not want to read in English.

The localization process, however, is neither simple nor cheap. Therefore, the less popular franchises that do not provide so much financial return are left without Portuguese versions. This is the case for Ace Attorney, by Capcom: a series of point-and-click adventure games loaded with text, from the characters’ lines, to the gameplay mechanics, such as the tests used to prove the innocence of customers.

Brazilians who still don’t know the franchise may be afraid to start playing, because of the huge amount of texts in English. To eliminate this hurdle, fan translations are emerging, which are often produced on a non-profit basis by passionate players. In case of Ace Attorney, the Jacutem Sabão team is responsible for bringing the adventures of Phoenix Wright (or Fênix Veríssimo, in the Tupiniquim version) to Brazil, with the project First Attorneys.

the famous interjection
The famous interjection “Objection!” is translated to “Protest!” in First Class Lawyers (Image: Murilo Tunholi/Tecnoblog)

First Attorneys was born in 2016, but only started walking in 2017

Created with the aim of locating and adapting the series Ace Attorney in Brazilian Portuguese, the Jacutem Sabão project has already translated the entire classic trilogy of the franchise — First-rate Lawyers: Fênix Veríssimo, Justice for everyone and Cases and Chances. The idea had been taking slow steps since 2016, but it only really took off in 2017, after the launch of the first beta version.

Instead of just translating the texts literally, the Jacutem Sabão team is concerned with adapting not only the game’s interface and the characters’ speeches, but also their names, voices and all other graphic elements that appear on the screen, such as signs and signs. In addition, the team strives to include our culture within the game, guaranteeing Brazilians the same experience that Americans have when playing in English, for example.

To produce this content, the team has more than 50 people, who are divided into different roles, such as administrators, translators, designers, programmers and voice actors. One of the current project leaders, known as GR, joined the team in 2017 as a volunteer translator, but he soon took on responsibilities from other positions to drive production.

The entire interface of the Lawyers of the First series games are adapted to Portuguese (Image: Murilo Tunholi/Tecnoblog)
The entire interface of the Lawyers of the First series games are adapted to Portuguese (Image: Murilo Tunholi/Tecnoblog)

To the Techblog, GR said he knew so much about the series. Ace Attorney as the first translation project in 2009, at a time when the team was different and the name First Attorneys it wasn’t even used yet. At that time, GR was studying an English course, but he still didn’t understand the language very well. To facilitate gambling, he searched for possible Portuguese versions on the internet.

“At the time, there was already a translation, released in 2007 or 2008, which was from an old mobile version, in Java, of the first case of the first game. And the creator had already done the localization of the characters’ names. So whoever is old-timers and a fan of the series probably already knew the name Fênix Veríssimo, which was inspired by his idea”, said GR.

This translation, however, did not work, and the project was frozen for many years. Only in 2016, a new team decided to adapt Ace Attorney again and create Jacutem Soap. “When I joined, about two months later, we restructured everything. That’s when we started to do the localization process for real”, said the leader. After that kickoff, the team began translating the classic trilogy.

Not only texts, but also graphics are adapted to Portuguese

At the beginning of Jacutem Sabão, the team was not as big as it is today. Back then, GR was responsible for most of the creative process and the group’s organization alongside designer Matheus “bMatSantos” Santos — one of the oldest members of the team. “It was basically me and bMatSantos. What I couldn’t do or had no idea, he complemented it with some counterpoint. Afterwards, more people appeared, and once in a while a member would make a suggestion”, commented GR.

Unlike GR, who decided to translate Ace Attorney because he liked the franchise, bMatSantos didn’t know the series when he was called for the project. However, the designer took the trilogy to play and loved it right away, which motivated him to continue with the translations. Also, it works in parallel with locations from other series, such as super Mario and Deltarune, which can be seen on his YouTube channel.

The passport used as evidence in one of the cases gained the look of the Brazilian document (Image: Murilo Tunholi/Tecnoblog)
The passport used as evidence in one of the cases gained the look of the Brazilian document (Image: Murilo Tunholi/Tecnoblog)

Graduated in digital design, bMatSantos today handles the most complex graphics in games, including changes to 3D models. In addition to having the texts well translated, the games First Attorneys also bring adapted visual elements. In one case, for example, a passport is presented as evidence. In the original Japanese version the document is red, while in the American version the US passport is used. In the Portuguese edition, the passport was exchanged for the Brazilian.

Even getting more with the graphics part, bMatSantos also contributes with the localization of the series. For him, a game well translated into Portuguese is much more likely to connect with the culture and people of Brazil. The designer explained to Techblog what “Ace Attorney is a specific case in which the creator’s idea was always to bring the story closer to those who played, so when people play with a culture they don’t know, a lot is lost”.

Locating a game is much more important than just translating the texts.

The series Ace Attorney is known for the various puns and word games related to its cultures of origin. Therefore, to reach the result seen in First Attorneys the entire team participates in the translation process. The best suggestions for terms, places and names adapted to the Brazilian culture are selected through an internal vote on Jacutem Sabão’s Discord server.

The name Fênix Veríssimo refers to the Brazilian writer Luis Fernando Verissimo (Image: Murilo Tunholi/Tecnoblog)
The name Fênix Veríssimo refers to the Brazilian writer Luis Fernando Verissimo (Image: Murilo Tunholi/Tecnoblog)

For Gustavo Alves, one of the team’s translators, adapting terms to our culture is the hardest part of the translation process, but it’s also the most fun. “Even the characters’ age changes the way they speak and the slang they use. We also take into account where the character was born, because we adapt the scripts”, explained Gustavo, who also highlighted the importance of having a good location.

“I emphasize that, even if translation is important, a good localization is much more. When a game is poorly translated, it ends up losing part of its soul, and as each game follows an artistic vision, when the translation is done anyway, it doesn’t look attractive. It’s like the game runs out of life. Localizing is a job that requires not only English skills, but also knowledge of the franchise and good direction. If you don’t have one of these things, it’s going to go wrong. Even if the person is knowledgeable and skillful, management can end it all.”

Gustavo Alves.

Among the most emblematic adaptations of First Attorneys are the character names, which are well loaded with puns. For example, lawyer protagonist Phoenix Wright became Phoenix Verissimo — Phoenix, in reference to the mythological bird with a good heart that “rises from the ashes”, in an allusion to the character’s upheavals in the courts; and Veríssimo, which comes from the term plausible and also mentions the Brazilian writer Luis Fernando Verissimo.

Another iconic character is Phoenix’s rival, promoter Miles Edgeworth, whose name changes to Eduardo Spada in the Brazilian version. Eduardo means “guardian or protector of wealth”, in reference to the prosecutor’s duty to protect society from criminals. Spada, on the other hand, makes the same pun on his surname in English, which can be translated as “sharp”, and represents the character’s smart and ruthless personality. The name also pays homage to Maurício Spada, the late son of artist Maurício de Souza.

It is also worth explaining the project name itself. Jacutem Sabão is nothing more than the Portuguese language of the franchise’s original title in Japanese: Gyakuten Saben.

The classic Christmas meme of the series was also adapted in Lawyers of the First (Image: Murilo Tunholi/Tecnoblog)
The classic Christmas meme of the series was also adapted in Lawyers of the First (Image: Murilo Tunholi/Tecnoblog)

Even though it is a non-profit fan project, the Jacutem Sabão team hopes that translations will make the franchise increasingly popular and accessible. Ace Attorney is a complicated series when it comes to localization, as even the official English versions take time to be released, or never arrive — as is the case with Ace Attorney Investigations 2, which came out for Nintendo DS, in 2011, in Japan, and to date it has not won a Western edition.

Another example is the most recent title, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, premiered July 27, 2021 on Nintendo Switch, PS4 and PC. This compilation features two original Nintendo 3DS titles: The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures and The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve, launched in Japan in 2015 and 2017, respectively. In other words, it is not uncommon to see fans of the franchise waiting for years for an official translation.

“It’s important to have a location to attract new audiences to the franchise. Ace Attorney is a niche series, because first of all you need to know English, which already excludes some people. After that you still have to like the adventure and visual novel genre, which is even less popular. So the more accessible the game, the more people will play it, increasing the franchise’s popularity. This can even influence decisions by Capcom itself,” said Gustavo.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles will arrive in the west (Image: Press Release/Capcom)
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles (Image: Press Release/Capcom)

For the near future, Jacutem Sabão is working on the translations of First Attorneys 4: Apolo Justo and First-rate Promoters: Eduardo Spada. About the location of The Great Ace Attorney, GR revealed that the team is already mobilizing, but there is no release forecast yet. As simple as the process seems, since there are only two games, adapting Nintendo Switch games is one of the most difficult.

The two titles in the collection are loaded with archaic dialects, as well as very specific historical and political contexts. Starring Ryunosuke Naruhodo, Japanese ancestor of Phoenix Wright, the plot takes place in the late 19th century, both in Meiji-era Japan and in Victorian England. In this case, it is much more complicated to include Brazilian culture in history without breaking the immersion.

“The translation that came from Capcom brings a more immersive text, with British and Japanese dialects of the time. It’s a translation that even fluent in English won’t recognize every word at first. So this requires a different work than we do in other games. I usually say that we have to do the location that is possible. So much so that you cannot locate, for example, a movie in the real world. If the film takes place in New York, with city images, it is difficult to change that to make it look like the filming was in Brazil. Usually that kind of localization works more in games, but you still have to understand the context.”

GR, leader of Jacutem Sabão.

To track the progress of locations of Ace Attorney, just keep an eye on the Jacutem Sabão website. There you can also find patches and tutorials for installing the translations on Nintendo DS, 3DS and PC (Steam) games.

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