Can Google Translate Help Play Imports?
Throughout the years there have been a few video games that I’ve desperately wished would be translated into English, but for whatever reason simply never got that treatment. Whether it’s an official localization or a fan translation from websites such as RomHacking.net, many video games are readily available to be enjoyed by nearly anyone speaking any language. But what is a potential fan of any given game supposed to do when that game is left in the language it was originally released in? While learning other languages is something I recommend, doing so just for one video game doesn’t seem like a worthwhile endeavor.
Back in the PS1 era I remember a friend of mine shoving a gaming magazine in my face while fervently pointing to an article about Racing Lagoon. For many years after we waited and waited to finally get our hands on a racing RPG, but sadly the game didn’t sell well enough in Japan for SquareSoft to even consider releasing it anywhere else. Another game I would love to play is SD Gundam Gaiden: Knight Gundam Monogatari for the Famicom, which supposedly does have a translation patch, but once patched won’t play on any emulator I’ve tried it in. This is where modern technology might just be able to help us.
If you have an android phone you most likely have Google Translate, or at least the capability to install it. This program offers an instant translation. My plan is to boot up a game in a foreign language, aim my cellphone at the screen and see if I can play some of the game using this as a method of translation and determine whether this is a viable option or cumbersome waste of time.
Up first I tried SD Gundam Gaiden, but the main problem was that its dialogue doesn’t wait for the player to press a button to advance, it simply scrolls out on the screen and disappears shortly thereafter. After fumbling my way into starting a game I opened a menu and aimed my cellphone at the screen. I was astounded by the fact that it was picking up floor tiles on the map beside the menu and making words from them, but struggling to find the words that were clearly on the menu screen. Translations were very shaky as words would disappear from the screen as the app tried to translate it and sometimes never reappear, while other words would change many, many times over. Some of the funny results I got were “P is for Eggplant” or “Shanghai”, but sadly none of the results I obtained were of any real use.
Next I tried a copy of Racing Lagoon and was actually surprised to find that the game already has a full English alphabet. In fact, some of the game’s dialogue is in English, just not enough of it for someone like myself to fully comprehend. After even more failed attempts at translating words I gave up and just kept pressing circle to get through the dialogue as quickly as I could to get to the racing. To me, in the short time I played the game, Racing Lagoon felt like Gran Turismo. The cars looked nice, handling was nice, but my only complaint was that the AI were a bit more difficult than I had expected. Seeing a full English alphabet makes me wonder why this still hasn’t been translated by fans.
So, can Google Translate help play import games? Well it didn’t help me in my experiments, that’s for sure, but that’s not to say this failure was solely the app’s fault. Nor is that to say that it couldn’t, as I only tried it out on the two games I own that I’ve wanted translated for some years now. There are many reasons it might have failed in my experiments, but maybe with future updates the technology will slowly be tuned into something useful for gamers. However, this was a fun little experiment, and some of the hilarious results I got from SD Gundam Gaiden were worth the attempts alone. Give it a try! Know of any other automatic translation apps? Let me know, or try them for yourself. I hope soon this kind of technology will be capable of allowing us to play imports without needing translation patches, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Peripheral Vision: Quick Shot XII QS-112 and RadioShack Archer Joysticks for the NES
Remember being a kid and wanting something so badly but you only ever got the chance to own it as an adult? I do! And for me that was a Quick Shot joystick for the NES. I was actually quite fond of Top Gun, but highly frustrated by the convoluted landing scheme to finish the level. In my dumb childhood brain I thought if I owned a Quick Shot joystick I could land on the carrier every single time. Fast forward to finding one at a thrift store as an adult and the nostalgia of wanting one as a kid came rushing back. All my childhood dreams were about to come true, or so I initially hoped.
The Quick Shot XII had the look of a lean, mean Top Gun flying machine, all crammed into a beige and grey joystick. When I finally got the chance to sit down and play Top Gun with the QS-112 the first thing I noticed was just how loose the joystick is. I’m just assuming that’s from use throughout its lifetime but I can wiggle the base of the joystick and move the plane in the game. After figuring out that the trigger is B and the top button is A I was ready to set off on a grand adventure of blowing up enemy planes and saving the day. However, in reality the QS-112 didn’t make playing the game any easier. Even with the rapid fire option turned on, I was still so out of practice with the game that I just couldn’t do very well.
Despite my abysmal playing the joystick actually has a very ergonomic grip and everything fits really well in the hand. The suction cups are almost useless these days, but if you can manage to get a few to stick it feels nice to get it stuck down to a base, or holding it in your other hand. In fact you can use it with either hand equally, which I always find to be a nice feature. Although I guess with the simplicity of joysticks they should be able to be played left or right handed.
If I had one problem with the QS-112, and its RadioShack branded twin, it would be that the cable is awfully short. This is a complaint I’ve had with many, nay, nearly all of my third-party controllers. I’m not sure why Nintendo had these long cables on the OEM controllers, but every single one of my third-party controllers’ cables are just short of being comfortably away from the console. The QS-112 works well with any game, if you’re willing to try it out. While testing with Super Mario Bros. I actually had quite a fun time. Was the Quick Shot XII everything I thought it was as a kid? No, but I don’t think it’s completely useless either.