Our localizers and editors have plenty of work cut out for them. From the in-game text to VO scripts, they have a long and arduous wordsmithing journey for each new project. But there’s another wrinkle: sometimes marketing a game requires a title to be localized too, and that’s where we step in.
I’d liken getting to rename a game for the west to being able to choose your own name after you’ve finished school. There are tons of people who already know you by one name, but now that you get to make a new impression in college or the working world, you can start under a new identity. And it’s a really difficult process! I, personally, have spent more time trying to think of that perfect name for my protagonists* than some tests I’ve studied for.
That’s what happened to Shin Megami Tensei IV: Final.
It’s not often that it happens, but we wanted to come up with a name that would be easier for the western audience to understand the game’s epic nature. So when our counterparts in Japan greenlit the chance for us to do so, we had a blank slate and an awesome opportunity to put the creative minds at Atlus U.S.A. to work. But hoo boy, what a process it was…
It’s not the first time we’ve had to do so either. The Japanese name for Etrian Odyssey literally translates to “Labyrinth of the World Tree,” which doesn’t exactly have the same kind of appeal when you see it on the shelf in a store. We localized the name to Etrian Odyssey based on Etria, the setting of the original Nintendo DS game. I wasn’t actually with ATLUS at that time, so I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of how that renaming meeting went, but given my experience with helping to come up with the name for the remake, Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl, I can only imagine.
With EOU:TMG, there again was some trouble because the Japanese title literally translates to “New Labyrinth of the World Tree,” which also lacks that je ne sais quoi. So we scheduled a meeting with a couple of people across Atlus U.S.A. – editors and translators, QA leads, production heads, and the group of us from marketing all get sequestered in a conference room with a whiteboard. Then it’s a whirlwind of suggestions, followed by some voting to narrow down the field. Then come the impassioned arguments for/against, and at the end of several hours’ worth of debate, we all agreed upon “Untold.” It conveyed the fact that the games would have a story portion to distinguish it from the DS originals, it had an air of mystery about it, and it just sounded good.
But while the Untold naming was relatively easy, we got thrown a few wrenches while trying to rename SMTIV: Final. Usually, the subtitle has to accomplish three things: make sense, sound good, and look good on the box. First, there was the issue of length. Because of the way the logo appears in the game, we couldn’t make the subtitle too long. So that cut out things like “In the Shadow of Mikado” and other compound titles. Then we had another design issue: To highlight the duality of the chaos/law aspects of the game, the Japanese designers turned the “A” in “Final” to a mash-up of a peace and anarchy symbol. It’s a cool juxtaposition and a simple yet striking little addition to the logo. But that means we had to make sure there was an “A” in the subtitle too. Sure, “A” is a common vowel, but it’s still a restriction.
So just to recap where we are at this point, we had to find a cool-sounding, impactful name that’s not too long and has to have an “A” in it. Oh, and we have to be cognizant of potential trademark infringements (so much for Shin Megami Tensei IV: End War), and it can’t be objectionable (“holy war” was shot down before the person suggesting it finished speaking). The only positive is that once you have all the constraints in place, it’s easier to start narrowing down the direction. There were numerous email threads, meetings, two whiteboards defaced with indelible marker, but we finally came to agreement and thus, the world will receive Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse later this year.
Fun fact! For about two weeks, we considered dropping the “IV” from the name (a la SMT: Nocturne) and “featuring Dante from the Devil May Cry” series was suggested no less than 8 times by as many individuals. Those jokers.