The Localization of the New Professor Layton Game Has a Brexit Joke In It

Which is far from crass or anything—it’s the sign of a great job being done.

by Kate Gray
Jul 21 2017, 4:00pm

Screenshots captured by the author.

I think it's time to admit that one of my favorite things in the world—a thing I love in the way some people love craft beer, or trains, or those YouTube videos where they make a regular burrito but the kitchen is tiny and so is the burrito—is localization.

It makes me sad that many people don't appreciate the excellent craftsmanship of a good localization on a game. I've written about this before, actually—it's not just about translating the words, it's about absorbing and understanding everything from context and culture to puns, references and the kind of detail a native speaker would expect. But when English-speaking players read the text of a game in English, they don't always think about the journey that came before it, the work put in to get it into their hands.

And that's why I love Level-5, the Japanese developer and publisher behind the Professor Layton and Ni No Kuni series. They also made of of my favorite-ever 3DS games, Fantasy Life, which you should go and play right now. Trust me, it's lovely.

Level-5 are masters of localization, and it shows in their latest game, Layton's Mystery Journey: The Millionaires' Conspiracy. I'm only about 20 minutes into the game and already I'm blown away by the attention to detail on the localization—not least because there's a Brexit joke in there.

"lol" *cry*

How many layers of knowledge would a localization team need to make this joke? First, they have to be fluent in English and Japanese; then, they have to have their finger on the pulse of European politics. Then, they have to know that whatever the sentence was in Japanese would be a suitable switch for a joke about Brexit (so us English-speakers don't miss out on context). And, on top of all of that, they have to be an actually funny writer.

Most people aren't even one of those things, let alone all of them.

There's also a reference to Flight of the Conchords, regional accents shown through liberal use of 'ere then and 'orses, and excellent use of puns and idioms like "a dog's dinner" scattered around. It takes a lot to translate something—I should know, I did my degree in Latin and Ancient Greek—but it takes a lot, lot more to localize something to this level. I've always imagined it as having a brain like a big library, filled with snippets, jokes and terrible puns, and being a good enough librarian to know which one fits. The Ollivander of words, basically.

And we're all tiny Harry Potters, mystified by the magic in front of us.

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Layton’s Mystery Journey: The Millionaires’ Conspiracy