Friday, August 18, 2017

Ten questions with the guy chiefly responsible for the (nearly complete) English fan translation of Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love

You're all waiting with bated breath for the English fan translation of Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love to be released, right?

Don't tell me this is the first you're hearing of it. I wrote about it back in May--in a post titled, "Coming soon-ish to a DS near you: a fan translation of Irozuki Tincle no Koi no Balloon Trip"--for crying out loud.

Unfortunately, we've still got a bit of a wait before the patch is finished and made available to the hand-wringing masses. In the meantime, here's an interview with the guy who not only got this project off the ground but is seeing it through to its release.

I can't share his name in this post for reasons that should be obvious. I can, however, share the handle he tends to use for his fan translation work: joesteve1914.

With that out of the way, let's get to the 10 questions I recently asked joesteve1914 about this tantalizing project as well as his responses to them.

The Gay Gamer: Why did you decide to translate Irozuki Tincle no Koi no Balloon Trip? Are you Tingle fan from way back? Or maybe you're more of a general DS, Nintendo or Zelda fan?

Joesteve1914: I'm a big Zelda fan. I've loved the Legend of Zelda series my entire life, and I've played almost every game in the series. When I learned of the Tingle series, I was instantly intrigued since Tingle is one of my favorite characters. (Not many people share that opinion!) I played Freshly-Picked Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland and liked it, so I wanted to experience its sequel as well.

The Gay Gamer: When did you start this project? You launched its blog in early 2013, but based on your first posts, it sounds like the project began before that?

Joesteve1914: Yeah, the blog was something I thought of a few months after I started working on the game. If we're being really technical here, I suppose the project started on July 31, 2012, at around 5 pm EST. That's when I posted in the RHDN forums asking for help with hacking the game, since I had never done ROM hacking before. I basically spent the next two years trying to learn about ROM hacking in my spare time. I didn't have the help or the knowledge to start a long-term project like this until the beginning of 2014. So realistically you might say the project started “for real” in 2014.

The Gay Gamer: How many people have worked on or are currently working on the patch? Also, can you explain what each person on the team has worked on or is working on now?

Joesteve1914: In total, around 13 people have contributed to the project so far. At the moment, our team consists of five people. First up we have our translators, waldrumpus and DaVince.

DaVince joined in early 2014, right around the time a major development occurred that made the translation of the script a realistic possibility. He translated the first “page” and some other miscellaneous stuff in the script. He also sometimes stops by our Slack channel and helps us with localization decisions (names, how to translate puns, etc.).

As for waldrumpus, he joined in August of 2014. Like me, this was his first time working on a fan translation. Despite this, he went on to translate nearly 90 percent of the very lengthy script by himself. The dedication waldrumpus has had over the last few years has been amazing. He also is going to be involved in the editing process and will be there to assist the other editors if they have questions.

Next up we have chir-miru, who's been helping out here and there since 2012. At the beginning of the project, chir-miru and I both worked on hacking, which included figuring out how to edit the script and the graphics in the game. We parted ways for a while, but chir-miru came back in 2016 and helped out with some graphics editing.

Zell0s joined in July of 2016 as a graphics editor. He’s been a great help to the graphical side of the project. He did, by my estimate, nearly half of the graphics in the game himself before he left the project this year. We also have masterofzoroark on the graphics side of things. He joined in June of this year. He's been a great help in recent months, too--especially as we near the end of the graphics editing. Finally, we have Pandamanu, who very graciously did the English graphics for the chapter scrolls in the game. There’s around 44 of those, so this was a big help and sped the project up a lot.

And then we have our script editors. We’re still assembling this team, so that work hasn’t really begun in earnest yet.

Although not part of the team, these next few people have also been a huge help to the project. There’s DarthNemesis, who coded the awesome script dumper and extractor (I can’t even imagine editing the text manually), as well as FShadow, who created the new English title logo.

There’s also Auryn, Kelebek, Normmatt and FAST6191; they have given advice and assisted me with some of the more difficult (at least for me!) hacking.

The Gay Gamer: What has been the biggest stumbling block to the project so far? Or what has been the biggest problem you've encountered since you kicked it off?

Joesteve1914: For me personally, the biggest stumbling block in general has been my inexperience with rom hacking. When I started this project back in 2012, I had no experience whatsoever in hacking; in fact, I decided to learn rom hacking for the purpose of translating this game.

I’ve had a lot of problems in terms of hacking that I’ve had to overcome, but the most major one would be figuring out the game’s text engine; specifically how to fit in more text, since English takes up more space than Japanese most of the time. Thanks to the help of Kelebek, we now know that the game uses an unconventional way of determining the length of text. Long story short, it ranges from extremely painful to impossible to expand the amount of text displayed manually. Fortunately, DarthNemesis’s text editor makes editing the text as easy as editing a .txt file.

The Gay Gamer: Have you been pleasantly surprised by anything while working on this translation?

Joesteve1914: I think what surprised me the most was the support and encouragement we got from people. Seeing hundreds of people view the blog every day, as well as the comments that people leave, is very encouraging. I’ve even received a few offers to donate money to the project! Unfortunately, if we accepted anything we’d be asking for a cease-and-desist letter from Nintendo.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Second Chances: Bubble Bobble 2 (Famicom)

Given my love of the original Bubble Bobble, you might assume I've adored this pseudo-sequel since the first time I played it. (Don't let its name fool you; Rainbow Islands is the real follow-up to the aforementioned classic.)

In reality, I've attempted to play--and enjoy--Bubble Bobble 2 a number of times since its release 24 years ago. Sadly, each attempt (made via emulation, I have to add; I haven't yet gotten up the nerve to drop a few hundred dollars on a game I've long struggled to like) ended with me shaking my head in disbelief, wondering how the masters at Taito could've screwed up so badly.

What do I mean by "screwed up"? Consider Bubble Bobble 2's graphics. Anyone who tries to tell you they even approach the kaleidoscopic adorableness of Bub's and Bob's first foray into the "cave of monsters" is someone you shouldn't trust, in my humble opinion.

Heck, I'd go so far as to say I prefer the aesthetics of the Rainbow Islands Famicom port to those of the game discussed here, and that particular home version of the official Bubble Bobble successor isn't exactly known for being a looker (especially when compared to its quarter-munching counterpart).

Another visual aspect of Bubble Bobble 2, aka Bubble Bobble Part 2 outside of Japan, that's kept me from warming up to it as much as I thought I would when I first became aware of it: its sprites. They're all out of whack in terms of size. Specifically, Bub and Bob appear to have gained a few pounds since their initial go-round, while their well-known adversaries seem to have been zapped by some sort of futuristic shrinking ray.

That's not the end of the world, admittedly, and if you're like me you'll get over the questionable art direction in time, but even then it remains one of the ugliest Bubble Bobble games around.

The worst offender when it comes to Bubble Bobble 2's looks, though, is its lazy backdrops. Although a couple of them are nice enough, they stick around for so long they become boring. This is especially true of the yawn-inducing, column-filled environment that opens the game. It barely changes while you progress through the first 10 levels, and when you finally make it to the 11th, the sky color switches from blue to coral and that's it.

Later stages offer backgrounds that are far more interesting, thankfully, but even they tend to overstay their welcome.

The good news amidst this deluge of negativity: all the complaints I've leveled at Bubble Bobble 2 so far are merely cosmetic. (That's not to say I can't think of a few others, such as its lackluster soundtrack and its abundance of flicker.) Even better, they irk you less and less the more you play the game--or at least that's been the case for me. As an example, I currently consider the Bub (or Bob) sprite to be kind of cute, which is worlds away from my initial, horrified response to it.

Also, Bubble Bobble 2 is an enjoyable enough single-screen platformer even though it's far from the most attractive one around. That's largely because of how bizarre it eventually shows itself to be.

A case in point: after nearly putting you to sleep with 19 straight stages populated by a few stray clouds, columns and bushes (as well as a bunch of baddies, of course), the game whisks you away to what looks like a brick-lined dungeon to battle what I can only describe as a xenomorph riding a motorcycle. (See screenshot above for evidence.)

How this fits into Bubble Bobble 2's overall story, I cannot say. I can say, however, that it served as a turning point in my relationship with this odd duck of the Bubble Bobble series.

After encountering that Alien-esque boss--as well as the enemy that looks like a mashup of a Star Wars AT-ST and a Zen-chan as well as the one that seems to be made up of a skeletal head, a chain-link body and bony little legs (again, see screenshot above)--I developed an appreciation for Bobble Bobble 2's unapologetic wackiness.

I'd still rather play the original Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands or Parasol Stars, mind you, but I think it's safe to say I'll toss this 1993 release into the mix now and then thanks to my most recent--and mostly positive--experience with it.

See also: previous 'Second Chances' posts about the Famicom ports of Chack'n Pop, Don Doko Don and Rainbow Islands, as well as Bubble Bobble Junior for the GameBoy