RPGamer had a chance to ask famed fan
translator Jeff Nussbaum, better known as Deuce,
about his history translating Ys games.
He eventually ended up working with XSEED games,
selling them some of scripts and working on some
new ones. Jeff has translated:
- Ys I & II Complete/Chronicles
- Ys III (Famicom)
- Ys IV: Mask of the Sun (Super
- Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys (PC Engine
- Ys V: Kefin, The Lost City of Sand (Super
Famicom, still in progress)
- Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim (PC,
- Ys: The Oath in Felghana (PC, PSP)
- Ys Origin (PC)
- Shinsetsu Samurai Spirits: Bushidou
Retsuden, also known as Samurai
(Neo*Geo CD, still in progress)
- Cyber Knight II (Super Famicom)
Apps (RPGamer): For starters, how did
you first get into the Ys series, and
how hard was it to import games back
During the very tail end of the 8-bit
era, a store opened up in town, called
"Power Up." It was unique, in that it
rented games and systems that weren't
labeled "Nintendo," unlike Blockbuster.
They actually had Genesis and
TurboGrafx-16 systems... even Neo*Geo
(the start of another expensive
obsession). Long story short, one
weekend in summer 1991, I rented the
TurboGrafx-CD along with Ys Book I
& II. I had it for the entire
weekend, and I didn't look up for two
solid days. I don't think I even slept
until I saw the final ending screen.
From that point, it's safe to say I was
Was learning Japanese related to
gaming or something you did
JN: It was part of
the initial inspiration... along with
(sigh) anime. Yes, I was your very
stereotypical anime fan, back in the
late 80s and early 90s, in the days of
bad VHS fansubs, before even AnimeEigo
existed. I learned a lot from anime
itself, which is the absolute worst
thing you can do, because it teaches you
tons of bad habits, which can take years
to undo. The one benefit it did confer
is that I learned a lot of
colloquialisms and idiomatic
How did you first get into translating
JN: Purely by
accident. I happened across a page for
RIGG (Retro ISO Gaming Group, if memory
serves), run by one Nicholas Livaditis,
better known as the now-infamous
Nightwolve. He posted on their forums
that he was working on a translation for
Ys I Complete, which I had
recently purchased, so as you might
imagine, I was pretty excited. He
actually posted up the script for the
game in a plain text file, so I figured
I'd have a stab at it.
So, I turned up out of nowhere, with a
completed (but very rough) script in
hand, offering it up for use in the
patch. After some cautious
introductions, Nic decided to let me on
board, and this started our partnership,
which was fairly productive, if not a
little bizarre, at times.
How long did your translations
typically take to complete?
JN: It really
depended on the game. My fastest was Oath
in Felghana, which I did in seven
days. My work on Trails in the Sky
took three months, and that was
nightmarishly all-consuming. I work
eight hours a day, commute 40 minutes
each way, and then I was working on the
script for another eight hours at home.
Then, I'd get what sleep I could. On the
weekends, I worked on the script for the
entire day, Saturday and Sunday.
Imagine that for three months straight.
My wife was pretty unhappy about it, but
she was supportive. If it hadn't been
enjoyable work (at least, when the major
characters were involved), I would have
been absolutely miserable. But it all
came together in the end... if just
barely. The average, though, has usually
been around three or four weeks,
depending on how much time I can devote
each day to translation.
Did you ever get involved with
programming or did you mostly stick to
translating the text?
JN: Never on the Ys
games. The closest I've gotten has been
with the Samurai Shodown RPG,
and that's been purely out of necessity.
A benefactor wrote the tools to modify
the game, but they're bare-bones, and
I've had to document all of the script
commands' behavior myself... no mean
Since you've translated almost the
entire library of Ys games, was there
ever any difficulty in keeping things
consistent throughout, such as
reoccurring names and references to
especially. I tended to keep notes when
I noticed that translating Ys
games was getting to be a habit. I
researched the fictional lore (much of
which exists only in Japanese) and had
brought some of it to Wikipedia. How
much of it's still there, I couldn't
tell you. Nightwolve and I periodically
found ourselves at odds regarding some
names, as we occasionally had some
nostalgic attachment to the apocryphal
versions found in the translated
Turbo-CD version. I also found myself at
odds with Konami's changing of "Gllia"
to simply "Gria." It seems like no big
deal, until one considers that Ys
takes place in a fictionalized Europe,
and each country is almost-but-not-quite
a match for a real-world counterpart.
For example, "Felghana" is "Fergana" in
the real world, "Gllia" is "Gallia"
(Latin name for "Gaul"), Altago is
"Carthage" (and should be "Arthago," but
that wasn't my call).
I know, I'm probably being insanely
boring, but this sort of little detail
is what breathes an extra touch of life
into the Ys world, for me.
Esteria takes place on an island, off
the northwestern coast of what would be
France (and this is why the opening of Ys
Origin is in French). But I'll
Did you ever run into legal threats or
other such complications while working
on a fan translation?
JN: Not directly.
When we were working on Ys VI, a
Korean company licensed the game for
release in South Korea, and they sent a
C&D letter to the person who was
working on the Korean translation patch.
As a precaution, Nightwolve elected to
halt work on the English one. Kind of a
shame, as my script was around 99% done,
but I recently went back and took a look
at it. To call it "rough" would be very,
Many Ys fans probably got their start
playing the series on one of your
translations, is that an odd feeling?
JN: Not so much
odd, as satisfying. My intent with
starting the translation was always to
make the series more accessible to
people who were unfamiliar with it. And
ideally, to give it the kind of
translation I'd always wanted to see in
Is there any game you'd like to go
back and re-do?
JN: Possibly Ys
IV: The Dawn of Ys. My involvement
with that one was relatively minimal. A
large chunk of the script is still
Shimarisu's work, and as a result, I
can't say I'm satisfied with its
quality. She and I have always had very
different philosophies when it comes to
literalism vs. interpretation.
Regardless, given that Nic regards me as
persona non grata at the moment, it's
How did you end up getting involved
JN: Actually, Tom
(a.k.a. Wyrdwad) emailed me out of the
blue, one day, asking if I might be
interested in having my Oath in
Felghana script used in an
official localization. Obviously, I was
thrilled at the prospect. A series of
subsequent emails and a contract later,
the deal was done. Soon after, they also
purchased my Ys I & II
script, which I was happy to sell.
Are you hoping you get to work on the
new Ys IV remake if they end up
JN: This is a bit
of a silly question, isn't it? Ys
is the one series that I can honestly
say I have a "collection" for. Many
ports, music CDs, books, etc. So,
imagine I'm grabbing your shoulders and
shaking you when I say, "YES!"
Is it gratifying to finally get paid
for your work?
JN: Certainly. The
one real downside is that I'm extremely
picky, and I occasionally fall in love
with a project (which one should never
do), so I'll get a bit annoyed at having
my stuff edited... but that's the nature
of business. Fan translations don't have
that kind of oversight. I get pretty
much full creative control, which is
pretty much the sole benefit of being
the "starving artist."
Are you working on any non-XSEED
JN: Sadly, no.
Hopefully, I'll be able to work on Ys
Celceta, but that's all up in the
air. I've resumed work on Samurai
Shodown RPG, but there's been
nothing else to speak of. I'm available,
if you lot know anyone who's hiring! ;)
Since the Trails in the Sky
translation sounds like a grueling
task, would you translate other games
in the series?
JN: I would. I'd
ask for a bit more money and/or more
time, though. I enjoyed the process,
though the down side is that it did
completely spoil the story for me. I had
to hire a friend to assist with the
workload, and it is his influence that
led to the version of Olivier we have in
the English release. It was a great
experience, but definitely not something
to be taken lightly.
Having played so many Falcom games,
how do you think they've changed as a
company over the years?
JN: Very little,
actually. They're still very small, with
a small company's sensibilities. I love
their focus on the gameplay before all
else. Even though I'm no longer the fan
of JRPGs the way I once was, Falcom
games still have a certain magic, for
me. I still periodically go back and
replay their old games.
Which translation are you most proud
That would be
Ys IV: Mask of the Sun
Famicom (Super NES). It's not as
well-known as the earlier version that's
more commonplace, due to it never having
been included in the GoodSNES set. As
far as I know, you can only get it as a
patch, via http://agtp.romhack.net
I had a lot of fun with that one, and I
think the end result is the best I've
Having not touched Ys Seven, what
changes would you like to make to that
JN: I hesitate to
reply to this one, as I'd hate to tread
on Tom's toes. My only issue was that
the script was a little on the dry side.
Nothing against Tom, as I know that's
not typically his style, and there was a
major time crunch on Seven. But
the end result was that the game didn't
have quite the vitality I felt it should
have had. I wouldn't have used the silly
"thou" and "-eth" stuff for the
old-and-fancy stuff. I've yet to see
anything use it properly, outside of 80s
Marvel comics. Though the Ys
series's stories have never exactly been
barn-burners, Seven deserved
better than the reviews gave it, in my
opinion. If the script had been able to
focus a little more on giving each
character a unique "voice," I felt it
would have fared a bit better.
And as an aside, my personal favorite
XSEED localization is Corpse Party.
Tom has always had a silly streak in him
a mile wide, but that, combined with his
hidden zest for the gruesome, really
made that game shine.
What advice do you have to those
interested in jumping into the fan
that. Look on sites like romhacking.net
for projects in need of assistance.
There's ALWAYS someone looking to
translate something. It may not always
be a game of which you're a major fan,
but it's never a bad thing to keep busy.
How much begging would be required to
get you to translate 7th Dragon for
JN: Well, I am
available for hire...
RPGamer would like to thank Jeff for chatting
with us about translating Ys games. You
can find the official releases he's worked on
for PSP as physical releases and on PSN (Ys I
& II Chronicles, Ys Oath
in Felghana, Trails in the Sky) and
Steam (Ys Origin, Ys Oath in Felghana).