It’s fitting that a brawler like Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed has to fight for your attention. Unfortunately, the concept of stripping vampires naked can give off the wrong impression, which means the folks at XSEED Games have their work cut out for them. While reviews like my own tell of game that’s far more than its window dressing, the fact is those hurdles remain. I spoke with XSEED Games’ Tom Lipschultz (Localization Specialist) and Ken Berry (Executive VP) about the process of bringing Akiba’s Trip to North America, the difficulties in breaking through perceptions, and what the future holds for the series. Enjoy!
What makes Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed a perfect fit for XSEED Games?
Tom Lipschultz (TL): Well, we pride ourselves on having carved a distinct niche for ourselves over the years, and Akiba’s Trip is a game that seems custom-tailored to that niche. It’s a game for those who are deeply entrenched in Japanese design tropes — for people who know JRPGs and anime like the backs of their hands, and love them dearly, but are fully aware that like everything else in the world, the thing they love is not without its unique faults and its disturbing underbelly. And yet, even that disturbing underbelly has a certain charm all its own.
With a game like Akiba’s Trip, the people localizing it need to be just as much “in on the joke” as the people playing it. And fortunately for players, we’re pretty hardcore nerds here, so we know a thing or two about otaku culture, and we’re not afraid to “let our freak flags fly,” so to speak.
So in a way, I guess you could say Akiba’s Trip is a game about otaku, for otaku, developed by otaku and — ultimately — published by otaku. It’s the perfect storm of nerdery!
The game’s premise deals with otaku culture and its eccentricities. For those less familiar, is the idea of an “otaku” easily comparable to that of a nerd (a term I use without negativity)? Are there aspects of otaku culture you feel a player should know before starting the game to experience Akiba’s Trip in the way it was envisioned?
TL: An otaku is indeed a nerd (no negativity implied in the term on this end either!), more or less, though otaku are generally thought of as being either more devoted or more obsessed with their chosen fandoms than traditional nerds (depending on your point of view). Stereotypical Otaku are the types of nerds who claim they prefer 2D people to 3D people, or declare their favorite anime character to be their “waifu” (wife), etc. You may recall a news story from a few years back about a man in Japan who legally married his virtual girlfriend, for example — and that’s
pretty much the height of otakudom, right there. Some might call him the ultimate otaku… the “perfect ideal,” of sorts.
We’d like to think most people can pick up and play the game without knowing any of this, though, as Akiba’s Trip does a really good job of explaining what it means to be an otaku and providing countless examples within its diverse cast of characters. All you need to do is go into it with an open mind and an appreciation for the quirky, and you’ll likely find the game’s mixture of satire and reverence (or irreverence) to be both amusing and engaging.
You were a strong voice in one of the game’s NeoGAF threads, detailing some of the decisions behind the game’s localization. At one point you promised an evaluation of a term the team had come up with (“brotag”) after some criticism from the community. At times like that, how do you decide between a vocal minority and what’s best for the game?
TL: That’s a really good question. No matter what decisions you make during any localization, there will always be those who strongly disagree with them. So if you make your approach known in advance and people start crying foul, it is sometimes tough to decide whether or not to take their opinions to heart or stick to your guns.
In those situations, the best thing to do is to look at the specific reasoning behind those fan objections, and see if they make a good case. And that’s exactly what we did here.
For those unfamiliar with what the question is referring to, the little sister character in Akiba’s Trip regularly calls your main character “Niinii” in the Japanese, which is a variant on the word for “big brother” that directly translates as something like “Brobro.” We decided early on during localization that going with “Brobro” or any other variation on that wouldn’t quite have the same tone in English as it does in Japanese — it would sound a little too saccharine for the character, who’s far more of a “weird/awkward” character than she is “cutesy.”
Our original solution was to use something that, while still cute, was also a little tongue-in-cheek and indicative of her unique brand of strangeness, so we settled on having her call you “Brotag”– short for “brotagonist.”
When I mentioned this on NeoGAF, however, a lot of people were really unhappy with the idea, bringing up that “Brotag” is a nickname often used for the Persona 4 protagonist, or that it calls to mind images of a “bro” character — as in, a frat boy-style heavy-drinking sports nut or something, which is pretty much the polar opposite of what was intended.
And when we discussed this internally, we all pretty much agreed that… yeah, the NeoGAF fans made some very, very good points.
So after discussing the matter further, both on the forums and internally, we settled on the (fan-suggested) “rotating bros” solution — the little sister would use a different “bro” nickname every time “Niinii” came up in the script, ranging from “Brotato” to “Brosen One” to “Brokedown” to — of course — “Brotagonist.” Not only would this fit her quirky personality, but it would also allow for context-appropriate nicknaming, which adds an extra level of quirk to an already quirky character.
So, that’s what we did, and I think the end result pretty much speaks for itself. It really worked well in-game, and gave a lot of extra flavor to the character of Nana, bringing her ever closer to the goofy weirdness conveyed by the original Japanese. Much love to the fans for helping to bring about this change!