A video game translation company called 8-4, named after the last level in the original Super Mario, translates Japanese games into English.
The company offices are based in Shibuya, Tokyo, and in the office space there is a corner with games’ discs are showcased whose texts were translated into English by the talented translators at 8-4.
8-4 founder Hiroko Minamoto says that they do not wish to become more known, adding, ‘“We don’t want to stand out. When localisation is bad, that’s when it stands out, and that’s when people yell at us. We want it to be natural.”
Minamoto also holds that “We always noticed cultural and language gaps between Japan and other countries, and because of that, a lot of good things weren’t able to happen. The philosophy of 8-4 is to try and get rid of that gap.”
However, 8-4 does not only do Japanese to English translations but also the reverse, translating games like Undertale into Japanese.
John Ricciardi, co-founder of 8-4, also comments that “A lot of indie developers grew up playing Japanese games: that’s where they got their inspiration and what made them happy as a kid. We often hear, ‘I realise these games might not sell that well in Japan but I just want to give back’, or ‘I want to see my game out in the place that was magical to me as a kid growing up’.”
Ricciardi also comments that English to Japanese translations for video games aren’t as good, stating that “I’d compare it to what it was in the west in the 80s or early 90s. There are a lot of ugly fonts and weird decisions because there is not a lot of education and it is a hard thing to do. Some games are just machine translated, which is really bad.”
Finally, Minamoto adds that they treat their translations with love and care: “If a game gets care, if we show it love, then Japanese audiences really appreciate it. Even things like fixing line breaks and using the right font make a difference.”
Nier: Automata, a very successful Japanese PS4 title, was one of the translation jobs that 8-4 had undertaken to bring the game to Western audiences in the English language.