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Shadow Dragon interviews Som2Freak
Alan Dykes - July 21, 1997

Please tell us your name.
I'm SoM2Freak! =) Err, well...that's what everyone around here calls me. ^_^

Alright, what do you do in the EMU scene?
Hmm...well, I make scripts of games, translate that, and convert the text in ROMs along with certain groups that I'm in.

What projects are you currently working on?
On NES: Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy III.

On SNES: Final Fantasy V, Seiken Densetsu 3, and Treasure Hunter G. Those last two are script only at the moment.

Okay, who helps you with these translations?
Many people, like BiGWieRD with his X-Tools and D for his endless help with assembly and program changes and Barubary for his assembly hacking skills too. Also, I work with RPGe and now Translation Corporation.

Please thank those guys!! They're really awesome!!

Could you please explain the basics of how one translates a ROM?
Hmm...well it seems simple, and in some ways it is, but it becomes really complicated just because of an inherent problem with translating japanese (which is the language these video games were originally made in) to english.

But, anyways, what you start with is a ROM in japanese. Then, the first thing depends on whether the ROM has english characters in it or not. If it doesn't, like Final Fantasy II, III, and V, you must first input english tiles to the ROM over some of the existing japanese character tiles. Then, to make a script and be able to tell what text you are editing at a given time, you must find out what hex codes are used in the game's program to represent each letter's tile. (btw, this actually can be done before the step one. You can make a japanese script, then put english characters in, and then start editing.)

Figuring out these hex codes is the hardest part of the first step in ROM translation. But it is possible =)

After figuring out these codes, and making a script, you can start editing. It seems like it would be all clear after that, but it's not... Because of that inherent problem I mentioned earlier... The problem is, the differences between the japanese and english languages.

In english, we use an alphabet with 52 characters. (26 lowercase, 26 capitals.) But, japanese uses two syllabaries with over 70 characters each (including the dakuten/handakuten), (these syllabaries are called hiragana and katakana). Plus an ideographic system known as kanji, which means chinese characters.

All in all, this means that japanese can write things in many less characters than english, because each of their characters represents MORE.

For instance, in japanese, 'bukiya' means 'weapon store', but in japanese, bukiya is only 3 characters!! (either kana or kanji.) Whereas in english, weapon store is *12* characters!!! (yes, and not only do the japanese characters make it hard, but as you can see bukiya is a much shorter word than weapon store anyways.)

That means, in the japanese ROM, bukiya could be stored using only 3 bytes, but in a translation weapon store would require 12 bytes. That obviously is a problem.

And so, we must find ways of working around this problem, such as expanding ROM size to give us more space for the english words or using special codes or tiles to make 2 english letters with 1 byte.

And of course, since japanese can write things in much smaller spaces...the windows in japanese games don't have to be that large!! So, in FFIII, the window for battle commands is only *4 characters wide*. This is enough for all the commands in japanese, but obviously not in english. Magic, Fight, Terrain...none fit, without abbreviation or squishing into less characters by making tiles for each. but, there is a very small limit on how many tiles we have to make those with.

It's VERY hard.

What kind of tools do you use as an aid?
X-Char, X-Late, X-FF2... That's pretty much it =)

And of course, the trusty hex editor, Hex Workshop 32.

About how long would it take (on average) for you to translate 1 ROM do you think?
Hmm...that of course depends on the game. And, when I started it. =) I'm much more skilled now than I was when I started FFII, for example.

Do you have any future plans (on translations or anything?)
Oh yes!

Many :) I'm not sure it's best to tell all those right now, though.

Well, I'm sure we all look forward to what you may do! Do you have anything else you'd like to add?
Yes, thank you to all who support me!! I love translating! =)

Thanks for letting me interview you!

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