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Fan Translation
A phenomenon that goes hand-in-hand with Emulation, Fan Translation (or “Fanlation”) is pretty much what it says: The translation of games that only appeared in other languages (almost always Japanese) into the player's native language (almost always English) as a fanmade Game Mod or ROM Hack.

This most often occurs on Japanese RPGs that were released prior to Final Fantasy VII. Before that game's breakout success, American publishers shied away from Japanese RPGs because of their relatively poor sales compared to action games. In fact, the fan translation hobby largely began from the efforts to localize Final Fantasy V and Seiken Densetsu 3, Square Enix games that were heavily hyped as coming to the US, then mysteriously canceled. Some older RPGs were even re-translated due to the ''quality'' of the translation.

Licensed games can also receive this treatment. Often, it takes years before an anime series is brought over and becomes popular in the West, and the Japanese games based off that series are now obsolete in the eyes of the distributors.

While no legal dispute over a fanmade patcher has ever occurred, a handful of cease-and-desist orders have been issued regardless of any actual validity. Since ROM patchers contain no assets from the original game and no derived assets that are viable without it, no likely basis for arguing infringement is known. The resulting translated ROMs themselves, of course, fall under the same rules as any other ROM dump if distributed.

Plus, No Export for You already garners enough bad PR, exacerbating it among fans would definitely not be a good idea.

See also Fansubs for the Anime version and Scanlations for the manga version.

Please note that people aren't getting paid for this and are Doing It for the Art, Development Hell is common. Any ongoing projects may take VERY long.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Literature 

    Video Games 
  • Monster Hunter 2 Dos English patch by Burango
  • Star Fox 2, an unreleased SNES game that was in the process of being translated before it was terminated, but fans have now come up with ways to translate it themselves.
  • Metal Gear 2 was fan-translated many years before an official translation appeared as an Embedded Precursor game in Metal Gear Solid 3.
  • Final Fantasy V was the first of many RPGs for the SNES to be translated by fans. A patch was released in 1998, one year before Square released an official localization for the PlayStation.
  • Similarly, Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy III for the NES were fan-translated in 1998 and 1999. The eventual English version of the latter was a heavily "reimagined" Video Game Remake; it's likely that the fan translations will remain the only way to play the original game in English.
  • Seiken Densetsu 3, the one World of Mana game that was never localized, was fan-translated in 2000.
  • Fire Emblem: Sword of Seals and Fire Emblem: Genealogy Of The Holy War are both mostly translated.
    • Also Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, the SNES remake/sequel to the original Fire Emblem. Then the Nintendo DS remake of that game, "Fire Emblem: Heroes of Light and Shadow".
    • As well as Fire Emblem Gaiden.
    • And now every game in the series that has not been localized.
  • Dragon Quest Monsters Caravan Heart. There's also one in development for the Compilation Re-release of the first two games.
  • Sailor Moon: Another Story, the Sailor Moon RPG.
  • Tenchi Muyo! Game-Hen, the Tenchi Muyo strategy RPG.
  • Super Robot Wars Judgment was released by The Romhacking Aerie right after Christmas 2010.
  • DeJap's translation of Tales of Phantasia is beloved by some fans of the game. There was a mini-controversy in 2005 regarding Nintendo's official translation due to the fact that some of the character's names were changed (e.g. Cless Alvein -> Cress Albane) and some of the adult dialogue was supposedly toned down. However, this was a case of Mis-blamed, as a lot of it was actually added in to the fan translation.
    • Interestingly, despite their loyal fanbase, DeJap is absolutely awful in terms of fidelity to the Japanese. One needs only to look at the Tales of Phantasia tech list to see an example, to say nothing of DeJap surgically extracting subtlety from certain scenes in the name of humor.
    • However, the Nintendo translation had its own set of issues. One particularly notable error could only be gleaned from Microsoft Word's spellcheck program; at a certain bit of backstory, the Norse Apocalypse Ragnarok was mistranslated as "Kangaroo", turning the entire scene into somewhat of a Narm. For those who are interested in a third option, there is now a relatively faithful Fan Translation of the PSX version of Tales of Phantasia online which remedies a large number of problems with both translations.
    • Absolute Zero released in 2010 a full translation patch for Tales of Innocence - the first full translation of a Tales game not called "Tales of Phantasia".
    • While we're at Tales, at least one very popular fan translation of one of the series' games is active right now - Kajitani-Eizan's Tales of Hearts's translation. There is also a years-old project translation of Tales of Destiny 2 by Phantasian Productions, but it seems to be suffering from lack of active staff to work on it. It is still active, though.
    • DeJap was also responsible for English-speaking audiences being able to play the original Star Ocean (at least, until the 2009 remake), Dragon Quest V and VI (before they were remade on the Nintendo DS), Monster World IV (long before Sega released an official translation) and Bahamut Lagoon.
    • And other fine folks are translating Vesperia PS3 too!
  • Several Grand Theft Auto translation projects have been made mostly by Eastern Europeans to which there isn't an officially-localized version of the game, although an official Russian version of Grand Theft Auto IV was released by the 1C Company. Translations of the games to languages like Indonesian, Arabic and Filipino are also available.
    • A certain fan translator has gone low into turning the series as an Author Tract medium for his views, though. So much that he plastered anti-gaming messages in place of the games' billboards and signages, and restricts users of his game modding tools from utilizing his programs for authoring content he deems as offensive or contrary to his ideologies.
  • L.A. Noire has also been subject to fan translation - a team of hackers from Xentax and elsewhere came up with their own Czech translation of the game in 2011.
  • The Front Mission Series Translation Team have released a complete fan translation of Front Mission 5, which never made it outside of Japan. They are currently working on fan translations for Front Mission 2 and Alternative. Likewise, they are also covering other Front Mission media, having just completed translating the Gun Hazard radio drama series. You can learn more here.
  • Aeon Genesis is a fan translating group known for translating various Japanese-only video games and freeware titles. They have released 70 finished game translations as of this entry, and currently have 37 more in various stages of progress. Games they have translated include:
  • Fallout 2 is currently being translated to Brazilian Portuguese since 2004, and while there is no release date, it's quite certain that it's in a very advanced state.
  • Wonder Project J, a Pinocchio-inspired Raising Sim (and a rare male one!) was fan translated in 2001. Almost six years later, a much-anticipated patch for the N64 sequel, Wonder Project J2 was finally released.
  • The Super NES Famicom Detective Club remake, which had many people curious because one of the lead characters, Ayumi Tachibana, was a trophy in Smash Bros. Melee. Rather notable is that it was an early fan translation project by Tomato, one of the translators who handled MOTHER 3.
  • Remember Persona 2 and how Executive Meddling kept one-half of the two-game series in Japan? October of 2008 finally saw the fan translation of the missing half, Innocent Sin. (Although a Video Game Remake Innocent Sin was eventually released in America on the PSP).
    • As of this writing, the same group responsable for Innocent Sin (Really, it's just a translating duo) is nearly finished with Soul Hackers. No word as to if they'll do the same for Devil Summoner.
  • There is a fan translation hack of Pokémon Green. The spelling and grammar however, left much to be desired.
    • Of course, there's no point in playing Green, since the only difference is the sprites; the Japanese Green became the English Blue.
      • Poor quality translations appearing a few months before English releases is practically a staple of Pokémon games. Especially during a new Generation. For reference, a new main series game comes out in September in Japan. It will come out in March, April, or May of the next year in North America, Europe, or Australia, depending on the amount of new terms to translate.
      • However, some members of Project Pokémon made a superb, 98% complete translation of Pokémon Black and White before it was released.
  • Touhou fans have to rely on fan-translations because of ZUN's reluctancy on licensing the series to the West.
    • In fairness, Touhou's not licensed to any publishers in Japan either; it's independently produced.
  • Another game with controversy over the fan translation is Phantasy Star Gaiden, which mistranslates the revelation that Minima is a clone of Alis.
  • Radical Dreamers, the other sequel to Chrono Trigger.
    • Also, there are a French and a German Fan Translation based on the English one.
  • Treasure Hunter G had a translation that was more or less finished in 2004.
  • Aroduc is a one man Battle Moon Wars translating machine.
  • Bare Knuckle III, the Japanese version of Streets of Rage 3, was fan-translated in response to the unnecessary changes to the American version.
  • Final Fantasy IV already had an official American release known as Final Fantasy II (no relation to the real Final Fantasy II), but differences between the American and Japanese versions as well as a Porting Disaster on the PlayStation prompted for a fan translation.
    • Once again, the fan translation was controversial due to completely disregarding the English Dub Name Changes, using strict romaji instead of the more commonly used translations of the non-changed names, still managing to get said names wrong by that guideline, and mistranslating the spell "Cure" as "Keal". note 
    • The website Legends of Localization actually compares the differences between the original Japanese text and the various translations. It comes down hard on the fan translation, pointing out that it didn't just take liberties with the original Japanese, it also had outright inaccuracies. In addition, it shows the PlayStation translation was pretty inaccurate too...and the GBA translation was actually based on the Playstation one, meaning it's also inaccurate.
  • The original Parodius for MSX was translated by Takamichi Suzukawa, who was also responsible for the Metal Gear 2 translation mentioned above. Interestingly, he chose to render Vic Viper's name as "Big Viper" because, as the author reasons, its name was always romanized as "biggu baipaa" rather than "bikku baipaa".
  • A translation patch for Policenauts, an early Hideo Kojima adventure game which has managed to elude export for almost 15 years, was released in 2009 (by slowbeef of Let's Play and Retsupurae fame), and has been dubbed by some gaming news sources as the most important Fan Translation ever produced.
  • Lately, news of a practically completed English patch for the Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System have surfaced.
  • Namco × Capcom received a fan translation as well (via PPF patch) since the game was never released outside of Japan.
  • Due to the cancellation of the US and European releases of the game, Fatal Frame 4 is only available in Japan, however a group released a patch that runs off of the SD card on the Wii, instead of patching the game (since the developers stated that they don't want to promote piracy). Though people have figured out how to do it anyways using their files.
  • In the early '90s, Russian and Ukrainian programmers translated games to Russian (before you ask, there was no widespread Ukrainian font at the time), some notables are: Dune II, The Legend of Kyrandia series, Lands of Lore: Throne of Chaos, X-COM: Ufo Defense, Heroes Of Might And Magic 2 and others.
    • This is reciprocated today by western fans translating much of the burgeoning Eastern European game industry's niche genre output.
  • The DS game Soma Bringer, currently in No Export for You hell.
    • Another game which had been dropped by NoA despite being late in development, ASH Archaic Sealed Heat, from Mistwalker, had a partial fan-translation leaked by a beta-tester of said fan-project, which has been dropped.
  • A fan translation of the first Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side game for the Nintendo DS was worked on during 2010, and a full, bug-free patch was released during December 2010. It was the first fan translation effort which succeeded in translating anything past the first screens of any Tokimeki Memorial game. (In May 2011, a complete TMGS2 patch was released.)
  • White Gold: War in Paradise and The Precursors by the developers of Boiling Point: Road to Hell were only released in Eastern Europe, but fans have released an English translation patch in Deep Shadow's official English forums. However, The Precursors had already been translated to English by the developers, and the patch merely unlocks it.
  • Starcraft: Brood War, had a fan-made Hungarian patch. The Hungarian version of Starcraft eventually took a different direction from the official Starcraft lore, with it's own expansion pack/Game Mod, Huncraft-Genocide. Both are available for free download, in accordance with Blizzard's policies.
    • The same team also created a translation for Warcraft III.
  • Romhack Hispano is a notable portal for fan translation groups striving to translate games into Spanish.
  • MOTHER 3, a victim of Troubled Production in its original Nintendo 64DD incarnation from a series chronically Screwed by the Network, itself loaded with Suspiciously Similar Songs and other material saddled by numerous licensing issues, released brand new on a dead platform: a perfect storm of commercial infeasibility. Faced with this situation, a group of translators spearheaded by Clyde "Tomato" Mandelin coalesced around STARMEN.net, the series' major fansite, including a number of professionals from the game industry itself. The result, released on October 2008, is one of the most widely heralded fan translations ever and has received praise from members of the game development community.
  • There is a Hungarian translation on Unreal Tournament floating somewhere around the internet. Unlike most fan projects, this one actually has an excellent quality dub, laced with Double Entendres and Hungarian puns.
  • Sa Ga 2, the Nintendo DS Video Game Remake.
  • Master of Orion 3 got a German Fan Translation.
  • Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru (For The Frog The Bell Tolls), the Japan-only Game Boy adventure/platforming game which is the Spiritual Predecessor of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening received a fantranslation in 2011.
  • An English translation of SD Snatcher was created by the Dutch MSX fan group Oasis as early as 1993, though it wasn't converted to a patch format until four years later. Much of the original text was lost due to their hacking skills and Japanese literacy being only basic, though they made up for that with some Woolseyisms.
  • Final Fantasy VI was retranslated by a group called RPG One, but better known for one of the team member's screen names, Sky Render. This version was a literal translation, and was divisive for several reasons, but most prominently transforming Kefka from the love-to-hate-him Monster Clown of the English versions into a much more generic villain by means of either not understanding or choosing not to translate a good portion of his jokes.
  • The group TLWiki started translation work on Love Plus. It was picked up by Jjjewel and members of the Gbatemp forum some time later. As of January 2012, the translation project is considered complete.
  • A fan translation group called Dakkodango translated the original Windows version of Tears to Tiara in 2009.
  • In 2010, the same group translated a worksafe Windows version of Eien no Aselia. The next year, JAST licensed the game, and chose to work with the group in order to publish the official translation, which was released in November 2011.
  • Grandia Parallel Trippers got a translation patch in September 2011.
  • A group called Matt's Messy Room has translated a number of games, including a Slayers Super Nintendo game which predates the anime TV series, Licensed Games for the PC Engine based on Bubblegum Crash and Maison Ikkoku, the Game Gear version of Madou Monogatari I, and the PC-FX version of Welcome to Pia Carrot.
  • The '80s-to-'90s Glory of Heracles games were not localized when they were current. However, as January 2012, there are fan translation patches for the first three games in the series (two from the NES era, one of the SNES games), as well as a Gameboy spinoff called Snap Story.
  • Magical Doropie has a fan translation that keeps the Ninja Gaiden style cutscenes of the Japanese version, which were removed in the American version and are generally considered the saving grace of what is otherwise a pretty blatant Follow the Leader of Mega Man (Classic).
  • The translation patch for Valis for the NES was released along with a Game Mod intended to make it less frustrating to play.
  • Alfagame's Prince Maker - Braveness was translated in May 2012. It's a rare example of a fan translation of a game written in Chinese, as well as a fan translation of a Raising Sim.
  • After over four years Hellsinker finnaly get's one as well.
  • The SUGURI series got fan-translation patches by Sara Leen... until she got promoted to work as Rockin' Android's translator and programmer.
  • The original Ether Vapor got an English translation patch — or rather it used to after it was licensed by Nyu Media to localize its updated re-release.
  • Jeff "Deuce" Nussbaum helped translate several Ys games in the years when the series was not receiving international distribution, as well as Cyber Knight II and the Samurai Shodown RPG for the Neo Geo CD. He now works for XSEED Games, and their official translations of Ys: The Oath in Felghana and Ys: Origin are based on the patches he contributed to.
  • The translation group M.I.J.E.T. specializes in translations of games for the Sega Genesis and Sharp X68000, including Langrisser II, the eight Phantasy Star II text adventures, and the original computer version of Valis II.
  • Breath of Fire II is an example of a game that was already internationally localized before it received a Fan Translation. The unfortunate quality of said translation (which was nonetheless re-used for the game's re-release on the GBA) led to fan-based efforts to localize the game. In 2006 a group called d4s released a patch for the SNES version that contained not only a high-quality German-language translation of the game but also added in the gameplay tweaks and fixes introduced in the GBA release and a new intro montage that made liberal use of Japanese marketing materials, including Capcom's in-house game art and the J-pop single originally commissioned by Capcom to be used in its advertising for the game, "Owaranai Ai". The d4s version is considered so well-done that it has become the basis for numerous other retranslation projects for the game, such as Ryusei's 2009 English translation.
  • Energy Breaker finally received a translation patch in September 2012.
  • Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys was translated in 2004 except for the voiced cutscenes. In 2012, a new patch added English voice acting.
  • The Game Boy Color version of Donkey Kong Land III received an English translation patch in October 2012, 12 years after the Japanese release. (While there already exists an official English version, it was made for the Super Game Boy, not the Game Boy Color.)
    • This English translation was also the basis for a unique Spanish translation about a month later, in November 2012.
  • Panel de Pon was technically already released in English as Tetris Attack, but an English patch was released on New Years' 2008 all the same for those who prefer the fairy characters to their Yoshi's Island replacements.
  • A translation patch for Suikogaiden Vol. 1: Swordsman of Harmonia, a Visual Novel spinoff of Suikoden, was released in March 2013. In September 2013, the Suikogaiden Translation Project released a patch for Suikogaiden Vol 2.: Duel at Crystal Valley, along with a patch for Suikoden Card Stories.
  • KAMUI is the only game in The Tale Of ALLTYNEX series to have a fan English translation. Then Nyu Media localized it for English-speaking players and released it a year and a half later, making the fan patch no longer necessary.
  • There is a fan translation into Spanish of The World Ends with You that not only translated the text, but also redubbed all the audio files.
    • It seems that the man who orchestrated the dubbing part of that fantranslation got hooked: Not only he dubbed the entire game twice, but also started more projects, such as dubbing Time Crisis, Sin and Punishment I, and a couple of scenes from Shenmue I.
  • Darkside Translations has translated the first RosenkreuzStilette for English-speaking players. Since the patch was released, however, the game itself has been getting updates after v1.05c, the version the English patch was made at the time. There has been word of an updated version of the English patch for its latest release, fixing and correcting some things in their original script along with the help of Ryusui, the fan translator of Breath of Fire II, but the updated patch has been under hiatus for some. At the end of 2013, Darkside Translations has given word that the game will see an official English release via Playism.
  • White Day: A Labyrinth Named School was translated into English by Unnamed Studios and fixes the game's bugs and compatibility with newer operating systems — or rather it used to, as Unnamed was no longer working on fixing and translating the game in at the end of 2013. A French translation was also made by other fans of the game.

    Visual Novels 
  • There is a wiki that facilitates various translation projects for visual novels. Some of the fully translated novels include Little Busters!, G-Senjou no Maou, Demonbane and Sharin No Kuni, and some of the patches for the Nitro Plus games have even been turned into official releases, such as Saya no Uta. Other ongoing translations include Fate/hollow ataraxia and the Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai! Portable VN.
    • A patch for YU-NO was released on TLWiki in 2011; it goes beyond merely translating the game, adding the voice acting and other content from the Sega Saturn version and the FM soundtrack from the PC-98 version, and removing the awkward textual and visual censorship that had been inflicted on the Windows version.
  • Some Visual Novel makers allow patches to be made, since they require the original game; Why not broaden the potential audience? Some even encourage translators to do them.
    • However, between April and July 2010, several Japanese game companies sent cease and desist letters to fans striving to translate porn with plot visual novels. The fan translations of titles such as Yosuga no Sora and Air were affected. Some of the translation projects ended, while others continued "underground" on /jp/.
    • Overflow, the company responsible for School Days, was a notable exception. It chose to endorse Sekai Project's translation efforts. This actually became licensed, with the fan translators becoming the official localization team.
    • After much drama and an unofficial release of ef - a fairy tale of the two. on Bit Torrent, the fan translation group No Name Losers and the original company Minori decided to join forces. An official translation of Ef will be released by Mangagamer.
    • A fan translation of Starry Sky ~in Spring~ was released by an anonymous group called Oge during December 2010. Fans wondered if the anonymous release was done in order to prevent a cease and desist request.
  • The original Higurashi no Naku Koro ni sound novels, the PC ones, are in the process of being fan-translated. However, the PC games have been released by Mangagamer as "Higurashi When They Cry". The licenser allows fan-translations though, though no one needs it now.
  • Narcissu, though this is acknowledged by the maker.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend started as a fan-translation made by Nazerine. Later, it was acknowledged by the maker and became the official translation for the full version of the game, since the translator only did the free version. The sequel is officially translated by Nazerine.
  • Kanon.
  • Mirror Moon has created translation patches (which still require the original Japanese game) for several games, like Fate/stay night, Utawarerumono, and Tsukihime, and is working on many more. There are even voice patches for the former two, which rip the audio from the PS2 version (that you have to provide, of course). Mirror Moon also helpfully provides links to distributors who will sell the games to you.
  • Canvas2 ~Niji-iro no Sketch~ received a fan translation in October 2010. (A manga based on Canvas 2 has an ongoing scanlation. A TV anime based on the original Porn with Plot Visual Novel was fansubbed, and later released on Crunchyroll.)
  • Between 2005 and 2008, a group known as Insani translated several demos of commercial visual novels, and several freeware/independent visual novels. (The demos made it clear that the full games had harem plots, and often adult content. However, the freeware VNs had no harem elements, and few of them contained offensive content.)
  • Amaterasu Translations has translated a number of visual novels, including Cross Channel, Sekien No Inganock, Shikkoku No Sharnoth, Muv-Luv, Muvluv Alternative, and Rewrite.
  • A group of fans from Court-Records have released a fan localization of Ace Attorney Investigations 2 under the subtitle Prosecutor's Path.

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