Bulk Slash English localization project

Announcing an English localization of Sega Saturn cult classic action game Bulk Slash!

Developed by CA Production and published by Hudson in 1997, Bulk Slash is one of the Saturn's best games, combining impressive 3D graphics with fast gameplay that allows the player to switch between a bipedal robot on the ground and a fighter jet in the air at will. But one of its most distinctive features is the ability to find navigators in each mission and bring them aboard your mech. They speak to you throughout each mission — giving directions to the next target, cheering on the player for destroying a swath of enemies, informing the player how many mission-critical objectives remain, even yelling out when the mech takes damage. Each of the seven navigators has different personalities and provide different gameplay benefits when they level up through repeated playthroughs.

But there's one problem for non-Japanese speakers: The navigators speak Japanese, and there are no on-screen subtitles for their lines.

Much of the game's on-screen text is already in English, from the in-mission user interface to the options screen to graphical elements on the stage select and mission briefings. This has allowed English speakers to get through the game without too much trouble, but none of the mission briefings or navigator introductions are in English, and a lot of the game's charm is lost without knowing what the navigators are saying during each mission — choosing one you like and hearing how her lines change as you level up your relationship is a big part of Bulk Slash's unique appeal. Besides, the ability to read each mission briefing in English greatly increases this game's accessibility, allowing English-speaking players to understand the situation — no more referring to an online FAQ to figure out what the hell you're supposed to do!

Greg, Mampfus and I have been working for the last month to make this game as accessible as possible to English speakers. Thanks to Mampfus, we have the ability to swap any in-game Japanese text with English fonts that I created, and we can swap any Japanese voice file for a new one from an English speaker. Thanks to Greg's translations, we've got all seven mission briefings in English, all seven M.I.S.S. navigators' introductions in English, and soon we'll have the controller configuration screen and the end credits changed over to English in game, too. Greg is still working on translating all of the in-game voice lines but he's got nearly half of them finished already.

But there's one thing we can't do on our own, and that's record voiceovers for all the navigators in the game. We need eight female (including the player's childhood friend) and one male (the player) volunteer voice actors to finish this localization project. Each navigator has about 100 lines, although many of them are very short — things like "behind us," "one remaining" and "target set." The player and his childhood friend have just a handful of lines of lines each.

There are also a number of smaller roles for the ending cutscenes, should we go forward with dubbing over those instead of simply adding subtitles to the Cinepak video files — a male narrator, a female child, several male children, etc.

So if you're a voice actor or you know one who would be willing to help, please let us know here on SegaXtreme or by emailing us at Bulk_Slash_translation@online.de — we'd love to hear from you! We also hang out on Sega Saturn Shiro's Discord server, and we can be reached out to on Twitter @lacquerleaks (Greg) and @Danbo_4 (me).

To be clear, this is an unfunded fan project and we're relying entirely on volunteers. But that also means it would be perfect for aspiring voice actors looking for more experience, or for voice actors who would love to help bring this awesome game to a wider audience.

Special thanks to Knight0fdragon for technical assistance to get us started with poking around the code, to Malenko for his suggestions with the on-screen English fonts, and to Ghaleon for providing editing assistance. We really appreciate the help they've given us. And thank you to Sega Saturn Shiro for bringing all of us together in the first place!
 

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Announcing an English localization of Sega Saturn cult classic action game Bulk Slash!

Developed by CA Production and published by Hudson in 1997, Bulk Slash is one of the Saturn's best games, combining impressive 3D graphics with fast gameplay that allows the player to switch between a bipedal robot on the ground and a fighter jet in the air at will. But one of its most distinctive features is the ability to find navigators in each mission and bring them aboard your mech. They speak to you throughout each mission — giving directions to the next target, cheering on the player for destroying a swath of enemies, informing the player how many mission-critical objectives remain, even yelling out when the mech takes damage. Each of the seven navigators has different personalities and provide different gameplay benefits when they level up through repeated playthroughs.

But there's one problem for non-Japanese speakers: The navigators speak Japanese, and there are no on-screen subtitles for their lines.

Much of the game's on-screen text is already in English, from the in-mission user interface to the options screen to graphical elements on the stage select and mission briefings. This has allowed English speakers to get through the game without too much trouble, but none of the mission briefings or navigator introductions are in English, and a lot of the game's charm is lost without knowing what the navigators are saying during each mission — choosing one you like and hearing how her lines change as you level up your relationship is a big part of Bulk Slash's unique appeal. Besides, the ability to read each mission briefing in English greatly increases this game's accessibility, allowing English-speaking players to understand the situation — no more referring to an online FAQ to figure out what the hell you're supposed to do!

Greg, Mampfus and I have been working for the last month to make this game as accessible as possible to English speakers. Thanks to Mampfus, we have the ability to swap any in-game Japanese text with English fonts that I created, and we can swap any Japanese voice file for a new one from an English speaker. Thanks to Greg's translations, we've got all seven mission briefings in English, all seven M.I.S.S. navigators' introductions in English, and soon we'll have the controller configuration screen and the end credits changed over to English in game, too. Greg is still working on translating all of the in-game voice lines but he's got nearly half of them finished already.

But there's one thing we can't do on our own, and that's record voiceovers for all the navigators in the game. We need eight female (including the player's childhood friend) and one male (the player) volunteer voice actors to finish this localization project. Each navigator has about 100 lines, although many of them are very short — things like "behind us," "one remaining" and "target set." The player and his childhood friend have just a handful of lines of lines each.

There are also a number of smaller roles for the ending cutscenes, should we go forward with dubbing over those instead of simply adding subtitles to the Cinepak video files — a male narrator, a female child, several male children, etc.

So if you're a voice actor or you know one who would be willing to help, please let us know here on SegaXtreme or by emailing us at Bulk_Slash_translation@online.de — we'd love to hear from you! We also hang out on Sega Saturn Shiro's Discord server, and we can be reached out to on Twitter @lacquerleaks (Greg) and @Danbo_4 (me).

To be clear, this is an unfunded fan project and we're relying entirely on volunteers. But that also means it would be perfect for aspiring voice actors looking for more experience, or for voice actors who would love to help bring this awesome game to a wider audience.

Special thanks to Knight0fdragon for technical assistance to get us started with poking around the code, to Malenko for his suggestions with the on-screen English fonts, and to Ghaleon for providing editing assistance. We really appreciate the help they've given us.
This is great news!!!
 
Dream come true, one of my absolute favorites on the system. Thank you so much for taking the initiative!!!

I have one connection for a male voice actor that I could reach out to. I'll DM you if he shows interest.

I have a dream that all of these incredible translation patches (Grandia, Lunar, Sakura Wars, Cotton 2, hopefully Princess Crown) will eventually make their way to a Sega Saturn Mini.
 
OK, I suppose we're overdue for an update, so here goes. A lot has happened in the last two weeks!

We've gotten quite a few volunteers to lend their voices to the game and we're really excited about the applicants so far. We've had several men step forward to audition for Cress, the player character, but we're still looking for women to audition for the eight female characters in Bulk Slash. Well, seven — we've chosen an actress named Dark Mysty for Princess Metical and we hope to do a proper recording of all of her lines later this week. A few women have volunteered to audition for the other female parts and we'd love to hear from even more who might be interested.

We're still working on how to make voice clips sound as loud and clear as possible in the game, but Mampfus is finding that it does seem like recording at a frequency of 22050 hz in mono instead of stereo works best. He tried boosting the volume in post on some of Mysty's lines and our own test lines, and most of the lines seem pretty OK in-game. Sometimes they're a bit too quiet amidst all the sound effects, though.

A friend of Mampfus created a tool that makes it super easy replace in-game voice lines with new English ones as long as they're named the same thing and the English voice files aren't longer than the Japanese originals (which makes sense). It's going to really help us implement the voice acting quickly once we get rolling with the actors.

We're actually still working on the translations for the navigators' voice lines. Five of them are pretty much done, but Naira and Kina are still in progress. Our translator, Greg, is only one man! He's been working really hard to get through all the dialogue, though. After he finishes the voiced lines, he'll move on to transcribing and translating the eight ending cutscenes.

As for graphics, we implemented a translation of the controller setup screen. It uses the same set of fonts as the mission briefings during the game, so it was pretty simple for Mampfus to get this screen in shape.

BS_ControlConfig_Comparison.png


Translating this screen was tougher than actually implementing the translation — there's not enough room in some of these spots for the words we originally wanted to use, like "transform" for the A button, or "turn left" and "turn right" for the D-pad functions (in Type C ... those functions are on the shoulder buttons in the Type A configuration). We thought about using "transf." but Greg wants to avoid abbreviations if at all possible. So we settled for saying "morph" instead of "transform. And we put "rotate" and "strafe" and didn't specify "left" and "right" since that should be pretty obvious anyway.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the C button in robot mode says "jumpjet" instead of simply "jump" because it looked strange to have so much black space on screen for such a short word.

The other project for on-screen localization that we accomplished in the last two weeks was making edits to the Navigator Select screen. It's riddled with misspelled names — "Reone" instead of "Leone," "Meticul" instead of "Metical," "Lupia" instead of "Rupia" and "Coron" instead of "Colon." They're misspelled not only on the nameplates that you select on the left side of the screen but also in the biographical text on the right that appears when you highlight a character's name.

NavigaterMenuOld.png


Not to mention the word "navigater" at the top of the screen is a misspelling of "navigator."

This screen also has inconsistent naming — all the girls' home planets are given in English (Planet Red, Kingdom of Brown) but the very next screen, the Stage Select select, uses German words for those planet names (Planet Rot, Kingdom of Braun) and the planets show up elsewhere in the script as German words, too.

Oh, and how do we know the first names are misspelled? Because we realized that all the navigators are named after real-world currencies. Leone is the currency of Sierra Leone, Metical is the currency of Mozambique, etc. So we decided that we wanted to localize this game to use the correct spellings of those currencies.

I checked out this screen using the debugger tools in Yaba Sanshiro and spelunked through the code for a while, using Crystal Tile 2 to some extent to recognize where some of the graphics were (thanks to Knight0fdragon for teaching me a bit how to use CT2). Eventually I found the nameplates on the left. Each pixel is represented in code by a single digit that refers to a color on whatever palette is assigned to these nameplate graphics. When you line up the code to 16 lines of 64 digits each for Meticul/Metical's nameplate, for example, it looks like this:

BS_MeticulNameplateCode.png


If you squint, you can make it "METICUL" and you can kinda see the diagonal lines of the rainbow background behind the letters on the nameplate. "F" must be white's position in the palette because that's what's being used to form the letters here.

So to edit these nameplates, I painstakingly "redrew" the corrected letters using these palette numbers, being careful to maintain the diagonal rainbow pattern of the background, and reinserted those back into the code. It was super rewarding to see them show up in the game without an issue.

BS_NavigatorCorrected.png


I also edited "navigater" to "navigator" in this same way, and I changed "NO USE" at the bottom to "NO ONE" because it sounds better.

But the bio text on the right still has problems. Leone, Metical and Rupia's names are still spelled wrong (for some reason, Colon's was spelled right in the original bio text — another inconsistency!) and the planet names are in English.

Well it that turned out to be the simplest thing to change of all — it's written in plain English within the file, albeit using Shift JIS hex codes that convert to plain English. Using a Shift JIS to hex conversion tool online, we got the appropriate hex codes, changed them in the game's code and voila, the bios are fixed.

But one problem remained — Leone's home planet is Grün, putting in the hex code for ü was resulting in a blank space. I investigated the code and found that all of these little letters are drawn the same way the nameplates are, using a palette reference digit for each pixel, in a different part of the SEL_DEMO.ALL file. They're drawn one after the other, all taking exactly 32 bytes since they're 8 pixels by 8 pixels in size (64 pixels total). They seemed to be drawn in the order that they appear in the shift JIS table, but they only drew the characters they needed — some punctuation marks, a space, numbers 0 through 9 and letters A through Z.

After thinking through it a bit, I figured that some other part of the game had a table that's converting hex codes to shift JIS and redirecting to the exact spots in the code where each of those characters are. It probably starts with a beginning offset and then just multiplies a given hex value by 32 bytes. So I wondered if I drew my own ü character in some blank space in the file and then wrote the character into the script that would correspond to that space in the file, according to the shift JIS table, maybe the game would display my new ü graphic.

So after the letter Z I drew a ü in palette numbers. The character after Z in the shift JIS table is a left bracket character, [, so I put a [ in place of the ü in the game's script for Leone's bio.

Then I tried it out.

LeoneGrun.png


Boom! It felt so good to see this work.

I'm going to use this method to squish S.D.F.A so I can get a period after the A. Same thing for Naira and Colon, whose jobs are listed as "S.D.F Officer" and "S.D.F Sergeant" without periods after the F, which really grinds my gears. I'll draw bespoke tiles that eliminate all that space around the periods so I can fit in one more period.

Lastly, I made a couple changes to the Stage Select screen: I removed the hyphen in "Stage-Select" and I capitalized the planet name "braune" as well as removing the "e" from the end, which is a misspelling. These were accomplished the same way as the nameplates on the previous screen.

BS_StageSelect_Comparison.png


Making that blue background gradient behind braune/Braun look the same as the original after editing the word was ... hard.

OK, sorry for the long post but I hope it was an interesting read. Thanks for all the support! We can't wait to get this patch out there for everyone to enjoy.
 
Just want to say how awestruck I am by Dan's ingenuity in figuring out and executing all this stuff. These edits look so good and really bring a level of polish to this project I wasn't sure was at all possible. It certainly wouldn't have been if it were just me and my dusty old bachelor's degree in Japanese.

The entire project has been full of interesting little discoveries and challenges, so expect more updates from the team as we go!
 
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