Stellar Assault SS English localization project

Danthrax

Established Member
StellarAssaultLocalizationBanner.png


Announcing an English localization of Sega Saturn 3D space combat shooter Stellar Assault SS!

Developed and published by SIMS in 1998, Stellar Assault is a remake of a 1995 Sega 32X game of the same name — although it was called Shadow Squadron in North America. It brings a Wing Commander-like experience to the Saturn with its 3D spaceship combat through 17 missions. It also has some interesting features for the Saturn, including an interlaced mode for improved resolution, a "trace" mode that lets you watch a replay of your last game, and asymmetrical co-op play.

But one of its most distinctive features is its large amount of voice acting that's found not only in the video mission briefings but also during each mission as the player character and his wingmen chat across their radios. While all of the game's text is in English (with the exception of the credits at the end) a lot is lost on English speakers who can't understand any of the Japanese voice overs. That affects gameplay, too, as the mission briefings only deliver instructions in the voice over — outside of some basic "computer terminal" animations, there is no text explaining the player's objectives.

That makes it crucial to redub this game in English. As with Bulk Slash, there is no in-game routine for displaying subtitles during gameplay, and it would be very difficult if not impossible to hack such a routine in. While we could add subtitles to the FMV mission briefings, that not only might reduce the video quality, it also would be inconsistent to leave the Japanese voice acting there while the in-game pilots are speaking in English. So just like Bulk Slash, we're dubbing the whole thing.

Lacquerware has been working for the last several months to transcribe every voice line into a script and then translate them into English. He's now about 98% finished, so it's time to edit it and recruit voice actors who are willing to volunteer their time and talent to make Stellar Assault SS accessible to English speakers for the first time.

We need five male roles and three female roles filled for Stellar Assault. The roles are:

Aya Hijikata: 32-year-old female commander of the carrier capital ship. Comprehensive operation commander for the UN Space Force. Delivers mission briefings and acts as your eye in the sky.

Edgar: Male-sounding AI unit for the player's ship. Reminiscent of Data from Star Trek and voiced by the same guy in Japanese.

Maria: Female-sounding AI unit in the Kite-3, the player ship's support device. Bubbly, cutesy, prone to mood swings. Talks like a gyaru. Equipped with an experimental "emotion circuit."

Jake MacPherson: 35-year-old male lieutenant who is the squadron captain of Hawk Squadron. Lax and irritable by turns. Prone to drastic mood swings. The player's direct commanding officer.

Brenda Bright: 23-year-old female ensign who is a pilot in Hawk Squadron. Serious and unlikely to go off-script or act without discretion. Scolds Jake.

Alan Vergil: 34-year-old lieutenant who is the squadron captain of Eagle Squadron. A little weak-willed, but smart alecky and prone to posturing.

Brad Feel: 35-year-old lieutenant who is the squadron captain of Falcon Squadron. Serious and cool-headed. A man of few words.

Pilot: An unnamed male who has a handful of lines during missions.

And here are what the characters look like in the Japanese manual, with their English names added to the photo:

StellarAssault_cast_of_characters.jpg


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.

Anyone interested in auditioning should join our Stellar Assault SS Localization Project Discord server at Join the Stellar Assault SS Localization Discord Server! or email us at StellarAssaultLocalization@gmail.com. We can be reached out to on Twitter @lacquerleaks (Lacquerware) and @Danbo_4 (me). And if you're just interested in keeping up with the project, you can feel free to join the Discord, too!

As for the already assembled team, Lacquerware is the project lead, translator and voice director. Mampfus and Shadowmask return from Bulk Slash to help with audio editing, mastering and insertion into the game with technical assistance from Trekkies. Cargodin and I will work with Lacquerware to edit the translated script.

Wish us luck, everyone! We can't wait to make another voice-heavy Japanese exclusive Saturn game more accessible to new fans.
 
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fafling

Gear Supporter
Great project !
AFAIK the interlaced mode doesn't improve resolution in that game. It sets the display in single-density interlace, and since the game runs at 30 fps, that means the same image is repeated on both fields of the same screen frame. So the effect is just to remove scanlines on a CRT.
 

Danthrax

Established Member
By the way, here's our proof that we can swap audio files in the game:



We basically swap the AIF files in Stellar Assault for new ones that are recorded similarly — 22050 hz — and aren't longer than the original filesizes. Voila.

Swapping the mission briefing FMVs' audio will be trickier, but should be perfectly doable. Thankfully, the music and sound effects heard during mission briefings are found in the game's sound tests in the options menu, so we won't have to recreate anything by ear like we did for Bulk Slash's cutscenes!
 
I probably have zero voice acting skills, but man, I bought this game when it was new and it was definitely tough to play without being able to understand the dialog, even if the Japanese text is very minimal.
 

Danthrax

Established Member
Hi everyone, here's an update on how our Stellar Assault SS English localization project has progressed over the last couple weeks.

Lacquerware went through his translated script and chose voice lines to represent each role in the game and give auditioners something to work with. Then he put together Japanese audio examples from the game for each of the voice lines he chose and paired those with our official auditioning process document.

Auditions already have started coming in and the team is evaluating each one of them. We're still looking for more, though, so check out the instructions here if you're interested in trying out: Stellar Assault Audition Instructions

Shadowmask experimented with reproducing the robotic echo effect heard in the voices of the AI characters, Edgar and Maria, so it can be applied to whomever will voice those characters in English. Here's an example of Edgar's Japanese voicework with the echo:



Shadowmask also used a tool made by MsTea to pull Stellar Assault's sequenced music out into MIDI notes, then sorted out the custom soundfont — it'll be for use in trailers or just for fun.

Cargodin went through Lacquerware's game glossary and made a lot of great suggestions. We're almost finished with a glossary revision pass based on those suggestions. Lacquerware is about to make a second pass at his script before handing it off to Cargodin and I for editing passes.

I changed the options screens' text to sound like more natural English and be more descriptive. It's a bit ... awkward in the original Stellar Assault. In these screens, the Japanese original is on the left while our edits are on the right:

SoundOptions_comparison.png


ScreenOptions_comparison.png


ControlOptions_comparison.png


I also investigated how to hack the game to increase the number of continues more than the default of three — but to no avail. We'll keep looking into it, though, hopefully resulting in an optional Action Replay code that people can use to make the game a bit more forgiving.
 

ShadowMask

Gear Supporter
It's been fun pulling usable samples from some of the raw audio binary on disc, and making it work as a soundfont in a modern audio workstation. Much of the sample parameters have to be done by ear, like Pitch, EQ and loop point settings, and I'm trying to emulate the SCSP's DSP by ear as well.

Like Dan said, it's really just for my own challenge. But it opens the door for some creative use cases like rendering out a modified track with tempo and form/structure changes, maybe for a trailer or other promo content. You could also write original music with the soundfonts (sf2) or use modern software instruments to "remaster" the original MIDI tracks.

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  • Stellar Assault SS - BGM 04 Test Mix.mp3
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privateye

Established Member
I also investigated how to hack the game to increase the number of continues more than the default of three — but to no avail. We'll keep looking into it, though, hopefully resulting in an optional Action Replay code that people can use to make the game a bit more forgiving.
I don't know how to increase the number of credits via romhacking, but here's a cheat code that I found via Mednafen's cheat search feature. Tested with Pseudo Saturn Kai and should also work with stock Action Replay firmware.

Master code:
F6000914 C305
B6002800 0000

Unlimited Credits:
3607C540 0009
 
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Danthrax

Established Member
I don't know how to increase the number of credits via romhacking, but here's a cheat code that I found. Tested with Pseudo Saturn Kai and should also work with stock Action Replay firmware.

Master code:
F6000914 C305
B6002800 0000

Unlimited Credits:
3607C540 0009
Thank you! This should be super helpful — not just for us in our patch development but for players in general!

Like Bulk Slash, Stellar Assault doesn't save during a playthrough, so you have to go from beginning to end in one sitting. But it can take two hours to get through it all, so running out of continues for a game over on top of that is incredibly punishing. We're generally against changing the original game's design, but the continues system seems like it really hurts the overall experience.
 

privateye

Established Member
These save files should prove to be even more helpful for patch development; they unlock the stage select and PCM Test (voice samples) features and provide trace (video replay) data for all 17 stages: https://gbatemp.net/download/stellar-assault-ss-jp-mednafen-beetle-saturn.37540/

Delta7890 kindly gave permission to include these saves with the next version of @cafe-alpha's Save Data Manager but, for now, you can download them in BIN/SSF format from GBAtemp or get them in BUP format from the archive attached to this post.
 

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Danthrax

Established Member
Time for a quick update on how we're doing with the project.

Lacquerware has completed a first revision pass on his translated script. The script is now with Cargodin and me for further revision and jazzing-up.

The team is continuing to evaluate the great voice acting auditions we've received from the community. That said, auditions are still open for those who want to give it a shot! We're hoping to finalize our casting decisions by late September, at which point we'll be able to start recording, editing and implementing VO to show everyone some tangible progress. Stay tuned.

Lastly, Shadowmask has continued tinkering with Stellar Assault's PHENOMENAL MIDI-based soundtrack to create some cool remixes. We won’t be messing with the in-game OST, but he may cook up something for future promo vids. Check out his work on track 1:

 

Danthrax

Established Member
Hi everyone, I'm checking in with another update on our Stellar Assault SS fan localization project. Voice acting auditions will close Oct. 1! We're making some determinations on casting for the voice acting roles in Stellar Assault SS but nothing's been finalized yet. If you'd like to audition, there's still time! Please check out this link for instructions: Stellar Assault Audition Instructions

We plan on announcing our decisions for each of the roles in early October, at which point we'll begin scheduling recording times, so keep an eye out.

Additionally, Cargodin and I have begun doing an editing pass over Lacquerware's translated script, with Cargodin going over the FMVs while I look at the lines heard during missions in-game.
 

Danthrax

Established Member
On behalf of the team, I’m excited to announce that we’ve chosen the voice actors for our fan localization patch!

First up are the AI characters — who exhibit more emotion than you might think for computers! Edgar will be played by Dan Bosley and Maria will be played by CrouchingMouse, who voiced Kina in our Bulk Slash localization!

Next are the seasoned squadron commanders — Jake will be played by Ramir-Pascal von Bannisseht, Alan will be played by Mike Dent, and Brad will be played by Rocco DeFeo!

Brenda, one of the player’s wingmates who keeps an eye out for the squadron, will be played by Diana Allocco, who voiced Rupia in our Bulk Slash patch; and Aya, the commander of the player’s carrier who delivers mission briefings, will be played by Renee Martin!

Finally, the Umbrella pilot will be voiced by Rowin Dincht and the role of an unnamed pilot will be voiced by Galaga. Thank you to all of them for volunteering their time and talent to this project!

And I want to extend a huge thanks to everyone who auditioned over the last few months. It was ridiculously difficult to make these selections — so many of you had great submissions and we’re immensely grateful for finding us worthy of your attention and effort.

So now things kick into another gear for Stellar Assault SS. We’ll begin scheduling recording times with our nine voice actors. There are a lot of lines in this game — Lacquerware has translated about 19,400 JPC! — so there’s still a pretty long road ahead.

As for the script, Cargodin has finished her editing pass. Meanwhile, I’m about two thirds of the way through my editing pass — I’m lagging behind a bit! We’ve got enough finalized that we can go ahead with our first recordings, though.

I’ll continue giving updates on our progress every few weeks, so keep an eye out. Thank you to everyone looking forward to playing Stellar Assault SS in English. We can’t wait to play it in English, too!
 

Danthrax

Established Member
We've hit a major milestone on the Stellar Assault SS localization project — we have a finalized script! Editing has finished after a collaboration among Lacquerware, Cargodin and me.

We also have scheduled our first recording session with a voice actor for later this afternoon, with another one coming up later this week. Shadowmask will be sitting in to ensure audio quality — he's in charge of mastering the audio after recording, too.

Audio quality is very important in this game, of course, as there are no subtitles. Practically all of the localization is voicework heard during missions or pre-mission briefing videos. To that end, the team has spent a lot of energy hashing out our gameplan for recording and mastering before beginning to work with the voice actors.

We're excited to get some English dialogue into this game — we'll let everyone know how it's going in the coming weeks and months!
 

Danthrax

Established Member
The Stellar Assault SS localization project has made huge strides over the last few weeks, with more than a dozen recording sessions in the bag!

The team has conducted recording sessions with Renee Martin (Aya), Ramir-Pascal von Bannisseht (Jake), Dan Bosley (Edgar), CrouchingMouse (Maria), Rocco DeFeo (Brad) and Mike Dent (Alan).

Alan and Brad's lines are all recorded. Edgar and Maria's are recorded through mission 13. Aya's are recorded through mission 14. Jake's are recorded through mission three. By a rough estimate, over the last three weeks, we've already recorded more than half the lines in the game!

This has been a massive undertaking by our project lead/translator/voice director, Lacquerware, who's conducted each recording session. Shadowmask, Cargodin and I have sat in for many of them — Shadowmask to ensure audio quality, Cargo and I to give very occasional direction ideas or spur-of-the-moment script tweaks.

And of course it's been a big undertaking by the volunteer voice actors, too, who have knocked it out of the park with great performances during sessions that are often an hour and a half to two hours long!

Lacquerware and Shadowmask also have worked on editing Aya's lines for the opening cutscene, muxing them with the music and sound effects, and adding it all to the video. We'd hoped to have it finished by now but we'll need a little more time.

The team is now taking a break for the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend, but we'll be back at it next week. Once we do, you can look forward to a preview of Stellar Assault SS's opening cutscene with English dialogue!
 
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