British Detective Mysteria

Blog #4

Hello, detectives!

This is Brittany, Localization Producer at XSEED and lead editor for London Detective Mysteria. I’ve talked about the research I’ve done in my previous blogs, and while I did go into some specifics, a topic I didn’t cover in detail was how each individual character speaks. Just because it’s all old and British-y does not mean everyone speaks in the same manner. Far from it.

I’ve chosen to divide this subject into three blogs: the first covering Emily Whiteley, Herlock Holmes, and William H. Watson; the second covering Jack the Ripper and Bradley; and the third covering Jean Lupin, Kenichirou Akechi, and Seiji Kobayashi. I’ll also cover some general thoughts and facts about them while I’m at it!

Emily Whiteley

The protagonist of Mysteria. We don’t get to talk about otome heroines often enough, so I’m pleased to have someone like Emily. First thing’s first: yes, you can change her first name, and the localization has adjusted it to account for up to 12 characters. I always preferred to keep her as Emily when playing, though, because unlike many otome heroines, she is her own character and is not meant to be an insert for the player.

Emily Whiteley is a noblewoman whose finances are currently being handled by her guardian and butler, Pendleton, until she comes of age. She is the last remaining member of her prestigious family line, and so she takes great pride and care in her title and future responsibilities. She’s strong-willed, speaks from the heart, and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty if it means discovering the truth. This is meant both figuratively and literally, as you will soon discover.

She, like many other characters in the story, is a young detective endorsed by Queen Victoria, and she takes a more intuition-based approach to her investigations over tried-and-true methods. This makes her appear a bit clueless on the surface, but when you couple her natural powers of observation with a high-bred education, good things happen.

All of this is reflected in how I approached her character; she doesn’t use overly simple, casual language, but she isn’t so formal that there’s a total disconnect between her and commoners. There’s a natural lean towards polite language, and with the influence of her schoolmates she loosens up a bit while overall staying true to her upbringing. This change is slight on my part, so it’s my hope that you won’t even notice the change over the course of the story.

Emily is open to having her worldview challenged, though it isn’t for the sake of a gameplay mechanic that requires the heroine be molded to suit each of the personalities from her buffet of love interests. This is a girl who takes pride in her status as nobility not because she believes she is above the common people, but rather because she’s been privileged with the opportunities to help those who don’t possess the same natural advantages in life. What she doesn’t know, she is open to learn, even if it hurts her and puts her own status in a negative light.

I love that she isn’t an endless well of virtue and perfection, which can also happen to heroines who must excuse various degrees of behavior for the sake of romance. She’s a sixteen-year-old girl with an impressionable mind, but that mind is her own. She experiences positive changes as well as dark changes, can be happy or sad, or even feel hatred. She is such an active, colorful character who is fortunate enough to have been written by a developer that understands a heroine in otome is more than the boy she comes to love.

I adore how pro-active a character she is. Yes, she will sometimes be in need of rescue as leads often are, but she can also rescue herself just fine, as well as step up and rescue others. The times she shows weakness aren’t indicative of her core role to give her love interests room to shine, but simply part of circumstances as they play out. That, and the times when she needs protecting, I feel are justified—she’s an heiress, and to her, being an heiress is more than just being old money, but protecting her legacy and the staff who live by the grace of her fortune.

Much of the game’s narration is told from her perspective, which is another thing that makes working on her unique to me. A lot of her personality isn’t just expressed through in-game dialogue, but by what she feels and observes internally. This is where the text is most liberal from Japanese to English, since it gave me more of a chance to expand upon the Victorian feel than the voiced dialogue. But I stayed loyal to her personality throughout, of course!

This was also the first time I was lead on a project with a heroine and not a hero! So many years, and I finally got to dive into the mind of a girl. It’s weirdly exciting to finally have that. It made it easier to dive into her thought processes, so I hope players can see and appreciate that as they read Emily’s story.

Herlock Holmes

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Herlock is not a misspelling. It’s also not entirely made up. “Herlock” came from the father of Gentleman Burglar Arsène Lupin and all-around troll, Maurice Leblanc. Being that Lupin is considered an infamous thief in his novels, it likely became hard to ignore such a famous fictional detective. Except, you know, most would still ignore him because of copyright laws and stuff. In the face of such laws, Leblanc (or his English localizer, at any rate) did as any sensible writer would have done and used the character anyway, making up not-at-all obvious names like Holmlock Shears and Herlock Sholmes.

|Maurice Leblanc did not caaaaaare.

Sherlock Holmes is a character in Mysteria, and Herlock happens to be his son. Herlock Sholmes + Sherlock Holmes = Herlock Holmes. There you go.

Holmes has been one of the easiest characters to write, thankfully. He doesn’t require anything special, although I’ve gotten into the habit of calling him Wikipedia-kun because he likes to own people with big-ass words and extensive knowledge. When reading many of the Sherlock Holmes novels, I didn’t get the impression that its beloved protagonist was as much of a dick as his modern interpretations tend to be. He’s very eccentric and kind of a terrible friend, to be sure, but the only dick he happens to be is of the detective variety. (Eh? Ehhhh?)

Because of this, outside of how much the original character rambled and rattled off observations, he wasn’t as huge of an influence on Mysteria’s Holmes as I expected. The boy detective definitely leans more towards the modern interpretation. Herlock Holmes is blunt, logical, and practical—the kind of guy who would say he’s being “brutally honest” when he’s really just being rude. When he’s kind, it’s normally in the form of a backhanded compliment.

Even though he’s not my favorite guy in the bunch and the Sherlock Holmes novels didn’t provide a huge amount of inspiration for his character, I was still happy to read the novels anyway. I didn’t find them too enjoyable or interesting, but they’re all short enough, and the little nods throughout Mysteria made reading them worth it in the long run.

William H. Watson

Watson is one of two routes I did not take lead on as editor. When I started the game, I found the project so difficult that my usual speed for editing slowed down significantly—there were days when I couldn’t even manage 50 lines of dialogue. I’m a possessive person when it comes to my projects and dislike asking for help, but I greatly trust the editing of Nick Colucci (Trails of Cold Steel, Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection, STORY OF SEASONS). For one, Nick is well studied in literature, and for two, his general writing style when doing prose leans towards that fantasy-Victorian feel I wanted by default. I asked if he wanted to help me with Watson and Akechi’s routes, and he was totally down. I did my best to read through and add British words and stuff, but I tell you, Nick’s editing helped massively. Thanks for writing words good, Nick!

My style for Watson in the earlier chapters was more informal, like a commoner who wears his heart on his sleeve. In a weird way, his personality reminded me of a big, dumb dog, so that’s where I went. Nice person, enthusiastic, not the brightest, but very protective of those dear to him. He swears, but only lightly, and while I would often read up on the etymology of words to avoid those that didn’t exist during that era or weren’t in common use, I wasn’t as strict with him.

In Mysteria, he plays an excellent foil to Holmes, but even though the Sherlock Holmes novels are told from Watson’s perspective, I didn’t find them very helpful in getting into Watson’s speaking style. He matched the parody version of his character in Maurice Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin vs. Herlock Sholmes, Wilson, much better.

Even though he sounds easier, it took some time before I felt confident in his character. I had to do a couple revisions—was he too old-sounding here? Is this too modern? He felt like a character I was writing differently depending on the route I was editing at the time.

That’s all for today, folks! Stay tuned for the next blog!

Blog #3

Hello, detectives!

It’s me again! Brittany, Localization Producer at XSEED Games and project lead for Mysteria. It’s time for more research ramblings. If that’s what you’re here for, then I shall deliver. If that’s not what you’re here for, read anyway and buy the game when it launches. You can currently download the demo on your Vitas for FREE, by the way.

This will sound strange, but even with over a year of research under my belt, I still don’t have that much experience hearing any of the accents I’ve been writing. My research included watching a lot of British historical documentaries—a lot—but I can’t say I’m that good at distinguishing the various accents, as British accents can even vary between regions that are a few miles apart.

That said, I loved stories on criminals of the Victorian era or the Tower of London. Even if the documentaries I watched didn’t assist me with distinguishing accents as much as I’d hoped, I think they were well worth watching! I loved one about the Tower of London and its ravens so much that I visited London this past January just to see it and Big Ben. I would also highly recommend going to Wikipedia’s “Ravens of the Tower of London” if you want to read about the amazing raven drama experienced over the years.

|Ravens are amazing.

I mentioned this before, but reading novels has been a crucial part of Mysteria’s localization process. Something I became increasingly conscious of was words or phrases that weren’t in use or were something else entirely at the time. Every time I used a word or a phrase, I wondered: does this word exist? Would it be considered dated by 1890s’ standards? Is this more American or British? I shied away from words like “cute” and went for “charming” instead; I capitalized the “punch” in “Pleased as punch” because the Victorian perspective would’ve known Punch as a character. “Backtalk” became “back answers.” I bought several dictionaries, making sure they were old enough to accurately represent the Victorian era, and read them before going to bed. Nothing like reading a dictionary to knock you out. (To “knock you up,” by the way, was once synonymous with “to wake you up.”)

Of course, I allowed myself some wiggle room since many events in the game aren’t entirely accurate to real life, because this game is a work of fiction and I’m pretty sure fiction lets you do whatever the hell you want. Though the Ripper murders of the 1880s/1890s take place over the course of the story, the Cullinan Diamond of 1905 is also mentioned. In a time when Queen Victoria was supposedly dressed in black, in mourning, she is depicted wearing pure white. If the devs can fudge it a bit for the sake of an enjoyable narrative, then so can I. I did do my historical research where I could, though―and so did the developers, to my delight.

Outside of specific words to sound more like the many infamous novels of the period, I also adopted a lot of quirks I noticed when reading. Em dashes replaced most ellipses (boy, did Victorian authors love the em dash!), and hyphens for words like “drawing-room” and “to-day/to-morrow/to-night” became commonplace. Semicolons became my buddy, and names like Holmes became Holmes’s instead of Holmes’ when singular possessive. That’s actually the correct way to write it, but in localization, writing a word like goddess’s looks bloated and ugly, so our style guide has us dropping the extra s whether it’s singular or plural possessive (something I agree with). This rule is ignored with Mysteria, because I said so.

I wonder if this topic is boring from an outside perspective, but it’s pretty exciting stuff for me…

You’ll also occasionally find words that sound right for the scene but are absolutely made up. A few times in the game, I found myself going, “This sounds like it should be a word, and it kinda works here. Should I use it anyway?” I’d normally shy away from this, but as I wrote in the previous blog, authors of the Victorian era ignored rules. Many modern words come from authors making things up, anyway. Why should I be limited by what exists? I kept to words that sound plausible enough and had a respectable origin, so perhaps you won’t even notice when I’ve made something up.

A big challenge for me has been adding the Victorian color I want to the game while also taking care not to dismiss the Japanese voice acting. It’s my first time working on a game with Japanese audio, and to me, localization should be approached a bit differently than if you were going to fully adapt with an English dub. This is also Japanese-style otome game. The game takes place in England, but there are many quirks from Japanese games and culture that will inevitably be there in a subtle form. I can change a bow to a handshake, embellish descriptions and emotions in prose for a stronger flow, but I can’t dismiss the Japanese voice acting when some character just says, “Lupin…” I think I’m still adjusting how to approach this and have a lot more to learn about it. It’s harder than I expected.

And to wrap this up, in case all this research scared anyone into thinking we were going too far since we didn’t write it in a modern style like the Japanese and I chose to elaborate certain descriptive elements: the developers are completely cool with it. They were actually excited when the idea was mentioned, and they even began to make requests of their own along the way. Everyone wins! Maybe. Guess we’ll find out when the reviews come in.

Blog #2

Hello, detectives!

This is Brittany again, Localization Producer at XSEED Games and London Detective Mysteria’s lead editor. I talked about how we brought the game over last time, so this time we can get into more neat localization stuff. I’m also pleased that we were able to publish a demo of the game, which will be available to download on your Vitas in North America, Europe, and Australia this coming Tuesday, 9/25. It’s only the prologue, but I dearly hope you get a sense of anticipation for the full product as you play.

A generous thank-you to the developer, Karin Entertainment, for creating the demo for the English version!

London Detective Mysteria is set in London, England (duh) during the late 1890s. At the time, I was so excited to be able to work on this project, but I was also an ignorant American. Before Mysteria, my British knowledge was limited to Great British Bake Off, “Pip pip, cheerio!”, and knowing that British people do not, in fact, clap in applause at the end of a long flight like Americans. So, knowing all this about myself, I decided I was going to write the whole damn game in Victorian British English.

The best way for me to start was to disconnect from the stereotypes. Don’t learn what’s correct first, I thought! Learn what’s wrong with what you already know! I did this by reading blogs and forums from British folks who could immediately point out when someone wasn’t actually British by how they were behaving or the words they were using. It makes you feel like you’re being constantly called out, but it’s a great technique for rebuilding your knowledge from the ground up.

(Wow! You mean they don’t say, “Pip pip, cheerio!” at all? Crazy. Absolutely bananas.)

After that, I then specifically sought out books written and published during the Victorian era. Tons of books are set in that era, but I didn’t want to potentially muddy my research with stories first published in, say, 2007, because I wouldn’t be able to confirm for myself the level of research done by modern authors. What if they were following basic stereotypes, too?

I can’t possibly list them all, but I first focused on stories based off the characters in Mysteria such as Sherlock Holmes and Arsène Lupin. For the sake of characters like Jack, an East Ender with a cockney accent, I read stories by well-known cockney writers like William Pett Ridge and Richard Whiteing. Other books, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, have nothing to do with Mysteria, but the writing is a fantastic reference. I swear, I’ve read more books just for this game than I have for my own enjoyment in the past decade.

It was nice to read these, of course, but it also helped to catch references throughout the game that I would have otherwise missed. They also inspired me to adapt its cast in unique ways instead of being more generic with my studies of Victorian BE. Watson is a bit more casual, Lupin is very flowery, Jack says a fair number of oaths, etc. After a few books, I almost felt a bit stupid for thinking everyone had some sort of formal air about them in these old novels. They really, really didn’t, and discovering that became extremely valuable to me throughout the localization process.

I learned a lot of interesting things as I did my research. Like, British words, yeah, but I’ve also been able to take away something beyond what was required for this particular game.

For most of my editing career, I’ve strived to have structure in my work. I have rules for just about everything—a process for every single step in localization. It’s a creative career, but I enjoy making logic out of the whole thing. I know my rules on ellipses, I’m stingy with semicolons, and I don’t like spaces around em dashes. I always use a comma before “too” but never “as well,” and you’d better believe that I always remember to capitalize my stutters. My style has been orderly and dry, and I always thought that’s because that was how it had to be.

But as I continued to read books from the Victorian era, I noticed something: its authors didn’t give two shits about the rules. Are these five sentences all fragmented? Join them with semicolons because it feels right. Repeating words for no good reason? Go for it. Using “(expletive)” in the middle of dialogue instead of writing out the oath? Why not? Perhaps it’s because it’s an era where stories published in the paper were paid by the word, or maybe they straight-up didn’t care. Whatever the answer, I came to adore how liberating the books I was reading were.

That’s not to say modern writers aren’t equally liberated, but there is a consistent inconsistency to many of the books I read. It was magic for me—sometimes, anyway. I liked the dialogue of some novels more than others, and some were very stiff and bland. The Sherlock Holmes novels come to mind first, since they often reminded me of raw, somewhat literal translations. Had I never been exposed to anything Holmes-related in my life and were given just the dialogue from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books, I would have thought it was something Japanese that had been translated to English by a competent translator.

Yet being somewhat stiff but still colourful seemed to generally be a part of many novelists I researched. Or maybe not stiff, but proper? Whatever. My point is, even informal characters from various books had word choices that would come across as formal in modern times, however informal they actually were. More than the dry, literal-feeling Doyle’s books gave me, I leaned towards the stiff-but-snappy style of people like William Pett Ridge or the very flamboyant or expressive characters written by Maurice Leblanc. I think I adopted this better with some characters than others, but hopefully I’ve struck a decent balance overall.

I have a lot more to say on research, but this turned out longer than I expected. Till next time, then! Buy Mysteria when it comes out and pay for my pet food, please!

Blog #1

Hello, detectives!

Welcome to the English website for London Detective Mysteria! My name is Brittany, and along with being Localization Producer at XSEED Games, I am the producer for the English version of this title. In the past, I’ve done such titles as Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim [PC], Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven, and I’ve had a heavy hand in the Trails series. Although I’ve been a long-time fan of the otome/visual novel genre, working on one is very new to me.

We only just announced the Vita and PC versions of London Detective Mysteria this year, but what might come as a surprise is that we’ve had an on-and-off relationship with this title since 2012.

Our first teaser dates to around when I first started at XSEED Games. I joined in September 2011, and in 2012, Marvelous Japan was set to publish a PSP game called 英国探偵ミステリア in 2013. I was still quite new to the world of localization then, but XSEED expressed an interest in the otome market and I was the most familiar with the genre of anyone at the company. Fresh as I was, I was asked if I wanted to make it my very first title.

“Hell, yeah,” I answered with choice enthusiasm, because it was my first chance to be an editor. “I’m gonna do this shit up.”

English/British Detective Mysteria is the Japanese title, but I proposed London Detective Mysteria since the game takes place in London and I wanted to avoid choosing between “English” or “British.” The developers were cool with using the word “London,” but they worried the word “Detective” was too harsh sounding in English and didn’t carry enough of a feminine connotation. We (politely) argued that one of the selling points of Mysteria was its spirited protagonist, Emily Whiteley, and that a cool word like “Detective” suited her extremely well and told more about her role in the story than a title like, say, Lady Mysteria. They agreed.

I also decided back then that it’d be weird if a game that took place in Victorian London used modern American English, even if that was all I knew, so I dived right into researching British English from that era. This is something I’ll talk about more in future blogs. For now, I just want to express how much I wanted to do right by my first game.

Then, several months into the project starting and after we teased it, Marvelous told us to put the project on an indefinite hold. It confused all of us. What? Why? Which, you know, shit happens. Things in contracts get misunderstood, schedules between publishers and developers get tangled, and so on. Publishing can be an unpredictable business. We figured we would wait until someone got back to us.

Months later, with no new updates and the PSP rapidly dying, the project was canceled entirely. The research I started suddenly became so meaningless! Everything I started would be forever stuck in the land of NDA. This happens from time to time with companies, but it never stops being frustrating. As the years passed, even after I was given another project called Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven (which was almost canceled again omg), I always weirdly thought of Mysteria as the one that got away.

Not only that, but because it was a project with our parent company, the risks for diving into the otome market were much lighter. Now we had other projects, and the door we thought would open became closed to us. That was it; we weren’t gonna ever do another PSP game so the game would never come to the West.

This changed when the game’s developer, Karin Entertainment, ported the game to Vita and self-published it in 2016. I thought, “This is a sign! We’ve got to do this!”, but we worried that the cancellation of the PSP version and how the dev team may have interpreted that, somehow led to that door closing forever. We were swamped with projects around then, and we were also expecting several new titles to come in and were making room in our schedule for them.

Things changed for us again when we didn’t get one title we were hoping for. This was around November 2016, and it was a pretty shocking week for us. So the boss and I did as any people who are bummed did and went out for sad people booze.

We talked a lot about what this meant for us, because it was so surprising. In my drunkenness, I joked about Mysteria. “Hey! You know the devs published it independently on Vita, right? Why not just e-mail them?”, and I guess my boss had a bit of a “You know what? Why not?,” attitude to him that night, so he allowed it. We suddenly had a large hole in next year’s plans, so what did we have to lose?

We emailed them through their website, and the devs amazingly got back to us in a half hour. Now we have a game to bring you on Vita and PC, complete with Japanese voice acting. No censorship—I don’t know why everyone always asks that, but no images were altered, no scenes were removed, etc. The game is rated M in North America because some characters swear a ton and, umm. It has Jack the Ripper in it, so take a wild guess.

Also, it will be published digitally in North America, Europe, and Australia. Not sure when, but everybody will get a chance to romance them boyz if they want to.

So there you have it: the story behind XSEED’s first otome game. I’ve been working on the game for well over a year at this point, and I still have quite a long road ahead of me, but I’ll finally get some closure by completing what was meant to be my first project. Not every editor gets this opportunity, so even if the work I’m putting into this game is at an exhaustive level at this point, I am grateful I can get a sense of closure.

Thanks for reading! I hope we do right by otome fans everywhere, and please look forward to future localization blogs for London Detective Mysteria!