Recently I have been playing a Playstation3 game called Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star. It was made by Japanese games company Gust as a distant prequel to its Ar Tonelico series. I am closing in on the end of the game, now, but it is starting to leave a bad taste in my mouth.
There is no single, large fault with the game. There have been, however, a lot of small issues which, overall, begin to stack up against it.
I also need to note that, unlike previous Gust games, newer releases like this one are localised and brought to the West by Koei Tecmo (as their Japanese arm now owns Gust), instead of Nisa.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, or the cause of the problems. It does mean, though, that current and future Gust games are being brought t the West by a company that doesn’t yet have a long history with the ongoing franchises.
In Japan, this game is the second in the Surge Concerto series. The first game, Ciel Nosurge, was a Playstation Vita game with online connectivity where you get to know the character Ion and a long and involved history of the setting and characters of this series. This online data, then, could be imported into Ar Nosurge and somewhat affect how Ion’s story unfolds in the second game.
It was decided, for whatever reason, not to bring this outside of Japan. Perhaps they out that the “Life Simulation” concept wouldn’t work well for a Western audience. The problem, though, is that we are left with the second part of a story which is intricately built up and prepared in the part we don’t get over here.
You need to find a story guide to get a good feel of what is going. and which people knew who. I, for one, was very confused initially when Ion knew characters from the other playable group of characters because I didn’t yet know that they had all grown up together.
Aside from the pure story side of things, the online component of Ar Nosurge was taken out, as it had no counterpart data to play with, removing an optional boss and removing the ability to unlock a costume change function. Minor but annoying.
No explanation, as far as I can tell, was made regarding why this choice was made. If there was one, it is hard to track down.
Localization and Communication
The English language localization was problematic. Names and terms were translated inconsistently, as if only half of the people rewriting the text were given the final canon spellings and terms. NPC dialogue was also hopelessly mangled. Sentences were spoken out of order and possibly by the wrong people. It also, apparently, didn’t get much of a testing phase before the non-Japanese release, so none of these issues were picked up.
This is where it started to all fall apart.
Players all began to bring this to the attention to the American and European arms of Koei Tecmo. There was not a huge amount of communication coming back, though. The American arm, without mentioning specific flaws, put out a feedback questionnaire. The European arm would respon directly to people but did not put out a public notice addressing these issues.
Then both arms went very silent. Not even a single word to say whether a fix was even being worked on,
This week, on Wednesday November 12th, the silence was broken. Koei Tecmo Europe announced that a patch was “scheduled”. This was vague, as it didn’t state whether it meant work was just starting on it or if it was nearing completion.
Koei Tecmo America then announced that the patch was out in the American regions.
It wasn’t until Friday, after a bit of hassling towards them, that Koei Tecmo Europe finally mentioned something at really needed to be said in the first place. The patch has been submitted to Sony Europe and is currently awaiting approval and release. A lot of tempers could have been kept is this had only been said from the outset.
The real problem I have with this whole release is that there have been several minor issues, all of which could have been contained by much better communication.
By ignoring requests for clarification and giving late information and pleas for “patience and understanding” long after people were annoyed, they themselves helped the situation escalate from something minor into something more.
All that it really needed was the following being stated promptly and publicly:
- We hear the feedback and are passing it along to the developers.
- The text issues in the game are being addressed. We will let you know when a fix is close to release.
- The patch has now been completed and submitted for approval. The release will likely be staggered by regional approval processes but work is complete and the fixes should be live to everyone before too long.
Just a little bit more openness, at all stages of the situation, would have saved a lot of hassle. Instead, I am finding my enjoyment of a good game somewhat marred by treatment of its international release.