The world of ROM hacks can be a scary place. Diving head first into the community with little prior knowledge is a frustrating experience. There are tons of hacks for just about every popular series and platform out there, with vastly varied quality and goals. Luckily for you, your old pal Casey is here to help you out. Let’s explore the world of ROM hacking, its terms, and purpose, and find some great games to play! If you are new to ROM Hacking or missed Part 1, go back and give my intro and guide a read. We’ve already covered Metroid, Pokemon, Super Mario, various other Nintendo titles, Mega Man, and Sonic the Hedgehog in past entries. That is a lot of games!
After a week break, we’re back up and running with ROM hacks! This time out, I’d like to talk about some fan translation projects. As we discussed in the first installment, these games are English translations of officially released titles. There are tons of translations out there into non-English languages, of course, but we’re going to focus on English here for the obvious reason. If you’re interested in translations to other languages, give the ever-reliable RomHacking.net a perusal. You’re sure to find something that meets your taste.
We’re gonna start out with the big one. My personal favorite translation, and one of my favorite games of all time. I make no effort to hide my love of the Mother series, or Earthbound here in the US. Mother 3 is a genuine masterpiece of both game design and storytelling. I can gush on and on about how important this game is to me. I have an unfathomable level of emotional and sentimental connection to the whole series, Mother 3 in particular. I’ll just stop here and talk about the actual translation. Mother 3 has still yet to be released in the US officially, but the game has been playable for many years thanks to the hard efforts of one Mr. Clyde “Tomato” Mandelin. Clyde localizes games professionally and runs the Legends of Localization organization which documents translation quirks and errors both on the website and in physical book form. Clyde spent years localizing the massive amount of text in Mother 3, editing the references in order to fit into US culture while still retaining the original vision. Not an easy job considering Mother creator Shigesato Itoi’s liberal use of pop culture references. This localization job is as close to perfect as you can get. Download it here and please, play this game.
Another of my favorite RPGs, if not just games in general, has received an excellent fan translation. Chrono Trigger Re-Translated is a complete overhaul of the original SNES game’s script, re-translating it to add in cut content, patch up some errors and un-censor the game. Chrono Trigger has had an official re-translation through the DS release which is quite good, but playing the original SNES game with a refreshing script is a lot of fun. This video goes over some of the changes made to the US version of the game.
Stepping away from the RPGs, Rockman & Forte is a Mega Man game that was never released in the US. At least not in its original form. It did get western representation in the form of Megaman & Bass on the Gameboy Advance, but it was originally an SNES title. A translation of the game was done by classic translation group Aeon Genesis. Give this one a go if you’re a fan of Mega Man, and check out the Mega Man edition of the series from a few weeks back for more games. Below is a nice video comparing the SNES and GBA releases.
Clock Tower is a bit of a cult series these days. Western players got their first taste of the series on the PS1.in 1996, but this game is actually the second in the series. The first game is a Japan exclusive SNES title. Thanks to the efforts of Aeon Genesis yet again, the game is fully playable in English via emulation or flash carts (we’ll talk about flash carts in an upcoming post). This is a great way to get started with Clock Tower’s unique blend of tense horror and point and click game mechanics.
One of the most recent (and most exciting) releases is the forgotten Hideo Kojima game Policenauts. This game was originally released for the PC-9821 platform in Japan, with later ports to the 3DO, PlayStation 1, and Sega Saturn. Despite the game’s prevalence on multiple platforms, it was never released outside Japan. An English localization was in the works for the Saturn version, but it sadly never came to fruition….until now that is. A team of diehard fans have localized the Saturn release for US players for the first time. Kojima fans owe it to themselves to check this one out.
5 games ought to keep everyone busy for quite awhile, eh? Like usual, there are tons more translations out there, with more coming seemingly every day. RomHacking.net compiles a great list of fan translation projects which you can sort by platform for easy browsing.