Exclusive Interview with VisualArt's, Prototype and Fruitbat Factory regarding Little Busters! English Edition

LBInterview

Recently, Kazamatsuri was granted the opportunity to interview representatives from VisualArt’s, Prototype and Fruitbat Factory regarding the upcoming release of Little Busters! English Edition on Steam! Be sure to let us know what you think in the discussion below!


To all: Could you please introduce yourself for our readers?

【馬場】「ビジュアルアーツ社長の馬場です」

Baba: I’m Baba Takahiro, the President of VisualArt’s.

【多部田】「Toshio Tabeta
株式会社プロトタイプの代表取締役です。
40年前、13才の頃にIntel8080系のマイクロコンピューターでプログラムを覚え、25才でプログラマーを引退してからは、プロデューサー業に専念しています。」

Tabeta: I’m Tabeta Toshio, the representative director at Prototype Ltd.
40 years ago, when I was 13 years old, I learned to program on a Intel 8080 powered microcomputer. I retired as a programmer when I was 25 and have been a dedicated producer since then.

Jakke: I’m Jakke Elonen, the editor of Little Busters! and president of Fruitbat Factory. I’ve been working on visual novel translations since 2008, including the original fan translation for Little Busters!. I go by PhleBuster online.

To all: In your words, what kind of story is Little Busters? What makes it special?

【馬場】「一般的には友情物語としていますが、私の解釈ではKeyとして初めて”強くない主人公”を描いた物語だと思っています。強くないがゆえに、まわりの友人が助け、一緒に成長していく。そういう過程を楽しんでいただければと思います。」

Baba: In general it’s a story about friendship, but I see it as Key’s first story where the protagonist “isn’t strong.” Because he isn’t strong, he gets help from his friends, and they grow together. I think the story is about enjoying that process.

Jakke: For me, it’s first and foremost a story of friendship, and an immensely powerful one at that. It has the best gang of friends I’ve seen in a story ever, each with their own problems but connected with an inseparable bond. The emphasis Little Busters! gives on all the male friends, instead of using them as props, is really unique. I think even looking at the original Japanese release, many have hailed Little Busters! as Jun Maeda’s greatest work, and I totally feel that’s still the case. There’s so much humour and passion poured into the game, you get a particular appreciation for his writing during the common route and certain other routes - Saya included. Regardless of age, I think that reading Little Busters! will make you grow as a person in one way or another, and it’s amazing to have a part in bringing the game to people all over the world.

To Prototype: What’s it like working with VisualArt’s?

【多部田】「優れた作品を生み出すクリエイターの方々は、文字通り命を削って、魂を込めて作品を作られています。
その移植を手がけさせて頂く我々も、同じように努力し続けなければならないと、常に心掛けています。」

Tabeta: They create exceptional games and will literally pour their life and soul into their works. Being part of that through porting the games, we want to put in an equal amount of effort.

To FBF: How is it working with VisualArt’s? Did they give you lots of freedom on the localisation, did you have regular contact to discuss how things should be translated?

Jakke: VisualArt’s has been pretty hands-off regarding the localisation. We’ve been able to do the things we wanted to do, and they’ve been very open to all the suggestions we’ve made regarding things that could be improved with an English localisation in mind. They also check things at their end and have pointed out if there’s some issue in the translation.

To VA: Why did you decide to involve Prototype in publishing Little Busters English Edition?

【馬場】「プロトタイプには当社のゲームをSONYの家庭用ゲーム機に移植する際、いつもお願いしています。今回は同じPCですが、同時に多言語を表示させるなど、従来よりも高機能なプログラムエンジンが必要だったのですが、当社のプログラマーでは実現できなかったため、プロトタイプに任せることにしました。ですから今回も安心して見ていられましたよ(笑)」

Baba: We always ask Prototype to port our games to Sony’s consoles. While this is a PC release like usual, it was necessary to have a more powerful engine in order to handle a multi-language version. We couldn’t do it within the company, so we entrusted it to Prototype, and thankfully everything worked out (laughs).

To FBF: Are you fans of Key’s stories? How do you feel about being involved in the official localisation of Little Busters? Did you ever think this day would come when you first worked on the fan translation?

Jakke: Wow, that’s a lot of questions in one! The first Key visual novel (and one of the first visual novels overall) I read was Planetarian, and it had a huge impact on me. It’s still one of my favorite visual novels. For Kanon and Clannad I saw the anime adaptations before reading the visual novels, and really liked those too. I certainly never entertained the possibility that Little Busters! might one day be released officially in English - it was a different world back when I started working on it in 2009. When we heard the first news about Key releasing a game in English, it changed our world.

Little Busters Rock

To Prototype: What was your reaction when approached by VisualArt’s to help publish the English version of Little Busters?

【多部田】「我々はコンシューマー機用ゲームソフトのプロではありますが、PCでの実績はほとんどありませんでした。
ですので、PC系をメインとするビジュアルアーツ様からのお声がけは、大変に光栄でしたが、同時に大きなプレッシャーも感じました。」

Tabeta: Our company is a console developer and barely has any track record for PC, so being appointed by the PC-focused VisualArts was a big honour but also a lot of pressure.

To VA: What are your thoughts on the international reception of Little Busters? Are you surprised by how many fans it has overseas?

【馬場】「はい。たくさんのファンがおられること知り、非常に光栄に感じました。特にkazamatsuriさんの熱心さには感激しましたね(笑)それに、海外の人たちも、感動してくれるシーンや反応が、日本のファンととほぼ同じであることに驚かされました。こういったファンが海外にもたくさんおられることを知り、われわれはゲームローカライズや、イベントへの出展など、海外ファンへのサービスをしていきたいと考え始めたのです。」

Baba: Yes, we felt very honoured to learn about the many international fans. The passion from Kazamatsuri was especially moving (laughs). I was very surprised that foreign fans react very similarly to Japanese ones. It was because we learned about all of these fans that we started thinking about localising games and doing overseas events.

To FBF: What translation changes did Fruitbat Factory have to make now that they’re making their translation official?

Jakke: I don’t think we had to make many changes. There were a few in-jokes that we changed because they felt tasteless on closer inspection, but not many. Mostly we re-checked the older translation with a higher standard of quality in mind. The translation was started quite a long time ago, and our standards - and skills - have gone up since then, so I think we were able to make a lot of improvements.

To VA and FBF: Is there any aspect of Little Busters that you hope overseas fans appreciate?

【馬場】「ビジュアルノベルはゲームというより、複数の可能性を持つ物語です。また映画やアニメと違い、主人公になりきって、その世界を楽しみ、課題をクリアすることが目的です。ですから、自分がそのゲームに積極的に感情移入しようとしなければ、十分に楽しむことはできません。それには少しの才能が必要になるので、万人向けとは言えませんが、海外のユーザーにも出来るだけ多くの人に楽しみ方を覚えていただきたいですね。……海外でもウケてほしいところですか? やっぱり"うなぎパイ"で攻撃するバカバカしさとかですかね?」

Baba: A visual novel is more a story with several different possibilities rather than a game. They’re also distinct from anime and film with how the goal is to become the protagonist and clear challenges. Because of that, you can’t enjoy them fully if you aren’t emotionally invested. It does take a certain aptitude, so I can’t say it suits everyone. However, I would want as many people overseas as possible to learn how to appreciate them. What aspect would I want to be liked overseas? I suppose it’d be the absurdity of battling with food and such.

Jakke: I think the voice actor performances deserve a particular shout-out. They all embody their characters perfectly and I wouldn’t swap out a single one. Tamiyasu Tomoe performs her most iconic role as Natsume Rin, awkward and rude and sometimes the sweetest thing you’ve ever heard, and I still hear Masato every time Lancer speaks in the Fate games. I’m sure I’m not the only western visual novel fan who puts great emphasis on good voice performances, and I’d like to point out that the upcoming release includes voices for all the side characters as well, who originally went unvoiced.

To VA: Can we expect Steam trading cards for Little Busters English Edition? I’d love an LB profile background!

【馬場】「検討します!」

Baba: We’ll consider it!

To FBF & Prototype: What were some of the biggest technical challenges in producing Little Busters English Edition?

【多部田】「キーボードを持たないタブレット機でも楽しめるようにタッチ操作にも完全対応させていますが、従来のキーボード操作やマウス操作でも
違和感なく楽しめるよう、共存させる事には苦労しました。」

Tabeta: This release is designed to work on a tablet through touch control alone, but we had a bit of trouble making sure it wouldn’t feel weird using the traditional mouse and keyboard.

Jakke: Without going into too many details, Saya’s minigame had a lot of room for improvement in English, since it relies heavily on lines that are only spoken. We spent a lot of time on working out solutions for each distinct problem it presented, and came up with, I think, pretty good answers. I haven’t yet seen the final version, but based on what I’ve seen so far I expect her minigame will be very enjoyable in English too.

To VA: Have you ever considered releasing Key’s games with support for mac or linux?

【馬場】「ないですよ(笑)あ、でも要望が多くなれば考えますけど。今はまだコストと利益のバランスがとれないでしょうね。」

Baba: No we haven’t, but we’ll consider it if there’s a large demand. Currently, it would too big a cost to be beneficial.

To VA: What are your thoughts on Little Busters Ecstasy’s inclusion of H-scenes?

【馬場】「もともと、大人の恋にはその先があるものでしょう?(笑)まあファンからの要望があったのと、われわれもクリエイターとして最初は全部の年齢を対象にした物語を作り、その後、それにエッチシーンを足す、ということをやってみたかった。それはビジネスとしてはとても良い結果になったのだ。しかし、たぶんもうやらないでしょう。そのような物語の作り方が意外に難しかったので。」

Baba: Adult love should take things further, wouldn’t you think? (laughs) Due to fan feedback, we made a story for all age groups and later added H-scenes. From a business standpoint, the results from doing so were very good, but we will probably not do it again. It was surprisingly difficult to make a story like that.

To VA: Do you have any interest in the Nintendo Switch? And have you ever considered publishing on Nintendo platforms before?

【馬場】「とても興味があります。ファンが望むならば、ですが。」

Baba: We’re very interested, but that’s if the fans want it.

To VA and FBF: Do you have a personal favourite joke or funny moment from Little Busters?

【馬場】「私は"目からごぼう"ですね(笑)これは、日本のことわざで"目からうろこが落ちる"というのがあります。これは、ぱっと目の前が良く見えるようになる、つまり、なにかにハッと気がつく様子を表わすことわざなのですが、そのパロディーなのですね。その視覚的な言語感覚にしばらく笑い転げてしまいました。」

Baba: “The burdock fell from my eyes” (laughs). In Japanese, there’s the saying “the scales fell from my eyes,” and this is a joke about that. The idiom refers to suddenly seeing what’s in front of you more clearly. In other words, you have a sudden idea or epiphany. I had a great laugh at how the words were changed.

Jakke: There are a lot of puns in Little Busters! and we had a lot of fun coming up with English equivalents. Haruka is responsible for a lot of them, and my favourite probably remains that infamous cellophane one that was born in one burst of inspiration. As for funny moments… Boy, does Saya have a lot of them! I was laughing through half of her story.

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To VA and FBF: Who are your favourite male and female character from Little Busters and why?

【馬場】「全部好きなので選べませんが、強いて言うなら男は理樹、女の子は来ヶ谷ですかね」

Baba: I like all of them, so it’s hard to choose, but if I had to then I’d say Riki and Kurugaya.

Jakke: It’s no cop-out to say I like all the characters in Little Busters! But my most favourite girls would have to be Rin and Kurugaya - their completely different personalities make it difficult to choose between them. For males, it’s obviously Masato! He’s the best “bro” character ever in a visual novel, hands down. The only thing bigger than his biceps is his heart. And his biceps are big.

To VA: It seems that Little Busters’ life is coming to an end. Can we expect any more announcements for its 10th anniversary or into the future?

【馬場】「あります!もうすぐ明らかになるでしょう!」

Baba: Yes, we have something planned! It should be made public soon!

To VA: What’s next for Key’s overseas expansion?

【馬場】「PCゲーム、ソーシャルゲーム、アニメーション、音楽。あとは時々ファンのみなさまに逢いに行きます。私の中では、日本も海外もなにも変わらない。日本でもビジュアルアーツはファンにとても近くて親近感のあるメーカーと思われています。海外でもそのように感じていただけるよう、活動していきたいと考えています。」

Baba: PC games, social games, anime, music, and fan meetings. There’s no difference between international fans and Japanese fans to me. In Japan, VisualArts is seen as having a very close and intimate relationship with its fans. I would like the international fans to feel the same way.

To all: Anything else you’d like to convey to our readers?

【馬場】「ご覧いただきありがとうございました!この作品は少年から大人へ主人公たちが成長していくせつなさと強さを友情をテーマに描いたものです。みなさんの人生と記憶に、少しでもなにかを残せたら、光栄に思います。どうぞ最後まで、ゆっくりお楽しみください!また、いつかどこかで、お逢いしましょう!」

Baba: Thank you for your time. Little Busters! is a story about the main characters learning both the power and struggle of growing up, and it’s also a story of friendship. I’m honoured if it leaves even a small mark on your life. Please enjoy it leisurely until the end, and may our paths meet again some day!

【多部田】「この「リトルバスターズ!English Edition」に使用する基本システムは、弊社のオリジナルのエンジンで、名前を「LUCA」と言います。
「LUCA」の設計コンセプトは「紙のコミックを読むように直感的に操作でき、物語に集中できる」。
コミックのようにページを読み飛ばす事もできれば、気になったシーンを1コマずつ戻す…といった事も自由自在です。
恐らく、「世界一使い心地の良い恋愛アドベンチャーエンジン」になると思いますので、ご期待ください!」

Tabeta: Little Busters! English Edition is running on our own original engine called LUCA. The concept behind LUCA is that readers can focus on the story as if reading a physical comic book. Like with a comic, you can jump ahead or go back to especially interesting panels. You have complete freedom. I believe it will become the “most comfortable romance visual novel engine,” so please look forward to it!

Jakke: Little Busters! is a story that can make you stop and think - and perhaps literally change your life. There’s a lot of cynicism at large in the world today, but I believe each of us can find something of ourselves in the fragile existence of the cast of Little Busters!, so my greatest wish is that players all over the world will welcome the story into their hearts with an open mind and come to love it as we have.

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Our thanks go out to VisualArt’s, Prototype and Fruitbat Factory for this awesome opportunity. Stay tuned for more news regarding Little Busters! English Edition’s release in the near future!

Aspirety

Big weeb with pretty good taste. Nintendo/Key/07th Expansion devotee. Founder of the Kazoku Collective and full-time Visual Novel Podcaster. Never forget the heart!