Monday, September 12, 2011

Son of a Submariner!

Welcome to the Final Fantasy Grove! This is your writer, The Onion Knight, and this is my first post on this blog. Assuming you've read the title elsewhere before, (that's right, you've guessed it), today's article will be in honor of none other than the infamous Square translator, Ted Woolsey.

 For those of you who don't know, Ted Woolsey is currently the Director of First Party Publishing for the XBOX Live Arcade service but Final Fantasy fans will know him better as the guy who translated and localized many of Square's games during the 16-bit era. He translated titles such as Final Fantasy III (FF VI in Japan), Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Super Mario RPG, and many more. Ted is also credited with working with companies such as Craveyard and RealNetworks online gaming service.

 So how did Mr. Woolsey become so famous in the Square community? After the mangled translation of Final Fantasy II on the SNES, Woolsey's translation of Final Fantasy VI was a masterpiece in comparison. He wrote colorful, and often witty, dialogue that really colored the characters differently than their Japanese versions. Although his translations of many games are sometimes not well-received by many fans in the RPG community, I for one very much enjoy his work, often referred to as 'Woolseyisms".

 So how did it all start for Ted? Well, according to an interview with Ted Woolsey done by the Player One Podcast, (a podcast hosted by writers of former EGM), Ted had just earned his masters degree in Japanese Literature at the University of Washington and was looking for work in the Redmond area. He was quickly hired by Squaresoft and his first assignment was to play through the English version of Final Fantasy II on the SNES, so he could learn from what mistakes were made. Soon, Ted got to work on his first game, which was Final Fantasy Legends III on the Game Boy. Eventually, he would go on to translate Final Fantasy III, Chrono Trigger, Breath of Fire, Super Mario RPG, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (a game that Ted himself got to direct and script), Secret of Mana, and a bunch more I can't remember right now.

 Ted was usually given around 30 days to translate a game (on average, he would have to translate about 1500 pages of text), while being flown into Japan to work on the game there so he could have direct contact with his employers. This was just one of the few challenges Ted had to face as a translator. During that time in Japan, games were really seen as a kid's toy, but Ted saw otherwise. He realized these kinds of games were really artful objects meant for adults, and it was this understanding that fueled Ted to localize Square's games in an interesting and colorful fashion; one that would bring the quality of localization to a whole new level.

 Ted would eventually leave Square just before the localization of Final Fantasy VII, since Square was moving their headquarters in North America from Washington to Los Angeles. Ted then signed up with games-developer Big Rain, which then was bought-out by Craveyard entertainment. There, Woolsey worked on one game - an RPG called Shadow Madness for the PlayStation, (more on that in a future article). Ted soon left the bankrupt company and then signed up for RealNetworks gaming where he would work for a handful of years, until he was hired by Microsoft.

 Ted Woolsey is without a doubt a legend in the FF community and a pioneer of video game localization. He wrote scripts that were cherished and became memorable, and at the same time brought different perspectives onto the video games he translated.

Here is the podcast interview done by Player One podcast.
Ted Woolsey's brief bio on the FF Wiki

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