bookofholsety: this post is probably a miscellaneous jugdral side/meta thingy (patty!)
[personal profile] bookofholsety
at the moment i'm unspeakably busy with uni and haven't had the time to keep up with fe4 patch stuff at all - for the past few weeks, if it's not been assessment, it's been uni poetry events, and if it hasn't been that it's been causing domestic disasters. even so, this is something i've been slowly chipping away at for a few months now and i figure, it's basically complete, why not just post it? if there's something wrong with it, then i can always edit it later

what happened is, over the years i've accrued waaaaaay too much material about various old translations of fe4, and for a while i've been kicking around the idea of piecing it all together into something resembling a history of the game in english. part of this was inspired by a smash bros practice meet i attended a few months ago, where i was chatting with a guy there about fire emblem. in a fit of ego i happened to bring up my work on fe4, and he remarked that he was surprised that i'd done another, since he thought there were already a lot of translation patches for fe4. i'd already been thinking about this on and off for a while now, but his point really got me thinking. it goes without saying that our little team here was far from the first to take a stab at translating fe4, but just how far from the first were we, anyway?

something tells me that most people aren't as ridiculously obsessive about this stuff as i am, but what the hell. those who don't learn from history etc etc

full disclosure: going in, i know i'm far from the most qualified to write something like this. even if i've been with the games themselves for over a decade, i've only been active in fire emblem communities for four years at best by now, and it goes without saying that i am extremely new to the general fan translation scene, if i can count as being there at all! my firsthand knowledge and experience with all of this starts in 2012, so i'm relying almost entirely on secondary sources to write most of this. additionally, i'm lacking a fair few release dates due to incomplete information provided

I. The Jurassic Age, aka The Old Testament, aka i Was Barely Able To String Sentences Together When These Patches Came Out

(Screenshots from the J2E Translations build, version 0.25, released 8 May 2000)

As far as i can tell, the first translation of FE4 originated in 2000 with the J2E Translations group (RHDN profile). Prior to starting work on FE4, they'd also released a translation of FE2 the previous year (a very rough one, mind, and rendered thoroughly obsolete by Artemis251's swoop at it a decade later, but there it is nonetheless). The first mention of it on their site's news feed, as far as I can see, was also its very first release, put out on 8 May 2000. Judging by its readme, even back then the project's history was a little tempestuous:
1.	Translation History

Stove worked on it, stopped.  Tiger Claw worked on it, stopped.  STove
worked on it again, and so did Tiger claw.  They realized they were both
working on it and worked together.  Jay joined, and with his super-nifty
powers, cracked compression, found tables, made inserters, etc. etc..
Tiger left, Jay left, STove all alone again.  Help stove.. help him.. :)
(readme via here; the entry doesn't seem to be on rhdn itself anymore. frankly, i lucked out because a fe wiki happened to have a link to it)

At this point in its development, the patch was a six-man job. However, the hacking manpower on the project seems to have dwindled after a while, leaving only one programmer, "Jay", actively working on the project by 2001. Meanwhile, an individual by the name of "Boo" joined the project as its lead translator. Jay and Boo's work diverged from the main J2E project as an experimental series of private builds in late August 2001, under the label "J2E Renegade", and they chose to remove the content of the main-line J2E builds until their wing of the project was complete and could be merged back in. Their work and these experimental builds became the foundation of every subsequent English patch that i know of, in terms of both programming and script translation, until we came along. Around this time, Jay put out a call for ROM hackers to assist him with the project which promptly went unanswered, so this leg of the journey basically ended around December 2001. Their last release was eventually put up on their site (mirrored on RHDN in October 2002), and while i can't find any surviving archives of the page to verify this, multiple sources say it was accompanied by a warning saying it was "not to be enjoyed" because of its incomplete state.

(as a side note, i actually first discovered my first real clues about this part of the story on this website. it's.... very late-90s, but it happens to have a fairly comprehensive set of various files from jay and boo available for download, including patch sources and even some early logo translation doodles. i honestly can't remember how i even discovered this website; i want to say it was linked on the serenes mainsite but at the same time... ????????)

Points of interest

During the J2E era, there were two major versions of the script (or at least, one and a quarter versions). The first script from before Boo came on board only covers the main texts of the prologue and chapter 1, and with the latter there's still a lot missing. For what it does have, the translation quality is extremely, extremely rough. I see it as mostly being a hyper-literal take on the script, interested only in that literal conveyance and with no regard at all for how it sounds to English-speaking end-users, but then it also has a fair few moments which decidedly aren't literal at all ("Kiss my Axe!"). If you're curious but don't wish to wrestle with the patch in question, you can find the scripts for this translation here and here; the guy started on translations for later chapters but they never made it into a J2E patch as far as i know.

When Boo joined the project in the Renegade fork, this first translation was replaced with his work, which is where the old script which we all know got its start. Though the patch was constantly forked and revised for like twelve years, if you've played any of those forks and revisions, you're playing Boo's script as it stood as of the final release. In addition to the obligatory name changes, various revisions and corrections were applied to the script over the years, but they were usually little more than proofreading and adding the occasional new block of text, so ultimately Boo's work is still very much at the core of it all and all of the old translations most famous and distinctive lines (e.g. "You ever see a little girl with THESE before!?", the shrink having steady work, etc) survived unchanged from Boo's work until we came along.

By the way, to answer the eternal question:

(Screenshot from the J2E Renegade build, version 0.50.9-jay, released 3 October 2002)

Sigurd's famous last word, as far as the original Boo script is concerned, was "bastard" and not "dastard". The later Reparation patches turned it into "Dastard" a little later on; they also removed the allcaps lines from this and other scenes.

Personally, there's a lot i could say about the Boo translation, but i think i'll save that for another time. For all of its many problems and all of its mistranslations, i've always respected how for many years it managed to be just about the only FE fan translation whose dialogue actually read like fairly natural speech for the most part, compared to how stilted and dry others just about all of the others tended to be. Admittedly this became less of a unique highlight after the FE12 translation and gringe's FE6 patch happened, but nonetheless, there it is.

The Renegade build also has a unique quirk you won't find in either the preceding J2E build or any subsequent builds. The fixed-width font used by FE4 menus meant that, with translations prior to our own, character, class and weapon names were usually contracted hard to try and make them fit within 8 characters so that they'd actually fit the screen space. For some reason, the Renegade build decided to not bother with this and to try spelling things out in full, and it...

(Screenshots from the J2E Renegade build, version 0.50.9-jay, released 3 October 2002)

...worked about as well as you'd expect. i dunno, maybe they were sort of planning ahead with the hopes that someday they'd have a proportional font which'd make this actually work out for them? Either way, as you can see it was pretty glitchy, which eventually led to the Reparation patches curtailing string length hard to pointedly avoid this happening again.

As a side note, as you can see, the stat screens and menus in the Renegade build are actually a step backwards from the J2E ones and are much less complete. i guess that when they said they stripped out all the non-Renegade work, they really meant it.

Obligatory namewank: as of when Boo took over the script translation, this leg of the project chose to use all character, item and location names from the Treasure artbook (published in January 1999), which are mostly exact matches for what the old TCG, and later the Museum website, use. If you're not sure what that entails, look at the "NoJ" column on this wiki page (tl;dr "Siglud"). While this is probably the start of how people accepted many of these (most notably "Celice", which as far as i can tell was not in use before Treasure), if the page is anything to go by, people namewanked pretty hard at him over this too. Christ, it's been nearly twenty years and the fandom hasn't changed much at all from the responses he describes.

Before this is the part that really interests me, though. The original J2E builds didn't use Treasure as a reference at all for whatever reason, and the end result is an interesting mixed bag: some of the takes on the names are actually more sensible than what fans ended up using for the better part of twelve years (e.g. "Leif", "Ares"), while others are exactly the same as either the wronger members of the Treasure names ("Yuria") or the wrongest among the fan names ("Tiltyu", "Delmud"), and some manage to be even fucking weirder than anything else anyone has ever used ("Couple", "Sukasa", "Deu", "Tierfing", "Jolaver"). my current assumption is that the J2E choices reflect the common preferences of English-speaking fans at the time before Treasure happened, but i have no way of verifying this.

By the way, if you ever need a quick laugh, i recommend picking up the reference archive used by Boo and opening "english tidbits.txt" in the "notes" folder.

II. The Middle Ages, aka The New Testament, aka The Age That Everyone And Their Dog Has Played

(Screenshots from the Reparation build, version 0.87d, released 19 June 2006)

The last release of the J2E Renegade project was left sitting around for about a year, but as you probably guessed by now, before long projects were initiated to improve it. As far as i can tell, they started on the earliest incarnation of the defunct forum Fire Emblem Sanctuary of Strategy, when Eaichu posted a thread announcing his intentions to clean it up in April 2003. His work on it produced a patch which combined the Renegade script with the J2E menus; it looks like Eaichi didn't compile it himself, but rather that was the work of AceNoctali (aka that guy who did all those old TCG scans). Eaichu's effort seemed to run parallel with a little side "forum hack" project he did for fun, where characters were replaced with FESS members. Unfortunately this seemed to draw a lot of the attention for a good while and makes it much harder to sleuth out progress on the actual translation, but by January 2004, Eaichu had become unable to continue work on the patch and it was effectively left abandoned.

Enter Twilkitri and the Reparation patches, aka the series of patches that were the standard everyone knew for a good decade or so. Starting with his first release by early June 2004 over the course of several years he worked pretty extensively on fixing technical errors in the translation and on improving Jay's tools for then-modern usage, developing the patch into a state "to be enjoyed".

As far as i can tell, there are three major releases: after his first release, v0.85 was out by March 2005 (fun fact, this build was the first version of FE4 i ever played). In the last release in this era, v0.87, he notably changed the game's dialogue font, which at that point had been in place for six years' worth of patches, and switched it for the dialogue font used in the NTSC version of FE7 (which, as i recall, originated in the SNES version of A Link to the Past). This font was much thinner than the prior one, which helped to somewhat improve the fit of dialogue in the boxes. Prior patches were pretty cramped in the text department in comparison, so while personally i'm not partial to the ALttP font, it was a genuine improvement.

(Left screenshot from Reparation 0.85 (and by extension, all other patches to that point). Middle screenshot from Reparation 0.87d. Right screenshot from Project Naga beta 7.)

Honestly, i can't think of much else to say about this era in general. A significant amount of work went into each of Twilkitri's revisions (just get a load of each of those changelogs!), but at the same time, i'm so familiar with the old patch by now that it seems almost... normal, and that there's not much for me to talk about that isn't obvious to almost everyone who's ever touched FE4.

Points of interest

By his own admission, Twilkitri is a programmer and not a writer or translator, so he didn't really actively revise the script at any point. His influence on the script was mostly limited to, among other things, tweaking it to use commonwealth English spellings (being that Twilktri, like me, is Australian). Another common tweak is the consistent removal of all-caps, reverting passages spelled this way to ordinary capitalisation. It's a bit strange, but i think i can see what Twilkitri was thinking here: he probably didn't care for it as a way to represent yelling, feeling it was hamfisted and/or overused. That's fair enough for the most part - one thing i learned very quickly is to not overuse allcaps, lest it lose its effect from constant presence - and really the only passage which suffered for it is the Battle of Belhalla.

When J2E Renegade left the project, there were still a fair few passages which were missing dialogue entirely. Several other translators contributed previously untranslated passages to the patch over the years, so by the time Twilkitri published his last release in 2012, i can't think of much (aside from the demo reel, castle spouse conversations and the epilogue) that wasn't implemented at some point or another. And for those parts which were left incomplete, well, Twilkitri chose to become a master of the art of filler text:

(Screenshots from the Reparation 0.87d build, released no later than 19 June 2006)

Being that the Reparation patches and their derivatives are easily the most commonly known and played these days, this unsurprisingly translates to a strong influence over the history of FE4 namewank, and what you see in 0.87 is what is most commonly used, ignoring weird outliers like myself and FE13. Even so, he wasn't all that consistent and sort of kept changing his mind about things through this process, resulting in an unusual mixed bag: on one hand he tried to step away from the Treasure names to try and go for more sensible, origin-accurate names (e.g. Sigurd instead of "Siglud", Julia instead of "Yuria"), but on the other hand he also kept a hell of a lot of the weirder Treasure contributions (e.g. "Aless"), and at times he even reverted to some of the weirdest pre-Treasure names from the earliest patch (e.g. "Mideel", "Coupl(e)"). The main reason i'm talking about this is to point out this:

(Screenshots from the Reparation 0.85 build, released no later than 21 March 2005)

As far as i can tell, in exactly one build of his (0.85), Twilkitri correctly called the firstgen thunder mage "Tailtiu". This didn't happen before and it hasn't happened since, since Twilkitri promptly reverted it to the horrendously bastardised "Tiltyu" in the next patch, 0.87, and the fandom forgot this even happened. We were so close, people. So close.

As much as i insist that it's ultimately unimportant, the consistent shifts and experimentation in the namewank department evidenced by the Reparation series in particular take my interest for one particular reason. It's often assumed that namewank is more or less a settled thing and that, before weird assholes like myself and the FE13 localisation team come along, there was just one set that everyone agreed on and used. It's become clear to me over the years that this was never the case and that it's just about always been about trends, with some new interpretations briefly coming into vogue and seeing common use. Nobody has ever been able to agree on this stuff, and all that's really changed these days is that we've narrowed it down to two-ish sets over which to disagree.

III. The Brief Age of Serlis, aka the Second Coming, aka the Awankening, aka i Was Actually Here For This One

i don't care that it's just another twilkitri revision, this one gets its own section

So in 2012, Twilkitri suddenly waltzed back in out of nowhere and updated the patch for a little while. It was mostly incremental updates to the patch as he'd left it a few years prior, nothing too mindblowing, although he did pull some interesting shenanigans when it came to grappling with text length limits in the terrain window. Well, i found it interesting at the time, anyway. He also implemented a handful of then-missing text blocks, did some minor text cleanup, something something....

Oh, who am i kidding. We all know exactly why i'm rambling about this in a separate section.

Little did Lewyn know. Oh, little did Lewyn know.

i hate to dedicate an entire chunk of this exclusively to something like this, but the Serlis incident is such an iconic part of the history of Fire Emblem Namewank™. Basically what happened is: long before FE13 was so much as a twinkle in intsys's balls, there were two English sources which discussed FE4: an article about the game which was published in a Nintendo Power magazine in 1996, and a series history on the official site for FE7. Both of these sources, for whatever reason, referred to the character as "Serlis". In hindsight i'm kind of surprised they were consistent with each other like this, but w/e.

Anyway, the Serlis thing went completely ignored for like a decade and everybody kept calling the kid "Celice". Then in 2012, Twilkitri returned to his old FE4 project and, on top of the tweaks and improvements he implemented into the patch, he decided to rejiggle weapon/skill names and terminology to properly match the official localisations of the series, and on top of this decided to "correct" the secondgen protagonist's name to Serlis for that same consistency. Barely anybody was happy about this particular decision at all. Namewank ensued, as it always does, but Twilkitri didn't back down (although he did back down on an attempt to bring Oifey's name closer to its mythological origin because of the whining).

i personally don't think that "Serlis" is necessarily all that bad or objectionable at all, and had FE13 not happened i'd have been pretty comfortable with it. On the other hand, i've been reliably informed that it sounds pretty bad if you're saying it through a deep south accent, so there's that, i guess? Either way, the entire debacle is something i look back on and laugh really hard about, though if you've played far enough into my translation that shouldn't come as a surprise...

i guess i've done my part to ensure that in some small way, the legend lives on...

All of this said, i can't emphasise enough that Twilkitri actually did things other than piss off Serenes during this time. He made a few neat technical improvements to the patch: minor stuff, but it's the minor stuff that really helps with the experience. It's almost a shame that it's a fucktillion times easier to talk about Serlis than it is to talk about the actual work, but then that's the entire problem with namewank in general.

There's a minor but interesting footnote to this part of the story which comes along a year later. A few times during the last of his work on FE4, Twilkitri had mentioned that his intent was to update after FE13 came out with its localised names for the FE4 cast, if any. He wasn't around to do this himself, as it turns out, so instead a fellow named Gharnef established a fork of the project which did exactly that. His work got no further than minor tinkerings with the script in this general vein, but he hoped to do a fair bit more with this project, and it was those ambitions which indirectly led to Project Naga. At this point, i was just another forum nobody shouting dumb ideas at him (i mean, i still am, but the ideas are marginally less dumb these days), but i suspect the original idea when i started retranslating the script was for him to implement them here. i could be misremembering and it's possible that my script doodling wasn't for Gharnef, but either way all that idea bouncing gave me delusions of grandeur and so here we are. Either way, he eventually dropped the project due to other commitments, and since DDS more or less started from scratch when he joined PN last year, this is where the J2E Renegade lineage ends. It certainly had an admirable run at thirteen years or so.


While working on this i had to jump through an obscene number of hoops to actually find the builds themselves, between incomplete copies on the internet archive and the occasional removal from RHDN. To speed things up for people who are curious, i thought i'd collect as many as possible in one place for posterity's sake.

Please be warned that the compatibility of these patches depends on whether you have a headered or unheadered ROM. Just about all of these require a headered ROM, so if there is something wrong with your ROM when you load the game, you probably have the wrong format and will have to dig up a headered one. The easiest way to check is file size: according to Twilkitri, a headered vanilla FE4 ROM should clock in at 4,194,816 bytes, while an unheadered ROM is 4,194,304 bytes. As far as actually finding a headered ROM goes, as usual, you're on your own on this one.


  • 20-9-2016: corrected an error where i briefly got acenoctali confused with somebody else and described him as still being around on serenes. added a few more screenshots of reparation 0.87d.

Date: 2016-09-19 08:53 pm (UTC)
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
From: [personal profile] mark_asphodel
Holy wow. I love this stuff. Thanks for doing all this detective work.

Re: AceNoctali tho: from what I heard from people still on DW he just disappeared some years back. One day he was posting about an upcoming trip, the next he was gone. When a new team took over translating the Fujimori Nuts manga they indicated he was dead. So if he's posting on SF, that's... news.

Date: 2016-09-20 03:54 am (UTC)
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
From: [personal profile] mark_asphodel

Yeah, Aquantis lives not far from me, or did seven years ago anyway. Bought some FE1 manga off them but never met face to face.

Date: 2016-09-22 03:03 pm (UTC)
amielleon: The three heroes of Tellius. (Default)
From: [personal profile] amielleon
It's so weird to randomly learn that people in fandom are dead.

Date: 2016-09-28 10:00 am (UTC)
samuraiter: (Default)
From: [personal profile] samuraiter
(I was linked here from [community profile] emblemology, so a hat tip to [personal profile] amielleon is in order.)

Dead. As in ... literally no longer living? If so, that's – I mean, it answers the question of where he went, and I'm glad there's some closure there, but Ace was a good friend. :-( And he was in both high spirits and good health when I last heard from him, all those years ago. It must have been some kind of accident.

Date: 2016-09-28 11:45 am (UTC)
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
From: [personal profile] mark_asphodel
Keep in mind I have no first-hand knowledge on the matter and SerenesForest isn't the best source of info. I recall someone saying he was dead and nobody freaking out over it or contesting it, so...

But he is most definitely not still active in the fandom under that identity.

Date: 2016-09-28 11:53 am (UTC)
samuraiter: (Default)
From: [personal profile] samuraiter
Still, that's the most I've heard in the seven years of him being gone, so it's something.

Date: 2016-09-29 01:51 pm (UTC)
samuraiter: (Default)
From: [personal profile] samuraiter
Well, here's hoping. Those of us who are out in the boonies (i.e. the pre-Awakening fanfic side of the fandom) are usually the last to hear anything. Thank you for the vote of confidence, though.

Date: 2016-09-22 03:04 pm (UTC)
amielleon: The three heroes of Tellius. (Default)
From: [personal profile] amielleon
As usual you're excessive on the humility dude. This is a great writeup capturing a valuable slice of fandom history. Would you mind if I linked to it on [community profile] emblemology?
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