Investigating Project Melancholia

Project Melancholia is about the new English translation patch for Konami's MSX2 game SD Snatcher. We started the project initially to provide for some diversion from another English translation project, namely Randar III by Compile. Very soon, however, we started to focus on SD Snatcher exclusively. The project had taken us completely in its grip, but we decided not to disclose anything about it until we had made enough progress.

On the 15th of October, 2011, the MSX Resource Center organized Event Eleven, an MSX event of unprecedented kind. We thought this would be a perfect opportunity to reveal our project. In order to create a little mystery, we came up with a project name and a teaser website. This is how Project Melancholia came to be.

When we presented our project on Event Eleven, we announced that we expected a release in early 2012. Eventually, the project took much more time. The first version was (finally) released on January 2nd, 2014. The enormous delay was partly caused by private circumstances of the team members and partly because we came up with new features that cost quite some time to develop.

The team

The team behind Project Melancholia doesn't have a name of itself yet. We plan on doing more game translation projects in the future, so we'll come up with a name for sure, but for now I guess we should just call ourselves 'Team Melancholia'. This team now consists of the following three members:

Max Iwamoto. Max, who has extensive knowledge of coding and reverse engineering, is the person responsible for all things technical in Project Melancholia (except this website). Not only did he reverse engineer the text printing routines of the game and replace those with routines coded by himself, he also provided for various technical improvements. Max is known for other MSX translations as well. Translator in these projects is Tsunami. Examples are Malaya's Treasure, Tengoku Yoitoko (Welcome to Heaven), Ganbare Goemon, Woody Poco and Romancia. Please refer to Max and Tsunami's website for more information and downloads.

Rieks Warendorp Torringa. Rieks, who has a Master's degree in Japanese and has lived in Japan for a long time, is the main translator in Project Melancholia. He translates all texts in the game from Japanese to English and polishes the English texts together with René. Rieks was also responsible for other MSX translations. He translated games like Randar 1, Randar 2 and Firehawk - Thexder 2 all by himself, but was also responsible for the much more polished translations that were released through Bazix' project WOOMB, such as Xak, Golvellius 2, Hydlide 2, Hydlide 3, Undeadline and Aleste 2. He is also administrator of the MSX Resource Center and established a professional translation agency called Moshi Moshi together with René. Finally, he is the one who created this Project Melancholia website (as well as the teaser that you could find here before).

René Lourens. René, who is fluent in Japanese and English, is the main proofreader of the translation. After translating the texts, Rieks sends them to René, who carefully looks at them and improves the wording and flow wherever possible. He doesn't only look at the English text, but turns to the Japanese source text as well to check whether or not his suggestions are still close enough to the source. He then consults with Rieks again, and together they finalize the translation before returning it to Max, who then implements it in the game.

Special thanks go to Wolf for making that brilliant teaser video, to Robert Vroemisse for his tips on the layout of this website and to Dennis Bakker for the final, objective proofread of all in-game texts.

The features

These are the current features of our SD Snatcher English translation:

  • Authentic translation from Japanese to English. No limitations due to space or any other technical reasons.
  • A new proportional font, making use of both uppercase and lowercase characters.
  • Text printing speed adjusted to English readers. Fitting use of pauses in printing and of printing speed, giving the conversations more emotional depth.
  • User name can now be up to seven characters (the name Gillian did not fit in the original six characters).
  • Smoother animations on any turbo mode enabled MSX computer (MSX Turbo R, for example).
  • System requirements remain the same: MSX2 with 64kB RAM. An optional mapper version is available for people whose original sound cartridge got lost or broke down.
  • Graphical data is - wherever appropriate - translated to English as well.
  • There are three versions of the patch available. The first provides for a translation for the game with 64kB RAM and the SD Snatcher sound cartridge, the second for the translation for the game with 64kB RAM and the Snatcher sound cartridge and the third for the game with 128kB RAM (mapped) and ANY SCC/SCC-I sound cartridge available. The patched game can detect up to 16 SCC cartridges; the player can choose one of them. It's also possible to play without an SCC cartridge (just PSG) or even without any sound at all (but we would not recommend this, because the SD Snatcher soundtrack is one of the best around for MSX).
  • An optional patch is available to fix a "freezing bug" on Panasonic FS-A1FM.
  • Texts for all characters in the hidden map Survival World are restored as they were originally planned in the game. Removed duplicate characters. An optional patch is available to open the door to Survival World from Syd Garden. Also, the two maps of Survival World are connected; the player can even make it to the Kremlin now!
  • Some map bugs that allowed the player to walk through walls are fixed.
  • Distribution as IPS patch containing authentic data only, so without violating any third party copyrights.

The reason

Not long after the release of SD Snatcher, a group of Dutch fan translators called Oasis made an English fan translation of SD Snatcher. After comparing this translation with the original Japanese version, we discovered that there were many, many discrepancies between both. Many times, the translation was not even close to the original text and other times, nuances seem to have been misunderstood, causing sometimes important details to be twisted. SD Snatcher is one of the most popular games for the MSX system (we love it very much ourselves as well) and we felt it really deserved an accurate translation.

We were not the only ones with this opinion. While we had already started with our project, we found this, this and this forum thread at the MSX Resource Center, where a retranslation of SD Snatcher was also discussed. We have never seen any results from those discussions, though.

The project name

Why did we choose the name Project Melancholia? One of the main reasons was that we wanted to announce the presentation of our project at Event Eleven, but didn't want people to know yet what it entailed. Therefore we decided to pick a name that people would not immediately link to SD Snatcher, but did have some connection with it. Then, what's the connection between melancholia and SD Snatcher?

We believe that melancholia is one of the main themes of SD Snatcher. If you've played the Oasis translation and don't see the connection, it's probably because the Oasis version fails in conveying this theme sufficiently.

Melancholia is often associated with nostalgia (which is also one of the reasons why we chose this name), but an important difference between the two is that nostalgia could refer to wanting to go back in time to a certain moment to experience that moment or time once again like you did before, whereas melancholia could refer to wanting to go back in time to a certain moment with all the knowlegde and experience you have now, in order to do things differently.

That's all we've got to say about our project name. We're cool with it if you just call the project 'the new SD Snatcher English translation' though!