Where do I start with this crazy game? Serial Experiments Lain was made in 1998 as a companion piece of sorts to the legendary anime of the same title.
The game follows the same basic premise as the show: a disillusioned young girl slowly becomes more engrossed with the internet, and eventually finds it takes over her world entirely, both in the literal and spiritual sense.
What makes the game version different is that it takes place entirely in a virtual world of sorts, where you access datalogs, interviews, and diary entries sprinkled with occasional animated sequences to try and piece together Lain’s story and unravel the mystery of her existence and those she interacts with.
While most of the entries are in chronological order, some are locked out until you access others first, or aren’t visible at all. Some don’t even let you see them until after you reach the ‘end’ of the game(more on this later).
First, I can’t continue any further without giving credit to a massive undertaking: the team responsible for translating the entire game and putting it up as a website. https://laingame.net/
This takes what was thought to be an untranslatable game, due to the massive amount of dialogue-only sequences with no subtitles, and not only making it accessible to a non-Japanese speaking audience, but doing it well. The translation work is spectacular, and even makes it so you can access any of the numerous audio/video sequences on the fly, so mad props to the team for an incredible effort: I can’t stress enough how much they knocked it out of the park.
As for the interface itself, a virtual depiction of Lain is shown moving through the virtual world to navigate the numerous entries, accompanied by colorful expressions, idle animations, and even whimsical pratfalls when the player tries to access an unavailable datalog.
The cutscenes have a visual style all their own, surprisingly by the same studio that did the 1998 anime, albeit with a completely unique look.
The writing is the highlight, as well as the artwork, contributed by two of the most important members of Lain’s team: the writer(Chiaki J. Konaka) and of course, the inimitable artist: Yoshitoshi ABe. The game is also fully voice acted, with Lain’s actress reprising her role. There’s only a handful of other voice actors, but all their work is excellent, especially that provided by Touko.
ABe’s artwork is seen as backdrops for several events in the game, often depicting mundane things like Lain receiving her first computer, accessing email, or even giving her psychiatrist, Touko, some cookies.
Touko is also a crucial part of the game’s narrative. Touko arguably has the most multi-faceted personality in the game. Some entries are her attempts to diagnose Lain’s increasingly unstable state of mind via their psychology sessions, some are her professional observations through personal notes, and others are even her private diary entries. Through these recordings and those of Lain herself, the game allows an intimate view of both an unstable subject’s bouts with mental illness, and how it comes to affect those around them, especially as the worlds of the internet and the real world begin to blur, much like in the show.
It bears warning that Lain PSX deals with very heavy subject matter in addition to its already delicate subject of mental illness. Hallucinations, schizophrenia, unrequited love, parental conflicts, alcoholism, abandonment, abuse, bullying, and even suicide are all fair game for Lain’s narrative, so sensitive viewers need be warned.
That said, if the player has the patient for the game’s sensitive subject matter, it spins a narrative just as engrossing, unique, and often startling as the anime, especially when it goes to darker realms that the anime only touched lightly on. (It’s worth noting that while suicide is also a factor in the story of the series, it happens at the very start of the series, while it doesn’t become an element until much later on in the game.)
Lain is an experiment that takes much patience to experience, and requires just as much thought to fully take on an understanding of the narrative. Also, much like the anime, it’s bound to leave an impact long after the credits roll.
After the final diary from either Lain or Tohko, and Lain is fully ‘integrated’ into the wired, you unlock most of the missing datalogs: little snippets of wisdom(?) and advice from Lain in a virtual form, suggesting that you’ve been using her digital medium to access all the information you’ve been reading thus far.
While these post-game snippets are hardly mandatory, they’re fascinating, and a vaguely Monika-ish epilogue worth glancing at here and there.
Aria here, hope everyone’s having a good holiday season! I haven’t been keeping up with FGO, but if it’s roulette harvesting time, then don’t make yourself sick from all those golden apples ;_;.
We’ve received several “oh no the project’s dead” messages lately, so I hoped to alleviate some concerns with a holiday post. If you’re unaware, we have a progress tracker running at https://kotcrab.com/progress/ccc/ – though admittedly, it’s been rather unmoving lately. I’d like to apologize for the confusion there.
The past several months since we finished the main translation effort has been combing through the massive script and working through troublesome lines, essentially a translation check pass. There were several lines that were marked as “this could use more eyes,” “pun attempt needs workshopping,” or “I think Nasu is trying to shoehorn in a pixiv meme uhhh” kind of thing. Sometimes it takes a room full of us to realize the obscure joke going on.
The main issue with this and the tracker is that these are the worst of the worst lines that need attention and fixing, which barely makes a dent on the tracker. Hopefully once we clear these lines, the tracker will become more accurate. We should be through most of them at this point!
We’ve also been fixing up issues with translation consistency for terms since we’ve had a few different translators on this project, so that’s another one that doesn’t reflect on the tracker.
During one of our “what the hell is this line” voice calls, I sent a screenshot to ItsumoKnight to show how a line looks in-game, who proceeded to die in laughter. I didn’t think much about it until I looked back at the screenshot:
I forgot that the default Kotcrab setup for the editor uses Issei at the school gates since it’s one of the first lines, but I rewired it to Kotomine since it makes the lines x10 more amazing. For reference, this is what Itsumo would see on his side:
Really Hakuno’s blue glasses just improve everything.
There was also a section of prototype dialogue that was untouched that I translated since I finished my current tasks. Not that it’s accessible, but here’s what the line would look like (once again if Kotomine said it for some reason):
And now back to actual dialogue:
Kotomine aside, we have been slower than we could be lately, for that we apologize. Things have been busy the end of this year, but we’d like to kick the momentum up for next year, so stay tuned, and thank you for your patience.
And if Itsumo slacks off, I’ll be sure to drag him over for a CCC editing marathon session followed by mahjong thrashing🔪
I’ve owned Dragon Force II for nearly twenty years, and after aeons of struggling on and off with various characters over the past decade or two, I finally finished Bozack’s campaign.
I should precursor this with a known fact: Dragon Force is the greatest SRPG ever made.
It was like nothing else for the Saturn, or any system of the era… or ever, for that matter. Massive armies of 200+ troops ducking it out in real time, with strategies that you can change on the fly, with a wide range of charismatic generals to use them with, all kinds of devastating magics and abilities, and best of all, eight totally unique campaigns with their own troop specializations, stories, and even strategies.
Fandaria Empire has the strongest batch in the entire game, but no faction will ever join you. Tradnor Kingdom has the weakest, but everyone will join you without complaint. Of course, this means Fandaria becomes one of the most battle hardened factions, while Tradnor becomes one of the weakest.
In short, the game has hundreds of hours of replay value, especially if you take on self-imposed challenges such as using only the core generals, not recruiting, using default troops, etc.
So… Dragon Force II was given a tough act to follow. Sadly, even when I first played it, I knew I was dealing with an inferior product.
Dragon Force II uses a drab color palette, lacking the bright Sega Blue Skies aesthetic of the original. It adds in a neat idea of using dual troops, so a general could command, say, a front line of archers with a back line of cavalry. Unfortunately, in execution, this still winds up being frustrating. In the original Dragon Force, when you told your troops to stand by, they stayed put. Not so in DFII. The moment enemies approach, they break formation and start attacking. This is devastating for any ranged troop, as archers and mages are known to be ripped apart in a melee.
Another noteworthy change is on the world map. In the original, whenever an attacking army wasn’t quite finished off or retreated(which was often), you could easily catch them with a swift dispatch of a pursuing army to put them down once and for all(or more likely, recruit them or toss them into the dungeon).
Not so in Dragon Force 2. No matter how quick you dispatch an army, a retreating force will always manage to escape. This means they have an opportunity to get back to a home castle, restock their troops, and maybe even their HP. While this might sound like a welcome challenge on paper(and even makes for a fun challenge route in the original), in practice, it drags out an invasion, and makes the game tedious.
What about the story? Surely that improves on the original in some way?
Nope. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Dragon Force II laughs at the legacy of the original. After all they struggled through, the original Dragon Force all succumbed to ignoble deaths, one after the other, creating a seal to hold back the “Dark Dragon Force”, leaving only the immortal Teiris alive, who comes back to help the modern Dragon Force finish off the forces of evil once and for all.
Well, except there no longer IS a Dragon Force… so they kind of just band together for reasons.
I might sound like I’m being overly harsh on the game, but there is some positives. There are some great new characters, like this goddess in my playthrough:
As shown in her literal towering over the competition, some of the new sprites and generals are great, and have a lot of personality in their design. While the overall aesthetics of DFII pale to the original, some of the sprite work still shines through.
They also do get some neat features, like having aerial specific attacks when enemy troops are attacking from the air, and even getting to take out multiple troops in one hit. Unfortunately, the aforementioned Standby tactic, where you could just have a Mage or Archer literally sit still and lay waste to an enemy general, is rendered useless thanks to their new melee AI mentality.
Another major flaw is the massive presence of Demon Castles, castles manned by the immortal Dark Dragon Force faction, aka the Dark Elves, usually staffed by generic demons with 100 strong demon forces, making a pain to take out at best, dangerous at worst.
One thing that is beyond reproach, though: the fan translation quality. All the generals and dialogue were given a loving amount of polish, most likely because each campaign had its own writer, and ensured that each was given a special amount of TLC. It really shines through, and the team deserve all the praise I can muster.
Purists may balk at some of the slang, but when a game has as much text as Dragon Force II, as Victor Ireland would surely agree, you need to make it fun to read.
So is it worth a playthrough? If you’ve played the original countless times and want a new challenge, sure.
If you’re new to the series? No. GOD NO. Play the original now, thank me later.
As you hopefully know by this point, another team released an official patch for Persona 2: Eternal Punishment’s PSP version yesterday, fully translating the game, all its menus, and the Tatsuya scenario into English.
Myself and the others working on our version were completely blindsided by this, and had no idea it was in the works until it came out, same as everyone else. There was initially a great deal of panic, confusion, and disappointment, especially since one of the team had formerly been helping us out with coding and graphic modifications on our project.
Fortunately, once the smoke cleared, we were reassured that none of our work was used in the final product, which I’ve personally confirmed. The new patch is just modifications to the original Atlus PS1 translation, similarly to what our project had planned, the only key differences being that the graphic formatting and fonts are different, and this version uses honorifics(which I tend to localize or make variations on).
That said, our team was still left demoralized by this sudden announcement, and it’s been decided that without the need or momentum to continue our version, we’ve decided to cancel our in-progress build.
As some of you also sadly know, we’ve been met with no small amount of harassment, insults, and hateful responses. Thankfully, the others on the team haven’t been the public face of the project like I have, so I’ve been largely bearing the brunt of the drama. That said, it personally saddens me to see how the SMT community has degraded into something like this, as someone who’s been playing games and been part of the scene since the mid-90s. Toxicity like this is what contributed to other long-term community members and fan translators like AeonGenesis leaving the SMT scene and avoiding future projects of the like, and now, I can unfortunately understand why.
I hope everyone can take this as an opportunity to leave things in the past and move forward to just enjoy the game and support the series as well as any other fans working on SMT projects without undue harassment or hostility. This is something we do in our spare time, for sheer love of the game, and nothing else. We have never taken donations, and never will. During the course of the Eternal Punishment project, we’ve endured family deaths, a pandemic, and even an ongoing war that personally affected a member of the team.
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment is near and dear to me. I picked up my copy of Persona 1 in the late 90s, and Persona 2 at a store in Tampa in the early 00s. It remains one of my favorite RPGs ever, and nothing is liable to change that. Going forward, I plan on enjoying the new release of Persona 2’s translation as a fan, and look forward to whatever else Atlus brings in the future. If the renewed interest leads to Atlus releasing an official remake or re-release of the older Persona games, then that’s even better, and I fully plan to support that as well, and hopefully you’ll do the same.
In closing, just remember to do as Maya does.
P.S.: this is in no way affects the progress of ongoing projects. Devil Summoner is still in the translating/editing phases, as is Fate/Extra CCC. As always, we appreciate the support and patience.
Aria here, and you read that right! Mere days after finishing my 2nd playthrough and finishing the voice lines and in-dungeon lines, JS dropped the rest of the CCC main script translations in one fell swoop!
We’ve updated the checkmark on the progress website, but we haven’t finalized a way to track the editing phase yet. Please give us some time to find out how to best present this next leg of work, and we’ll let you know when we have something!
For now though…
Though before rest, we’ve got one important question you can answer in the comments:
Anyone familiar with the Atlus SMT spin-offs known as the Devil Summoner games are probably familiar with their eclectic primary antagonists: the Phantom Society. The game says very little about them apart from giving them a sprinkling of screen time here and there, so without further ado, my attempt at piecing together what little we know… which is actually quite a lot.
Who are the Phantom Society? To try and answer this question, we have the established canon of the four Devil Summoner games to help us out(Devil Summoner, Soul Hackers, Raidou 1 and Raidou 2)… and even the forthcoming Soul Hackers 2, but we’re also going to need, in true Devil Summoner fashion, to do some investigating of our own, as well as a healthy amount of sheer guesswork.
Of course, the Kuzunohas themselves exist as the counter-balance for the Phantom Society’s dark influence, but for purpose of this essay, we’ll be focusing on the background and membership of the Phantom Society.
Expect spoilers for all four of the Devil Summoner games(SMT: DS, Soul Hackers, Raidou 1 & 2), though hopefully that goes without saying.
So what do we know about the Phantom Society?
The concept of the Phantom Society wasn’t literally introduced until the second game, Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. This may be the first time they’re mentioned, but SH explicitly informs us that they’ve operated from the shadows for centuries.
Even in the very first game, the primary antagonist, Sid Davis, is a dark summoner working to revive the ancient goddess Inaruna on behalf of “the organization”. Who else could he be referring to but The Phantom Society?
Which leads to another question: how far back does their influence extend? Even as far back as the Taisho era, there’s still the presence of Dark Summoners, namely Rasputin(or a facsimile thereof) and Dahn Tsukigata. While the latter’s connection to the Phantom Society is unlikely, since he strictly works for himself with the goal of freeing his sister from the influence of the Tsukigata clan, it’s unlikely the robot we know as Rasputin(hereafter referred to as Rasputin for convenience’s sake) obtained the power and influence he wields without outside help.
While we discover that he comes from the future(likely that of SMT2’s Tokyo Millennium), for all we know, he was created by the Phantom Society in that era and sent back to ensure their influence remains unaffected by Kuzunoha the XL’s meddling.
There’s also the possibility that Actual Rasputin was himself a Dark Summoner, which would explain why he was so damn hard to kill. Why else would the future use him as a basis for their robot if he didn’t have strong ties to the occult?
So with the potential timelines of influence established(from Taisho 30 in Raidou to Tokyo Millennium from SMT2), let’s break down our list of Phantom Society members.
From Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha, there’s Grigori Rasputin(1) and Dahn Tsukigata(2).
From Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner, we have Sid Davis. There’s also a few stray summoners here and there(and idiots like Takashi), though they’re less likely full-on Society members and more “nuisances”.
Lastly, from Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers, we have easily the most. Carol J, Urabe Kouichirou(former), Judah Singh, Finnegan, Mayone, Naomi, and their foremost executive(at least in Amami City), Nishi(aka Azazel). Certain demons also have major sway within the Society, such as Shemyaza and Satanael, the latter of whom raises interesting questions about a certain ‘hero’ character… but we’ll touch on that later.
What of the true antagonist of Soul Hackers, Kadokura? Based on his position within Algon Soft, he’s “just” a programmer and being kept out of the loop of the Phantom Society’s activities, much to his annoyance. It seems clear to assume he’s just an outsider, though one could assume that he knows much more than he lets on, especially since he’s the hinge pin figure behind Manitou’s revival. Perhaps Kadokura was simply fed up with being just a bit player, or perhaps being a pawn in a game of demons.
This also brings up another question: are ‘Summoners’ really in control of the Phantom Society, or is it just a front for demons being truly in control? The biggest players(namely Nishi) reveal themselves to be actually demons, so maybe the rank and file just think that they’re running things.
Without further ado, back to the major players of the Phantom Society. We could start with chronological order, but I feel it’s best to start with the release order, since that’s where the lore was formed from.
With that in mind, we’ll start with none other than the series’ first Dark Summoner, and one of the most purely despicable: Sid Davis.
What do we know about Sid Davis? He’s a feared Dark Summoner. Even Kyouji Kuzunoha falls to his abilities, though we don’t quite know how, it’s safe to assume that he either got lucky with a stray spell(presumably Mudo), or he trapped Kyouji in some way.
Kyouji is just one step towards his real goal, though: the revival of the goddess, Inaruma. He needs to perform an elaborate ritual to make this happen, and the main character(& his girlfriend) just happen to be unfortunate enough to be in his way and a requirement, respectively, since Kumiko is revealed to be a direct descendant of the goddess herself.
Sid Davis’ front is that of an unassuming priest, presumably Catholic, since his grimoire is a literal holy bible. Having a Catholic priest is Japan isn’t as strange as one might think, as it’s a very present, if niche, religion within Japan. It’s also appeared in other Devil Summoner games: see the Catholic Church found in both Raidou 1 and 2, which is, ironically, Lucifer’s primary hangout… might wanna beef up that security, or at least invest in some wards.
Is his faith legit, or did he see being Catholic as the easiest way to accumulate knowledge and influence? Based on his devil summoning and ties to dark magic, we can probably assume the latter. Sid is far from being a shining example of a priestly lifestyle.
Then at the end of the game, Sid meets his end at the protagonist’s hands, despite having fulfilled the goals of his “organization” by reviving Inaruma(though she joins Sid real soon).
After the end of Sid Davis, we can presume that the Society went quiet for several decades… until the events of Soul Hackers, somewhere in the mid-21st century, or at least the 20th century’s depiction thereof.
The events of Soul Hackers reveal that the Phantom Society have since moved up in the world, now having direct control of what’s effectively becoming a megacorp: Algon Software. Having started as a simple computer software group(likely the results of Kadokura’s engineering), they’ve grown to basically control everything that goes on in and around Amami City. This is primarily thanks to their innovative VR software and its own self-contained virtual world(“Paradigm X”), which is starting to make them known on the global stage.
While nowadays it might not seem like a big deal with real-world technology like Oculus and PSVR, but back in the late 90s, it felt like the wave of the future, even if it’s only now making real strides towards the public at large.
Of course, their utopian virtual world is little more than a front for the true goals of the Phantom Society: gathering the souls of the hapless users participating in its public beta test, providing the fuel for the revival of another ancient deity. Though unlike the plan to revive the Japanese Inaruma in DS1, this time they’re going for a different nationality: the Native American deity Manitou, a Great Spirit integral to the balance of life(based on mythology and the knowledge provided by Kinap).
Soul Hackers also takes its time developing several major players both in and around the Phantom Society, primarily via vision quests, in which the last moments of key figures are relived from the player’s perspective. First, there’s Urabe, a former member of the group who’s since resigned, and is now trying to steal their new Nemissa software… only to meet his end at the hands of a former co-worker, the vicious Finnegan.
Then we meet Judah, who still actively works for the group, who meets his end during an assignment… and lastly, Naomi, more of a freelancer who takes odd jobs for the Phantom Society, only to wind up being overpowered on the job. By fulfilling Nishi’s contract to set free an ancient deity, she becomes yet another sacrifice lost just to help the Society’s overall goals.
These are only the three we meet through Vision Quests, though; they also have other major players encountered as enemies throughout the game, albeit some only appearing literally in a single scene, like the assassin Mayone. Carol J, another hitman for the group, gets a bit more screentime, but he effectively becomes little more than a stepping stone for the player towards taking on the more major players in the organization.
Although it isn’t explicitly made clear what the Phantom Society mean to achieve with their goal of Manitou’s revival, presumably it’s similar to their goal with Inaruma in DS1: giving their faction the power to widen their influence to a global scale, and having the might of an ancient deity backing them up is a massive step in the right direction. Unfortunately for their faction, Kadokura proves he’s no longer content to side back and let the Society dictate the course of his creation, so he decides to step in and take control himself… merging himself with Manitou in the process.
After defeating both the end result and Manitou himself, the deity expresses gratitude at being set free, and vanishes from Amami City altogether.
Their proposed process also raises another problematic element of how the Society operates: lack of free will. They would have simply bound both Inaruma and Manitou to their ends. Not only is trying to control an ancient deity typically a bad idea, especially when keeping it in check against its will, it also proves they have no hesitation about stepping on the backs of both persons and ancient gods alike to accomplish their goals.
While the Society tasted bitter defeat in SH, even losing most of their top brass, it seems they’re back with a vengeance in Soul Hackers 2, and actively going after summoners themselves, specifically what appears to be the power of their own souls upon demise(referred to as their ‘Covenants’).
Although it remains to be seen just what their goal is this time, it definitely seems like they have a new approach to obtaining it, which is bound to be anything but good for the world at large, even one as technologically advanced as that within modern day society. The most recent trailer states that they could “destroy the world” once obtaining enough Covenants, though one would hope they have less basic aspirations than that. Still, it’s fun to think that for all their wild-day modern aspirations, they got their start from a crazed Dark Summoner-nee-Priest with delusions of grandeur who definitely didn’t skip arm day.
We have a short update for you today since we’ve mostly been pushing forward in translation progress rather than anything flashy. Though speaking of flashy, Kotcrab has set up a progress tracking page where you can see an estimate of our project updated in real time! You can view that page here –
In terms of translations, we have some updates here:
– Chapter 6 has been fully translated!
– In dungeon translations are now underway
– Over 530 audio files have subtitles now (including misc areas of the game like in Kotomine’s shop, My Room, and the Secret Garden)
– Misc bug fixes encountered in playtesting
As always, thank you for your patience as we push the translated line count higher and higher!
(Disclaimer: please don’t be liberated from your money.)
Kotcrab has been kind enough to provide an update. Have an enjoy! Stay cool, and stay safe. – cj
Kotcrab here with this month’s update to tell you more about the tools we use for this project! Let’s start with the script editor. We’ve come a long way with this one. At the beginning, there was a big spreadsheet with all the text from the game.
From there, we moved to a simple application with three text fields: Japanese, English and notes. We wanted to add more functionality to the editor, but since we didn’t have the source code for it, JS created the new app you can see in the screenshot below.
It’s packed with features, but most notably it allows us to see a live preview of how the text will look in the game as you type. You can play audio and see the image for the character speaking the line. When editing subtitles, we can adjust the timings and simulate exactly how it will look in game.
This worked great assuming that only a single person was working on the script at a time. With more people joining the project, it wasn’t sustainable as merging two versions of the script was a time consuming process. The next step was to create a central database for the editor. Once we finished that feature, multiple people could work on the same script in real time. We’re able to track change history for each entry, suggest changes, and mark completed entries or ones requiring more attention.
We also designed tools to extract and repackage the game. The tools understand how to parse the game files and make all the necessary changes. They also assemble and apply code patches.
Both Extra and CCC make extensive use of archives. First you have the game ISO file which contains the main archive. This archive contains smaller PAK archives, which can either be the actual game files or more archives. For example, a texture bank file will contain multiple textures. Due to various reasons, a single file can be duplicated across many PAK archives and a PAK archive can be repeated multiple times in the main archive. Our tools fully automate the management of these archives webs. After changing a file or adding a translation, the tool figures out what needs to be changed and replicates the changes to the proper places.
Finally we have the patcher tool. Its main purpose is to take the patch file and input ISO then create a patched ISO. It’s a fairly recent addition to the toolkit, but it had to be made. At first, we used xdelta, but this produced huge patches due to how the games are packed. The first Extra mod was over 500 MBs and the CCC patch was estimated to be even bigger. With the new tool, the patch for Extra is just 11 MBs. Thanks to it, we can also provide an option for selecting which Meltrylis name to use.
To sum up, a lot of custom stuff was written for this patch. Some of it is already finding use in other projects. Hopefully we’ll be able to reuse more and more of these tools going forward.
Now for some progress updates~
The initial translation pass for the Extra subtitles is finished. It adds almost 800 subtitles for the in-battle dialog. Of course, this patch also includes all the changes from the first mod.
(don’t worry, this file is automatically generated)
Thanks to the help from our image editors, we have finished and tested all of the texture edits for CCC. This is 436 edited images. The last ones were the textures used in the prologue.
The CCC script translation efforts are going smoothly. According to our database stats, we have over 1000 edits per month on average to the main script. Let’s take a closer look:
Tools (extraction, insertion)
DAT (the main script)
5 out of 7 chapters done
Not started yet
Finally, it’s likely we will post smaller updates on our Discord. Last month, I shared updates on the two technical issues; check the pinned messages!
And beware the gatcha! Unless it’s for Ishtar, then it’s okay. Maybe.