The First ‘Actual’ [International Edition]

At the Tokyo Game Show Square-Enix informed the public about the release of Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep Final Mix. Like the rest of the International Editions this will include English voices; unlike Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix+ it will likely not include the theater mode with both English and Japanese cinematics; unlike all previous International Editions this one will be playable in other regions, which is to say, internationally.

The known so far is that it will be released with the North American edition’s (English) voice acting, have a sticker system, a new boss and new enemies, and possibly a secret ending. This mostly comes from the unrecordable video in the Square-Enix booth at the Tokyo Game Show, and the Famitsu page [1], both of which have been blogged across the net. Other than these details most is unknown, but a few things can be deduced/guessed.

Because Birth By Sleep is a PlayStation Portable game a few interesting things can happen. The first is that the data disk is more limited than a DVD. Therefore, the direct implementation of both voice tracks is unlikely (or impossible). This means that the theater mode from KH 2:FM+ will likely not happen, and it also means that there will not be multiple selectable vocal tracks, which only Star Ocean: The Last Hope International (for PS3) has had in the past. The most common thread across the English blogs following this line of thinking is that the game has no release date in the US and it will most likely not be brought over like the other Final Mixes. However, what they’re missing is that because Birth By Sleep is on the PSP it becomes easily playable internationally, and the recent Sony announcement of cross region sales on the PlaystationStore [2, 3] make this even more interesting.

Unlike the PS, PS2 and PS3, the PSP does not use region encoded data disks, which means that a player has almost no restrictions on what s/he can play. That which becomes a restriction is availability. However, with Sony’s cross country sales implementation this also will be less of an issue. Less because what is put up on the store is a limited selection of what actually has been released on disks. The fact that all of two games were uploaded to the store in the first update shows the problem here.

However, regardless of the PlayStation Store’s implementation people around the world will be able to play the new “International Edition,” Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep Final Mix, and likely be upset with its naturalized global English. Of course, such availability/downloadability could force Square-Enix to make available truly International Editions that fully support multiple languages through downloading (after all, there is no size limit to an SD card). This is, of course, and unlikely eventuality, but I can only hope…


  • [1] ファミ通.com. “東京ケームショウ特集: 始まりへとつながる眠りの物語が再び紡がれる『キングダム ハーツ バース バイ スリープ ファイナル ミックス』.” Accessed: September 25, 2010.
  • [2] Chen, Grace. Playstation.Blog. “PlayStation Store Update.” Posted: September 20, 2010. Accessed: September 25, 2010.
  • [3] Kotaku. “The PlayStation Store to Start Selling Japanese Imports This Month.” Posted: September 16, 2010. Accessed: September 25, 2010.

Localizing Visibly Ideologically Material

Is it possible to localize America’s Army? How about Under Ash? Finally, what about Kingdom Hearts? The initial answer for both America’s Army and Under Ash is generally ‘no.’ It is not considered possible to localize such strongly ideological games because the ideological elements for these games are such a central feature, the content, and yet to localize a game is to take out such particulars and make it legible to an alternate audience. In order to localize America’s Army it would be necessary to take out the America element. Similarly, to localize Under Ash it would be necessary to remove the Hezbollah part. Subsequently it would be necessary to insert similarly understandable, equal yet different, elements in their place. Such a task is generally considered, if not impossible, incredibly difficult.

However, I want to answer that, yes, it would be possible to localize either game using the standard process of localization, but that the results would be meaningless. Both an America’s Army that did not help recruit cadets for the Army and an Under Ash that did not demonstrate a way to fight against incursions in Palestine would be so far divorced from their original text that calling them translations, or in any meaningful way related to the original text, would be false. And yet, that is largely what the localization of Kingdom Hearts, a story within the Japanese cultural context, but localized and transferred to America, does.

This statement is building off of arguments I have made previously with William Huber at the blog Gummi Ship, so I will skip going over those arguments extensively. The gist is that the allegorithmic (Galloway 2005) logic of Kingdom Hearts reproduces American Imperialism within the 20th century. Your main task within the game is to enter and control the entry into other worlds [countries] in order to aid/redirect their cultural politics in a manner highly reminiscent of developmental theory (Rostow 1960, Schramm 1964). But the point for Kingdom Hearts is that while barging into the countries is problematized within the games especially by having the Japanese player act the role of the American side, and through the mixing of Japanese and English in the so-called International Final Mix, thereby highlighting the problems of American exceptionalism, the localization removes these elements, places the American players within their own standard role, and eliminates any element of internationalism that was otherwise visible through the mixture of languages.

The point here is that Kingdom Hearts is just as ideologically charged as America’s Army and Under Ash even if this ideology is slightly submerged below the surface. However, even with that it is translated/localized without consideration. Importantly, however, is that such ideological changes happen with the localization, but they are not considered as really being changed.

So, I suppose my point is that translating ideologically prone games is impossible, but localizing them is certainly possible and done where you least expect it. But again, is that a good thing or a bad thing?


  • Galloway, Alexander R. Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006.
  • Rostow, W. W. The Stages of Economic Growth, a Non-Communist Manifesto. Cambridge [Eng.]: University Press, 1960.
  • Schramm, Wilbur. Mass Media and National Development: The Role of Information in the Developing Countries. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1964.

Back from Kingdom Hearts

I’ve recently been doing a lot of work on a specific project on the game franchise Kingdom Hearts with William Huber. We’ve been blogging some of it at Gummi Ship, presented some at DiGRA ’09 and I will be continuing to do some work on it, possibly for DAC ’09. The project is quite expansive, but for me it is a means of looking at ideas of translation, transference, flow and interaction between Square-Enix and Disney, Japan and the United States, and the game world of Kingdom Hearts.

The work has consisted of playing through the games and analyzing them as texts, which has resulted in certain problems (other successes) and a definite greater knowledge of what I can and cannot, should and should not say from our analysis. It has also led to a greater understanding of what my work needs in other ares.

Mainly this is currently related to a need for ethnographic work of some sort. Most of my work seems to need the inclusion of user voice, but other parts don’t Really, the question is how to bracket things and yet have the ability to say things. To get to allegorithm must I interview to see if the obvious is there for other people? How much must one play between the field’s factions that stem from disciplinary difference as much as theoretical difference? And such.