You love Gal*Gun, I love Gal*Gun, we all love Gal*Gun, and doubtless you’ve already shown your love by preordering our lovely limited edition of the upcoming Gal*Gun Returns. But there are few people out there who love Gal*Gun as much as the thoroughly lovely Matt Papa from developer Inti Creates — the main reason we have this game in the west at all. So with the series’ 10th anniversary being today, what better time to have a chat with the man who gave Gal*Gun to the English-speaking world?
“When I joined Inti Creates in September 2014, Gal*Gun Double Peace was in the middle of development,” Matt begins. “Yours truly, being a fan of the original game, was just as bummed as the rest of you that it never came out overseas.”
How did that change, then, I wondered?
“When I first brought up the idea of releasing the game outside of Japan, it was met with a lot of skepticism,” he explains. “They thought that releasing a game like Gal*Gun in the west would not be feasible.”
Perhaps not an unreasonable assumption; after all, the mid-2010s saw a noticeable uptick in resistance to games with provocative content from western critics and commentators. So how did he manage to convince the higher powers that releasing Gal*Gun Double Peace overseas was the right thing to do?
“I’ve been going to anime conventions in the US since 2002, and have been in that space ever since,” Matt continues. “I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that there was an audience for this game outside of Japan. But I still had to convince the decision-makers that.
“Months went on,” he adds, “and while I never let them forget about my desire to see a worldwide release, the Japanese release date came upon us without any sort of decision on a western release. Being the guy in charge of the English social media for the company, on a whim I decided to make a tweet on Double Peace’s Japanese release day and ask if people would be interested in a western release of the game.”
And how did that go?
“It blew up online!” he says with some pride. “The next day when I came into the office, that tweet had completely obliterated any previous Like/Retweet records we had at that point, and there were articles and forum threads all over the Internet talking about us teasing Gal*Gun. There was a lot of ‘OH MY GOD IT’S HAPPENING!’ tweets and posts on there, covering all the interpretations of that phrase!
“I was floored, to say the least,” he laughs, “but not entirely surprised. I knew this love for Gal*Gun was there all along, and now I had some concrete proof to show the people who could do something about it. Needless to say, a western release was approved soon after, and Double Peace became both the first game I ever produced, and by far the biggest game I had ever localised at that point.
“What brought it all together, though,” he adds, “was finding our publishing partners over at PQube. Their passion for Gal*Gun was and always has been second to none, and it’s been a joy to work with them over the years on getting these games released around the world, and coming up with my pride and joy: the Gal*Gun collector’s editions.”
This is probably a good time to remind you that you can preorder one of those lovely collector’s editions for the upcoming Gal*Gun Returns right now over at our store. They’re exclusive to us, don’tcha know. And they come with safety goggles. Now you know who to thank.
But I digress. I was curious as to why Matt was so passionate about Gal*Gun in the first place — what did he think were the series’ core appeal elements, and particularly those that resonate with both eastern and western audiences?
“I think first and foremost, it’s about being able to laugh at and enjoy the absolutely comical, ridiculous nature of the game,” he explains. “It takes two genres — arcade shooter and dating sim — and combines them in a way that has no business working out as well as it does… but it just does.
“A lot of people will point to the fanservice and say that is the defining factor of the game,” he continues, “and while that is a part of the experience — nobody is claiming the game is as pure as the driven snow here — that thinking kind of bums me out because I feel like it glosses over what really makes the games fun and memorable.
“It’s not just the unique gameplay combo,” he adds, “but the dialogue that is oftentimes light, silly and funny, but sometimes genuinely sweet and heartwarming. There is also boatloads of character and personality for a game of this nature; the Gal*Gun games have casts of 70 or so characters, from the main heroines through the angels and demons, to every single student on campus.
“Every single one of them has a fleshed out personality — likes and dislikes, quirks, you name it,” he continues, obviously very much into talking about this. “The fact that they aren’t just nameless or faceless girls in a crowd has made it so that a lot of times, the non-main characters will develop quite large fanbases of their own, and I think that’s awesome.”
It is awesome. Anita Bellman for the win. Moo~min.
“I guess my elevator pitch for Gal*Gun would be something like ‘hey, you ever play those gun games in the arcade? Fun stuff, right?'” he adds. “‘What about those lovey-dovey dating games with all the cute anime girls? Kawaii AF, am I right? Well, this is their love child, and its name is Gal*Gun, and it’s filled to the brim with all that, plus some of the most delightful anime shenanigans you can handle!”
Well, I’m convinced. I mean, I was already, but still. One thing I was particularly curious about was how challenging the localisation process of the game was. Did Matt and the team encounter anything distinctly “Japanese” about the original that needed completely rethinking for the western audience? It is set in a Japanese school, after all.
“Gal*Gun itself is very distinctly Japanese, so there was boatloads of that,” he laughs. “From wordplay, pop culture references, memes, puns… you name it, it has been in a Gal*Gun script. The biggest challenge there — and this isn’t a thing unique to Gal*Gun, but rather any instance of this — is finding a way to convey the same response or trigger the same emotions as a line would in its original Japanese, but in a way that makes sense for an English speaker.
“That said, if a cultural reference or piece of wordplay was used in the line, I don’t want to just nix that to make my life easier,” he explains. “I want to convey the feeling and trigger the response while still using a more understandable reference, even if it’s not exactly a ‘one-to-one translation’. That’s what differentiates localisation and straight-up translation.”
Were there any specific examples that were especially challenging?
“In Gal*Gun 2, Risu is talking to the player about how much she loves udon noodles, and then talks about her favourite type between ‘Kanto’ style and ‘Kansai’ style udon,” Matt recalls. “Now, I’m sure most people playing Gal*Gun would know what udon noodles are, but I guarantee you that hardly any of y’all would know the difference between ‘Kanto’ and ‘Kansai’ udon, relate to the debate on which of those two things is better, and have an established opinion on the matter. Heck, if you pressed me to tell you the difference between the two, I couldn’t do it off the top of my head.
“So, what’s a localiser to do?” he ponders. “I could have just left it as is for the severely miniscule number of westerners who’d get that reference at face value, but I don’t think that’s the right way. Instead of forcing people to look up udon types, I changed it to something that anyone from any country could relate to, understand and probably has an opinion about: pizza. Specifically, thin-crust versus thick-crust pizza. It captures the spirit of the line — comparing two very established types of the same food and talking about which one you like better — in a way that anyone can understand. I could have kept udon and done something like udon versus ramen, but then the context changes, and that isn’t what I wanted.”
At this point, I already knew that Matt was hungry for an opportunity to talk about his favourite girl Kurona, so I wound him up and let him fly.
“Whenever Kurona says the Japanese word ‘desu’, which basically means ‘to be’ or ‘is’, it’s written out as ‘DEATH’ in Romaji in the text box,” he gleefully explains. “Why, you ask? Because the Japanese word ‘desu’ is a homonym for the Japanese pronunciation of the English word ‘death’, and her being a demon and all, it was a fun wordplay to use in Japanese.
“But keep in mind, the word ‘desu’ is used in the majority of her lines,” he continues, “so it is very tightly woven into the fabric of her character and lines. This stumped me hard when I first localised her, because while it would have been super easy to just write all her ‘DEATH’ instances as a plain old ‘is’, that’s lame and no fun. Plus, the word ‘death’ isn’t a very versatile word, so I couldn’t just shoehorn ‘death’ into all her lines without turning it into a hot mess — but I wanted to honour this quirk of hers.
“Eventually I came up with using ‘hell’,” he concludes, “since it’s a pretty flexible word and has the whole demon connection thing. So that’s why most of her English lines say ‘HELL’. All of that is kind of like a microcosm of the decisions that localisers have to constantly make, so hopefully y’all learned something!”
Matt’s solid localisation, the game’s highly enjoyable gameplay and its colourful cast of characters have made Gal*Gun Double Peace and Gal*Gun 2 rather fondly regarded titles among western otaku, but I was curious if he knew anything about how the native Japanese audience felt about the games.
“This admittedly isn’t my area of expertise,” he notes. “My job has me focused squarely on the non-Japan side of things for Inti Creates, so it’s kind of hard for me to say definitively. But just like the west, there are plenty of fans who absolutely love the game for all that it is, and a few detractors too, just like anywhere else.
“Games with cute anime girls doing crazy things are much more common here, though,” he explains, “so it doesn’t have this ‘wacky Japanese game’ mystique here like it does overseas. Plus there’s a metric ton of games you can pick up in Akihabara that are much more ‘naughty’ than Gal*Gun, so I’d imagine that crowd tends to see it more for its silliness and quirkiness, instead of focusing so much on the fanservice. But that’s just my speculation.”
I’ve always been a fan of how well-realised Gal*Gun’s small but sexy little world is, with the school environs and various characters all being depicted in enough detail to be a believable place to hang out… aside from all the divine interference, obviously. But what is Matt’s favourite thing about the series?
“My absolute favourite thing that comes with every single Gal*Gun game is, without a doubt, the new cast of characters you get to meet,” he says. “Gal*Gun games have such a robust cast of loveable characters between the main heroines and non-main girls, so seeing all the new ones that you get to meet is a real joy.
“That doesn’t include just the main characters,” he adds. “For example, all of the third years from Returns have since graduated by the time Gal*Gun Double Peace and Gal*Gun 2 rolls around, so players will be getting to meet all of them for the first time — well, except for Mafuyu [also known as “Yanagida-san the Repeater” due to her having to repeat a year in school after poor attendance] — and see the Double Peace second years as fresh-faced first years!
“As for stuff that’s new with Returns,” he continues, “it’s a remaster at heart, but having the game in English for the first time after ten years, combined with the fact that the game looks so much nicer on a graphical level… and the fact that most of the original DLC costumes come pre-packed into the game… I really think Returns is a fitting way to celebrate the series’ 10th anniversary!”
Is there anything planned for Gal*Gun after Returns is safely out of the door, I wondered? I had to ask.
“While I can’t say anything concrete at this time,” Matt laughs, “I can tell you this much: Gal*Gun is an incredibly important IP to us, and all of us from me and my fellow producers, to the director, and everyone else on the project… there’s a lot of love for the series here at Inti Creates, and I think the future of Gal*Gun is bright!”
Matt’s love for Kurona is well-documented at this point, so before we wrapped up I just had to ask him who his best girl that isn’t Kurona was.
“Kurona isn’t just my favourite Gal*Gun gal, she’s my favourite Inti Creates character, straight up,” he explains. “Other than her, though, I guess it depends on if you’re just talking about Gal*Gun, Inti Creates games, or just characters overall.”
My answer to that is “yes”.
“As far as Gal*Gun gals go,” he begins after a deep breath, “I have a special place in my heart for Shinobu from Double Peace as well. I did a lot of livestreams and events around the time Double Peace came out with her voice actor Emi Euma, and she is such a fun and sweet person that it’s hard not to have a little bias. Gotta also shout out the most fun to localise non-main character: Maria Natsuki, also known as the token American girl on campus. She has a line in Returns that makes me lose it every time I hear her say it. If you watch our livestreams, you may have seen this live!
“Looking at best non-Gal*Gun Inti girls overall,” he continues, “gotta love Joule, Lumen and Gibril from the Azure Striker Gunvolt games, and I’d have to say Eve from Blaster Master Zero.
“My overall ‘bestest of best anime girls’ award goes to Osaka from Azumanga Daioh, though,” he concludes. “She’s followed closely by some other beloved favourites like Nico Yazawa and Yoshiko Tsushima from Love Live, Yui Hirasawa from K-ON, Cocoa and Maya from Is the Order a Rabbit?, and Kagami Hiiragi from Lucky Star.”
Solid choices, for sure, even if our Conor has his own ideas about the bestest of best anime girls. But what about Kurona herself? Why, to Matt, is she such a HELL of a girl?
“She’s funny as HELL!” he explains, enthusiastically. “Oh, and cute as HELL! The fact that she doesn’t take crap from people and does things her own way is cool as HELL! She’s fun as HELL to play as in Mighty Gunvolt Burst! She was a HELL of a challenge to localise, which made me learn a lot about the craft as a neophyte localiser! HELL yeah!”
Thanks, Matt. It’s been a pleasure as always, and we can’t wait to get our hands on the final version of Gal*Gun Returns here at Rice Digital. In the meantime, we’d like to wish everyone at Inti Creates a very happy anniversary for one of their most beloved properties — and here’s to ten more years of Gal*Gun.
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