Vay and the Perception of a Game

Morning, Noon, Evening! Sorry for vanishing, it’s been a while. Didn’t really have much use for this site, but I’d like to speak about video games. My personal site isn’t the best place for it, haha.

So, Vay. What do you know about it. You may have heard its name if you’re in the retro SEGA sphere or felt like looking up what English localized RPGs there are on the MegaDrive and its add-ons, or you’re just well informed in Working Designs’ localization repertoire.

Vay is a very aggressively “vanilla JRPG” game, a Dragon Quest clone. If it was released in the modern day, it’d be dismissed as a sort of RPG Maker type game, possibly even Kemco. Its somewhat laidback Japanese text and trademark Working Designs localization, bad jokes and all, helps it give its own identity. It was released in October 22, 1993 on the Mega CD under the name Vay ~Ryuusei no Yoroi~ (Vay: Armor of the Shooting Star) and April 14, 1994 in North America, simply under the name Vay.

Its plot follows the prince of Lorasia (Lorath in US), Heibelger (Sandor). A long time ago, a young woman was found in front of the castle, fainted and amnesiac, with only her name, “Elin”, remaining in her memory. Some time passes and she is wed to the prince, Sandor. Suddenly, the castle is struck by a terrorist attack from the Danek empire, killing many including the King and Queen. Steel airships drop great iron titans, mech suits which tore the castle asunder.

Aiming to get Elin back, Sandor is told by his chancellor to seek the wise sage Otto in the Pauth Cave to the south (forget its name in Japanese… you’ll see why I didn’t look it up). There he meets the sage’s young pupil, Pottle, who the sage allows to go with Sandor to aid him in the journey. The sage informs him about the Armor of Legend, stating that it is essential to defeat the Danek army, and informs him of the five orbs necessary to unseal it. Pointing him to the Fire Orb’s location in a nearby islet, the two head off to scavenge the orbs.

Along the way, there is a death of a friend, a departure of another, pirates, dragons and a tribe of dragon worshippers, Yggdrasil, strange scatterbrained NPCs, a fake king, a talking monster, and lovingly detailed enemy graphics and bombastic music. It’s far, far from like. Final Fantasy VI or Legend of Heroes III: White Witch’s level of quality, or the Lunar duology and Phantasy Star IV, keeping it SEGA, but it has a certain… “Comfort food” appeal to it that I very much vibe with, especially since it is one of the few English translated Mega Drive RPGs and I just have massive nostalgia for the Mega Drive aesthetic when it’s taking advantage of the limitations of the console instead of being all muddy and brown (like a lot of the western half of the library sadly).

The biggest thing I want to talk about is… How hard it is to find info on the Japanese version of this game. The Mega Drive and Mega CD did not sell very well in Japan, much less the 32X for that matter, so while a lot of people who owned the Mega CD in Japan bought Lunar: The Silver Star, much less have bought Vay, and as a result, there’s a dearth of gameplay videos, walkthroughs, etc. A shame since the American release alters stats and whatnot to make the game more challenging, and renames enemies, sometimes to more jokey names, sometimes to whatever was on the staff’s mind. There is a page of differences between the JP and EN versions courtesy of Supper on The Cutting Room Floor, but it doesn’t go too into detail in the script. I thought about recording a playthrough with Bizhawk, but I don’t feel like replaying it right now.

There seemed to be a walkthrough on but it seems to have long been removed and I can’t access it through the Internet Archive. It makes me wonder, what if I was a Japanese gamer, and I got lost or I wanted to look up some enemy stats and I just can’t because I’m not good at English and I don’t know the English version has a different difficulty curve? What if this game never left Japan and someone who wasn’t very good at Japanese wanted to play it? The game is relatively linear, even for a JRPG, but even so it’s something that troubles me a bit.

It makes me think, what is the state of retro games in that a lot of things are basically unknown to a huge swathe of people just because no one bothered to make things like walkthroughs or a shrine. It’s something that’s especially frightening with the centralization of the internet these days, everything merging with Discord, Twitter and YouTube. It can actually be seen in the fighting game community and the gacha community (please never buy anything in gacha games) with the insistence of Discords for games and characters to detail technical data and strategy over a more open wiki that anyone can access at anytime.

YouTube videos can also be lost slash taken down, or even just shunted into the YouTube Kids pit of despair upon which they will be deleted without any other recourse because it turned out to be not for kids despite YouTube’s insistence. This has happened with many animators in the past, such as BalenaAnimations’ Sonic videos. It’s not something that directly affects games, but it’s proof that places like YouTube aren’t a good place to document a game.

A lot of wikis and game sites can also be filled with apathy. I’ve heard from a friend that the Final Fantasy Wikia has like barely any info on the lesser known spinoffs and older mobile games. A lot of Wikia sites on lesser known JRPGs are barely existent. Sonic Rivals, a PSP racing platformer that barely anyone played but me, has pages on “secrets” that are entirely made up, because no one played it. 90s and 2000s Japanese Windows games are a complete blank in terms of info outside of things like eroge, Visual Novels, Osamu Sato titles and Falcom titles, with their archival still in its infancy.

It brings to mind. Can a game simply virtually not exist in a part of the world, because there is no memory of it? It’s a reason I’m glad for things like translation patches, but even then only the big name titles get recognition. Games like Power of the Hired and Treasure Hunter G (the latter of which I’m playing right now) don’t really have any recent walkthroughs in English, Power of the Hired having none at all in Japanese or English, despite being a NCS/Masaya effort similar to Langrisser. It’s mediocre, yes, but that’s not a reason to ignore a game.

Sometimes translation patches can also warp the perception of a game. Tales of Phantasia got hit with this, with the more faithful if drier and stiffer translation on the Game Boy Advance (lol kangaroo) being despised by fans as being censored, when the original game never had Klarth, a grown man in his early adulthood, saying Arche, a literal teenager, might fuck like a tiger, which was added in by the translation group to the SNES version.

Similarly, the Super Shell Monsters Story (Daikaijuu Monogatari) adds in weird right wing spiel for humor in the game. I’m not sure of the context, but the American and Japanese right wings are very different in terms of concerns and bizarre fears. Different flavors of awful, essentially.

The same group also did the Power of the Hired translation and bless them, no offense to their efforts, but replacing the desu->debu (fat) pun in Dyno’s speech (you see, he is fat, please laugh) with him speaking like a southern gentleman is absurd. Personally I’d use that sort of localization choice when handling a character speaking in a different Japanese dialect other than Tokyo-ben, such as Kansai-ben.

This isn’t to say translation is an easy job, learning how best to localize things is extremely hard. In the end, I guess I just wanna say, documenting the many differences between versions and each games is an important task, as every game has value. A cautionary tale, a learning experience, a new favorite, a hidden gem, a guilty pleasure, an inspiration…

I guess that’s why I take things like poor translations, Working Designs’ translations and balance alterations seriously, it gives off a different perception of a game, including Vay, which includes things such as a Sylph (sorry, Sirufa) with explosive flatulence, and a “[r-slur]otaur”. Either way if you’re gonna rename a Minotaur enemy [r-slur]otaur, just because it has its tongue sticking out, maybe you’re not as good at your job as you think you are.

Published by KobaBeach

Queer nerd who likes RPGs a bunch. Not rocket propelled grenades you dummy! Subpar at Japanese but plays JRPGs in Japanese, still.

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