I am hardly an expert on otome games or even visual novels in general, but this situation unfolded in real time on my Twitter feed yesterday and I was encouraged to post something about it. So, come along with me into a world of cringe.
This will be short, because several people elsewhere have already explained what’s going on better than I could. Instead, I’ll provide those links to y’all, along with a little summary.
Taisho x Alice is an otome visual novel by developer Primula. The game is notable for its cast of husbandos being based on female fairytale characters, such as Cinderella and Princess Kaguya. The artwork is quite good and the boys are cute - I remember hearing about this game when it was first announced years ago and being interested in eventually playing it.
I don’t need to be an expert in VNs to say that otome games don’t get officially released in English as much as they probably should. Obviously, this might be because there isn’t as big of a market for them, but personally I question that belief because I know there are definitely more than enough yaoi/BL/dating sim fans in the western anime fandom, and the otome community overlaps with the BL community quite a lot. Otome games can definitely take off in the west in the right circumstances. It might be a Catch-22: because otome games never get officially released and marketed, people never learn what they have to offer, forcing the genre’s fanbase to remain small and niche, and further disincentivizing anyone from investing in releasing them because there’s no market. So when people heard that a big title like Taisho x Alice had been licensed for release in English, it should have been really good news, right? Not just for that game itself, but for the future of bringing more otome games to the west.
Well unfortunately, people started to worry about this localization right from the beginning. This blog post goes into great detail about all the drama leading up to the release, including proof/screenshots, but here’s the basic summary:
1. The company that obtained the license, “E2 Gaming,” had a poor website lacking in basic information, such as where to purchase their past titles. And after their announcement about obtaining the rights to TxA, all information about the titles they had allegedly worked on previously disappeared from their site.
2. Some of the info about TxA that was added to E2's website was actually stolen from otome game fansite Otome-Jikan.net, with no credit given whatsoever. That stolen info is still on the site’s website to this day, with some changes in an effort to hide the plagiarism.
3. Very poor social media and marketing, complete with images that look like they were done in MS Paint and a social media rep who was not only hostile and argumentative with people on their Facebook page, but eventually started deleting critical comments.
4. Being scheduled to appear at a con, only for their booth space to be completely empty.
5. Early screenshots of the game’s localization containing basic grammar and punctuation problems. Naturally, this could be fixed in editing, but it was not a good sign for them to choose screenshots containing blatant errors as a teaser for the release.
6. Multiple missed release dates and delays, only for the company to announce on May 8, 2017 that the game would be coming out on May 9, 2017 - the next day - with no Steam page in sight or any other information about how it was going to be distributed.
7. More and more information about “E2 Gaming” started to come to light near the release, including the fact that its parent company, Babel Entertainment, was responsible for a number of failed projects in the late 2000's. It was becoming clear that the people behind the TxA localization and release did not have a good track record of past projects.
Then yesterday, the game came out, and it was quickly apparent that this release was as bad as people had feared.
Here’s a Twitter Moment compiling some examples of the bad release, along with the memes that have already been inspired by this among the otome community on Twitter.
Again, the basic jist of what happened is: the purchase page for the game was half-broken and unsecure, putting customers’ credit card information at risk; buying the game did not even bring you to an actual download link for it, and conversely anyone with the download link could download the game whether they bought it or not; the UI for the game was UNTRANSLATED (?!?!??!?!), forcing players to refer to a PDF file in order to change any settings; and numerous bad translation errors and poor editing (leading to many memes).
Perhaps the biggest flub is the lack of any Japanese voice track whatsoever. Instead, the voices were replaced with the owner of E2 Gaming providing the English voice for every character in the game.
That’s not a joke. That happened. [EDIT: People have found some evidence that, in fact, the owner only voiced Cinderella and a bunch of his personal friends provided voices for the remaining characters. But this is a situation where the voices were all so poor and so indistinct that everyone was 100% convinced it had to be the same guy!!]
Naturally, had this been a fan patch released for free a few months after the game was released in Japan, people would not be as harsh as they are being about it. At least they wouldn’t have paid anything for it, you know?
But for E2 Gaming to buy the rights (which stops any other company from localizing and releasing the game), treat its customers like crap, and then slap a $30 price tag on something so sloppily done, is a pretty massive fail on their part.
Perhaps the worst part is that TxA is a four-part game. This is only part one. E2 Gaming owns the rights to localize the other three parts. What are those games going to look like?
Unsurprisingly, Primula has removed from its website a link to the English localization of TxA. And also unsurprisingly at this point, E2 Gaming is blocking Japanese IPs from accessing its Facebook page now.
So what is the point here? (Other than to laugh at this together of course.) Don’t buy this release, at all. Don’t buy this. Don’t give them money. I don’t think AniTAY is huge on otome games to begin with, but if anyone you know considers shelling out $30 for this mess, tell them not to - for the sake of our chances of getting decent, professional localizations of otome games in the future. Companies need to know that they can’t fart out something like this and make a profit. E2 Gaming has essentially ruined any chance of this game getting a good, proper release in English because they own the license now, and there’s a good chance they have turned Primula off to attempting any English localizations of more games in the future too.
A small part of me wants to buy this game just to experience its awfulness for comedy’s sake, but I can’t bring myself to give a company like this $30 of my own money. I might go check out this other fairytale-inspired otome VN instead, but Taisho x Alice may go down as one of the biggest missed opportunities for otome VNs in the west.