"That was my big insight to the ROM hacking community, that you can't just modify the data of the game to make an effective translation—you have to modify the code as well."
- Myria explains how her work with Final Fantasy V differed from other fan translation efforts
Before a group of Final Fantasy fans took it upon themselves to translate the then Japan-exclusive Final Fantasy V to English, many fan translations of Japanese games were rife with technical errors that were unavoidable without modifying the code of the game itself.
So when a trio of fans took it upon themselves to disassemble a Final Fantasy V ROM and rework the game’s innards to better accommodate English characters, it was unprecedented. Kotaku recently spoke with one of the fans behind that early translation effort to explore just how a small group of teenagers came to revolutionize unofficial fan translations.
Under the pseudonym Myria, one member of the translation team explained how she decided that they’d need to reprogram the game itself if they wanted to create an unofficial Final Fantasy V translation patch free of the typographical errors that plagued other fan-made language patches.
For most of what Myria was doing, there was no reference material or examples to guide her in the right direction. Initially, she spent a lot of time digging around in Final Fantasy V’s code and changing variables to learn what the function of each value was. By exploring the code like this, Myria was eventually able to rework Final Fantasy V in a way that would allow it to properly display English characters.
“The natural solution to modifying this code for an English translation is to vary the amount the cursor moves to the right based on which character is being drawn,” Myria explained to Kotaku. “I replaced this code with a ‘jump’ to extra code I added that determines the amount to adjust the cursor based on the English character being drawn.”
The full story over at Kotaku dives into the accomplishments of Myria’s team in greater detail and explores how, for a short period of time, their fan translation outshined even Squaresoft’s eventual official localization of the game.