ANONYMOUS;CODE Interview - A chat with Spike Chunsoft about the latest Science Adventure VN

Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to sit down with Spike Chunsoft, Inc. at their office in Southern California to chat about the company's recent release of ANONYMOUS;CODE, and the work that went into the project - some of the nuances of localization, what lead to the game receiving an English dub, and more.

RPG Site: So to start - who are both of you, and what were your positions on the ANONYMOUS;CODE localization project?

Yu Namba: My name is Yu Namba. I joined Spike Chunsoft, Inc. in August of 2022, as a Localization Producer. ANONYMOUS;CODE was my very first project, and I actually got assigned to it during the middle of the process. From what I heard from [Alex Flagg], he basically handled the Producer role until I joined the project. He and another person that used to work at Spike Chunsoft, Inc. started work on ANONYMOUS;CODE, and I sort of took over right around the beginning of the localization phase.

RPG Site: I guess he was needed on something like Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE, or something.

Yu: Possibly, yeah - we had several titles going concurrently at that time, and so I got assigned to this one. I believe the main translator was already picked, and all the contracts finalized, before I came in.

Stephen Karsting: My name is Stephen Karsting, and I’m one of 2 Editors at the company, I think. ANONYMOUS;CODE was actually my third project at the company. I managed Fitness Circuit and a little bit of Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE as well. 

RPG Site: Obviously, the main translator isn’t here as he’s in the UK - I’m familiar with [Andrew Hodgson] - plenty of series fans know him as “Steiner” online. I’m just curious; what were some of the challenges with such an International process? When you translate a game from Japanese to English there’s always going to be some degree of collaboration with the Japanese side of things - but in this case, it was literally a globe-spanning project. Andrew is in the UK, you’re here in Southern California, and then you have the Japanese side of things. What sort of challenges were there, having to account for so many different timezones?

Stephen: A lot of late nights, apparently. (chuckles)

Yu: So what happened was that Andrew did the translation, and we had a gentleman by the name of Ben Parry at Digital Hearts who did the editing - he worked directly with Andrew. Once the edited text was ready, we received it over here on our side, we checked it and what-not, and one of the things - this actually got brought up on my current project, too - was the difference between American and British English. 

Some things we found ourselves, and also others were reported by the QA team later on. The majority of the text seemed to be in American English, but there were specific strings that were in British English. Those were the times when we tried to fix it so it was mostly American English, at least.

RPG Site: I know that Andrew does spend a lot of the time in the US, so I’m sure he did his best; things do fall through the cracks, though. 

Another aspect of the Localization that I’m curious about is - obviously, Spike Chunsoft has a ton of experience doing dubs for your Visual Novel-type games. For example, right there is a poster for AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES! But for Science Adventure in particular, outside of the Anime adaptations, the series has never had English dubs. When was it decided that ANONYMOUS;CODE was going to get a dub, and what went into that process?

Yu: We wanted to give an extra strength to the Western release of the title. As a group, in the office, we discussed what were some of the ways we could add more value - or factors that could get players interested in trying the game. We decided that it was probably a good idea to reach out to the mass audience by adding an English dub to it. Speaking for myself, I’ve played a few Visual Novels - but I’ve never worked on any of them since I’d started in the Industry back in 1999. 

But, I believed that while hardcore fans will always prefer the original Japanese audio, yet at the same time there’s a vast majority of people that would prefer to both read and hear the game in their native language. So we decided, that if we wanted to reach out to as wide an audience as possible - especially outside of the established fanbase - it would be a good idea to add English voices.

RPG Site: The Science Adventure franchise is a very, very long-running Visual Novel series - to the extent where I don’t know if there’s another VN franchise that spans as many releases on the same, concurrent timeline? While ANONYMOUS;CODE is very much a title players can start with, but it does draw from all the titles of the past. What were some of the challenges on the Editing side, making sure that any references to previous titles weren’t getting missed?

Stephen: Yeah, spotting them was a big deal. A lot of smaller things that I personally didn’t even notice, or occurred to me that they might be relevant - but fans would go “Oh! It’s that thing; I know what that is!” I would say that Andrew’s work was very important to making sure that we identified all these factors that were very important to fans, and would’ve been obvious if we hadn’t caught them ourselves.

Yu: The key thing about going with Andrew for the main translator, was the fact that he had extensive knowledge on the series; so we heavily relied on that.

RPG Site: Yeah, he lives and breathes the franchise. I think he was the first person to ever officially touch the series in an English localization sense - I believe he was behind the original Steins;Gate translation back when it was JAST-USA handling it? 

RPG Site: Like you said; it feels like one of the main focuses of the project was to bring as many new players in, as well as appeasing longtime fans of the franchise. What would you say to anyone that’s maybe on the fence about picking this up; what would be your one pitch to try and get them interested in reading ANONYMOUS;CODE?

Stephen: Honestly, aside from the quality of the story, presentation and everything about it - I’d say do it for the voices. We had an absolutely amazing team of actors and actresses coming in to help us out, and their performances are fantastic. Everyone brought just a great performance to everything! There were a lot of characters I didn’t think I would like, going in with reading them - for example, AJ Beckles as Wind, whose really charming presentation helped me fall in love with the character.

Yu: Like Stephen said - having English voices, handled by such talented and well-regarded Voice Actors… it helped a ton. Besides that, I’d say this; while I went through ANONYMOUS;CODE, I was very surprised by how relevant many of the title’s topics were to our present day. Whether it was technology, or controversy, even small little details like… uh, the Cryptocurrency thing. (chuckles)

RPG Site: I was just about to bring that up, I know that Andrew had to really go on a deep dive to properly translate that one plot beat! (laughing)

Yu: Let’s just take the BMI as an example - there are other games, and anime and novel series that have dealt with VR, AR… but it feels like we’re just now about to take that next step, and considering just how early ANONYMOUS;CODE started in development on MAGES. side, it’s pretty incredible to think that they could foresee what would happen in the near future, put that in the game, and now that it’s released we can look back and say “yeah, maybe we’re not so far off from this”. I think that’s kinda cool. 

There’s that famous Science Adventure catchphrase - “99% Science, 1% Fantasy”. There’s so much of the game we can feel in our day-to-day lives, with that 1% of Fantasy of course. I was able to feel like I could almost live through the story myself. If that appeals to people - something that they could conceivably feel through their lives with just that touch of fantasy - if that piques their interest, the title might just be for them.

RPG Site: Rounding it out; is there anything else you’d like to say for anyone who have already enjoyed the game?

Stephen: I hope you keep on playing it! It’s really one of those games that just keeps getting on better with every read; you notice these little things that you maybe didn’t catch your first time through. It has layers like that tucked in there.

Yu: While we were doing the voice recordings, our voice director went through the entire script on his own - maybe several times, even - before we started our first session. So he had a pretty good understanding of the story, the characters, their traits, the direction things would head - but even with that, there were other elements that needed to be explained, aspects that weren’t obvious early in the game but later on you could look back on and say “Oh! So that’s what that was all about!” There’s a Normal Ending, and a True Ending - people might have played the game several times already, like Stephen said you might just notice something new the next time you play.

RPG Site: Thanks again for having me, it was a great time chatting with you - and congrats on the launch!