SCENE: The cluttered offices of the recently expanded American branch of Japanese games publisher Culture Brain. The company is finishing up work on its most ambitious project to date: a localization of the karate-themed action-RPG Flying Warriors for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
The project’s lead programmer — we’ll call him Bill — sucks in a quick breath as he inserts a mangled prototype cartridge of Flying Warriors — previously flashed with a release candidate of Little Ninja Brothers; before that, an early version of Flying Dragon: The Secret Scroll — into an equally mangled NES console.
Both cart and console have somehow survived the branch’s first two years of operation, and this isn’t the first time that Bill has said a silent prayer for a prototype game to work on the first try, without protest from the aged hardware.
Bill’s prayer is answered. The game flickers to life on the 13-inch television screen in front of him, and the stirring Flying Warriors theme — which haunted the dreams of Culture Brain USA’s staff over the last several months of localization and testing — blared proudly for the group of company executives in attendance.
“At last,” Bill thought, “it’s finally over.”
The last round of bugfixes had been particularly rough. Culture Brain USA’s staff was a mixture of hungry, smelly, and sleep-deprived; many worked 16-hour shifts and slept at the office. Bill didn’t even have time to test the prototype cartridge that was currently on display, as its EPROMs had been flashed only minutes before Culture Brain’s executive staff arrived.
Bill looked forward to showing off the game’s final script to his superiors. He was proud of the subtle content changes made for western audiences. He’d been dying to hear words of praise — or, at least, a grunt of approval — for the clever bit of programming that had allowed for more efficient text encoding.
Suddenly, a peal of laughter erupted from the attending crowd. Bill looked at the screen. He cringed.
Culture Brain’s American branch was disbanded three years later.