Capcom localization director Andrew Alfonso detailed his decisions and process in his ‘smart localization’ of blockbuster hit Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate in a recent GDC talk. Key among these decisions? No memes.
The thinking behind this decision was no joke. Alfonso and the localization team was liberal in their use of memes in the Ace Attorney games, and he even used a lot of memes in the talk itself, so it was not like memes were beneath Capcom. However, for Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, they had grandiose ambitions.
The Monster Hunter series has become one of Capcom’s most profitable and enduring series, but prior to Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate it had not been able to break past a million units outside Japan. To get there, Capcom’s localization had to exceed expectations. Not only did they have to appease their loyal hardcore fanbase, but also appeal to newer gamers, and these two groups did not always align in their interests.
Alfonso’s thread of thought in avoiding memes was he did not want Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate to be dated. A joke or trope that seems funny today may no longer be relevant in ten years, or even two. Truth be told, this was the least of Alfonso’s concerns.
Born and raised in Toronto, and now working out of Capcom’s Osaka studio, Alfonso had that unique position of understanding Western and Japanese markets. However, after making key decisions to help increase Monster Hunter’s appeal to the West, he then had to sell these changes to his Japanese superiors as the right decisions. Alfonso had to study Western and Japanese business practices to get many changes pushed through.
In the end, Alfonso didn’t even get all the changes he wanted, but the end result was one of the best localizations the franchise had ever seen. Beginner tutorials could be completely skipped, and a lot of unnecessary dialogue was truncated. The localization team also added new optional guides, a feature Capcom liked so much that they added it to the Japanese version.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate was released on 3DS in the West on February 13, 2015. It hit that one million units landmark a mere two months later, and sold a total three million units worldwide by October. Suffice to say Capcom’s localization team succeeded in what they set out to do.