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Ranma 1/2: Akanekodan Teki Hihou

7 June 2001 - Reflection by pelrun


Around September of 1997 my university sprouted an Anime club. After attending the first screening and seeing the first three episodes of Ranma, I was absolutely and irrevocably hooked.

Two screenings later, the university year finished and the club became dormant for the 4-month summer break. Needless to say, I suffered massive Ranma withdrawal. :) In the frenzy of downloading anything and everything Ranma-related that I could find, I got the japanese rom of Ranma RPG.

At this point my japanese skills were completely non-existent, so I had *no* way of playing the game. Somehow I managed to stumble across RPGe and Shadow’s partial translation patch for the game - and that was how I was introduced to rom translation. The patch was woefully inadequate, however. Being completely bored out of my skull during the summer, I decided to do some work on improving it. I spent all of February ‘98 working on the game, providing Shadow with more item translations and translated menus.

University began again in March, and I had neither the time or motivation to work on the game until uni finished at the end of ‘98. Once again, I was bored out of my skull… but no longer anime deprived, since I had spent the entire year helping to run the club, and was able to force the other executives into running screenings over the summer break. :) My japanese skills were greatly improved as well, as I had taken two semesters worth of the subject.

I went back to the game, and completely redid all the work I had done the year before - the only thing left from Shadow’s original patch was the font, and a couple of item translations. Shadow had dropped off the face of the earth, and so I was the only person working on the game at this point. By the time university began again in March ‘99, I had items, menus and various other things fixed. Though the dialogue was completely beyond me. Couldn’t find it at all, and the tiles for the 16×16 text were encoded oddly.

Another year of university passed with little attention paid to working on the game. When I finally returned to it in December of ‘99, I looked at it for five minutes.

And suddenly everything fell into place regarding the dialogue text.

Yay, I thought. I spent time editing dialogue and trying to make a font that looked ok with the 16×16 font size. And failed miserably in every attempt. It was obvious to me that I was going to need to make ASM edits to shrink the size of the text, because 16×16 english text looks like crap. I had no previous experience with SNES ASM, but I did do other assembly coding every so often.

Committed to my task, I sat down on a Monday morning and started to work my way into the game code. Reading it turned out to be easier than I had anticipated, and large chunks of 6502 (predecessor to the 65816 used in the SNES) assembly language was suddenly remembered from my time working on old Acorn machines back in 1990. *1990*. O_o

In the end, converting RanmaRPG to use 8×8 text for the dialogue took me 5 days, from Monday to Friday, working pretty much all day every day. Somewhere around Thursday I finally understood the code well enough to edit it, and I finished the edits on friday.

9 bytes. 9 *bytes* was all that needed to be changed in the code. So on average that was less than 2 bytes of work a day. :)

By now I had a full script dump of the dialogue, but no way of translating it. (my japanese wasn’t *that* good…) And in the entire time I had been working on the game, I hadn’t been aware of “the scene”, of all the people talking to each other and posting to boards etc etc. I had taught myself romhacking with basically no help from anyone else.

A few days into 2000, I somehow ended up in #romhacking on EFnet. From there, I found out about the CTC board… and I finally found “the scene”, two years after I started hacking. As it happens, I also found another translation group (headed by Taskforce and Necrosaro) working on the game. Where I had only worked on the items, menus and so on, they had only worked on the dialogue.

So we joined forces. Over the next several months I slowly tracked down and translated everything that was still in japanese (necessitating several more ASM edits), whilst the other group (which didn’t really have a name at the time, but eventually was called “The Ranma Team”) worked on finishing the dialogue translation. I was basically completed uni; I only had classes for a couple of hours a week, so I was able to continue working on the game through until the release of the patches in September 2000.