Iblard Laputa no Kaeru Machi isn't a game that many westerners will be familiar with. The PlayStation title, released in 1997 by a Japanese TV network, never got an official release in Europe or North America, meaning that in the past, if you wanted to play it, you needed to import a copy from Japan in the original language. That's all changed, however, with a recent translation patch that makes the title more accessible to those who can't speak Japanese.
The game is a first-person puzzle adventure where you play as a person transported to the fantasy land known as Iblard. The aim is to travel around solving puzzles using different items, in order to hatch a new island that will return you back to the real world.
If you're at all familiar with Studio Ghibli's 1995 film Whisper of the Heart, you may recognize the art style that is seen throughout Iblard's painted menus, and there's a pretty good reason for that.
The game is based on a series of painted scenes from Japanese surrealistic artist Naohisa Inoue, who is a close personal friend of Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki and was also responsible for creating the backgrounds for the fantasy scenes in Whisper of the Heart. Miyazaki has been a huge supporter of Inoue's work over the years, and even later collaborated with him on The Day I Harvested A Star, an exclusive animated short for the Ghibli museum.
This new patch for the game is the work of a group of five people, including the translator Cargodin, the head romhacker Esperknight, and artists Mr. Nobody, PSXCraver, and Blame. According to Cargodin, the translation came about in order to return a favor to Esperknight, who had helped them on various other projects in the past.
As they explain, "EsperKnight is very passionate about his hobbies and thoughtful of the people he works with. The dude spoils me all of the time when I ask him to look for things or rip things a certain way, so when I asked him what one of his dream projects would be, I was pretty surprised that he'd drop the name of a game as short and sweet as Iblard~The City of Hatching Laputa~."
While Iblard is a relatively short game, there were a few difficulties it presented. One of the biggest was the lore. As Cargodin quickly found out, there are a ton of websites related to Iblard, making it difficult to get your head around the canon overnight. Luckily, however, they were able to use the official website to cross-reference a lot of the unique terminology and get a better sense of the world. Now they don't just consider themselves a casual player, but an Iblarder - the name given to fans of Naohisa Inoue's work.
As for the technical side, the team was also unsure if real-time subtitles were going to be possible for a while, as EsperKnight had only started putting them into practice when collaborating with another translator, named Aria. According to Cargodin, their efforts were built on the pioneering work of Gemini, another hacker who was responsible for a ton of PlayStation romhacks, including a Final Fantasy VII subtitle patch.
"If I remember correctly, this particular hack was the launchpad for completing Iblard," says Cargodin. "Esper really took a lot of time to implement the subtitles not just for the audio-only segments, but to the FMV cutscenes as well. He originally started this step in May, which was when we thought the patch would be finished, but as he tinkered away on the subs and I kept scratching at his window like a mean bird, we looked at the calendar and realized it was suddenly August. Even for a small game like this, it was a lot of groundwork, but we're all hoping hacks like this open the door to more real-time soft sub implementations in the fan translation circuit."
If you want to check out the hack, you can find it on romhacking.net, along with the necessary patching instructions. It's an interesting title, not just because of the caliber of the creator involved, but due to its relaxing soundtrack and otherworldly visuals (which you can view below).
Are you going to give the 'Iblard' patch a try? Let us know in the comments!