KAISERNET's Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Support Page
If you are here looking for my Higurashi restoration project, it is cancelled. I thank everyone for the kind words. I have been unwell for a long time and had to make the painful decision to end the project after practically no progress was made for over a year. I hope not to discourage anyone who would take on a project of a similar scale: it always was possible to complete, just not by me.
There are some out there who believe that it is perfectly okay to output a barely-readable "first-pass" translation, to be "edited" later by people who have barely any knowledge of the original text.
About the game
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni is a "Sound Novel" created in 2002 by the doujin group 07th Expansion. Unlike its successor Umineko no Naku Koro ni, Higurashi has had an extremely troubled release in the West, with its fan translation cancelled, and two hackjob releases made by the eroge localisation company MangaGamer.
In total, the main story of Higurashi has had three translations:
- A fan translation of arc 1, and one day of arc 2 by Sonozaki Futago-tachi (2008-2009)
- A complete translation of arcs 1-8 by MangaGamer (2009-2010)
- A complete revision of arcs 1-8 by MangaGamer (2015-2021)
The Sonozaki Futago-tachi Release
In 2008, Sonozaki Futago-tachi began releasing parts of their fan translation to be applied to the original Japanese Higurashi 1-4 release; with "Uncle Mion" as the project lead, notable for being the maintainer of the ONScripter-EN novel game engine from 2009 to 2011, and "Shion" as the translator. This group's releases enjoyed perfect support of all that the original game had to offer; if taken to completion there would have been no cut content, and all original music would have been intact.
The group's translation skill was not perfect: there clearly were many logical errors and amateur mistakes, and by looking through the script one can see that the translator often was unsure of the meanings of things. Image editing did not quite match the style of the original Japanese image assets, with much of the text being aliased. However, both of these gripes are absolutely nowhere near as bad as what MangaGamer later would give us, twice over.
In the end, the project ended uneventfully and without so much as an announcement, just like Uncle Mion's maintainership of ONScripter-EN. The last thing she ever had to say about the project status was:
>We are still working on the patches.
>We are not dead; we're getting better.
But generously, the last thing the group ever gave us as a translation team was a minigame patch for Higurashi 1-4. As MangaGamer cut all minigames, this patch remains the only way to play them in English.
The First MangaGamer Release
In 2009, MangaGamer began releasing Higurashi no Naku Koro ni under the name Higurashi When They Cry. These releases have a borderline unreadable translation and are neutered of all content excepting the bare essentials of the story. The deliberate cuts are as follows:
- All music and sound effects are removed due to licensing, and replaced with a fraction of the original amount of tracks, dozens of which being unfitting duplicates.
- All of the Question Arcs' minigames are removed due to the game being ported to a less-capable engine, and due to licensing.
- The Music Rooms at the end of the Question and Answer Arcs are removed, since all the music is gone and they would have required too much programming.
- The Staff Room at the end of the Question Arcs is removed, likely due to containing too many references to otaku culture that we gaijins weren't supposed to know about.
- Most image assets containing text are poorly recreated, not matching the style of the original game, and the UI is only a recolor of one that MangaGamer happened to have used on another game.
- Whether a deliberate omission or not, the translation was so poor that it often translated about half of the actual amount of information in a line.
The replacement music came from a 2006 mobile phone port of the novel, which explains why there were so few tracks -- the game files contain many duplicates of the same music tracks since the game script pointed to many more tracks for use in many more moods and situations.
The omission of the minigames was as unintentional as it was intentional -- although they did contain copyrighted characters from Atlus, Key and Leaf, the engine to which this release was ported (Buriko General Interpreter) never would have allowed them to port the minigames. BGI is a closed-source novel game engine with its own proprietary compression formats and overly complex scripts, which MangaGamer used back in the day in order to standardise the workflow of each translation. Many mistakes were made in the porting of the game, such as missing lines, missing visual effects, wrong images, visual jank, and occasionally awful font rendering. This engine is very hard (and partly impossible) to mod; even if one patches the original music and sound effects back in, most will crash the game, requiring several to be omitted again.
It was standard for 07th Expansion novels to have Music Rooms where one could play all of the games' tracks, often with scenes and dialogue from the games portrayed. Since MangaGamer's releases don't have the original music, there was no way they could retain a Music Room without making their guilt obvious.
After Arc 4 (Himatsubushi) was completed, a Staff Room would have unlocked along with the Music Room. It contained messages from the circle members along with copious amounts of references to other media, so it was removed.
MangaGamer's image assets used a more simple squared design that didn't match the sizing nor the feel of the original assets, and the text is done in a plain serif font rather than the original game's handwritten look.
MangaGamer is a Japanese company founded by existing eroge companies for the purpose of selling more eroge in the West, almost like a front pretending to be a legitimate publisher. Their early translations were done by non-native English speakers, and unfortunately, this first release of Higurashi was a victim of that era. The nature of the translation is clumsy and simplistic; it carries all the gravity of a first-grader's writings. Lines are rendered with whole clusters of details omitted. There are very few typographical errors present, making it evident that they used a machine checker -- as a result, almost all typographical errors are seen in names and entirely wrong word choices.
The Second MangaGamer Release
Beginning in 2015, MangaGamer began releasing "remakes" of Higurashi, arc by arc, extremely slowly. As detailed by this blog post, this release uses an interpreter made in the 3D game engine Unity to read the old script, with a custom text renderer thrown on top. The translation is cleaner than its older counterpart, but many of the same mistakes and liberal translation methods were carried over, with many new mistakes piled on. As it uses the old BGI script, these releases still have all of the same port issues and missing effects.
- All music and sound effects are removed due to licensing and sound quality.
- The minigames, Music Rooms, and the Question Arcs Staff Room are missing as they were in the previous release.
- The poor image assets of the previous release have been remade in HD. They still are inaccurate to the Japanese source assets, which clearly were not checked at all.
- The translation is revised in such a way that it does not appear to have been retranslated: old errors are retained and new inaccuracies are added on.
- This release runs the old BGI script on a Unity interpreter, so it runs horribly.
- New, modern-styled sprites are added by MangaGamer, drawn by a porn artist. They look absolutely horrid and are the embodiment of everything wrong with modern novel game art.
- MangaGamer claims this release to be "Higurashi Hou". Hou in fact is a proper remake and add-on disc of the original Higurashi novels, completely unrelated to this bastardisation.
It is said that the decision to replace the soundtrack this time came from 07th Expansion, as the AIDIA website now is all but defunct, resulting in licences for the MP3 tracks becoming difficult or impossible to obtain. The replacement music this time around consists of unfitting tracks from the Answer Arcs, re-recordings of the MIDI tracks composed by Koji Kusanagi, some new stock music tracks from unknown sources, and comically unfitting stock sound effects. The correct sounds and music can be modded back in, but these newer releases run on the old scripts, resulting in there still being a limited amount of slots for music, so wrong tracks play at certain points across the novel. As an example of how unchanged the Steam releases are, Tatarigoroshi originally released accidentally with the 2009 soundtrack included.
By my estimation, the translation is a "cleaning up" of the old one in order to make it look good to the consumer. The old translation generally was accurate if incomprehensible, only missing parts of the text and misinterpreting some things. The new translation adds on inaccuracies where the editor might have tried to "fix" the English but wound up warping the meaning. I am told the Meakashi text is jarringly bad to this day.
How Optimally to Read Higurashi in English
Taking all of the aforementioned into consideration, there is no good English release of Higurashi, and to make matters worse, the original Japanese text was so rough that it sparked a number of message board memes. For the average Westerner wishing to read Higurashi, I recommend sourcing the Sonozaki Futago-tachi translation of Onikakushi and starting off with that. Then, it's up to the reader to make the decision between the old or the new MangaGamer release.
If you are interested in reading the old release, see my Higurashi Reading Guide.
If you are interested in reading the new release, 07th Mod is the most popular way to restore the proper sounds and music. I do not recommend using their PS2/PS3 sprite mods.