Translate Classic Japanese Games Into English With RetroArch's New AI

(Image credit: LibRetro/YouTube)

RetroArch, one of the premier tools for classic gaming enthusiasts, made waves recently when it made its way to Windows, MacOS and Linux by way of Steam. Now, it's blowing away users left and right with one of its latest accomplishments. In addition to acting as a launcher for various emulators, it can now use automatic machine translation to interpret text in Japanese games to English. 

The LibRetro team released a video showing RetroArch's tech working on Super Nintendo's ActRaiser. At the push of a button,  a voice can either translate the text aloud or you can layer a new AI-generated text box over the one in-game and read the text in English instead of Japanese. With so many untranslated Japanese titles on the market being prohibitive in terms of accessibility because they feature no English characters and no official translation, this could be a massive game-changer (literally) for retro fans. 

You can use the feature in "speech mode," which will scan for text and translate for you, or "image mode," a more thorough option that will pause the game and translate the text in an overlay of text over what's on the screen. As soon as you've read what the text says in English, you can unpause and continue. 

“Welcome to the future,” RetroArch developer Daniel De Matteis wrote in a blog post. “Sometime ago, a RetroArch bounty got posted proposing Optical Character Recognition and Text-To-Speech services [for] RetroArch. Some months later, and here we are — a bounty hunter valiantly took on the challenge, and there is now a fully fledged AI Service up and running that works seamlessly with #RetroArch.”

If you're interested in setting up the translation service yourself, you can find full instructions via the LibRetro blog. It can be a bit difficult to do so for now, since you'll need to set up a private server for the AI translation agent.

This is obviously the first real implementation of the service, which could be huge not only for retro gamers, but the entire industry as well. If you typically play a lot of imported titles to that end, you might think about setting this translation service up and checking out some of the awesome games you've been missing out on.