Arabic digital content providers, from
children’s story developer Kids Love Arabic to game reviews site DvLZGaME, are working to expand options for
Arabic speakers around the world; it's a growing trend.
One young Moroccan developer is taking the trend back in time, taking it upon himself to translate classic Nintendo games into Arabic, including Super Mario Bros. for SNES, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for Gameboy Color, and Double Dragon for NES.
Most recently, Mouhssine Zaouia, a 27-year old translator and developer from Casablanca, spent three years on his latest project, 1998 classic The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, arguably one of the best video games of all time. Zaouia translated everything in the epic story into Arabic, including title screens, item menus, and all of the speech text. This is his 10th translated title.
You can view the opening sequence with Arabic translation, and the timeless Zelda soundtrack, in the below video:
Zaouia finished the project only 2 weeks ago, but has already seen over 100 downloads for the N64 emulator patch, which changes the game’s original English into Arabic. Zaouia explains that since the Arabic addition is a patch to the original game, and is downloadable for free, he shouldn’t have any legal issues with the original publisher, Nintendo.
For those who may not be familiar, a video game emulator is a program that allows a computer or video game console to emulate or copy another console's behavior, Nintendo 64 in this case. The game can be played with a PC hookup of the original N64 controller, or with a joystick and keyboard, explains Zaouia.
The game plays just like the original, with blocky graphics, classic music, and the annoying fairy Navi bouncing across the screen. While it’s strange to see Zelda written in large Arabic letters at first, after viewing some screenshots from the game, he actually did a solid job.
Zaouia has a day job; he did the whole
project just for fun. “The design, the inverse coding, I did it all
myself,” he says. “But it’s all for fun, I just love this
He also works as part of a team of game translators at glowtrans.net, and wumd.net, who have translated several classic titles for Nintendo platforms. As of yet, they have no plans to monetize or sell the game patches, they just enjoy playing their favorite titles in their own language.
Perhaps initiatives like this will alert companies like Nintendo to the huge fan base they have in the Arabic market. But until then, indie translations like these will have to do. Luckily for Arabic gamers, some developers, like Zaouia, actually enjoy the whole process, even if it did take 3 years.