Conclusion and Extras

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Magic John
Totally Rad
SUDDENLY THE WORLD LOST ALL COLOR!  THE END!!  HA HA HA Jake.  My--my hand, Jake.  Jake, ow, my hand, you're--

Yup, that's it. No credits in either version, which is too bad, because with all this redrawing and rewriting that could've been interesting.

And so ends our tale. But what exactly are we to make of this? Is Totally Rad a bad localization? Certainly it would never be mistaken for an accurate localization. It reinvents two of the main characters, it adds dialogue willy-nilly, it takes clichéd scenes from the original and freely mocks them ("Jake, they're like stealing me or something."), and it saturates it all with a ridiculous "surfer-dude" conceit that was nowhere to be found in the original.

But the original work, it must be said, is, frankly, thoroughly dull. And the localization, in contrast, has the spark of life to it. Even when it's being weird or just flat-out dumb, it still has an advantage over Magic John in that it's being something. And when Rad hits just the right note of wide-eyed irony, it can be freaky hilarious, at least to me.

So I would venture to say that Totally Rad, while failing as a translation of Magic John, succeeds admirably on its own terms, and in fact comes out the superior work, if only because it has spirit the original sorely lacked. Let me put it this way: if Jaleco had released Magic John untouched, with a perfectly obedient translation, would its story be worth any breath right now? (Breath, electrons, whatever.) But here we are, twelve years later, and I've sunk a fair number of hours of my life into an analysis of this game's localization that hopefully amused you for 15 minutes or so. I'd say that's pretty rad.



The Totally Rad manual (PDF) is its own brand of insanity.

In August 2004, a while after the Rad Project first went up, I got an email from a guy named Earl claiming to have worked at Jaleco on the Totally Rad localization. He graciously allowed me to reprint his comments here, whereupon I coldly neglected my site for a year and a half and never added them. But no more! I can't confirm the authenticity of these comments, but they sound credible enough, so here's what he wrote:

I totally busted a gut when I found your website on Totally Rad. I was the marketing manager at Jaleco USA when that game was developed and was there with the two product managers, Scott and Jeff, when we localized that game.

Maybe it was the sugar, or the
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure inspiration, or that we wanted to mock our Japanese parent company, but the whole concept was indeed to be a parody of the valley dude ideal. Your site brought back a flood of fond memories from my youth...

About the crazy manual, Earl writes:

Not only is that a picture of our old president (well, he was the president of the US division; the actual President / CEO was in Japan), but the picture of the woman on page 11 was of a sales person in the coin op division (e.g. stand up video arcade games). Gotta love the 80's hair.

Thanks so much, Earl, and sorry it took so long to get this on the site!

I did a bit of digging in my closet (nerd!) and found Chris Bieniek's review of Totally Rad in the April 1991 issue of Video Games & Computer Entertainment. It doesn't look like the game was perceived as a parody at the time of release. Maybe the irony needed time to percolate.

And that's it for The Rad Project. Stay righteous, dudes and dudettes, and remember: BE EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER.

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