RetroArch is one of the most impressive tools for classic gaming. It is a front-end for launching multiple different emulators, but it has grown into so much more. A good example of that is the software’s most recent update, which uses artificial intelligence to translate Japanese text to English with the press of a button.

The LibRetro team responsible for RetroArch showed the translation working with ActRaiser for Super Nintendo. With the press of a button, a voice can read out the text in English. Alternatively, it can create a new dialog box that replaces the original Japanese characters with English. It all seems like magic.

“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.”

How RetroArch AI translation works

This feature has two modes.

The first is “speech mode.” When you hit the AI-service button, it scans the screen for text, and then it reads that text back to you. This does not interrupt the game. Instead, the game will simply read the Japanese text in English whenever the AI server returns the translation.

In “image mode,” RetroArch pauses the game. It does this because it is actually creating a new text box filled with translated English to put over the original Japanese text. When you are ready to move on, you can restart the game and continue playing.

This is another huge step forward for accessibility of classic games. While many retro releases have fan translations, you can find many that no one has ever done the leg work for. Now, you may enjoy those games without having to rely on your smartphone and Google translate.

Setting up the translation on RetroArch is a bit complicated at the moment. It requires you to either set up the AI service in the cloud or on a personal server. And then you can connect that with RetroArch. The full instructions are on the LibRetro blog. Still, this is the first implementation, and the process is likely going to get easier in the future.