In Intelligent Systems’ turn-based strategy series Advance Wars, players assume the role of Commanding Officers (COs) giving orders to units in an army. Each CO has unique abilities, and in Dual Strike, the series’ debut on the Nintendo DS, they can expand their default toolkit by equipping various skills. One such skill, Mistwalker, has a description that claims that it will “Hide units during Super CO.” Most players interpret this to mean that if they activate their Super CO Power, it will make all of their units invisible during the opponent’s next turn. This would be extremely powerful, but AWDS is not a very balanced game, and submarines and stealth fighters have similar capabilities, so it’s not an unreasonable reading. However, a player that equips the skill will discover that this isn’t what it does. In truth, it allows units to counterattack first when they are attacked. This is one of the effects of Sonja’s Super CO Power, and works the same way as the Vantage skill in Advance Wars‘ sister series, Fire Emblem.
Editors have documented this error over on The Cutting Room Floor, a fantastic resource and great way to lose hours of your life if you love old games and localization as much as I do. The TCRF entry for the game shows screenshots of the skill’s description in both the original Japanese and English, and as of this writing, claims both are incorrect. Let’s take a closer look and see what happened here.
Mistwalker Description Comparison
NOTE: In the Japanese version of the game, Famicom Wars DS, the protagonist Jake is known as ジョン (Jon, John), the CO Sonja is known as アスカ (Asuka), and a Super CO Power is called an Ｓブレイク (S Bureiku, S-Break).
|Japanese Script||Official English||Direct Translation|
|Ｓブレイク中待ち伏せ状態になる||Hide units during Super CO||During S-Break, enter an ambush state|
The operative word in the Japanese text is 待ち伏せ (machibuse, ambush). Machibuse is a compound word formed from two root words, the verbs 待つ (matsu, to wait) and 伏せる (fuseru, to lie down). Together, they call to mind the image of someone lying in wait, ready to ambush. The term “ambush” has a specific meaning in Advance Wars: it refers to a gameplay mechanic where, if a unit tries to move through a square that contains a hidden enemy, their turn will immediately end before they can take any action. Hidden enemies include cloaked stealth fighters, dived submarines, and any unit in an unlit square during fog of war.
It’s impossible to know exactly what happened here without asking the localization team. Even if we could, it’s a minor line from a game that came out 17 years ago, so it’s unlikely they’d even remember. My best guess is, the person who handled this specific description must have come to the conclusion that being in “an ambush state” means being hidden, as only hidden units cause ambushes. Also, the translator was clearly pressed for space, as the description is extremely terse. It even omits the word “Power” from “Super CO Power”. Finally, the translator renamed the skill to “Mistwalker”, likely alluding to fog of war. The motivation for this change was likely a desire to punch up the text, or simply because “Sonja’s Teachings” wouldn’t fit. Unfortunately, for what the skill actually does, this localized name doesn’t make much sense.
Fog Rolls In
As stated before, TCRF claims that the description is wrong in both languages, and they seem to be right so far. However, there’s a wrinkle: the original version of the game doesn’t call this mechanic machibuse or any other Japanese word meaning “ambush”! The game’s protagonist, Jake, introduces the mechanic in this line from Mission 7 of the campaign, “Fog Rolls In”:
|Japanese Script||Official English Script||Direct Translation|
If you don’t spot the enemy and try to head into the wood where it’s hiding, you’ll get ambushed.
If there’s an enemy unit in the forest, and, unaware of it, you attempt entry…
You’ll “encounter” the enemy, you’ll get forced to wait, and it’ll become a dangerous situation.
We can see from this text that the Japanese name for this mechanic is 遭遇 (sōgū, encounter). Given that this mechanic merely ends the unit’s turn and doesn’t actually result in it getting attacked, I think this name makes a lot more sense, personally. (Days of Ruin more accurately and clearly translates sōgū as “surprise encounters”.)
However, it’s hard to entirely blame the localization for missing this; the Japanese script is inconsistent about this. The description for Asuka’s Super CO Power (left, under the heading with the two-star icon) calls this effect 先制攻撃 (senseikōgeki, pre-emptive attack), a much clearer term for this than machibuse. It certainly would have been easier for them to translate the Asuka’s Teachings skill description correctly if it had used the same word!
So, in the end, the Japanese text is not wrong, per se. However, it’s imprecise, and its terminology differs other text referring to the same effect. The translator responsible for this line was up against three main issues: vague and inconsistent Japanese text, an unrelated term being dubiously translated as “ambush”, and extremely strict space limits. With all of that in mind, it’s understandable how this line turned out the way it did.
Thank you to Twitter user @RadioTails for bringing this topic to our attention. If you have any other localization decisions you’re curious about, for the Wars series or otherwise, let us know in the comments below! Or, if you’re looking for more, we have another article about gameplay text being mistranslated in an Intelligent Systems game, Paper Mario! And if you’re in the mood for something different, we have an entire series analyzing the fan translation of Live A Live, which had an excellent remake launch just a couple weeks ago!