Articles by Series

Premiering in the west on the Game Boy Advance, Advance Wars (Famicom Wars in Japan, guess why!) has text that isn’t always linearly connected, and synonyms for military terminology that sometimes cause confusion.

Castlevania (Akumajō Dorakyura in Japan) is a vampire-hunting platformer-turned-RPG-platformer that features plenty of references to western literature, films, and culture that don’t always make the round trip intact.

Though its difficulty is the first thing most people bring up when mentioning Dark Souls, its piecemeal lore is almost as noteworthy. With the incredible importance of minute details, it’s no surprise that some mysteries can only be solved by getting as close to the source as possible.

The interminable Holmesian mystery/slice-of-life series Meitantei Conan (called Detective Conan or Case Closed in the west, depending on who you ask) is filled with wordplay and codes that often depend on incredibly specific Japanese knowledge.

Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball franchise has had a troubled history in the West, resulting in a lack of unified localization choices that make some versions feel like a totally different work.

  • Translating King Kai’s Dad Jokes — Humor’s one of the hardest things to successfully translate, so it’s no surprise there’s about a dozen different ways to translate bad humor.

Among the longest-running and most well-known JRPG franchises in existence, Final Fantasy localizations have run the gamut of localization. From the filesize and display limitations of the NES days to entries that never came over to little details that just seem “off” to Western audiences, there’s no shortage of interesting trivia about this juggernaut.

  • The Origin of Final Fantasy‘s Onion Knight — A Famitsu interview with FF3‘s creators details the game’s world & development, including getting detained at customs, costume details, & the origin of Onion Knight’s name

A franchise unto itself, Final Fantasy VII spans not only the original game, but plenty of prequels and sequels in the form of other games, books, and even a film. Many iconic lines have burned themselves into fans’ memories, so let’s mosey over to the Japanese versions and see how they stack up.

The Fire Emblem series has had a rocky relationship with localization. Its stories are typically characterized by tasteful minimalism, and punch-up attempts by localizers often fare poorly in players’ eyes.

Once Harvest Moon, now Story of Seasons in the west, always Bokujō Monogatari in Japan, this text-dense farming life sim is very demanding on its localization staff. Full of conversational Japanese, a too-literal translation can lead to things getting lost.

  • Harvest Moon 64 Gives This Dog a Hand? Huh?! — A history lesson on Natsume’s localization, and a primer on Japan’s version of animal commands
  • What’s Wrong with Wrestling?Friends of Mineral Town‘s remake features rewritten scenes that take advantage of loosened memory restrictions. It’s also been localized by XSEED, as opposed to the original’s Natsume localization. We look at Rick and Karen’s blue heart event to see the difference all that can make.

Whether you call it Legend of Heroes, Trails, or even Kiseki, it should come as no surprise that with game scripts the length of multiple copies of War and Peace, there’s gonna be some stuff that just doesn’t quite translate.

The Legend of Zelda (a.k.a Zeruda no Densetsu) has just about every type of interesting localization challenge/decision one can imagine. Old-school text limitations, cultural differences, and ever-shifting writers and translators are just a few factors that make the overall sterling localizations of this series so impressive.

Zeruda Densetsu: Kamigami no Toraifōsu (The Legend of Zelda: Triforce of the Gods) is full of obtuse, self-referential text as well as mythological and religious references that didn’t make it over intact when brought to the west as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

  • What the heck is a “Gossip Shop?” — A translation error turns the fourth and final bottle from a quest hinted at throughout the entire game to something bordering on non-sequitor.

Once Yakuza in the West, now Like a Dragon, always Ryū ga Gotoku in Japan, the painstaking homage to and parody of Tokyo’s seedy underworld contains no shortage of historical and cultural references that just can’t be localized. Being set in Japan, it’s to be expected they’d be left alone for authenticity reasons, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help you understand them.

After waiting nearly 30 years, fans finally have an official western release of JRPG anthology Live A Live. But how does it stack up against the fan translation we’ve grown accustomed to?

The Megami Tensei series is a massive love letter to mythology and culture from around the world. With myriad subseries including Devil Summoner and Persona, there’s almost no end to the cultural context needed to fully appreciate the games.

Known as Mario Story in Japan, the Paper Mario series is full of light-hearted wordplay, and showcases great detail in its characterization the iconic cast (friend and foe alike), laying groundwork for the lore of the Mario franchise as a whole.

  • Russ T. Isn’t Truss T. — The wise old Toad gives a hint for a mechanic that doesn’t actually exist in the Nintendo 64 Paper Mario. Is it a translation error, or something more?

Pokémon needs no introduction. Arguably the most well-known and profitable franchise on the planet, the only question is how the punny names of the nearly 1,000 critters and their human buddies had to be changed in localization.

With the jump to 3D, the Sonic the Hedgehog games received a major increase in text and story. Their localizations took this in stride, and have been impressively competent. It’s a good thing, too, because the line between way past cool and cringe is as thin as a hedgehog’s quill.

  • The Sonic Adventure ParadoxSA‘s multiple perspectives show the player minor variations on repeated events. Some variations are introduced in localization, while others belie a hidden narrative purpose.
  • The Mistranslation Behind Dr. Eggman’s “Special Race” — Growing senile, Dr. Eggman infamously claims Sonic Riders‘ EX World Grand Prix is not just any race, but “a special race, to see who’s the fastest.”

Despite being a light-hearted fighting game, the Super Smash Bros. series has a surprising number of localization-related mysteries. Series director Masahiro Sakurai’s painstaking attention to detail has created many plces for challenges to sneak in.

  • Hitmonlee: Psyduck in Disguise? — In SSB for the Nintendo 64, the Pokémon Hitmonlee doesn’t seem to be saying its name, but Psyduck’s, creating a longstanding rumor that Psyduck was cut from the game.

Touhou Project is one of the foremost series in the danmaku or bullet hell genre. Set in Gensōkyō—a land where elements of the world’s history go when forgotten—it’s filled with references to traditional Japanese culture and mythology. Additionally, amateur translations have settled comfortably in players’ minds, being the only access to English versions of many games.

Borrowing heavily from Norse myth, tri-Ace’s Valkyrie Profile uses extremely archaic speech and flowery prose that requires a fine touch during localization. Combined with its cult status, it’s been the subject of a lot of scrutiny and rumors in the decades since its release.

  • Valkyrie Profile’s Misheard Catchphrase — Crunchy PSX audio led Lenneth’s dialogue to be so muffled that even Japanese players have trouble understanding it. Did the localization get her signature move wrong?

Xenogears had one of the most infamously-difficult localizations of all time. Its lengthy script was full of complicated terms relating to both technology and philosophy, as well as covering religious themes that rarely made it intact to the West at the time of its release.

One of the oldest and most-influential adventure games, Ys has had a complicated history with localization. It also features well-known and influential soundtracks.

  • Did Ys Actually Steal from Metroid? — Yūzō Koshiro’s item acquisition fanfare for the original release bears a striking resemblance to Metroid‘s powerup theme. Fans often accuse him of outright theft, so we take a look at his thoughts on the matter.

The Zero Escape trilogy is home to myriad wordplay-based jokes, room escape-style puzzles, and plot twists that required a little rewriting to bring over. Don’t worry, we’re here to sus out the localizers’ complex motives, so you don’t have to!

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