It’s hard to talk about FromSoftware’s Dark Souls without bringing up the difficulty. It has quite a few obtuse systems all working in tandem, combat that rewards careful planning while punishing recklessness harshly, and lore that requires cross-referencing half-told stories across the entire series to fully unravel.
But putting aside hidden walls, mimics, and Patches, there’s one misleading piece of the first Dark Souls that I felt was out of place and a little too cruel. In character creation, aside from changing their appearance and starting stats, the player can also choose a “gift” to take with them. The gifts vary in usefulness, but one seems particularly powerful at first glance: the Tiny Being’s Ring.
The English description of the Tiny Being’s Ring states that it will cause your HP to slowly recover while equipped. In a game with limited healing, that seems almost game-breakingly powerful! Of course, anyone making this assumption would be disappointed to realize the ring instead provides a mere 5% increase to the player’s maximum health.
I’ve seen quite a few players raise the point that lying to the player in character creation is one way Dark Souls prepares you to question everything, but that never really sat right with me. Isn’t giving a totally false item description before the player even starts playing a bit much? With that in mind, I decided to look into it for myself.
Here, we have the item description in both English and Japanese. A straightforward translation of the Japanese description would be something to the effect of, “A ring that has changed hands since time immemorial. By equipping it, HP increases a little.”
The important vocabulary here is 増える (fueru), a verb meaning ‘to increase’ or ‘to multiply’. This term is usually used for things like population, GDP, and weight gain. In other words, increases that are described using statistics or percentages. It also is used for things like a parameter’s maximum bounds. Since the ring’s actual effect is a percentage change to your maximum HP, it fits well.
Although the Japanese text does not specify maximum HP, it still seems like a mistranslation from the use of fueru. There are other verbs, like 治る (naoru, to be cured or restored) or 癒える (ieru, to recover or be healed) that would be appropriate to a player’s health restoring over time, whereas, to me, fueru is pretty clear in its indication of a parameter increase.
Thankfully, the English text is properly translated once in-game. For posterity’s sake, let’s compare it again to the Japanese text:
The Japanese text here reads something to the effect of “A ring bearing a small, red jewel that has been passed down from long ago. HP increases a little. Rings are charged with various effects. When such rings are found on the way through a journey, they will likely be a big help.”
Here, we see that, while the Japanese text was fairly straightforward and even had the tone of a tutorial, the English text was written in a way that lines up with the game’s medieval fantasy tone a bit better. “Punching up” dialogue is pretty contentious when it’s overdone, but I think this is a good example of how it can make the game feel a bit more cohesive. Otherwise, there aren’t any significant changes.
So, once again, we’re left to wonder just what happened. The most straightforward explanation I can come up with is that the translators simply didn’t have context on the full effect of the ring in the first menu, and never cross-referenced it with the item itself.
Another thing to consider is that the first Dark Souls released in the west only 12 days after its Japanese release. This means the localization was surely done alongside with development. There’s a possibility that the item’s effect was changed at some point in development, and the English text was never updated. Given the excellent work frognation — the localization company in charge of Dark Souls 1, 3, and even Bloodborne — have done with the series, this is possible, but I’m not aware of hard evidence for it. A nerf late in development could explain why the ring’s effect is so underwhelming.
Is there anything else in FromSoft’s library you’re curious about the localization of? The game is a cornucopia of mysteries to unravel, so there’s bound to be a few! Let me know in the comments. If you want to read more, this article about a Paper Mario tutorial for a mechanic that doesn’t actually exist might interest you. Or for something completely different, how about this article about Japanese slang for bad animation?
If you want know when more articles go up (we tend to post 1-2 articles a week) follow us on Twitter!
Not only will we post about new articles as soon as they’re up, but throughout the week, smaller bits of localization trivia like these get posted.