Note: This article talks about Chapter 27 of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. While I try to avoid going into more context than is necessary to analyze the text, you should be aware that it will contain spoilers for plot details included in one of the final missions of the game.
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance was the first of Intelligent Systems’ tactical role-playing games to make it to the Nintendo Gamecube. While Fire Emblem had had dramatically-intense stories in its prior entries, the jump to 3D allowed for a boost in cinematography and detail. This, contrasted with the minimalism of the series up to that point, had many lines engraved into the hearts and minds of players even moreso than they might have been otherwise.
One such line comes from Mist, the younger sister of Ike, the game’s protagonist. In a late-game mission, the two have an encounter with the Black Knight, an enigmatic warrior responsible for the death of their father, Gawain, whom they know as Greil for most of the events of FE9. The relationship between Gawain and the Black Knight bears some resemblance to an Arthurian legend, so if you’re hungry for context like I am, you can consider reading up on that. Just avoid the recent movie adaptation; I hear it blows chunks!
Since Mist starts as a Cleric, her intended use in this fight is to keep Ike on his feet with healing, as the Black Knight hits like a Mack truck. However, it is possible for Mist to initiate combat with the Black Knight if promoted to the sword-wielding Valkyrie class, leading to the dialogue you see below.
As this tweet by @Elji_the_beet points out, Mist’s pre-battle dialogue is a bit strange. Ike is Path of Radiance‘s Lord. In the Fire Emblem games, if the Lord’s HP drops to 0, the player gets an instant game over. Even though Mist’s dialogue reads as though Ike has died, that’s not actually possible if you’re still playing!
The replies to the tweet note that a reasonable interpretation of this line is that the Black Knight “took” her brother by making Ike obsessed with defeating him to avenge his father’s death. That makes some sense, but the juxtaposition sort of devalues the death of her father, doesn’t it?
It seems like the only way to get to the bottom of this is with a comparison of the English and Japanese text. Reviewing this scene in-game would’ve required playing through the entire thing in Japanese. So, I borrowed a transcript from this site, instead. Let’s take a look:
|Japanese||Official English||Direct Translation|
Do you tremble in fear, little
daughter of Gawain?
Trembling, are you, daughter of
|How…entertaining. But if you value|
your life, you will leave this
place at once.
|…That’s a shame.|
If you value your life, turn back.
You…you took my brother
and my father! My sword may not
even scratch you, but I don’t care.
…With my sword…
I shouldn’t have the slightest
chance of even scratching
you, but even still…
|This one blow… will contain…|
all my anger…and all my pain…
Rrrraaaaa! I’ll kill you!
|Even so… in this strike… I’ll—|
…Because of my anger……
……Because of my pain………
Because of those…… Prepare
We can see the scene underwent quite a bit of rewriting. In particular, the Black Knight’s second line and both of Mist’s final lines are pretty different. Let’s take a close look at what may have happened.
To start with, the localization’s translation of …興ざめだ (kyōzame da) was “How…entertaining.” While 興 (kyō) does mean something like ‘entertainment’, ‘interest’, or ‘pleasure’, adding zame changes the meaning significantly. Zame comes from 醒める (sameru), meaning ‘to be disillusioned’ or ‘to sober up’. When combined into kyōzame, they come to mean ‘spoiled fun’ or ‘loss of interest’. Far from taking glee in Mist’s fear, the Black Knight has actually had the thrill of battle robbed from him. He would prefer offering her a chance to escape with her life than to waste it. These terms are N1 level, so the localization team may simply not have known them.
As for Mist’s lines, the main difference is the localization’s first sentence. It has absolutely no equivalent in the Japanese text whatsoever. At no point in the Japanese text does Mist mention either of her family members. While this was likely an attempt by the localization to make the source of her anger more explicit and dramatic, I don’t think any players would be wondering about it at this point in the game. The change seems to have only introduced more confusion.
Japanese fans are pretty fond of the final line, despite how rare it is to see. It strongly conveys the sense that Mist knows she is struggling vainly. Mist knows full well she cannot even damage the Black Knight without a sword like Ike’s that has been blessed by the goddess, but she has to try, regardless. Because of that, “Rrrraaaaa! I’ll kill you!” is also a particularly forceful rewrite. To be honest, I don’t know what Treehouse was thinking, here. It seems like a complete 180 not only from the Japanese text, but also Mist’s characterization up to this point. For that reason, the localization is sometimes the source of jokes in Japanese discussion.
In my opinion, this dialogue’s localization is pretty bad. Both Mist and the Black Knight had their characters more-or-less inverted for no real reason. I think there’s definitely ways to convey the ideas of a warrior looking for an honorable fight and someone desperately struggling despite their guaranteed failure without rewriting them entirely. I haven’t looked closely at the localization of other Fire Emblem games, but since the founders of Treehouse have been in charge of most of the Intelligent Systems catalogue, that might be a good source of articles.
What do you think of the localization’s treatment of Mist’s dialogue? And do you know of other lines like this that could benefit from a closer look? Let me know in the comments, below. And if you liked the article, please share it with your friends! You can also follow me on Twitter, where I post about updates to the site. I also occasionally tweet about smaller localization tidbits that aren’t worth a full article, so look out for those!
And if you’re in the mood for more Intelligent Systems localization trivia, check out this article from Matthew about how Advance Wars: Dual Strike mistranslated a skill due to misassumptions about game terminology. It’s got more mist! There’s also this article about how Paper Mario has a tutorial for a mechanic that doesn’t exist.