I was on Twitter and spotted this post by @MrCheeze_, and thought it would make a good article! In it, he shows an interaction with Russ T., an NPC from the first Paper Mario game on the Nintendo 64. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a small-numbers RPG designed by Intelligent Systems (also known for their work on Fire Emblem and Advance Wars). It’s well-known for its charming design and dialogue, and I imagine this site will be coming back to it a lot!
Russ T. is a Toad who lives in the game’s hub city, Toad Town. Like most Toads, he has a name ending in ‘T.’ that forms a small pun in English. Also like most Toads, his name was different in Japanese! Russ T. is described as 物知りのキノポン (monoshiri no kinopon), or “the knowledgeable Kinopon.”
In Japanese, Toads are called kino, which comes from the word kinoko, meaning ‘mushroom’. So, Kinopon is just a portmanteau of the Japanese name for Toads and pon, a variant of 本 (hon), meaning ‘book’. Pon is also a common way to end a name in a cute way, kind of like how Tim can become Timmy, or Russel can become… Rusty!
Names changing in localization isn’t that strange, particularly in the N64 era. In fact, Russ T. was not the only Toad to be renamed in this way:
As for Russ T.’s dialogue, it’s pretty strange. He references a feature that doesn’t exist at all in Paper Mario: icons that indicate what kind of attacks an enemy can do. Let’s take a look at both the Japanese and English text, and see if it was like that originally:
|Japanese||Official English||Direct Translation|
|You may see symbols above|
enemies in the battle sequences.
|Here’s a little tip for during |
なっかまをよぶ てきが いるだろ
|These mean that the enemy can|
make you dizzy, put you to
sleep, or call in some
|You will probably encounter|
enemies who can make
you dizzy, put you to sleep,
or call in reinforcements.
こっちが先に てき全体の 目を回したり
|When you see those enemies,|
you should try to paralyze them
or put them to sleep before
they do it to you.
|When such a foe|
approaches, it’s good to
make the lot of them dizzy
or put them to sleep
before they can do it to you.
バトルが ラクに なるからね
|The battle will be much easier|
if you can make it so your
enemies can’t move.
|If your opponent is unable|
to move, it’ll make battles
I’ve seen suggestions that Russ T.’s name indicates that his knowledge is also a little rusty, but I’m pretty sure this is the only thing he’s wrong about in the entire game. So, much like the name itself, the error seems to be an invention of the localization. The gist of the Japanese text is that status effects are powerful, so you should try to use them more effectively than your enemies.
Aside from misinterpreting the Japanese term for the Dizzy status— 目を回す (me wo mawasu), to faint (lit. to spin one’s eyes) —as Paralysis, the biggest error I can see is skimming over コツ (kotsu). While its literal meaning is ‘bone’, it can also refer to something like ‘trick’, ‘know-how’, ‘knack’, or ‘secret’. Combined with ちょっとした (chottoshita, slight/minor), it basically means ‘a little tip.’ The Japanese text doesn’t make any reference at all to symbols or icons, so I’m not sure if they confused it for something else or just made something up when they didn’t understand kotsu.
It’s also possible that this line was changed at some point in development, and the localization team neglected to update it accordingly. Perhaps the feature did exist at one time, but got removed for whatever reason. I know some enemies indicate what statuses they can inflict via their animations, like Bloopers giving off electric sparks. It’s possible that was indicated with an icon at some point and given unique animations later for polish.
I think at this time Nintendo was doing localizations concurrently with development in some cases, so Western releases would be faster. In fact, PM‘s localization was handled by staff that would go on to become what is now Treehouse (Hiro Yamada, Tim O’Leary, and Bill Trinen might ring a bell for localization nuts). One of the big changes with Treehouse localization was more simultaneous or near-simultaneous worldwide releases owing to concurrent localization.
So, if the feature got removed, it’s possible they just missed this little tutorial NPC’s dialogue in an update. They may also have just quickly skimmed over this rare line from an NPC most players won’t even talk to more than once or twice. Mistakes happen in translation, especially for such a text-heavy game as this one.
If there’s other tips you think might have gotten lost in localization, from Paper Mario or otherwise, let me know! You can leave a comment or reach out to me on social media. I always post new articles on Twitter, so feel free to follow me there for updates! And if you’re interested in more localization mysteries, here‘s a list of all the articles on the site.