The creation of video games today is done in different parts of the world and with video game translation becoming more sophisticated, it is difficult to identify the county of origin of modern games.
However, looking back at the video games created 10 or 20 years ago, you’ll find that video game translation was not a priority. Many of the games that were popular before originated from Japan. Often, the translation is of poor quality and only done so if the game will be sold to markets outside Japan.
Early Days of Video Game Translation
At the time when video games from Japan became very popular to foreign audiences, localization was still in its early stages. Translation was not top priority and most of the time, the translation was done by the game developer or a programmer, using a phrase book. It became an accepted fact that many of the games from Japan would have mistranslations and typo errors.
Budget and time constraints led to hastily done and poor translation, resulting in confusing and hilarious texts that sometimes made the video game more memorable. Some are immortalized long after the game has lost its original appeal. One classic example is Zero Wing and its very famous line, ”All your base are belong to us.”
Zero Wing is an arcade game that was released in 1989. The source of the mistranslated text, which became a popular Internet meme was the Mega Drive (Sega Genesis) port’s European version, released in 1991. The famous line is part of the introduction of the game. It was translated from Japanese to English by Sega of Europe. The introduction’s cut scenes are only found in the European version for Mega Drive. Other mistranslations in the game include ”You have no chance to survive make your time.” and “Somebody set up us the bomb.”
Importance of Proper Language
Very poor video game translations show that language is important for proper communication. In Japan, even if some people speak flawless English, they would rather speak using their native language. In some cases, such as in some packaged snacks, they deliberately use mistranslations as a marketing ploy.
But when it comes to video game translations, it is indeed true that the arcade games of 10 or 20 years ago were poorly translated. Today, game studios have big budgets for video game translation and localization due to competition from other countries.
In the past, if the translation was not done by a programmer, it was said that game studios usually hired high school students who learned English to do the translation so they could immediately ship their products to other markets.
Due to the number of mistranslations in different video games from Japan years ago, it is safe to assume that they only wanted to make the game’s story somewhat legible to overseas consumers who speak English. Ensuring that the stories were comprehensible to other audiences was not the top priority of the Japanese game publishers at that time.
One thing clear is that during those early days when the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was very popular, it did not matter if the video game translation was off. Most of the players did not put too much thought to the stories. All they wanted was to score as high as they could and pass as many levels as possible. But those for whom the story and the correct language matter, encountering phrases such as ”A winner is you” is not that funny.
Modern Video Game Translation Scenario
The evolution of video games is radical. You can say that video game developers before had to do experiments to gauge what worked, what was fun and what was appealing. Definitely there were many roadblocks before, including errors in video game localization.
Today, translation of video games is several levels higher as game publishers include proper storytelling in the list of priorities in the game development along with the character and overall design of the game to heighten the experience of gamers.
Therefore, if you want to expand your game overseas, ensure that your game is accurately localized, to honor the local language and enhance the gamers’ playing experience.
Iconic Localization Errors
But let us not forget those iconic localization errors the gamers accepted that are now part of the history of video games. Most likely, because these worst mistranslations have led to the creation of various Internet memes that are still as popular today as when they were first posted, they sure will be immortalized. Moreover, some of these arcade games are still available today, so the translation failures are still seen, some of which you can find here.
1. I feel asleep.
This line is from Metal Gear Solid and said by the soldier frequently. The dialogue is quite awkward even if the script is great, but due to the limitations of the hardware, it made it necessary to limit the dialogue. The codec conversations were short but they were enough to guide the player, but the glaring spot is the inept soldier who fell asleep every 15 seconds.
2. A winner is you.
This line became a classic congratulatory remark used by gamers (and non-gamers) when they congratulate their fellow players. The mistranslation came from Pro Wrestling. The text appears every time the player defeats an opponent. Even people who did not know the origin of the phrase used it due to the meme’s popularity.
3. Spoony bard
The expression came from Tellah in Final Fantasy IV, when he was attacking Edward, a bard who fell in love with Anna, the daughter of Tellah. Consumed with rage and blaming Edward for Anna’s death, Tellah used the phrase to insult Edward as he was attacking the bard (a lyric poet). While linguists label this a poor translation, it was a well-accepted and popular phrase that was included in several more Final Fantasy titles.
4. Let’s attack aggressively!
This is found in Contra 3: The Alien Wars. The opening of the game was quite cinematic in its approach and the key protagonists, Lance and Bill were gearing up to annihilate the alien invaders. When Bill said that it was time for revenge, the phrase, “Let’s attack aggressively” was uttered by Lance.
This is not a case of translation error but more of a grammatical error. Since the player is gathering heavy artillery to fight the invaders, it became redundant to use the term ”aggressively” since there is no way to fight the hoard of enemies but through aggressive force.
5. What a tough.
The full mistranslated phrase, which is found in Fatal Fury, reads like this, “What a tough. I think I used about 61.5% of my strength.” It seems like the hero is a cyborg that can do an exact measurement of how much of his strength he used.
Typo Errors in Video Games
In some cases, a video game can suffer from typo errors. Such is the case of Double Dragon. The heroes of the game are twin brothers Billy and Jimmy, but for some reason, their names became Bimmy and Jimmy starting in Double Dragon 3. The error was kept throughout the succeeding titles. In Double Dragon Neon that was released in 2012, Jimmy’s name became Jammy, while Bimmy was retained. The developers accepted the errors in the past and used them in the modern versions, where Jammy and Bimmy are mutants of the original pair.
More and More Errors in Video Games
A lot more errors in video game translations exist commonly in arcade games. They sound funny, hilarious, cheesy and intriguing. Here are some examples.
- Zelda II: The Adventure of Link – I am error.
- Ghostbusters – Conglaturation!!! You have completed a great game and prooved the justice of our culture. Now go and rest our heroes!
- Final Fantasy VII – This guy are sick.
- Fatal Fury Special – Your fists of evil are about meet my steel wall of niceness.
- Samurai Showdown – Victoly!!
- Ghosts ‘n Goblins – This story is happy end. Thank you.
- Ghosts ‘n Goblins – Being the wise and courageour knight that you are you feel strongth welling. In your body. Return to starting point. Challenge again.
- Ghosts ‘n Goblins – This room is an illusion and is a trap devisut by Satan. Go ahead dauntlessly! Make rapid progress!
- Bōsō Tokkyū SOS/Stop the Express (Japanese MSX version) – Congraturation! You success!
- Aero Fighters 2 – Fry to the rain forest and save the nature.
- Mega Man Battle Network 4: Red Sun (Game Boy Advance) – What a polite young man she was.
- Tamagotchi (Game Boy) – Remember to flash the toilet.
- Samurai Ghost – Be caution!
- Magician Lord – You are very dangerous. Be dead down here.
- Beast Wrestler – Combine tow monsters.
- Blazing Star – Stay cool! Someone wakes the noise up!
- Ark Area – Congratulations for you. You are the great super and most exclusive player! Boy’s be ambitious! With out the games! Let’s try anything else!
- Evil Stone – Ha! Stupied man you are.
- New Fantasia – I will must be a winner!
- Art of Fighting – Initiate super death brow.
- Twinkle Star Sprites – Don’t be brue, Ran.
There you have it – some of the worst video game translations out there. But let’s face it, despite the mistranslations, you still enjoyed playing many of these games, right?
Get professional help for video game translation
If you’re marketing your video game overseas, video game translation and localization should be one of your priorities. Properly translated video games make your company a winner. You’ll have an edge over competition. Your audience will thank you and your sales will improve because you not only provide them with better enjoyment of the game.
You also put importance to their language. For accurate video game translation and localization, trust the native speaking team of Day Translations, Inc. They are available anytime, as we are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. You can call us at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us.