Cave Story: Grasstown or Bushlands?

Jacob Beets sent in a question about the game Cave Story:

I just played Cave Story for the first time and was just curious whether the english flavor text like “EMPTY” when your missile launcher runs out of ammo is in english even in the original freeware version of the game.

Also is the correct name for that grassy place “Grasstown” or “Bushlands” like, what’s the difference.

Nice! This is a good excuse for me to get back into this game! Even though I haven’t played very far in the game myself it’s pretty easy to look into these questions 😀 Also, just as a disclaimer, I was involved with the original fan translation project although it’s been so long that I honestly can’t remember what I did.

Okay, let’s take a look! First, if you run out of missiles but try to fire a missile anyway, a little bit of text pops up. Here’s what it looks like in both versions of the original game:

The Japanese version does indeed say “Empty”, although it isn’t written in English text. That might seem like a weird thing to say or ask about, but it’s pretty common for Japanese game creators to use English for stuff like this, so it’s a good question!

The next question was about an area in the game that was known as “Grass Town” in the fan translation and “Bushlands” in the official translation:

I know this name was a big issue among fans of the game when the official translation was first released, so what’s up with the name change? Which name is right?

First, let’s take a look at the Japanese name:

The name here is クサムラ, or “Kusamura”. To an inexperienced translator, this might seem to be the combination of “kusa” (grass) and “mura” (village), hence the decision to translate it as “Grasstown”.

That’s actually a risky and likely-incorrect assumption, though, as “kusamura” is an actual, everyday word – it refers to a field or location with really thick grass. A word that comes to mind is “thicket”, but “bushlands” works too.

So with this in mind, calling this place the “Bushlands” probably IS a more accurate translation. I say “probably” because it’s always possible some word play was intended, but given that this is the official translation of a game developed by the tiniest team possible, it’s likely the creator was asked for details and confirmation of stuff. It’s such a unique situation that I’m really curious to know how much contact the translator(s) had with the creator, actually.

Anyway, hopefully that helps shed some light on the Grasstown/Bushlands thing!

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  1. TheConfuZzledDude

    So that’s why I saw you playing that on Steam!

    To be honest, I prefer the sound of Bushlands anyway. Grasstown sounds too peaceful for that area.

    1. Actually I got a new computer the other day and decided to set Steam up on it. It was just a coincidence but I really wanna play through it someday!

      I think the fact that there are multiple endings and all sorts of secrets is what’s kept me back for so long – I’m scared I’ll get pulled in too far 😛

  2. I’m kinda hoping you cover the game in its entirety comparing the Pixel’s original script to the fan translation and Nicalis’ translation.

    1. Besides the Bushlands and the Huzzah thing, are the other things in the translations that caused a hubbub among fans? I was always under the vague impression that both translations were really similar besides those few tiny points of difference.

      1. It is said that the official translation’s more to the point on what Pixel intended than the fan translation.

        For example, later in the story, there’s a password that the main character must know in order to get inside.

        The Eon Genesis translation translated it as “Litagano Motscoud”, which is an error, since it’s supposed to be “Dōkutsu Monogatari” backwards. (As far as I know, apparently, the translator who worked on this line was too sleepy to pick that up.)

        The official translation translated it correctly as “yrotS evaC”.

      2. The “official” translation did some things better, like calling the area Bushlands, and the password thing KarjamP mentioned below, but overall I think the fan translation sounds a lot more natural. I also remember that the original WiiWare version had a lot of typos and mistakes. I’d also like to see an in-depth comparison.

        And yes, I do remember reading somewhere the developers of the Wii version asked the original developer what he meant by Kusamura.

  3. Wow, the typeface used for the word “Grasstown” does not look like it fits at all. The Bushlands typeface looks a lot more fitting for an old-school looking game like that.

    1. Agreed, but the original Windows version uses a font installed on the system. I’m pretty sure you can select a different font in the menu (and I’m pretty sure the documentation for the patch suggests not to), but nothing will really be fitting unless you have custom fonts installed. The ports and Plus version must either use a bitmap font or install a custom system font.

      I’d also love to see an in-depth comparison of the translations. I remember thinking the Nicalis translation seemed blander than I remembered when I first played the WiiWare version, but never actually went back and replayed the fan translation. “Grasstown” is certainly the blander of two possible translations!

      1. Yeah, the original uses Courier New 😛
        The fan translation definitely feels more localized, though. The wording of certain scenes sounds a lot more like natural speech.

  4. You have a point about that flavor text thing. I know the Japanese FF4 had “Miss” written in katakana and the original SaGa games did that too for whiffed attacks, but over the last decade, words like CRITICAL and DOWN come popping in during battles in Japanese versions of their RPGs. It’s just something they do, right?

    1. Totally! I’m playing through Tales of Xillia 2 right now, and there’s English _everywhere_.

      “[number] damages! 5 hits!”
      “Surprise Encount!”
      “Advantage Encount!”
      “Weak / Resist” for certain attacks.

      And then you have the character Leia, who will throw English into what she’s saying for no real reason, haha. I’m not sure why English in Japanese-language games is as common as it is, but I’ve played them for so long that I almost don’t even notice it anymore. 😛

      1. Yeah, characters who speak in English or semi-English in Japanese stuff is such a weird, gigantic topic of its own that I’m not even sure where to start. I’ve found it’s also a little tough to explain the “feel” that these characters give off when they do this, but since it happens in an upcoming analysis of mine I’ll probably dig a bit into the topic soon.

        1. It’s true that there isn’t always a direct equivalent, but in many cases (such as… pretty much all of the ones I mentioned, at least) there are direct equivalents but they still opt for the English. (And even if there aren’t easy translations, I still see no reason why they can’t come up with _something_, you know? haha)

          1. What I find annoying:

            When they have characters in anime or games who inject English words into their Japanese speaking style, it’s considered cute and the seiyu should be commended for “giving a good effort” for trying to speak those words so foreign to them (which they shouldn’t be, because their pronunciation is horrible).

            When we make characters in comics or cartoons who speak Japanese (no matter how the character is written, like an North American born Japanese character), we’re accused of “desecrating their language” or “imitating Japan badly”.

            What is it with this retarded double standard favoritism anyway? I swear, Japan has contaminated some weeaboos’ brains so badly that they’re beyond help. -_-

            1. It’s a good question, and I’m still pondering it, but I think the main reason might be that Japanese already heavily incorporates English into the language, while the opposite isn’t really the case.

              I’m not 100% sure about the case you’re talking about though – I don’t usually see or hear about this complaint. It might just be a really vocal minority.

                1. As said, the Japanese just use English a lot, all the time, in their everyday lives. English speakers really won’t, so a character using Japanese will clearly stick out. There is quite a difference, actually.

                  Some might be acting unfairly, fine. But they aren’t exactly the same situation.

              1. English is the lingua franca. It’ll survive even if it’s being spoken with errors in Japan – it has a very broad spread and most countries, including Japan, are taught it compulsory as second language.

                On the other hand, though it has over 100 million speakers, more than 99% of the world’s Japanese speakers are Japanese people living in Japan.

                There’s also matters about the differences between the Japanese and English phoneme sets (for a small example, the difference in number of vowels is quite big), and a general comment from many people of different cultures on how difficult English is to learn as a second language due to its many construction inconsistencies.

      2. Admiral H. Curtiss

        I’m not sure if this is the case for Xillia 2, but Tales of Vesperia actually has the “correct” graphics (such as “Surprise Encounter”) from the English localization in the Japanese game files as well, yet they still use the Engrish ones. I wonder why that do that.

    2. Yeah, it’s really common. I think it’s because a lot of these words have already been fully absorbed into Japanese from English, so spelling them in English isn’t too out-of-place.

      1. I agree. Besides it’s like you said on your Mario Bros. analysis. Learning English has been required in their schools for many years now so they know what the words mean. I heard they like saying critical in English a lot.

  5. Interesting! At first, I read that as “grass town”, too.

    “I know this name was a big issue among fans of the game when the official translation was first released”

    That’s actually pretty sad.

    1. It wasn’t nearly as big of a deal as the Huzzah line, which I’ll probably do in a future article. It’s pretty common and expected, though – there’s some psychological thing where people tend to emotionally latch onto the first version of something that they experience. That’s another article I hope to write up someday too. So many articles!

  6. Writing in as a +1 for you to play this game. It’s great and while it’s pretty deep if you want to put in the time, just getting the standard ending is no great ordeal.

  7. The official translation is my opinion is fucking TERRIBLE. I fucking hate everything about that version. I especially hate the redone graphics and music. The original game is perfect. Sure the resolution was small, but there is something warm about that, like playing old SCUMM games that don’t go higher than 30% of a modern flatscreen. You fall in love with the limitations.

    Mato, I wasn’t aware you worked on this translation with the team, but now I know, seriously, thank you. The fan translation is beautiful. I can point out in the very first screen what I love about your translation and what I hate about the official translation.

    It’s the first part with Kazuma where he makes a joke about eating cockroaches. In the fan translation it’s hilarious because it’s very underplayed and down to earth. The redone translation on the wii puts

    “I even just are a cockroach”

    “LOL Just kidding”




    Pixel’s characters in Cave Story are so well written, Kazuma especially. He’s a scientist who’s down on his luck but comes off as noble (his sprite icon especially). So to see him saying “LOL” in the first few minutes of the game just makes him a fucking joke and made me realize that they couldn’t just leave this heartwarming, homegrown indie game alone. They destroyed it by making it read, look and sound like all the shit you find online for $5.00.

    Don’t even get me started on the 3DS version.

    Sorry about the rant, but I played Cave Story pretty much when it was first translated by Aeon Genesis and the tone and atmosphere was perfect. The way characters died was the perfect example of this. Straight when a character died, BOOM! You fought them, no time to grieve, you had to fight. Pixel is a genius in this regard, by not allowing you to grieve over characters you truly care for, it deepens the sadness you feel and heightens your hatred for The Doctor.

    I bet on Cavestory+ They would of added a crying scene that lasted 15 minutes if they could of.

    Companies need to learn (Square Enix especially) that there is beauty in simplicity.

    Anyway, rant over, sorry.

    1. The retroness was only a side effect of having a long development life, btw.

      As Tom said, people tend to get rather emotionally attached to the first version of something they’ve experienced, as what you’ve proven when you rant on how the original version with the Aeon Genesis was the perfect version according to you.

    2. Yeah, changing Kazuma’s dialog to Internet-speak seems unnecessary. I don’t think it was in the Japanese version either.

      As for the stuff outside of the translation, I think the redone graphics are fine, but I’m not a fan of the new music. Good thing they let you choose.

      1. Well, here’s the Japanese text…
        barebones translation:
        Reply, won’t you?
        Your big brother’s so hungry.
        I’m so hungry
        that I had to eat a cockroach.
        Just kidding!
        I’ll really eat some if it comes to that.

        I’m not sure if that’s how Japanese people talk on the internet, but to me it seems casual.
        I don’t know Japanese that well, though.

        1. It’s definitely casual, and by itself I don’t see anything that really warrants Internet speak, but given the context of typing on a computer I can also understand why the official version includes the LOL in there.

          1. If you read the whole scene though, the “LOL” isn’t the only thing that points to it being typed on the computer. While in the Japanese version it seems like it’s written like the rest of the dialogue in the game.

  8. IIRC, the “primary” translator on AGTP’s patch was Shih Tzu and I thought he said he at least contacted the game creator for permission to translate the game in the first place.

    1. Shih Tzu definitely gets all the credit for the fan translation – I know I did *something* related to it and I’m even in the readme, but at this point I don’t remember what exactly I did, heh. Maybe it was just some tough/weird lines or something.


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