Q&A: Is Syfa from Castlevania III Male or Female?

Masur sent a lengthy and info-dense e-mail a while back that relates to the Castlevania games. Let’s take a look!

Hello again,

I am an absolute fan of your Legend of Localisation website, and write to you for the second time You update it so often that it’s incredible. I hope you still have a life.

Anyways, I was thinking you take too much effort answering people’s random questions instead of focusing on FF4. But since you’re rather answering people’s questions. Most of the time they doesn’t even involve the language and interested people could just answer themselves by playing both versions. Anyways, I might rather benefit of this system and ask my questions.

In the game Castlevania III / Akumajo Densetsu, there is 3 secondary characters that can join your team, 2 boys and 1 girl, Sypha. However, in the English NES version, there is a typo, so that when you are asked if you want Sypha in your party, the two options are

  • “Take him with you ?”
  • “Leave him behind.”

This is simply because the script is the same for the 3 secondary characters. So this made people belive Sypha was a guy. There is even a “Character FAQ” on Game FAQs which strongly insists that she’s a guy, despite the fact the ending with her makes it clear she’s a girl.

Anyways, I was curious to know if the same typo about her gender was here in japanese, or if it was “introduced” by the translation. I’ve included a screenshot of the scene with the two possible choices.

Now I’m not asking for information for free, so I’ll provide you another Castlevania related information. I just noticed the AVGN sub-site of the Legend of Localisations website. It’s a great idea, however I sure hope you don’t plan to do this with all episodes. There’s like 100+ of them, and many of them are games that weren’t even released in japan.

Anyways you mention the difference between the password system (NES) and the disk saving system (FDS). I own both copies of the game so I am well placed to do a comparison of them. Well, believe it or not, but the NES password stores MORE information than the FDS saves. The passwords remembers your laurels, garlic, and oak stake. With disk saves, you always starts with no laurels, garlic nor oak stake. This alone makes the NES version less painful to play. This was not because of technical limitations – the disk could save large amount of data, but Konami just didn’t bother to implement it.

Second, in the NES version, all your garlic collapses when you enter in a fight with Dracula. This is because they fixed a glitch in the FDS version which allows you to kill Dracula by simply using garlic and waiting, without actually fighting him.

Third, the loading times are particularly horrible because the game uses compressed graphics. So instead of reading the disc once (7 second) when switching levels, it reads the compressed graphics, decompress them into VRAM, and read the level again, doing two disc access, for a ~14 seconds loading time.

Fourth (and last) info, the sound actually sounds “better” on NES despite the fact there is less sound channels, because Konami used a more advanced version of it’s sound engine, so they added many special effects such as vibrato and glissando. The FDS version uses the additional sound channel, but has likely old version of Konami’s sound engine, and only plays “plain” notes without any effects such as vibrato and glissando.

So here you are all the info I have about Simon’s Quest. Thank you for answering my CV3 question, and best regards, and thank you VERY much for sharing all that fascinating info on the LOL website.

Wow, that’s a lot of stuff! And extremely helpful! And including a screenshot saved me a ton of time too, thanks!

Okay, so let’s take a look at the scene in question that seems to have caused confusion:

And here’s the text side-by-side:

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
What will you do?
  Take along
  Don’t take along
What will you do?
  Take him with you?
  Leave him behind?

It looks like the original text doesn’t include any pronouns or any gender information at all. I guess the localizers opted to include a pronoun in there to make it sound more natural, except they didn’t take ever possibility into account, much like what happened with Guile and Chun-li in Street Fighter II’s translation.

However, as pointed out, Syfa (more commonly known as Sypha now) is called a “her” elsewhere in the game:

Even in the Japanese version, the ending text and the long blonde hair point to Syfa being a woman, so it looks like the “him” reference was indeed a bit of a slip-up. Although the ending text does suggest that Syfa finally reveals her true self, so maybe the “him” reference was added to confuse the player, much like how Samus was called a “he” to throw players off. Since Syfa’s gender isn’t mentioned one way or another in the Japanese text until now, this is definitely another possibility.


All signs clearly point to Syfa being a woman. The use of “him” in reference to Syfa was either a mistake similar to the Street Fighter II mistake or was added in by the localizers to fool the player at first.

I gotta say, though, that Nintendo Power’s picture of Syfa sure didn’t help matters!

So there you go! I’m not caught up with my Castlevania lore so maybe this is already old news or maybe Syfa’s even appeared in other games? I mean, Alucard has, and he’s in this game, so it’d be cool to see more of Syfa I think!

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  1. Sypha is unabashedly female. She appears in a couple of other games (including Symphony of the Night) and is explicitly referred to as female. In fact, she actually ends up in a love triangle with Grant and Trevor (the other protagonists in this game) and ends up marrying Trevor. The issue with her gender extends to the manual as well, apparently; she’s referred to as a he there too.

    (Also for someone criticizing others for not playing through lengthy RPGs in Japanese to answer their own questions, it’s a bit surprising the question submitter didn’t think to do a simple Google search on this question, considering all of this info can be found on the first page of the Google results…)

    1. Yeah, here’s how the American manual describes the character:

      “Sypha, the Mystic Warlord of Warakiya, is also a vampire hunter who walks
      quickly and carries a big stick. Rumors of his death were spread throughout
      Eastern Europe, but in truth he was captured by “Cyclops”, the one-eyed
      Ultimate Evil. Sypha uses his Warakiya Staff to attack. Other attack favorites
      of his include flames, frozen crystals and lightning bolts. With these, he can
      destroy evil enemies before they get close to him. However, his skin is very
      thin and blisters easily when blasted by grotesque enemy attacks. To score
      BIG, Sypha must attack before his enemies find him.”

      That’s nine times she is referred to as a male!

        1. I understand that, especially in the olden days, the game and manual were often localised by entirely separate people. It’s not really terribly uncommon to find games with horribly garbled Engrish but totally fluent manuals.

          1. The differences between the localizations of the in-game dialogue and the instruction manuals could get pretty bizarre. For example, Big Boss is referred to as “Commander South” in the instruction manual of Metal Gear, a name which is never actually used within the game itself.


              1. I’m pretty sure all the in-game text in early Konami games were translated or written in-house by Konami’s own developers, whereas the manuals and packaging descriptions were done by the American division. It’s pretty obvious in games with lots of text like the NES Metal Gears and Castlevanias, where the games themselves often contradicted the manuals. Even some U.S.-exclusive Konami games like the NES Lone Ranger had their inconsistencies (the manual claims that Dan Reid is John Reid’s father for example, when in the game and source material they were brothers).

                On the other hand, PAL-exclusive localizations (like the NES Parodius and weirdly enough, Probotector), had manuals and plot descriptions were often pretty faithful to their Japanese originals (since they had no American versions to fall back on, at least with Parodius).

  2. hey, i have a question regarding money in some games. In a lot of Japanese games (megaman battle network and starforce being one of the main ones that spruing to mind), if they want to have money but not use a pre-existing term they like to use some form of ‘zenny’ (i’ve seen zeni used in a couple places) and it always bugged me as to why. is there a specific reaosn for this, orn was it just a nonsense word that caught on?

    1. I’m in no position to make an authoritative statement, but I know “zeni” is the currency of the Dragon Ball world. I’d be unsurprised if it started there and got picked up by others.

    2. I’m not an authority either, but I think “zeni” might be a general term for money. I remember in the newer localizations of Final Fantasy V, the commands for the Samurai class used Japanese terms, and the one used for the money throwing command had “zeni” in it. Also, in the newer Pokémon games one of the shows you can watch on the TVs in some houses says Squirtle’s Japanese name is “Zenigame”, with the “zeni” coming from how their shells look like old coins.

        1. That reads more like someone Google Translated a Japanese fansite without really understanding what it was saying.
          (Going off Japanese wikipedia here) “Zenigame” is the term for baby turtles of the Kusagame or Nihonishigame species, which are popular as pets. It originally only referred to Nihoishigame babies, but since that species started diminishing in numbers, the term started being applied to Kusagame babies as well so that pet salesmen would have an easier time getting stock. They are called this because of how their shell resembles Edo-era coins.

          So basically Pokémon just used a word that essentially means “baby turtle” for their baby turtle monster, and the TV show in the later games just repeat the real-world origin of the real-world zenigame’s name.

          The Nihonishigame species is sometimes called “Japanese Pond Turtle”, so that “Zenigame means pond turtle” nonsense on Bulbapedia is likely to be the result of some weird game of telephone between oversimplifying dictionaries and online translators. Bulbapedia in general isn’t a very good source for things like these; mistranslations and misinterpretations like these are rampant, and most of their articles dealing with Japanese never seem to have been touched by someone who knows Japanese beyond what Google Translate tells them words mean.

          1. That’s some mighty strong invective there for a complaint that, if I’m reading this correctly, mainly boils down to not specifying that it’s a baby.

            1. There’s a pretty big difference between “Zenigame means pond turtle” and “Zenigame is a word used for babies of the Kusagame or Nihonishigame species of turtle, the latter of which is sometimes referred to as the Japanese Pond Turtle in English”.

                1. No problem. A lot of the original Pokemon have very generic names, some being just existing Japanese or English words, most likely due to the idea to market them all as individual creatures with heaps of individual merchandise instead of them just being more generic RPG monsters not really striking them until the game started selling really well.

    3. This is actually a good question that I hear a lot, so I’d like to do a post about it someday. I just hope I don’t forget to – do you have a list of games (or better yet, screenshots from games?) that use these terms?

      The quick answer for now is that “zeni” is another word for “money”, particularly the coin kind of money. It’s an outdated word but it still appears in many phrases and apparently stuff like entertainment 😛

      1. I really wish i had the ability to get some screenshots for you, and only a few games spring to mind immediately. i’ll see if i can’t do some research though.

    4. Capcom uses the word zenny for the money system in many of their games, especially RPGs. See here for a partial list: (I know you can add Megaman X Command Mission) http://capcom.wikia.com/wiki/Zenny
      I guess it’s derived from the ancient word but they’ve latched onto it as a connection between many of the games they make.

      1. sheesh, i knew a few of those, (mostly ther megaman related games), but i didn’t know capcom used it THAT often.

  3. This topic gets even more confusing when you introduce other media into the mix. I guess Sypha is a blue wizard with a beard or something in Captain N? Of course, though, we all know how accurately THAT show adapted the characters.

      1. It was equally weird how the Captain N version of Alucard had that stereotypical “surfer dude” persona that was so common in the early 90s. In fact, that rendition of Alucard would have been a perfect fit for the NES game Totally Rad.

  4. Some interesting side notes, those with sharp eyes can also notice that the leftmost statue where you meet her has been censored in the International release and that the void at the right side has received some bricks for the heroes to walk on as they leave the screen. More localization differences for the interested here: http://tcrf.net/Castlevania_III:_Dracula%27s_Curse

    Mato, if you ever get the chance to look into it or if someone else can explain it to me… What’s up with her name in both versions?

    Japanese credits: Sypha Velnumdes
    International credits: Syfa Velnumdes

    and I think the International manual calls her Sypha Belnades, I’ve also seen her last name written Fernandez.

    1. “Fernandez” was for Carrie Fernandez in Castlevania 64… but in the Japanese version (Akumajou Dracula Mokushiroku) it’s the same name as all the other Belnades names.

      In Japan, Sypha, Carrie and Yoko are all supposed to share a family name, yet it’s been localised into three completely different names for each character.

      1. The “Fernandez” sounds like they had someone read the Japanese kana and then wrote down what they thought they heard.

        1. Considering that the katakana for the name is ヴェルナンデス, it’s possible, if not probable, that “Fernandez” (or something similar to it; I’ve seen “Vernandez” mentioned as well) was the intended name all along, and it just got mangled in coming back FROM katakana. It wouldn’t be the only example of that happening to a Hispanic name in the series; Eric’s surname (リカード) is pretty obviously supposed to be “Ricardo”, but it got interpreted as “Lecarde.” Later games stuck with that one, as well.

          1. As a native Spanish speaker, I doubt these were meant to be Spanish names unless Konami botched the katakana:

            -The Spanish V sounds just like the B, unlike in English, so there is zero reason to use the ヴェ thing for “ve” unless they want to represent a weird phonetic accent or something.

            -リカード is not how you’d write the Spanish name Ricardo, that’d be リカルド. At least when using Spanish phonetics, since the R is more emphasized there than in English.

            Though who knows with these things.

            1. Not that I dispute the things you say — about which I know nothing — but Eric’s background does explicitly state that he was born in Spain, thereby making the Spanish “Ricardo” a more likely last name than the French “Lecarde.” But, as you say, who really knows with these things.

              1. Then it’s probably Konami who screwed up when choosing his name. It’s okay, there are a lot of romance languages that probably sound all too alike for the Japanese :P.

                1. I’m pretty sure you’re right in saying that リカード is probably just a product of not taking the Spanish accent into account.

                  ヴェルナンデス could have one of any number of explanations. I have heard that some variants of Spanish don’t pronounce Vs quite exactly like Bs, but rather with a phoneme somewhere in between the two (all of my Spanish teachers always just said to pronounce them like Bs, though, so I don’t know how much water that one holds). Or they could have done the same thing they’d later repeat with “Ricardo” and just based the kana on the Roman-alphabet spelling, without regard for the accent/pronunciation conventions of the source language. Or maybe the name wasn’t meant to be Hispanic-sounding exactly, but rather just sort of Latin-sounding and exotic (especially since “Sypha” is obviously not a Hispanic name by any means). Could be any of these, really.

  5. Also worth noting that the Sorrow games contain a character called Yoko Belnades, who is clearly a relative of Sypha (though the exact relationship I believe is never stated), and Harmony of Dissonance has an item meant to be “Sypha’s Charm,” but which was mislocalised as “Cipher’s Charm” in the English release.

  6. Wow, that’s a passive-aggressive e-mail. Although, I almost get the feeling it’s from someone without native understanding of English-speaking countries’ social customs, so that might account for it…

    Anyway, the early Castlevania games had some interesting localization choices. Maybe even more interesting than the changes (intentional and unintentional) were the things they -didn’t- change. Things like Castlevania II talking about “the Hell house”, or Trevor praying before a cross at the beginning of Castlevania III… I wonder how those got through?

    1. I wouldn’t really call it a passive-aggressive e-mail, per se. I think it’s just a language issue for that person. The grammatical errors here and here in his or her letter seem to indicate so.

      And I’m as shocked as you are that Castlevania III kept that big freakin’ cross at the beginning as well… perhaps maybe removing it would have left an unreasonable empty space that they couldn’t fill, and Nintendo gave them an exception? This is all speculation, though.

      1. They didn’t just keep the cross, they even made it fancier with several lines radiating out like a starburst. Maybe that was their “censoring”?

      1. Hey now. I know I’ve sent you some (gentle!) complaints on the subject, and let’s not tar anybody else by accusing him of actually being me. 😉

      2. Yeah, upon a re-read I’m pretty sure it was a language/culture thing, as Mudkip3DS said above. It’s hard to read the tone of people who are writing in a language other than their native tongue, and the stuff about the FF4 updates being too slow and implications of people being lazy for not just playing both versions themselves rubbed me the wrong way at first glance.

        In my personal opinion, these question and answer sections are great! I guess I can see people getting annoyed if their main reason for coming here was the in-depth comparisons, but… I find these little articles to be informative and interesting. Plus, as far as I know you’re the only translator working on this project. The fact that you update as often as you do, even if the updates are QA sections and mini-articles, is astounding.

      3. I think it’s quite silly that you’re getting complaints for not updating your FFIV article more often. People should be grateful that you are doing it in the first place! The last thing you should feel is some form of pressure, I mean the project is gigantic. You may easily burn yourself out if not doing other comparisons in between. Love the latest update btw.

  7. Apparently her last name from the booklet is Belnades, but I remember seeing on a wiki somewhere that there’s another character whose name is Sypha Fernandez. I wonder if it’s like that Metroid Barrier/Varia thing that you touched on.

    Another name-related thing is that there’s a translation of the original Famicom cartridge on RHDN, complete with sweet glorious VRC6 music and all, but they translated Trevor’s last name as “Belmond.” :/

    1. That’s because the Belmont name is written in the Japanese versions as ベルモンド (Belmondo). “Belmond” is the romanization I saw listed on the Japanese wikipedia page for Castlevania 3, though the later games seem to have settled on “Belmondo”.

      1. It’s Belmondo in the English-language release of Castlevania 1, too. “Belmont” seems to have been a supplementary material-only spelling that would end up being used over the actual in-game spelling for the sequels, just like Sypha VS Syfa.

        1. It didn’t exactly help making things less confusing when they wrote Simon’s name in English as “Simmon Belmont” in the Japanese version of Castlevania II either. Which means the first three games in the series wrote the name, Belmondo (I), Belmont (II) and Belmond (III) in English. 😉

          1. And in Harmony of Dissonance, it became “Shimon.” Which maybe was to complement Circle of the Moon’s “Shinning Armor.”

            What I’m saying is that expecting quality localisation in a Castlevania game is just all kinds of silly.

            1. In Japanese his name really is “Shimon”, which would be pronounced more like the Spanish “Simón” than the English “Simon” (AFAIK that’s usually represented n Japanese as “Saimon”).. it seems like they really were going for a more European feel with some of the names in the Japanese version, but they were mostly anglicised or just straight-up butchered in localisation.

              (another example is “Warakiya” which presumably was supposed to be “Wallachia”)

  8. As far as I can recall, I was never surprised about the Belmont name being Belmondo, as it is a reference to the french actor Jean-Paul Belmondo (who also inspired Cobra the space pirate).
    Many references to famous actors can be found in the ending credits of the first Castlevania.
    So I may not be surprised if Sypha Belnades was also some kind of homage to someone like Sarah Bernhardt. I can’t quote a someone about that, but I always thought that like Belmont and Belmondo, Belnades was just a diformed Berhardt or Bernard (but as others pointed it out, Fernandez might be another possible reference, even if I don’t know to whom).

  9. After watching this let’s play of the game
    ( http://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm10352217 )
    my personal opinion is that the Japanese version left Sypha’s gender vague only to reveal to the player she’s a girl if you chose her as partner.
    Then later games just show right away she’s a girl.

    Was then the English text a bad translation or a choice to not spoil the surprise for that ending?
    I don’t know. 😛

  10. It’s pretty obvious that in both Japan and America, Konami wanted to keep Sypha’s gender a surprise in the same way that the first Metroid game kept Samus’s gender hidden until the ending.


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