Q&A: Is This “LIE” Also In Japanese Metal Gear Solid 2?

A reader named Dylan sent in a question about a line at the end of Metal Gear Solid 2. It’s been a long time since I played it, but let’s take a look!

I have a question regarding a small detail in Metal Gear Solid 2’s localization. In the English version, there’s a line near the end in which the word “believe” is written as “beLIEve” in the subtitles, which naturally makes the word “LIE” stand out and ties into the themes of the game as a means to make the player question if this part of the story is actually legitimate or not. It’s a very small detail, but I’m curious as to how it’s handled in the Japanese version as I don’t think that’s something that translates easily.

As I recall, the end of the game gets really intense and all sorts of crazy truths are revealed… except it’s hard to tell what’s true and what’s not anymore. Things are meant to be very confusing. Here’s the full scene in English for reference and/or a refresher:

Luckily, Dylan kindy provided links to the Japanese and English lines in question. Here they are:

The English text clearly has the word “LIE” capitalized inside the word “believe”, but what is the Japanese text like?

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
Of course, Jack!Of course I do, Jack!
Believe me!You have to beLIEve me!

So it looks like the Japanese text and the English text are essentially the same. But the Japanese text doesn’t have anything unusual with the way it’s presented – it’s just a regular old line of text. The Japanese lines before and after don’t appear to have any unusual treatment, either. In short, it seems the capitalized “LIE” was added into the localization. Neat! I wonder who thought to do that, someone on the localization team or Hideo Kojima himself.

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26 comments

  1. I’m curious how this one happened. The translator of MGS2 once gave an extemely critical interview with Hardcore Gaming 101, talking about how she thought Kojima was a hack writer and she was asked to make an extremely literal translation after Kojima was upset with what Jeremy Blaustein did with the first game. (Be an actual translator who reword things) This doesn’t strike me as something she’d add, so I’m curious how it ended up in the translation.

    Reply
    1. I read that interview too, and “critical” is definitely the word to describe it. If you try accessing the interview now, all you get is a blank screen with “Interview removed until further notice.” How scandalous! Haha.

      I did assume it was her by default who added the “LIE” though. My memory is fuzzy now, but didn’t she receive just a giant binder’s worth of text to translate with little context to go on? It sounded like the localization as far as text goes was largely a one-woman show in that respect.

      Reply
      1. Jonathan Ingram

        I have the translation files she leaked back in that 2012 interview. It contained her English translation and the full original scriptment documents in Japanese (dated circa 2000; authored by Kojima, Fukushima, Murata) along with some other notes from Konami like key terms and descriptions of things such as laser tripwires and lockers with pictures.

        She says she was never sent an original Japanese copy of the game (impossible since the English version was finalized first) or a debug copy, which wouldn’t have been much help as MGS2’s development was rather troubled. There was a point in 2001 where the plant chapter wouldn’t even start, and she apparently did the translation around mid-way through the game’s schedule. Plus, she never signed an NDA.

        Reply
      2. The translator also worked to sabotage a researcher when he didn’t hire her friends as translators for interviews, so I’d be skeptical of her claims.

        Reply
          1. Agnes Kaku got angry with John Szczepaniak while they were working on a book together and ended up going to court. I forget the details but you can read all about it on the “Untold History of Japanese Game Developers” kickstarter updates. Szczepaniak is also the one who interviewed her years ago for Hardcore Gaming 101. After they went to court is when the interview could no longer be accessed.

            Reply
              1. Jonathan Ingram

                Nope. Konami demanded the webhost remove the files she leaked, but left the interview itself alone.

                Reply
          1. I’d believe him more than her. Everything this woman has done and her attitude in interviews more than makes his side more believable.

            Reply
    2. Being a “localization translator” isn’t having carte blanche to do stuff against the original author intent knowingly. That’d be like hijacking their way into the writing position.

      If Hideo Kojima or Hayao Miyazaki wanted an English interpretation of the Japanese script that prioritizes faithfulness to the original above what the translator finds comfortable or “nice sounding” (which are subjective criteria unlike say grammar mistakes), he’s entirely within his rights (as granted by international laws regarding translations) to approve or reject translators depending on their output.

      And if Agnes Kaku approached Kojima’s work with such contempt she wasn’t comfortable conveying his script the way he wanted, perhaps she should have declined the position. It’s a video-game plot about world domination conspiracies and nanomachines, and if anything “fixing” the cheesy writing in a game that embraces being cheesy even just from the visuals only goes against the author intention and just for the personal satisfaction of said translator.

      Reply
      1. That’s the feeling I got from the article John Friscia linked above, too. She seems extremely full of herself, has zero respect for the author’s writing and sees it as her task to improve on it, seemingly thinks she knows the author’s characters better than he does and is a better judge than him on how they should talk, and is not above using strawmen to defend her point by offering up an overly literal and stilted translation of the original text as if that was the only possible alternative to her rewrites.

        I take it she’s never translated anything other than video games. No novelist would ever approve of a translator rewriting and “improving” their work like that, and Kojima should not be demonized for caring about his own writing in the same manner.

        It’s goddamn Metal Gear Solid we’re talking about here, it’s not like it’s something that’s not going to sell unless it’s “improved” in this fashion.

        Reply
  2. Given the overwhelming popularity of Metal Gear Solid in the states (as it is a game that is wholeheartedly directed towards us) and the overall “meh” reception it gets in Japan, I would expect our localization to be the most accurate to the story and have more subtle hints and easter eggs.

    You have to beLIEve me.

    Reply
  3. Actually, I read somewhere that the kanji in question actually CAN be used to mean lie as well. You just have to read between the lines. In any case, another colonel AI call recalls the beginning of the original MSX Metal Gear game and his dialogue in that one is all katakana. A neat touch to be sure.

    Reply
    1. It definitely can’t. It’s the character for ‘trust, confidence, fact, reality’ – not even close to deception or lie. It’s ไฟก.

      Reply
      1. Are you sure? I got this info from tvtropes.com and it certainly can’t LIE about something like this… I think it was under Lucky Translation but i’m not sure. Better refresh my memory for sure.

        Reply
        1. Sure enough that I removed it from the TV Tropes page. It was either made up, or the editor who put it there had overheard it from yet another person.

          Reply
          1. So, it was something made up for the english release then… That’s too bad. Ah well, at least the Japanese version still has it’s own quirks, right? For example, that call emulating the beginning of the very first Metal Gear game was all in Katakana, referencing the limitations of the MSX system. Let’s see if you can find any. ๐Ÿ˜‰

            Reply
        2. I REALLY hope you are being sarcastic. Because it would be extremely sad if you trusted such a website.

          Its FILLED with mistakes and half truths.

          Reply
    1. Jonathan Ingram

      It’s actually pretty much the same line.

      ใ€Œๅทปใ่ˆŒๅฎ‡ๅฎ™ใงๆœ‰ๅใช็ดซใƒŸใƒŸใ‚บใฎๅ‰ฅ่ฃฝใฏใƒใƒฉใ‚ญใƒชๅฒฉใฎไธŠใง้Ÿณๅ‰ใŒ็”ŸใพใฐใŸใใ™ใ‚‹ ใจใ„ใ„ใ‚‰ใ—ใ„ใžใ€‚่ฆใƒใ‚ตใƒŸใ ใ€‚61๏ผใ€

      Reply
  4. If the Document of Metal Gear Solid 2’s Plant Chapter Script’s commentary for the scene is to be believed, it was most likely added in at the direct request of either Kojima himself or at least one of the development team members in Japan specifically to enhance the theme about whether there is such a thing as absolute truth (I personally believe there is, but that’s irrelevant to the topic at hand):

    “Rose:
    Of course I do, Jack! You have to beLIEve me!(there have been so many
    lies that nothing seems real. The users must decide for themselves.
    Ties into the underlying theme of finding out what to believe within
    yourself.)”

    Source: http://www.gamefaqs.com/ps2/914506-the-document-of-metal-gear-solid-2/faqs/27630

    Reply

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