Q&A: What Does This Hidden Japanese Text in Link’s Awakening Say?

A reader named Bram asked a few questions about The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for the Game Boy and Game Boy Color. For now we’ll tackle just the first question and save the rest for another day.

While looking into the Doge meme reference in Tri Force Heroes, you briefly mention several other instances of cultural references and general silliness in Zelda games, among which the German Cukeman dialogue. Cukeman’s dialogue is completely different in each translation (and the German lines where changed again in the German DX version GEE I WONDER WHY). You can find the lines and English translations for all of them here.

Well, all of them, except Japanese. So, what do the original Japanese lines say?

For reference, here are the English lines:

English Version
Hey Mon!
You know me, I like short names the best…
It can display millions of polygons!
I definitely need it, as soon as possible!

And here’s what the Japanese text says:

Japanese Version (basic translation)
I just figured “well, why not”, y’know?
Nothing really…
Yeah, I know.
Already got it, actually.
…That concludes this collection of R-Moto-isms.
It has absolutely nothing to do with the game!

The Japanese lines are a bit tough to translate without context (meaning you’ll get very different translations depending on who you ask), but they’re basically just phrases that this R-Moto guy would say during the game’s development. This games’ developers seemed especially playful, and it looks like they decided to hide some of R-Moto’s quotes in the game. Knowing that, the localized English lines fit the original tone well – they sound like they could’ve been NOA development staff quotes too.

At first I was like, “Who the heck is R-Moto?” But some quick research showed that it’s most likely a nickname for Masanao Arimoto, the game’s character designer. You can read some quotes and a short bio about him on GlitterBerri’s Zelda-tastic site here.

Anyway, that’s what the text says in Japanese. As always, it’s possible I’m missing some context or other background information, so if you have any details to share definitely let me know!

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20 comments

    1. I barely remembered this at all, but it does seem to come out of nowhere. It was nice of the Japanese devs to leave the note at the end explaining what the otherwise random-seeming stuff was about 😛

      Reply
  1. Why thank you Mato, I’m having a great day today. I wish you, Poe and the kitties are having a great day too.

    Also, I went and got a screencap of the credits from a TAS video on YouTube, transparency effect and all. Looks like TAS recordings on YT usually have really good quality with high bitrates, so that’ll be something to remember when hunting for screenshots in the future. http://i.imgur.com/zlXO8Hp.png

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  2. …So, if these are developer quotes, and the German one they changed is “Never without a condom”… what is the German translation team’s office like?

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    1. Said German translator was summoned with a French translator (woman) to NCL’s HQ in Japan for a game translation and they decided to go shopping… of course it was gay porn. And the French translator (who was quite the quirky person in other episodes of her work life: suggesting items be translated as Item-1 Item-2 because translation is too tiresome, and she actually went ahead with it for Final Fantasy Mystic Quest) decided to interrupt a meeting to show her loot to her Japanese superiors. She was fired one week later after their return from Japan.

      That German translator had a knack for removing the original text entirely in case his “jokes” didn’t fit. Current NoA Treehouse and Working Designs wouldn’t match him in inserting as much pointless and obnoxious pop references (even shitty soap operas) and confusing changes as possible. He turned Lufia 2 and Terranigma among others into a full-price abridged dub and was reviled by German fans. In fact it affected sales, first with LOZ:LA and then the first Pokémon which was the last straw for NCL who then proceeded to fire the entire German localization division.

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      1. Pretty much, yeah. Claude M. Moyse’s (the german translator) work was and still is a VERY huge love it or hate it deal in German-speaking regions.

        Although I’m not sure about LoZ:LA having suffered, because from what I could see, the german text outside of the Cukemen’s dialogue in the original is a fairly faithful translation from the english text. But maybe I’m just missing a textbox that’s really really bad and super obvious or something.

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        1. LA (original) attracted lots of attention and complaints from media watchdogs.

          The Cukemen’s sign (no matter how horribly inappropriate and clashing with the game’s tone) along with another similar sign in OoT were fair game for the translators though considering NCL gave them that one sign to fill with whatever they wanted.

          But that’s not the only thing wrong with this translation… besides the “artistic licenses”, LA’s German translation was filled with dubious grammatical and translation mistakes (Frog’s Soul Song becomes Frog Rap, and the Magic Rod becomes the Cane of Somaria, and even the Ocarina which was for once correctly translated to English becomes the Flute?!).

          NoE was at the time a subsidary of NoA yet did their own thing mostly. Zelda 3’s French translation had uncensored mentions of a “Triforce of Gods” and people dying, Illusion of Gaia had alcoholism intact, and more on the point Link’s Awakening in its European versions made it intact – the nude model, the topless mermaid…
          This incident caused by some genius certainly deserving his reputation of inserting adult jokes in an all-ages game caused NoA to get a more hands-on approach and retroactively censor the European versions. Terranigma’s non-English ROMs still have the remnants of a fully translated sidequest that was cut just because the English version (produced at NoA, they ultimately didn’t publish it) chose not to have it.

          And then he doubled down on his antics. Japanese language is very open to interpretation and the translator’s job is in part to fill in the blanks with his interpretation, and occasionally spice it up to evoke the same context as the original, but cases where the translator just decides to toss that kernel of original meaning away because it gets in the way of his writing are just rubbing me the wrong way, and his work was one of the earliest instances (besides Working Design’s stuff, but even they have their obnoxious fluff accompany the original kernel, not replace it)

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          1. Oh yeah, right, I forgot about the Magic Rod and Ocarina. The Frog’s Soul Song’s change to the Frog Rap doesn’t strike me as THAT odd, though, since it doesn’t seem that big of a change (tbh it’s kind of similar to the german version of Twilight Princess changing ‘Death Mountain’ to ‘Fire Mountain’, for some odd reason. It couldn’t have been for censorship, since we had a Death Mountain in german ALttP and OoT already), but changing the Magic Rod to the Somaria Rod & calling the Ocarina a Flute was definitely a big mistake.
            The grammatical mistakes also seem really odd, especially considering that Moyse was Chief Editor for the german Club Nintendo magazine if I remember correctly. I dunno why he left those in. My assumption would be in that he tried to make the game feel more “off and weird”, y’know, because of what the story actually turns out to be in the end? Or he just didn’t care for it at all, that could be a reason too, lol

            But yeah, like I said above, his translation work is VERY love it or hate it, since there’s just as many people out there who actually preferred his translations as there are those who hated what he did.
            Though I find the whole thing funny, in that NoA has been a little bit more “free form” with their localizations lately (Doge Meme in TriForce Heroes, for example) whereas NoE went the more accurate route. xD

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            1. Seems like NoA’s meme-fied translations go even further back… Super Mario Galaxy’s North American French script for instance is a sight to behold, it’s like the script for most Toads and NPCs was fed to Google Translator’s Elmer Fudd filter (but in French), to parody some trending “joke accent” at the time.

              But lately even NoE has been brought back in line to be “consistent” with NoA’s decisions (maybe to avoid reverse imports and “lost sales”?).

              Reply
      2. Wait, the German version of Pokemon Red/Blue was a gag script? If so, I wonder what it was like… Gag dubs/scripts always have intrigued me, especially if they are the “official” translations.

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  3. Did you have to do some editing to get that credits shot?
    I know the credits is one of the few weird examples where developers exploited the blurriness of the original Game Boy LCD (in this case, for transparency).
    In most emulators, the letters will just flicker off and on, so you see alternating letters at a time.

    On a GBA SP, it flickers but at least in unison.

    I wondered what it was like in the DX version. Unfortunately, the only copy of DX is a Japanese cart that refuses to run on my original Game Boy, but runs on every other GB hardware variation I own. The saves left on the cart are also nowhere near the ending. 🙁

    Reply
    1. I originally used this monster of a screenshot:

      And then asked for help in the secret to text to get a better one. Huks posted that better one just a few minutes later!

      Reply
    2. The DX version also uses the flickering pseudo-transparency like the original and it was very noticeable even on the original GBC. It doesn’t attempt the “glowing” text transition like the original though, instead it instantly switches between credits, possibly both because they had to fit more people in the same amount of time and because way the effect was done wouldn’t look good with a faster refreshing screen.

      Reply
  4. Thanks for that.

    I find interesting that the Japanese developer phrases are pretty much common things that anyone would say like “べつに” and ”うん わかっているよ。” while the English ones are more…obnoxious, like “Hey Mon”. Maybe it´s because English is not my native language as well, but I find the english quotes much more crazy than the japanese ones :p

    Reply
    1. I agree, but maybe it was just a “you had to be there” sort of things. Maybe he said those things all the time to the others, to the point that it became somewhat obnoxious.

      Reply
  5. A million years ago, I remember Dan what’s-his-name was asked about this in that “ask Dan” feature they used to have on Nintendo.com. If I recall correctly, he didn’t acknowledge the Japanese roots of the quotes, but did say he was inspired by comments he had heard around the NOA office.

    Reply

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