Q&A: What’s So Funny About This Line in Phantasy Star IV?

Jamie O. asked a question about Phantasy Star IV that seemed kind of interesting:

I recently made a friend of mine who’s into sci-fi stuff play through Phantasy Star IV (which turned out to be a bit of a bust since the Phantasy Star series is heavy on “Phantasy” and light on “Star”, a fact that I forgot since it had been about fourteen years since I played it last, but I digress). The translation seemed good enough – or at least, anything peculiar, I knew the story behind it or had a decent rationalization, which is as good as it gets for most of us, I suppose.

There was one line, however, that struck us both as odd, though. It’s a conversation that happens a little bit into the game.

Here’s a video of the entire scene for reference:

And here’s the questionable part:

CHAZ: “I have no idea what these machines are, but this is some place. You’re pretty adept at handling these machines. Were you caught by Zio while you were trying to get the system back under control?”

DEMI: “Yes, that’s right. Zio is very violent.”

GRYZ: “Very funny.” <————!??!!?

So Jamie asks:

What is very funny!? Was this a pun? Is Demi acting facetious? I don’t even know.

I apologize if you haven’t played this and it doesn’t make much sense with no context. I haven’t been able to find a Japanese script dump anywhere, otherwise I’d try and help point you to the right line in Japanese, at least. Also, for what it’s worth, there’s a script of the final Prototype version of the game, with many script differences, and this conversation is identical there. I know it’s a longshot, but I really want to sate my curiosity, and Phantasy Star IV seems to be the only script that the PS community hasn’t torn apart and examined. So, I look to you! If you please. Thank you.

I’ve never played but a few minutes of Phantasy Star games (well, except for PSO for the GameCube back in the day) but it’s always been something I’ve wanted to get into; it reminds me a lot of 7th Saga which I absolutely loved as a kid. So let’s consider this my first foray into Phantasy Star!

Luckily, getting to the scene in question was really easy in both games. So here’s a look at the line in question in Japanese and in English:

From what little I played and saw, it looks like the English translation was really competently done, especially for its time! So it’s indeed a little strange to see this “Very funny” line in there when nothing seems to be funny. So let’s take a closer look at the scene’s text:

Japanese version (basic translation)Official translation
Rudy: I don’t know what any of this is, but it’s really something. I’m amazed you know how to use machines like these. So you got caught by Zio when you tried to stop the system from going haywire?Chaz: I have no idea what these machines are, but this is some place. You’re pretty adept at handling these machines. Were you caught by Zio while you were trying to get the system back under control?
Frena: Yes, that’s right. He’s a very violent gentleman.Demi: Yes, that’s right. Zio is very violent.
Pike: Heh… That’s an interesting way of putting it.Gryz: Very funny.

Without having played the full game up until this point it’s a bit hard to say anything for sure, but it sounds to me like Frena/Demi speaks in a very polite, rather formal way in Japanese. In doing so, she refers to Zio – who seems to be a pretty bad guy – in a very polite way, which naturally comes across as kind of odd.

And to this, Pike/Gryz responds by saying something like, “That’s an interesting way of putting it.” or “That’s a funny thing to say.”

The problem is two-fold: Frena/Demi doesn’t seem to speak in such an overly polite way in English in this particular line. And the word Pike/Gryz uses, 面白い (omoshiroi), has multiple possible translations ranging from “interesting” to “funny” to “amusing” to “entertaining” and even more.

So the combination of these two things is why the translation of “Very funny.” seems so out of place – he was supposed to be commenting on the fact that Frena/Demi was speaking about Zio in a strange way.

Hopefully that clears up that question, although I get the nagging feeling that there’s something else to point out here that I’ve forgotten to mention. Oh, and if you’re looking for the Japanese text from Phantasy Star IV, this is a good place to check!

Also, although this isn’t 100% related to Jamie’s question, I have a question of my own – if someday I wanted to get into the Phantasy Star series, what games do you recommend? I’ve always been intrigued by the series since I was a kid (even despite being on the SNES side of the 16-bit wars) but I’ve just never really known where to start. If you got suggestions, lemme know!

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  1. I loved Phantasy Star 2, and you can get it in a multitude of platforms, ranging from iOS to PS3/Xbox360.

    And from what I played of Phantasy Star 4, it’s really good (I just haven’t had too much time to finish it…)

    I tried the first one out and it was too archaic for me, and 3 is usually considered the black sheep of the series.

    1. The first one was pretty good at the time, the problem were the massive dungeons with nondescript walls… Nowadays with the internet and maps it’s pretty playable. And the third is quite interesting courtesy of the three generations, where you start as a character and at the end of each chapter you choose a girl to marry you.

  2. Phantasy Star IV is the only game in the series that holds up the same way other 16-bit RPGs from the mid ’90s do, and yeah there are in-jokes and references to previous games, but nothing so important as to make it incomprehensible if it’s the only one you played. PSI was insanely ahead of its time (multiple planets, first-person dungeons, female protagonist etc. in 1987) and PSII did some really ambitious things story-wise, but they’re both kind of grindfests and tough to recommend if you’re not playing with frameskip or something to speed through battles. PSIII is an interesting game that clearly got wrecked by internal difficulties during development.

    If you have a PS3, you can download the amazing Phantasy Star Complete Collection from the JP PSN store for like $8, which has every game in the series (including weird stuff like the side-story text adventure games), all regions, with optional toggles to increase XP/frameskip for every game, if you want. Easily the best way to experience those games in 2013.

    1. I want to second this one. The first three are good, and if you had plenty of time and enjoyed that sort of thing, I’d recommend playing 1 through 4 (I’ve never played any outside this set).

      In a more realistic world, where you have limited time, if you’ve got time for an old school JRPG, Phantasy Star IV should be near the top of your list. You might want to read a little about 1 and 2, so you understand a bit more of what’s happened to the Algol star system, and get a couple of the little references, but IV is really the one most worth just playing.

  3. the first 3 phantasy star games are tough as nails but PS1 is really interesting because it is quite advanced for its time.

    phantasy star 2 has an amazing storyline but is simply far too hard.

    phantasy star 3 is a good game but it’s not very well connected to the rest of the series but taken alone it works quite well.

    phantasy star 4 has held up the best of the original 4 games there’s simply no way around it, while i’d try starting from 1, 4 is really the best game.

  4. I’ll basically restate the opinions if Hukos (a huge PS and Genesis fan) from the Kingdom since it seems to be the options of a lot of other people as well and I’ve never played them. He is a huge fan of 4 and loves it, thinks the original is pretty good as far as first person dungeon crawlers go, thinks two is good but is very grind heavy (which I can attest to), and hates three with a burning passion. If you want a more in depth description, ask him.

  5. I will have to concur with what was said above. I have no opinion of the 3rd game, but the first 2 Phantasy Stars are great products of their time. Unfortunately, they can be quite difficult to get into from a modern day perspective, as we are no longer used to RPGs that are full of grinding, cryptic puzzles, high encounter rates, and navigation through confusing labyrinths in which every room looks identical to the one before it. Personally I had more patience with that sort of thing when I was younger. As an adult I quickly lose interest in “classic” RPGs of this mold, because it takes such a time commitment, and it always feels like that time and focus would be better spent on real world responsibilities.

    On the other hand, Phantasy Star 4 does a phenomenal job of updating the series. What really stood out to me is that the characters’ primary walking speed is 2-3 times faster than many other RPGs of the time. Better yet, the characters walk at the exact same pace whether you’re on the overworld, in a town, or in a dungeon. It actually reminds me of Lufia 2 in that sense. The encounter rate can still be a bit tiresome, but the battle system is intuitive, the enemy sprites are fantastic, and the overall pacing of the battles is once again better than that of the earlier installments. Last but not least, the game’s environment and characters just add a whole lot of charm to the package. Admittedly I have yet to beat the game, but it is certainly on my to do list.

  6. A friend of mine told me I absolutely had to get into Phantasy Star, and insisted I absolutely had to play all of every one of them and in order, at which point I bought the first Phantasy Star on Wii and lost all interest before even booting it up, knowing that 80+ hours of grinding lay in wait for something I might not even like.

    I would like to give the series a shot some day though.

    1. It’s longer because you have to grind for experience and money, but it’s still a fun game. Try to get back to it if you can. I need to do the same since I too have it on the Wii’s VC and it’s far from finished.

    2. Give 4 a shot! It’s much more playable.

      (That said, a bunch of hours in I am now stuck at a boss I simply cannot manage to beat…)

  7. The way Gryz said “Very funny” makes me think he was being sarcastic in response, but based on your explanation we can see here that the translators goofed on how to translate “omoshiroi” (which is a toughie I’m sure because I’ve known for years about its multiple meanings). Not to mention, if Gryz was trying to say “That’s a funny way to put it” in the form of “Very funny”, then those guys also goofed their grammar.

    I recommend the first PS myself. I downloaded it from the Virtual Console last year and it’s greatly refreshing to play an old school RPG again (though again, as everyone warned, it’s a tad on the grindy side, but the for what it’s worth it’s an impressively put together game for its time). My friend would probably tell you PSIV is the best use of your time in their universe since it has the best of everything you could possibly want from a 90s era RPG, before PS went down that horrid online nonsense path.

  8. Like everyone else, I feel that Phantasy Star IV is the best of the lot. It has held up the best over time and has a really solid story. But if you can withstand grindy-grind-grinding, you should at least give Phantasy Star I and II a go.

    Phantasy Star I is particularly brutal right at the beginning, where you pretty much need to beat up monsters for an hour to get enough money for a weapon that doesn’t suck…. but once you’re past that hump, the game starts to shine a little brighter. It’s a fairly impressive game for its time, and the 3D dungeons are absolutely worth experiencing.

    Phantasy Star II is also very grindy and difficult, with painfully long dungeons. Bring maps and guides. It’s easy to get lost. The story directly lays the groundwork for what happens in PSIV, though.

    Phantasy Star III is a bit of a wreck and I never managed to play it far past the beginning. I’d only attempt it if you’re absolutely hooked on the series after giving the others a shot.

    (Aaaah, and how I’d love to have some translations for some of Phantasy Star Online’s background guides, or some insight into how accurate its translations were… I love love LOVE that game, and I mourn that its sequels were shut down [Phantasy Star Universe] or will never be given official English release [Phantasy Star Online 2].)

  9. Phantasy Star I was the first one I started with, back when Phantasy Star Collection was released on the GBA. Loved it then, and thought it held up very well. As others have mentioned, it starts out extremely brutal, by plopping your weak character alone into a world full of random encounters with monsters you can just barely handle, but once you strengthen your character a bit and get the other party members on board, it’s reasonably smooth sailing. Not dead easy like modern RPGs, but hardly an unfair grindfest either. Absolutely worth playing, don’t let the nasty beginning scare you off.

  10. “Phantasy Star IV” is the only one I’ve been able to finish, and it’s one of the best RPGs of its generation. If you play the first Phantasy Star, there’s a patch for the Japanese version that has a more accurate (and well done) translation. The JP version also has the option to use an alternate soundtrack that’s easier on the ears. I recommend playing that game with some sheets of grid paper and drawing maps as you go, as the first-person perspective can make dungeon crawls very confusing.

  11. The original is ok to go through for the sake of experiencing history, but I wouldn’t recommend it without guides/maps and such, similar to Mother 1.

    PS2 was a beast, and still is. It’s slow, it’s VERY grind heavy, and ridiculously difficult. The game came packaged with a map because it was NEEDED. I still haven’t finished this game, but I love the series enough to know what happens in it. Not sure I’d recommend, even WITH guides and maps unless you have TONS of patience and time.

    PS3…is the black sheep of the bunch. It’s more of a side-story to the other three, and happens somewhat outside of the main continuum. It appears much more heavily fantasy based until you find out the true nature of the world you’re playing in near the end. Interestingly, this game apparently shares some similarities with one of the SNES Fire Emblem games where you can have characters marry and have kids, though obviously it’s done a bit differently. You have three generations of characters you play with. At the end of the first two generations’ storylines, you have them pick which woman to marry and procreate the next hero with, resulting in 4 separate final characters and, therefore, 4 separate endings and final-third-of-the-game. Actually kinda cool. The problems with some of the gameplay designs, though, plague this game even still today, making it almost tougher to really enjoy playing than even PS2. I like it, but I doubt I’ll ever play through it again, just like with the first three.

    Now Phantasy Star IV? PLAY. IT. Seriously. If you are a fan of RPGs, you are doing yourself a disservice if you never play this game. Not only is it BY FAR the best of the PS series (seriously I don’t even acknowledge any game with Phantasy Star in it’s title post PS4 ‘cuz they’re TOTALLY different), it’s also, I think, one of the best RPGs of all time. My wife just played through it this year, and even today she very much enjoyed it. It’s older, obviously, and it plays like it’s older, but like it’s “very well done older”. Every good idea they had in the previous games was taken, improved, made more efficient, and all around planned out better. It’s well balanced, it’s very well paced, and it has one of the most fascinating growths-of-stories I’ve ever seen (by growth-of-story, I mean growth by scale of their current problems they’re facing; it goes from monsters in the basement of a university to a battle on a massive post-planetary scale, it’s so awesome). What’s also cool is that they really make the stories of the previous games come to life by referencing them in complimentary ways. It really ties together the entire series and ends the saga on a beautiful note. You don’t NEED to have played the earlier games to appreciate this one, it just makes this game that much more of an impact if you have.

    I cannot recommend PS4 enough. If you’re going to play only one (and I kinda recommend that you do), play this game. You will very much enjoy it and not regret it.

    Oh, and while we were playing it, I was thinking about the localization the whole time (this was right after I’d started perusing this site and saw all your thought processes when it comes to translations), and was similarly impressed by it’s quality for it’s time (and assumed it was mostly accurate, haha).

  12. Anyone know how the Portuguese fan-translation (I think it’s one of the more prominent non-English projects, but I’m not sure) handled this line (it was based on the English script, so I’m curious if they carried over this error)? I’m curious.

  13. Phantasy Star 2 originally came with a full strategy guide complete with dungeon maps, and for good reason. While my nostalgia-goggles are strong for this game in particular (being my first ever experience with RPG’s entirely), I will say that many of its puzzles are rather obtuse, and certain dungeons can be outright evil.
    No one will judge you for using a guide and/or maps to beat this one. 😛

    Out of the original four, the third game is the most detached from the others, storyline-wise. 4 does a pretty good job tying it back in through a side mission, but otherwise, 3 as a whole is very non-vital to the overlaying plot and can be the most easily skipped without missing much of the story.
    Although I would at least give it a chance as honestly, it is not a terrible game in its own right. It just doesn’t really add much to the Phantasy Star lore.

  14. I’m no translator, but I’m gonna go ahead and try to get the tone across.

    “Indeed. He is a very… violent gentleman”

    I can just read that read by Teal’c from Stargate SG1, which I believe spoke in the way you describe.


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