Q&A: What’s the Deal with that Creepy Sonic CD Secret?

A reader recently asked a question that has some ties to the Sonic series:

I’ve been curious about this mystery message you can find in Sonic CD.

Now, from my understanding, this is apparently either a pun on the similar sound between Madjin and majin (魔神) or because “Madjin” is a nickname for Masato Nishimura. Is this just some clever pun?

This question actually goes kind of deep unless you already know Japanese, so this will be a bit long.

The Secret Screen

For the uninitiated, the deal is this: there’s a secret sound test in Sonic CD, and if you select the proper combination of stuff in that sound test, a spooky screen pops up with some Japanese text.

First, for clarification, here’s how to access this spooky screen to begin with:

  • At the title screen, press Down, Down, Down, Left, Right, A. This will take you to the secret sound test screen.
  • On the sound screen test, select FM No. 46, PCM No. 12, and DA No. 25.

  • Press Start, and the game will switch to a new screen. Here, some Japanese text appears and some creepy music and sounds play:

The Text

So, what does this text say? Here’s a look at the text side-by-side with a translation:

Japanese TextEnglish Translation
たのしさ∞
セガ・エンタープライゼス
   まぢん 画
Infinite Fun
Sega Enterprises
   Image by Majin

Romanization Woes

The bottom text seems to be what’s causing a lot of confusion. This confusion is a result of different romanization methods – which is the same reason for the Yoshi/Yossy confusion that we looked at a while back.

Basically, the name まぢん is pronounced “mah-jeen”. As such, this would usually be written as “Majin” in English using the romanization method that most Japanese-to-English translators and students use. But other romanization methods might spell it as “madin” or “madzin” or “mazin”. In all cases, though, it’s still pronounced “mah-jeen” regardless of spelling.

What makes the problem a little weirder is that ぢ is rarely ever used in Japanese; instead, じ is normally used. It has the same pronunciation – using ぢ instead of じ in this case is just a stylistic choice. But sometimes they get romanized differently too, so it just adds more confusion to the fire. Regardless of all this, though, it’s still pronounced “mah-jeen”.

This “majin” word is normally written in kanji as 魔神 or 魔人 and generally refers to a powerful supernatural being with human-like or god-like qualities. There’s no singular translation into English; you’ll see everything from demon to devil to genie to djinn to warlock to magus. So if you see rumors say that this message is supposedly from the devil or something like that, this might be why.

Majin’s Identity

The truth in this particular case, though, is that “majin” is simply an alternate way to read Masato (真人) Nishimura’s given name. And apparently this was his nickname since he was a kid – I guess the easiest way to explain it is that it’s like how I would sometimes call my friend Sean “Seen” instead of “Shawn” as a kid.

In any case, Masato Nishimura hid this child nickname in other games too, including Shenmue!

He revealed all this info in an old Japanese interview here. He says he added his nickname to stuff because he wanted it to stand out… and given gamers’ reaction to this secret Sonic screen, I’d say he succeeded at that!

Back on Track

The REAL question, though, was if this Majin name on the Sonic screen was a pun or if it was just because it was Masato Nishimura’s nickname. The answer is… that it was because it was his nickname… but he got the nickname as a kid because it was a goofy way to read his name. So it’s sort of both. And because of this and the romanization issues and everything else, it just got lots of fans confused.

TL;DR

Masato Nishimura has a childhood nickname that’s based on some word play with his own name and a term for a supernatural being. He snuck that nickname into a few games, and it confounded players for a while.


Whew! Although that took a while to go through, hopefully it answers the question and clears things up for fans!

I’m sure there are gamers out there who know a LOT more about this subject and this Sonic secret than I do, so if you have any further insight or corrections, definitely let me know! I’m curious to know if this name found its way into other games too…

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50 comments

  1. I think the confusion would have been lessened if the audio/visual cues weren’t inherently creepy. The question still remains why he chose that to accompany such an innocent little message.

    Reply
    1. Yeah, it does fit pretty well with the supernatural vibe the name has, but then again maybe that’s exactly why he chose to make it creepy in the first place.

      Reply
        1. For some reason, the US got an atmospheric soundtrack while Japan/Europe had an upbeat sountrack reminiscent of Shibuya-kei; either it’s done to accomodate the different opening track, or it’s just an example of US Kirby boxart syndrome. The only tracks that weren’t changed were the “Past” versions of the songs, which I’m guessing is because those are PCM audio as opposed to Redbook and thus would be more difficult to change.

          You’d better not run out of lives if you’re playing the US version: http://youtu.be/YM8qx-HdY5c

          Reply
          1. Interestingly, when the game was new, I thought the past tracks were different for artistic purposes. They had a musical style reminiscent of the cartridge-based Sonic games, so the past versions of the Sonic CD stages sounded like, well, like Sonic’s past. I actually thought it was a pretty cool touch.
            I had no idea the US soundtrack was different and that the rest of the world got screwed out of Sonic Boom.

            @David

            Naw, legal issues is why they don’t use the japanese songs in modern Japanese/European Sonic CD releases(opting instead for lyricless versions).
            The changed US soundtrack is simply because they felt it would go over better that way in the US.

            Reply
  2. I’m sure that Sonic CD screen was creepier than it was meant to be for American audiences considering the Japanese/European boss music is hip-hop influenced. Some people also translate that text as “Sega gives you infinite pleasure”, which is creepy regardless of what music is playing in the background.

    Reply
  3. I got a question for you, Mato. Since you are dealing with Japanese kanji in localized games (your Monado and Street Fighter articles) I got another game series to add to the list: the .hack//G.U. games. I know you are busy so I make this short- I’ve been playing the Volume 1//Rebirth and noticed a lot of Japanese writing throughout my playthrough. I’ve seen it in the “Background pictures”, on the screen when you do a special attack, and on a character’s back. I only want you to do the first game and it’s alright if you don’t translate them all. Anyway, thank you.

    Reply
    1. I don’t have any of the games anymore, and I definitely don’t have time to play through them, so if you can get screenshots of any ones in particular that you wanna know about I can post a thing about ‘em sometime.

      Reply
      1. But paste and pasta don’t sound alike. Copypasta sounds like someone spilled their spaghetti in a Xerox machine(which is an image I choose to conjure every time I see the term).

        Reply
        1. Scias The Wanderer

          They don’t sound alike, but they’re *spelled* alike. It’s easy to see how you could get someone going ‘delicious copy pasta’ in response to someone copypasting something, and then it catches on from there.

          Reply
  4. Only the Mega CD version of all the European releases use the Japanese soundtrack. the Windows 95 and the GameCube/PS2 releases use the American version of the soundtrack even in Europe…which annoyed me because the original Japanese soundtrack just seems like it fits with the game better. It certainly fits with itself better because at least the themes for the Past match the Present and Future themes… (for whatever technical reason, Past themes are the same song in every version, which Present, Good Future and Bad Future was changed to entirely different music for America).

    Though nowadays all is well in the world, because the “new” version of Sonic CD for iOS, XLA, PC etc. (the ‘Christian Whitehead’ version) has the option to select between the two soundtracks, which pleases everybody. :D

    Reply
    1. The Past music is the same because it runs off the Genesis soundchip instead of CD audio. Redoing the rest of the soundtrack was a matter of swapping out some MP3 files, redoing the Past themes would have required messing with the sound engine.

      Reply
  5. By the way, I just tried this on the Sonic Gems Collection version of the game (The GameCube disc). It’s very interesting; the FM NO. option doesn’t exist in this one, but by setting the other two to the correct options, I was still transported straight to this screen. I wonder if it would work even if FM NO. wasn’t set to 46?

    Reply
    1. The version of Sonic CD you played in Gems Collection was actually a lousy port of the equally lousy PC port of the Sega CD game. The PC port didn’t use any FM sounds and instead used .WAV-like rips for the sound effects. Oh, and it released with the USA soundtrack worldwide even in Japan. =P

      Reply
  6. There was a Dragon Ball villain called Majin Buu. In the VIZ manga release, the Majin part of Buu’s name was changed to Djinn. That made Buu a genie instead of a demon.

    Reply
  7. Actually, that screen also exists as copy-protection. If the ROM is badly dumped (basically by the methods available for pirates when the game came out), the game boots directly to that screen, it was just added as a Sound Test cheat in addition because why the hell not let regular players see it. Don’t know if that changes the interpretation at all, but hey.

    Reply
  8. Also, obligatory request: I’ve been playing some NES games I’m familiar with in the original Japanese to help learn the language (I’m taking my JAP 101 class), but for whatever reason Hitler no Fukkatsu Top Secret (Bionic Commando) uses kanji in its dialogue! Any idea why this relatively plotless NES action-platformer uses kanji? (If you would provide translations of the kanji included for my own purposes that would be nice, since there can’t be that /many/, that would be nice, but I understand if that’s impractical.)

    Reply
    1. Ah shit, my brain fucked up during that last sentence and now I look like a moron. Didn’t mean to say “that would be nice” twice!

      Reply
  9. Some other differences between Sonic CD versions:
    In the Gems collection (and only this version), water in Tidal Tempest zone is completely clear and does not change the colour of things seen underwater.

    In the Christian Whitehead version. you can select between the weird spindash this game used or the proper spindash common to the other Mega Drive games.

    Also in this version, the level select was changed to actually function properly. In the original, you would be sent back to the title screen any time the game would normally have to load a new map (either by changing time zone or by clearing an act). In the Christian Whitehead version, level select will work as it does in other Sonics.

    Also they added Tails as a playable character, complete with his flying ability and new sprites to match this game’s unique animations (such as spinning upwards from springs rather than bouncing while facing straight upwards). Though Tails cannot earn achievements.

    Hmm. What else? There’s a new secret sound test image in this version, showing off a small portion of an unused desert zone with the initials “C.W.”

    Reply
  10. I did alittle research myself and apparently the text from the hidden message says “Fun is Infinite, Sega Enterprises; Majin. But I translated myself and it came up to be “Happiness ∞
       Sega enterprises, Ltd.

    Hustle’s paintings”

    I might be wrong but if I am then feel free to respond back.

    Reply
    1. Mato’s translation seems accurate to me. たのしさ can be read as “happiness”, but does have a focus on the “having fun” kind of happiness, which is why that was translated the way it was.

      As for “hustle”… Uh, where’d you get that from? I can’t relate “majin” to that in any way, myself… Well, the interview Mato linked to made it abundantly clear it’ supposed to be just “Majin” (no further translation needed), anyway, as it’s a nickname.

      Reply
  11. Hi I was wondering if this hidden message shows up on the mobile phone version (windows phone,Xbox. Right now I have the demo of Sonic Cd on my phone but I don’t think the sound test settings appears on the demo and maybe if I purchase the full version for my phone I could get the sound settings opened. But before I make any purchases I would just like to know if i could get that setting or not for mobile.
    Please reply! Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Sadly I don’t have the mobile version, but I do know that on the Steam version you have to unlock the sound test by playing the game, you can’t just input a secret code.

      Reply
  12. Now I don’t know anything about Japanese, but I found this post by Mazin (まぢん referring to this picture that apparently (using google translate, so take with a grain of salt) talks about a birthday date (and 25/12/46 could be very well a birthday date!). Could you please translate it so to further clarify this aspect:
    https://twitter.com/search?q=cd%20%E3%81%BE%E3%81%A2%E3%82%93%20from%3AMazin__%20include%3Aretweets&src=typd
    It’s the post on the 21st of May 2011

    Reply
    1. That’s actually what it is, apparently.

      (Someone sends Mazin a tweet)
      “Someone is doing an LP of Sonic CD on Nico Nico Douga and showed off all sorts of secret content. Like the Mazin picture and stuff lol”

      (Mazin replies)
      “Oh, right, that one that appears when you input the birth date into the secret sound test.”

      So he doesn’t say it’s his birthday outright but I assume it’s his.

      Reply

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