The Time Suikoden’s Script Went Off The Rails

A good while back a reader asked about a strange line in Suikoden for the PlayStation. I haven’t played the game myself but I hear it’s full of interesting translation choices, so this is my chance to dig a little deeper into the game!

First, the question was about a line in the English version. Basically, a short cutscene begins with a party member named Kirkis saying:

After returning from Dwarves’ Village

That’s it, there’s no punctuation and none of the other characters respond to his strange outburst at all. Fans seem to be curious about this line, why it cuts off, and why it sounds like Kirkis is suddenly narrating the game.

The answer is pretty simple: this strange line was intended as a developer note for the localization team, but some sort of formatting or technical mistake caused it to be included as standard text in the game. The result is that the first line of the scene has the developer note, which pushes every line in the scene down one “slot”:

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
Kirkis: W-what’s that?Kirkis: After returning from Dwarves’ village
Gremio: I’m not really sure.Gremio: W-what’s that?
Valeria: Isn’t that in the direction of…Valeria: I don’t know.
Gremio: N-no! It couldn’t be…!Gremio: That direction is…
Valeria: We were too late…Valeria: It couldn’t be…
Kirkis: No! This isn’t possible! Let’s hurry, [Main Character]!Kirkis: Too late!

From this it’s clear how all of the English lines gets pushed down, which causes each character to say a line that’s not intended for them. This ultimately leads to the final line getting cut from the scene entirely!

Off the top of my head I don’t know how common this problem is in other games, although I do know it sort of happened in EarthBound’s localization too – some internal developer text wound up being included with the main script. It’s been “skipped over” in the final release, but the text is right there and accessible if you’re technically-minded:

(Incidentally, I uncover things like this and much more in my upcoming EarthBound Legends of Localization book!)

Anyway, hopefully this solves the mystery of this strange scene in Suikoden. And if you know of any other games that have internal developer notes mixed in with the main text like this, let me know! I love this sort of crazy stuff 😛

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19 comments

  1. The first thing I thought of was a Family Guy joke when Peter decided to narrate his own life. 😛

    Reply
  2. In Final Fantasy VII (NA version), if you tried to save but had a full memory card, it displayed the message “No enough memory left on Memory Card”. To “fix” this typo, the PAL version said “Please change this to ‘Memory Card full'”.

    Also, it’s not the same thing, but when one character in Castle Shikigami 2 reveals his true identity, he says, “(Changes voice.) It’s me, Yama”. The best part is that the actor doesn’t even speak with a different voice.

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  3. I never played the first Suikoden, but Suikoden II was one of my favorite games of the PsOne era. Now I´m wondering if the translation was as rough as this one, with characters speaking wrong lines…

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    1. No, it was even worse. A couple minor NPCs talk in garbage text because their Japanese dialogue wasn’t translated. Some characters randomly start speaking in the third-person. One cat says “Sonya…” because they misinterpreted the Japanese meow sound. There are lots of odd-sounding phrases (“The State are a bunch of creeps!”). It will sometimes use five or more exclamation points in a row!!!!! The NA version somehow removed at least two songs, leaving complete silence. Great game, but it’s brought down by the translation.

      To be fair, apparently the translator was given less than a month. Under such conditions, no one would be able to do a good job.

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      1. Wow, it sounds bad…and I liked it so much even playing this cropped version. Maybe I should try the japanese version.

        I was planning to try a retranslation of Breath of Fire 1 in the future, maybe I will put Suikoden II on my list too, if the files are easier to edit.

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      2. They must have thought, “Well North Americans probably don’t read the text in JRPGs anyway, so let’s go ahead and give them a crap translation done in under a month. No one will ever know the difference!” They must have thought people in the States are too stupid to read or don’t want to bore themselves with reading text in a game (completely untrue of course).

        At least the translation was much better after Suikoden II, which is also the point where the series diverged from its stellar roots and ended up being mediocre (Suikoden III), poor (Suikoden IV) to just plain stupid (Tierkreis), until everything was set right again with Suikoden V…at least until they made that horrid Thousand Year Tapestry and fucked the series into nonexistence.

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        1. It seems that the lower the quality of the Suikoden games, the better the quality of the translation, oh the irony…

          Although I´ve heard that Tierkreis had an awful dub, which didn´t help it very much.

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          1. Actually, I don’t agree at all that it’s worse. Suikoden 1 is clearly the worse translation all throughout, while Suikoden II’s translation is overall far better, but just contains a few notable mistakes that are REALLY bad.

            Essentially, it has less instances of problematic dialogue and text-related glitches. But those few instances are generally hideous and more glaring when they do occur, even if they occur far less.

            SK1’s translation is terrible with almost every other line. SK2’s translation only has 6 or so notable mistakes, but those mistakes are really bad ones, so much that they stick out more.

            Reply
  4. Oh, messing up lines like that is always fun in translation. I had a gaffe like that when working on FF6 once. The trapped chest notice in FF6 is right next to the dialogue asking you if you want to jump onto the crane in the game’s script. I accidentally added an extra endline tag at one point, which caused trapped chests to ask you if you wanted to jump on the crane when you opened them. That turned into a meme briefly on the RPGOne forums. Ahh, the good old days…

    Reply
    1. In Light of Indra for the Famicom, I had to play half the game with people saying the wrong lines (I added dummy lines as temporary fixes to make progress), until I narrowed down the error to a line in the ORIGINAL text that had an extra end-of-string character (meaning part of the line would not be seen in the original game, and consequently had a mistake left in, in the original text).

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      1. The original English PS3 release of Ar Nosurge had a similar problem (fixed in patch 1.1, and for the Vita version) that resulted in all the gossip text being wrong. The main script and important dialogue was all fine, but any random NPC you talked to would say utterly random things.

        The problem was made even worse by the fact that most of the game’s gossip text spans multiple text boxes. Often enough, you’d talk to somebody and get the last part of one dialogue, followed by the first part of an entirely different dialogue. It was just a complete mess.

        Reply
  5. Suikoden I and II were not known for having stellar translation and programming work done on them, and we’ve definitely covered this previously with a couple of other articles. Those two games were definitely products of the PS1 era, that’s for sure (the era where JRPG translations were littered with nonsense that never got addressed).

    Reply
  6. Well, that’s certainly weird to be honest. Haven’t played any Suikoden games back in the day but who knows, maybe they’ll come on Steam eventually…

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  7. orangensaftmeer

    One of the causes of the infamous bootleg translation of Pokémon Crystal being so nonsensical… is actually this happening quite often, so moves have their names shifted at some point, then items carry on the shift and add their OWN shift, resulting in several “pole” items while a bunch of others have invalid names.

    It’s actually quite interesting to analyze.

    Reply
  8. These first 2 Suikoden games are so terrible. Believe it or not the translation in Suikoden 2 is actually worse than this. There are entire lines of text that are just random characters completely untranslated, almost every line in the game doesn’t make any sense and there are spelling and grammar errors everywhere. And that’s just the translation…. the music and level designs are just awful.

    Reply

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