Why are the Bishops in Elminage Touching Things?

A reader named Andrea sent this e-mail in about a game I’d never heard of before:

hello! i just found your legend of localization site after searching for the infamous “war of kangaroo” mistranslation on google!

i had a request about a somewhat obscure PSP dungeon crawler called elminage original, this game had an american translation but they botched several aspect of it, for example there is an item called the “future book” which give you random message upon use but some of the message don’t work, one of the hidden boss in the game (i can’t remember the name but she’s blindfolded and holds a scale and a sword so it should be easy to recognize) also had a special message which too doesn’t work

most amusingly the game had a lot of non-sensical translation, the most infamous one being that when you failed to identify an item the game exclaimed “YOU TOUCHED IT!” any idea how this could have happened?

here’s a list of various translation fuck up in case you want to know more

I’ve never played this game, but it actually looks really cool!

Anyway, I had some theories on what might’ve caused this “You touched it!” mistranslation, but it took a surprisingly long while to finally track it down. Here’s a look at the line in both versions of the game:

For reference, this happens after a bishop character tries to identify an item but fails. When this happens, the character falls into a panic-like state that has to be healed before further item identification can be done.

When this identification fails, the Japanese text says “γ•γ‚γ£γ¦γ—γΎγ£γŸ!” which comes from the verb さわる (sawaru). This word has a few different meanings – the main one is “to touch/feel”, but another is “to become irritated”. So my initial instinct was that the translator didn’t have any context information and decided to go with the safer “to touch” meaning when the latter might’ve been more appropriate.

But digging a little deeper, it seems that this line might actually be an homage to the Famicom Wizardry games, which I hear had a strong cult following in Japan back in the day.

I know nothing about the Wizardry games, but a quick English Google search turned up this mention of bishops, item identification, fear status, and a “You touched it!” line:

Those all fit the bill perfectly!

So, assuming this Wizardry connection is indeed true, then the line in Elminage, “YOU TOUCHED IT!” might not be a mistranslation at all – it seems to be a reference to the old Wizardry games. One that might’ve even survived being translated back and forth over the years, wow!

Still, that’s a lot of guesswork on my part, so if anyone out there can provide any further info or insight, or if you can get an English or Japanese screenshot of the Wizardry line, please let me know on Twitter or post in the comments below!

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14 comments

  1. It’s not so obscure now that Ghostlight announced they were porting+translating another game in the series.

    Hopefully it has a better translation.

    Reply
  2. I had heard about the English release of Elminage Original courtesy of RPGFan. The reviewer quoted the game for having an, “Abominable hackjob of a translation.” There are apparently also cases of entirely untranslated Japanese. Whoever UFO Interactive Games are, they obviously don’t know how important it is to translate games properly.

    And for the sake of curiosity I looked up the company’s name. They deal mostly with children’s games. That would explain the substandard quality of the translation. In other words, they didn’t have a clue what they were doing.

    Reply
    1. Weirdly, I’ve seen them do other translations which were perfectly fine, and even really good. They translated one of the DS versions of the Monster Rancher games, and although it does have some bugs not present in the original (mainly, there’s a part where it recognizes characters you draw on the touchscreen, but it will sometimes still try to recognize Japanese characters and freeze), but the text itself is really punchy and well-done. Far better than the other translations in the series, which are usually meh at best and horribly confusing at worst.

      Reply
      1. Is THAT why it kept freezing on me!? Here I thought it was because I was playing on a flash card! That’s a very silly bug, I need to go and try to write in some Japanese characters to see if that makes it freeze. xD

        Reply
  3. Makes some sense when you consider the fantasy RPG roots; items in these worlds are often cursed, and the curse can be triggered merely by touching the item. So it can be highly prudent to check for curses before handling anything, and I could see a skittish curse-checker freaking out because he accidentally touched something. πŸ™‚

    Reply
  4. I watched a lot of Wizardry let’s plays on nicovideo so yeah, I can confirm that the Japanese versions of Wizardry use “γ•γ‚γ£γ¦γ—γΎγ£γŸ” for identify failures.

    I can also say from personal experience that the English SNES version of Wizardry 5 uses the same “You touched it!” message

    Granted, the SNES version was actually made by the Japanese so I don’t know if the SNES English version is a ‘back translation’ of the Japanese version or if it uses the original script of the PC version. It’s possible the PC versions of Wizardry use something else since I never played those, but I’m willing to bet that they all say touch though.

    Reply
    1. It’s been many years since I played Wizardry I (on the Apple //c) far enough in to have a chance to try to identify something that might be cursed, but if memory serves, this same “YOU TOUCHED IT!” wording was used all the way back then as well. If not the same wording, it was at least something to the same effect.

      Reply
  5. Not entirely related, but I have to wonder if the goofiness of that line is intentional. Wizardry does have some weird stuff, even though it doesn’t always cross over into the eastern games.

    Reply
  6. Ian Chamberlin

    Aha, so it IS a Wizardry reference (well, probably). After I read the ‘You touched it!’ line and thought about it for a minute, I remembered something like that being in Wizardry. Been a really really long time since I played it (well, in that case I was young as to watch my DAD play it), I can’t believe it even sounded familiar.

    Reply
  7. I definitely remember the “You touched it!” line from Wizardry V, on SNES at least.

    If you think about it, it *does* kinda make sense. I imagine item identification requires some some of proximity hand waving or whatever, close to the object in question. An accidental nudge of the finger or whatever. The *afraid* status could be that they touched this potentially cursed item and now are afraid they’re cursed.

    And I can’t remember if Wizardry had the other thing with cursed items that old games had, where if you equipped one, it was stuck. No taking that thing off until you paid a priest to remove it.

    Reply
    1. Yes, Wizardry did have the “sticky curse” effect – at least Wizardry I did, and I believe it held over through the entire series.

      In Wizardry I, the rationale was explicitly that touching it was enough to cause it to become equipped for this purpose, displacing whatever may have already been equipped in that slot if necessary. Thus, bishops had to be very careful when examining items for identification purposes not to touch them in the process, and there was always at least a small risk that they’d fail…

      Reply
      1. A bit late to reply again, but I dug up an old Wizardry manual.

        “However, there are some disadvantages to having a bishop inspect tan item. If the bishop is not very careful, he may touch the item by accident. This will cause an E)QUIP to be done, and if thte item is cursed, the bishop will be forced to use it.”

        And from later on:

        “Items which are cursed are both detrimental and sticky! If you have a cursed sword, for example, not only will it refuse to fight well, but it won’t let you put it down!”

        “If they touch the item they are attempting to identify, they may become afraid depending on certain protections on the item in question.”

        And that’s all from the original manuals. Completely intended, though it comes off as a bit wacky nowadays to people.

        Reply

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