3 Times That Game Translations Were Quietly Changed

21 Comments

Old classic games are being re-released in all sorts of ways today: Virtual Console, miniature consoles, unlockable bonuses, and even mix-tape-esque compilations. Many of these re-releases have subtle changes that few will ever notice, like flash reduction and brightness changes:

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These aren’t the only changes that are made to re-released classics, though – sometimes script translations undergo minor changes too. So let’s take a look at three recent examples that not many people know about.

The old broom lady in Link’s Awakening DX used to say “YAHOO!” throughout the game – so much so that it was her iconic phrase. In the Virtual Console release, however, all her “YAHOO!”s were changed:

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Presumably, this change was made because “YAHOO!” – including the all-caps spelling and the exclamation mark at the end – has since become a giant global corporation and household name.

Other examples of “YAHOO!” being replaced include:

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Note that this change wasn’t made to the Japanese version of the game because the old lady’s Japanese phrase, iyahō, doesn’t match the Japanese name for YAHOO! Inc., yafū.

Update

In 2019, Nintendo released a remake of Link’s Awakening for the Switch. The English translation of this new version puts all of the old “YAHOO!”s back in:

The old woman now says "YAHOO!" all the time again in the official 2019 remake

Based on this, it appears that “YAHOO!” was problematic for someone at Nintendo of America during the Virtual Console era, but is no longer a concern today. I wonder what changed.

2. The Legend of Zelda

Speaking of Zelda, the NES Classic Edition of the very first game in the series had some changes of its own. For example, it took Nintendo 30 years, but they finally fixed the famous “penninsula” typo in Level 1:

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The Legend of Zelda is actually a great example of how games change little by little over time without being noticed. If you’re interested, I cover the topic in more detail in my book about Zelda’s translation. You can also see more details about the NES Classic Edition changes here.

3. Breath of Fire II

This classic JRPG had several sections of data changed for its Virtual Console release. Two of these changes involved the game’s translated text.

First, someone changed the word “damn” to “darn” before the game’s re-release:

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The second change is related to an optional mini-game. It’s described in the original translation as being “kind of like Othello”. The problem is that “Othello” is a trademarked name that’s also had legal disputes in recent years. So the mention was removed from the script entirely:

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The strange thing is that Breath of Fire II’s translation has hundreds of problems that could’ve been fixed, but only these two things got changed.

Other Games

These aren’t the only examples of altered re-release translations, of course – I’ve heard that the European Virtual Console version of Super Mario RPG updated the script to replace the word “bugger” with “pest”, and I’ve heard faint rumors that Shining Force II might’ve had some dialogue changes. Then there are the more mundane changes involving references to peripherals that aren’t supported in re-released games.

In all, these re-released games undergo a surprising amount of changes. For example, the Super NES Classic Edition comes with 21 games built into it – and 20 of them have been modified in some way. And at least 9 of the games in the NES Classic Edition have changes too. Re-releases are changed so often that I now assume each re-release has changes by default whenever I do technical research for my books and articles. Of course, few of these changes matter to the average player, but as the changes pile up it starts to feel like how movies get updated over and over until they “feel” different from their original release.

The SNES Classic Edition's internal emulator even includes notes about some possible changes - as a translator I'm particulary interested in what strings of text got changed

Looking for More

Unfortunately, changes like the examples above aren’t very well-documented, so it’s hard to know everything that gets changed with each re-release unless a really dedicated fan dives into millions of 1s and 0s of each game. Still, if you’re interested in how other games have changed little by little over time, I highly recommend The Cutting Room Floor – there were so many different little changes in Super Mario World for example, and did you know the Japanese version of Battletoads was heavily changed and made easier?

I’d love to make a more complete, on-going list of translation changes someday, so I’m always on the lookout for more examples like the ones above. So if you know of any others or someday discover some new changes in your favorite game’s text, definitely let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

If you enjoyed this, check out Legends of Localization Book 1: The Legend of Zelda, my book dedicated to the very first Zelda translation and how it has affected every Zelda game since! (free preview PDF )
21 Comments
  1. You know, Yahoo! has been around since 1994.

    Reply
    1. Yes, I’m aware, but I don’t think they were a giant global corporation + household name at the time. They certainly weren’t on Nintendo’s radar either it seems.

      Reply
  2. Mato, it’s not just the European version of Super Mario RPG that changed Croco’s “bugger” line sadly… They changed it for ALL just to make it one version for all. I was pretty annoyed when I saw that change. At first I thot I just misst it somehow. I was really looking forward to it. It’s a word my granma always used. :/

    Reply
    1. I just checked and the North American Wii U version *does* include “bugger”. I haven’t checked the SNES Mini version yet though, I don’t have access to the European versions for further verification unfortunately.

      EDIT: I checked the US SNES Mini and it still says “bugger” too.

      Reply
  3. I’m going to assume Starfox 2 was the only game that doesn’t count as “changed,” because technically that was its first-ever official release. (If I’m wrong, though, do tell us which game was left unaltered!)

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    1. Actually, looking at this Reddit thread it looks like I might be wrong and that all 21 got changed. In most cases it’ll be code alterations that turn the music off – Nintendo’s SNES emulator basically plays premade audio files instead. After that, color/flashing changes are probably super common too. It’s finding everything else that interests me the most, but it’s hard to research it all.

      Reply
  4. The Virtual Console release of Startropics replaces all mentions of the word Yo-yo with “Star” since someone realized Yo-yo is actually a trademarked name and didn’t want a lawsuit. Star feels like a weird choice, but I can’t really think of anything better myself.

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    1. It’s not as weird as you think, considering the names of the upgrades you get over the course of the game: Shooting Star and the Super Nova.

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      1. Likewise, all references to the Tetrads in Zoda’s Revenge were changed to “Blocks”, despite the fact that Tetris blocks are officially known as “Tetrominoes”.

        Furthermore, at the end of the game the Chief of Coralcola says “After all, ‘Tetris’ is my middle name” which was changed to “After all, ‘Puzzle’ is my middle name”.

        Reply
  5. I’m interested in how these changes were made, actually. I’d naively assumed that they just took the original ROMs and embedded them without changing them, and then used them for input into a custom-built emulator. But if changes like these have been made to the text, how are these changes applied? Just they essentially just hack the ROMs to overwrite text and change some flags when necessary? Are these changes applied in memory after an original version of the ROM has already been loaded? I wonder how much reverse-engineering this took and who performed the work.

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    1. Yeah, it’s kind of surprising, but apparently they’ve been doing it as far back as the start of the Wii VC. The various VCs appear to be a combination of the original ROMs, config info, and external data patches that get applied at runtime. The SNES Mini takes things one step further and seems to follow that same idea (or they use ROMs pre-applied VC patches, not sure which) and have the emulator also do live patching on top of what changes were already made in the VC releases. It’s kind of a mess and hard to keep track of though.

      Reply
  6. I recall another instance of the word “Damn” in an otherwise profanity-free game being changed to “Darn”: Mega Man 7 as featured on Mega Man Anniversary Collection for PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox.

    Also, the Mega Man X Collection version of X1 had X exclaim “Damn!” before his only line of dialogue in the game (which is right after Zero saves him from Vile).

    Reply
    1. It’s funny how Capcom made those changes, yet never changed Boomer Kuwanger’s name (which, in Japanese, is a pun based on the Japanese word for stag beetle) for the rereleases of the SNES version of Megaman X. They did change it Maverick Hunter X, though. I guess so many people know him as “Boomer Kuwanger” that they never bothered to make that change

      Reply
  7. Thought I’d stop by to update y’all that the new Switch remake of Link’s Awakening has fully restored this NPC’s “Yahoos”. Yippee!

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  8. Even if they had to change it, I think “wahoo” would have been better than “yippie”. There’s the purely technical reasons (Yippie is an extra character, which could be disastrous in a game with as short a text line as the GBC Zeldas. Wahoo changes only one character and is only a single character change) that alone would justify it.

    Reply
  9. Here’s another translation change I would like explained.

    In Link to the Past, one of the fortune teller’s hints is “Abracadabra alakazam! Inquire about chests at the gossip shop in the Dark World…” in the GBA release and “Abracadabra alakazam! The gossip shop in the Dark World has treasure for the
    asking…” in the original SNES release. Fans have interpreted this to mean that this is supposed to be telling you that there is a treasure chest in the blacksmith’s dark-world counterpart ruined hut. I’ve seen one streamer be very confused by this hint and go all over the game for something called “gossip shop”, and “gossip shop” is listed in several Zelda wikis as a particular location.

    http://wiki.zeldalegends.net/index.php?title=Gossip_Shop

    Of course, “gossip shop” here makes no sense, and it’s not even clear that this is what this hint is about. The game is full of treasure chests, so why should the “gossip shop” refer to this one? Other speculation is that the hint is about storytellers (those dark world places that charge you money for information) and that one of them will tell you something useful.

    https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/boards/711412-the-legend-of-zelda-a-link-between-worlds/66004994

    The original text seems to be, “くろまによ~んくろまによ~ん 宝箱のことは闇世界の洞くつに住む、じょうほう屋にきけ~ ”

    ( http://www.lltvg.com/wiki/The_Legend_of_Zelda:_A_Link_to_the_Past/ja-en#End_of_Sixth_Dungeon_to_End_of_Seventh_Dungeon_.28Wood_Temple.29 )

    which seems to be just some generic advice about how there are treasure chests in dark world caves? How did “じょうほう屋” become “gossip shop”?

    I’d love to know what was going on here. I’m kind of surprised nobody has tried to unravel this riddle for such a popular game.

    Reply
    1. Yeah, “gossip shop” for 情報屋 wasn’t a very good translation choice, and all of the other missing details in that English line made it even worse. Something like “Ask the informant/tipster living in a Dark World cave about the treasure chest.” would’ve been closer.

      Interestingly, the GBA English script fixes a lot of things and makes lots of other changes, but still keeps the “gossip shop” stuff all as-is.

      Reply
  10. I’m glad they changed it back to “YAHOO!” although the character is actually called Grandma Ulrira (she’s Grandpa Ulrira’s wife). Oh well.

    About “bugger”, that’s slang for homosexual men in Europe so it’s easy to see why they changed it to “pest”.

    Reply
  11. This is not really new but it is an interesting tidbit about how localization marches on.

    In Ogre Battle: the March of the Black Queen, the highest level angelic class, Seraphim, had a white magic attack called “Jihad” and this name was kept for the sequel.

    When the SNES Ogre Battle was re-released for the Virtual Console, the attack name was changed to Laser. Granted it does look more like a laser than an abstract concept like jihad, but it’s kind of like if the Final Fantasy staple spell Holy were initially translated correctly, but then were substituted with “Pearl” and “White” upon re-releases of their respective games.

    Reply

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