In the English version of Chrono Trigger, there’s a robot named “Gato” that you can fight at the big Millenial Fair. If you beat him, you’ll get a bunch of Silver Points that you can use in other attractions. In addition to fighting, he also loves to sing and even carries his own microphone around.
Gato is a fan-favorite character, and I actually get asked about him quite a lot. I’ve always been curious to learn more about him myself, so let’s check him out!
Many characters in Chrono Trigger had their names changed during the English localization. Gato had his name changed too – he was originally known as “Gonzalez” in Japanese:
|'Gonzalez' in Japanese||'Gato' in English|
I always assumed the robot’s name changed to “Gato” simply because “Gonzalez” was too long. Yet I never understood why he was named “Gonzalez” in the first place, or why “Gato” was specifically chosen as the replacement.
A while back I was researching some completely unrelated stuff when I ran into the name “Gato Gonzalez” again and again. It turns out that there was a famous boxer in the 1970s named ”El Gato” González, and he became a household name for a short while in Japan when he lost the WBC Lightweight Title to Guts Ishimatsu in 1974.
Ishimatsu’s victory over Gonzalez was a historic moment for Japan and even spawned a major cultural phenomenon known as the ”Guts Pose”. Although Ishimatsu took the spotlight, the event also firmly placed the “Gonzalez” name in the public consciousness.
This piece of history explains why the fighting robot was named “Gonzalez” to begin with, and why he was renamed “Gato” in the English release. On top of that, it also explains why the robot uses a boxing glove attack, which always seemed like a silly and random thing to me until now. Another cool side effect of the name change is that “Gato” – which is Spanish for “cat” – explains the robot’s cat-like ears more clearly than the original name.
Incidentally, it appears this is also why the name “Gonzales”/”Gonzalez” is sometimes given to tough fighters in other Japanese entertainment, especially when it comes to sporting events. A few Gonzalii that come to mind include:
Gato sings a song as soon as you talk to him. There’s even background music that matches the lyrics… sort of.
|Japanese Lyrics||Basic Translation||English Lyrics (SNES)|
|ā gonzāresu||Ahh Gonzalez||They call me Gato ♪|
|ōre wa tsuyoi||I am strong||I have metal joints ♪|
|ōre ni kattara||If you beat me||Beat me up ♪|
|jūgo pointō||15 points||And earn 15 Silver Points ♪|
As we can see, the lyrics changed slightly in translation, but the changes are pretty minor besides the whole name thing.
I always had trouble getting the English lyrics to match the song just right, but then again I have zero musical talent so that’s probably my own fault. Still, I have an easier time matching the Japanese lyrics with the tune. If you’re curious, here’s how it sounds in Japanese, as seen in the official Chrono Trigger OAV:
Chrono Trigger received a brand new English translation when it was re-released on the Nintendo DS in 2008. It appears the “Gato” name remains in this new version, and the original Super NES lyrics were carried over too, but with a few tweaks to help the lyrics fit the tune:
This matches with how the DS translator re-translated Final Fantasy VI too: popular terms and lines were often kept unchanged from the Super NES version, or were at least touched up slightly to improve things.
Although Gato plays such a tiny part in Chrono Trigger, he was given a surprising amount of attention during translation. I’ve had many professional projects of my own that required writing translations to fit with music, so I can almost “see” the Super NES and DS translators sounding out syllables while playing the song over and over. It’s always a fun process and really rewarding when you see fans sing along. But it also means the songs get stuck in your head for a while! Gah!
On a different note, I wonder what name Gato goes by in other languages and/or how his song was changed. That sounds like an article for another time…