Chrono Trigger’s Gato in Japanese

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Gato the robot
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!

Gato’s Name

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:

Image 1Image 2

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:

On a side note, it’s cool that the boxing reference was able to stay in Chrono Trigger by switching the name to “Gato”, but I can’t help but feel “Iron Mic” would’ve been a good alternative localization too.

Gato’s Song

Gato sings a song as soon as you talk to him. There’s even background music that matches the lyrics… sort of.

Japanese version (Super Famicom)
English version (Super NES)
Japanese LyricsBasic TranslationEnglish Lyrics (SNES)
ā gonzāresuAhh GonzalezThey call me Gato ♪
ōre wa tsuyoiI am strongI have metal joints ♪
ōre ni kattaraIf you beat meBeat me up ♪
jūgo pointō15 pointsAnd 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:

Note: the last line in this scene is slightly different in that it shirubā ("silver") instead of jūgo ("fifteen")

Gato’s Translation Legacy

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.

Thoughts

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…

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25 Comments
  1. Big check-plus on “Iron Mic.” Never occurred to me, but it’s great.

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    1. Would age about as well as Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!

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  2. Guts went berserk in that boxing match.

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  3. The French version of the DS release (and maybe the original French SNES, though I never played that translation, if it exists) has his name as Gonzalez. I always wondered why it was changed… now I know!

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  4. Normally, a lot of Japanese voices in anime tend to sound the same to me (boy, i hope that doesn’t come off as racist). However, the cat-thing in that OVA clip sounded familiar to me, so i looked it up. Turns out it’s played by Luffy’s Japanese voice actress. Neat.

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  5. Unlike the Final Fantasy games, Chrono Trigger is a game which i played the original translation of a bunch when i was a kid. However, despite that, i still prefer the newer translation of the DS port.

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  6. I had always figured he was “Gato” because of the cat ears. Never knew it was some Japanese cultural thing.

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  7. Why did Gonzalez stretch out “ore”? Were the writers cheating to make sure those lines were long enough?

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  8. “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.”

    Oddly enough “Good morning, Crono!” was changed, even though they apparently used that line in advertisements for the remake.

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    1. “apparently used that line in advertisements”…
      The first magazine ad was just a black page with a “Good morning, Crono!” dialog box about a third of the way down the page, with SquareEnix and DS logos at the bottom.

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  9. “I always had trouble getting the English lyrics to match the song just right”

    http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR00313

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  10. Quick shout out to two of the greatest Gato theme remixes of all time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpDb9VN2pFs and its sequel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zGeN2pUVM4

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  11. I dunno… To me, it doesn’t sound like they tried very hard (or well) to make the lyrics fit in English. :/ Tho, even the Japanese is a bit weird.

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  12. Hey, something I’ve been meaning to ask, I’ve heard that you shouldn’t learn Japanese from games and anime, because they speak in a weird way that sounds bizarre in real life. I believe it, but what are the differences exactly? I haven’t seen a website go over the details before, and it’d be nice to have a concrete source.

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    1. I’ve heard that before, but these people ignore that there’s a large amount of game, cartoons, and comics with realistic stories and dialogue.

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      1. Yeah, I’d be surprised if nothing ever had realistic dialogue. But then again, you wouldn’t know how to distinguish if you were a beginner.

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    2. A good number of anime and games speak in ways that people do not speak in real life. It’s best not to imitate those exaggerated speaking styles at all, especially if they involve over the top yelling.

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  13. Ah, Gato. The true super fighting robot all robots aspire to!

    Fun fact: Gato is voiced by Kenpachi’s VA from Bleach. He sounds so different (likely because he was younger then), it was quite the surprise to find out.

    Reply

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