In this article series, I compare Final Fantasy Adventure’s translation with the original Japanese script. For project details and/or to start from Part 1, see here.
Previously, we looked at interesting things from Day 1 of the live comparison stream. This time, we’ll be looking at highlights from Day 2 and Day 3. I covered many more translation topics during the streams, though, so check out the archived videos below if you’re interested in digging even deeper into the differences!
As we saw in Part 1, the English translation has lots of little mistakes and changes.
There are enough of these little things throughout the game that it’s tedious to list every single one here, so I’ll probably just show a couple in each new page update.
An important location early in the game is a cave called Gaia’s Cave. The thing is, not just anyone can enter it – it’ll literally spit you out if it doesn’t like how you taste.
In Japanese, an NPC shares information about the cave’s origins:
Gaia’s Cave is a cave of an ancient monster that fossilized. They say mithril was its favorite food… Pretty strange, huh?
So, basically, when you’re walking through the cave, you’re actually walking inside the guts of a giant, ancient, fossilized monster. That’s pretty cool!
In the English release, this line changed to:
Gaia has its own will and feelings. It likes Silver. Strange, isn’t it?
Although it’s not vital information, the unique worldbuilding found in the original line was dropped during translation. It was replaced with different text, but I’m not quite sure why.
Again, this text change doesn’t affect anything important, but it’s a good example of the kind of background details that were lost throughout this game’s translation.
At one point in the Japanese version of the game, you and a dwarf set out to find the legendary mithril ore. Once you obtain it, you can buy mithril-based equipment.
In the English version, “mithril” was replaced with “silver” everywhere:
Presumably, the change was made because the “mithril” name originally comes from J. R. R. Tolkien’s writings and could’ve potentially opened Square up to a legal dispute. This same exact mithril-to-silver change happened in the English localizations of Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy IV as well:
|Final Fantasy (Famicom)||Final Fantasy (NES)|
|Final Fantasy IV (Super Famicom)||Final Fantasy II (Super NES)|
Changing mithril to silver in Final Fantasy Adventure did create a new problem though – there was already at least one other silver item in the game: the Silver Key. This explains why the Silver Key was renamed the Bronze Key earlier in the game:
In the Japanese game, Gaia’s Cave won’t let anyone inside unless they have mithril. So, logically, changing “mithril” to “silver” means that in the English game, the cave won’t let anyone inside unless they have silver. But wait, you can get Silver Keys before this point in the game! So that simple name change would break the game’s logic. Fortunately, someone on the localization team realized this and renamed the Silver Key as well.
It might not seem like much, but this attention to detail shows that the mithril-to-silver change wasn’t a rushed, last-minute search-and-replace affair. The localizers clearly considered the potential consequences of renaming mithril everywhere and adapted as needed.
At one point in the game, you need to ride a mine cart. But when you first find it, it’s so rusty that it won’t move at all. To fix this problem, you’re required to get a special item elsewhere in the world.
In Japanese, this item is called the サビトレール (sabi torēru), which is a slightly whimsical way of saying “Rust Remover”. Maybe something like “Rust Taker-Offer” or “Rust B Gone” – it has that sort of feel, basically.
In English, the item is simply called “Oil”.
Incidentally, this sabi torēru name also appears in the Japanese version of Final Fantasy VI:
The shared name between the two games is probably just a neat coincidence, though, as “___ torēru” is a common naming pattern with real-life cleaning products:
In the Japanese version of the game, there’s an item called バッカスのさけ (bakkasu no sake, "Bacchus' Wine"). The official Japanese guide says that drinking it gets you excited and fills your entire body with energy. The end result is that your physical strength stat is temporarily increased.
Due to Nintendo of America’s content policies at the time, references to alcohol weren’t permitted. So “Bacchus’ Wine” was renamed “Nectar” in the English version of the game.
On a slightly different note, Bacchus’ Wine is another recurring item in the Final Fantasy series:
I believe a slightly different バッカスリキュール (bakkasu rikyūru, "Bacchus Liqueur") was mentioned in the Japanese and English versions of Final Fantasy Tactics, but it wasn’t until Final Fantasy IV’s PlayStation port in 2001 that the actual item appeared in an English Final Fantasy game. But even then, it was simply called “Bacchus”. The name and item appeared again in the 2005 Game Boy Advance port of Final Fantasy IV, but it was called “Bacchus’ Cider” in the English version as way to skirt around the clear alcohol reference.
Basically, this is all to say that the change from “Bacchus’ Wine” to “Nectar” in Final Fantasy Adventure was just one part of a very long localization anti-tradition.
Some enemies can transform you into a strange creature for a short period of time. In Japanese, this creature is known as a モーグリ (mōguri). In English, this was localized as “Moogle”.
According to the official Japanese guide, a mōguri is a creature that’s like a mix between a cat and a bat.
Until recently, I never really knew that these iconic Final Fantasy creatures were based on anything in real life like this, but it makes sense now that I look at it. Of course, it’s hard to tell when you’re looking at tiny sprites on a tiny screen, but it’s clearer when looking at official artwork:
Moogles previously debuted in 1988 in the Japan-only release of Final Fantasy III for the Famicom. Because of this, Final Fantasy Adventure seems to be the first time Moogles appeared in a game outside of Japan.
Similarly, Final Fantasy Adventure might’ve marked the international debut of the Final Fantasy series’ iconic chocobo creatures too. Online sources suggest the game was released in early November 1991, a few weeks before the English version of Final Fantasy IV for the Super NES, which also featured chocobos:
Basically, Final Fantasy Adventure was very likely the first game to introduce multiple iconic staples of the Final Fantasy series outside of Japan.
In the game, there are one-time-use items that cast a magic spell when used. One of these items temporarily stops enemies from using magic. In the English release, this item is simply known as “Silence”. But in the original Japanese game, it’s called something very different: Monkey Baby.
The Japanese game itself gives no explanation for this “Monkey Baby” name. Luckily, the official guide provides background information for the item:
A figure of a baby monkey, made of wax, and instilled with Silence by the wizard Eibon. It blocks the target’s voice, preventing the chanting of spells.
I focused on this unusual item during the live comparison streams, but there was one thing I didn’t get at the time: who the heck is “Eibon”? There’s no such character in the game, and the official guide constantly mentions an evil wizard who created many of the crazy enemies in the game.
It turns out that Eibon is a sorcerer in H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu Mythos. This makes sense – the early Final Fantasy games regularly referenced and took inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons, H.P. Lovecraft, and such. It’s just surprising to see this simple little Game Boy game forming such a big connection with such an unimportant item!
But this leaves us with one last question: why is this item a monkey, of all things? It’s pretty simple – it’s based on the three wise monkeys that accompany the proverb of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”:
Around this point in the game, you know where you need to go next. In the Japanese version, it’s a cave called the “Sand Labyrinth”. In English, this was changed to “Medusa’s Cave”.
The problem is, there’s no clear way to find it or get inside it. Finding the cave was problematic enough for players that the English localizers changed the first vague hint into a more direct gameplay tip.
Once you reach the town of Jadd, a boy offers to tell you how to get inside the secret cave. But only in exchange for a certain item:
Once you give the boy his requested item, you finally learn about the hidden cave… Sort of. Instead of telling you outright, he gives a cryptic clue:
The game continues to be vague with its hints here. The area in question is pretty large, filled with palm trees, and actually has a tree formation outside of town that looks like a figure-8:
Again, if you’ve played Final Fantasy Adventure, there’s a good chance you got stuck on this part for a while. If you ever come across posts or reviews of the game, you’ll almost definitely find this “palm trees and 8” topic brought up:
As we can see above, it’s commonly believed that this trouble spot in the game was due to its poor translation. In actuality, the palm tree hint isn’t much different from the original Japanese text. It was just a poorly designed puzzle to begin with.
The problem was big enough that Nintendo Power magazine shared the solution in two separate issues:
I don’t remember how I figured out this palm tree thing myself, but I’m guessing I relied on one of these Nintendo Power issues.
Looking back now, I’m impressed that the English localizers realized how problematic this puzzle was. They tried to make it less problematic for the English release, but I feel more could’ve been done to steer players in the right direction.
This part of the game has a lot of talk about Medusa-related stuff. Some details were changed or dropped in the English version:
At the end of the hidden cave, you have to fight a big Medusa boss. Afterward, the main character’s friend Amanda reveals she was bitten by the Medusa during the battle. Unfortunately, being bitten by a Medusa turns you into a Medusa soon after. So Amanda begs the main character to kill her before she transforms.
As expected, references to Medusa blood in the Japanese version were changed into Medusa tears in the English version. A direct reference to death was removed, while the word “kill” was phrased as “do away. I assume “do away” was used to skirt around Nintendo of America’s content policies, but I feel it works really well here whether that was the case or not.
During her pleading, Amanda says some more stuff. Here’s how the Japanese and English lines look side by side. For reference, Amanda needed the Medusa blood/tears to save her brother Lester, who was transformed into a parrot.
|Japanese Version (basic translation)||English Translation|
|Amanda: Half of my blood has changed into Medusa blood.||Amanda: I’m gonna turn into a Medusa in a short while……|
|Kill me… and have the parrot drink the blood… so that Lester can turn back to normal…||Please do away with me and take my tears, HERO.|
|HERO: There’s no way I can do that, Amanda!||HERO: No, I can’t!|
|Amanda: You’re going to let my death be for nothing?!||Amanda: I’m gonna be a monster…… I might lose my mind and hurt people……|
|See… You’re starting to look like prey to me now…|
|Please let my final act of love for Lester come true…||Please…… HERO…… Before I lose my feelings…… Please take my tears to Lester. Tell him that I loved him……|
|And… please don’t force me to kill the one I love…||.. Please …… HERO ……|
|I… beg… of you…||Pl.. please.. .. ..|
The most noteworthy difference is near the end, when Amanda talks about a “loved one” in Japanese. It’s not 100% clear from the way it’s phrased, but it seems very likely that she’s referring to the main character with that line.
The ambiguity made me wonder how the line came across to native Japanese speakers, so I did some quick online searching. I did find a Japanese article about it, which I’ve quickly translated here:
In the game, Amanda is portrayed as caring deeply for Lester, so you could interpret this “loved one” as referring to him. Still, it’s hard to imagine her going all the way to Jadd right after turning into a monster, just to kill Lester. So this “loved one” is probably referring to the hero after all.
Perhaps she wanted to confess her feelings at the end, just before dying. Who knows, maybe there were some players who thought “hearing that makes it even harder for me to kill you!”.
Basically, the Japanese script had some interesting stuff here, some of which was dropped from the translation or changed entirely.
There’s also a ton of bonus Seiken Densetsu/Final Fantasy Adventure content – including little-known info from the game’s developers – on the Legends of Localization Patreon!