Final Fantasy IV Translation Comparison: Cave Magnes

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All right! It’s time to go after the Dark Elf and get the Earth Crystal back!

Name this Cave

Alternate conspiracy theory: Magnes was an accidental typo for Magnet and everyone else on the team just assumed it was supposed to be translated that wayAlternate conspiracy theory: Magnes was an accidental typo for Magnet and everyone else on the team just assumed it was supposed to be translated that way

The Dark Elf resides in a cave northeast of Toroia. As explained previously, the Dark Elf has a weakness to metal weapons, so he’s set up a magnetic field in the cave that’ll hinder anyone who has metal armor or weapons equipped.

Because of this magnetic field stuff, this cave is known as something like “Magnetic Cave” or “Cave of Magnetism” in Japanese.

In the English release, the cave was given an actual, unique name: “Cave Magnes”.

This localization choice is really interesting – it seems to be the first time someone on the localization team decided to break away from the original location names and create a unique name that didn’t have an equivalent in the Japanese version. So even though it’s a tiny change, it’s clear someone at some point put some thought into this unimportant piece of text.

The PlayStation translation goes back to the more generic term of “Magnetic Cavern”. This choice is A-OK too.

As we’ve seen before, the Game Boy Advance text is usually the same as the PlayStation text, with the occasional minor changes. One such change is evident here, as this cave is instead known in the GBA version as “Magnetic Cave”.

And the DS release calls it the “Lodestone Cavern”. A lodestone is a naturally-occurring magnetized mineral, so this fits pretty well.

So it looks like the cave’s gone by a handful of different names over the years.

Incidentally, the fan translation calls it the “Cave of Power”:

This is a genuine mistranslation. I’m again confused as to why the fan translators had such a hard time with the word for “magnetic”.

Brighten Up

I always liked those little skeleton tiles. They're my homiesI always liked those little skeleton tiles. They're my homiesI always liked those little skeleton tiles. They're my homies

If you haven’t noticed already, this cave looks slightly different depending on which version of the Super Famicom/SNES game you play.

In the original Japanese release, this magnetic cave looks a little dark and mysterious. In the Easy Type and English releases, though, the cave’s been brightened up quite a bit.

I’m not really sure why this change would’ve been made; it’s a pretty straightforward cave and even on bad TVs I never had trouble navigating the cave in the original Japanese version. Maybe it’s a side effect of making hidden passages in other caves more visible or something like that.

Magnetic Mayhem

Uh oh don't remind them that they're carrying tons of Gold Hairpins and Silver Apples and Bronze Hourglasses and who knows what elseUh oh don't remind them that they're carrying tons of Gold Hairpins and Silver Apples and Bronze Hourglasses and who knows what else

As soon as the party enters the magnetic cave, a cut scene begins. For the most part, the English translation isn’t too far off from the Japanese text, minus a few nuance differences and such.

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
Cid: What magnetic power!Cid: What is this magnetic field!
With this, we won’t be able to move if we equip metallic weapons or armor!Metallic things will be too heavy to control!
Yang: My claws appear to be okay.Yang: My claws seem okay.
Tella: Fear not! We have my magic!Tellah: Do not worry! I’ll do it with my magic!

The first line here is translated as a question but presented as an exclamation. The original line is more of the exclamation, so I can see how this translation choice came about.

Also, the warning that you’ll be immobilized if you have metallic stuff on is made a little clearer in the original text.

Tellah’s translated line in this scene does sound a bit awkward, but it’s still clear what he means. And, as incredibly minor as it is, I like the use of “do not” rather than “don’t” in his translation, since the original Japanese phrase has a bit of an older, stiffer vibe to it too.

Also, as a quick aside, part of this scene appears in the English manual. Except it appears to be an early version of the script that includes a typo:

Cid: What is this magnetic field!

Metallic things will be to heavy to control!

But I mostly bring this scene up because the fan translation handles Cid’s line a bit oddly:

Cid: Ugh! The gravity here’s so strong!

We won’t be able to move if we wear metallic armor!

Again, the fan translators continue to confuse “jiryoku” (magnetism) with “juryoku” (gravity).

Booty Change

Found Secret Text!Found Secret Text!Found Secret Text!

Several treasure chests’ contents have been changed from the original release of the game:

Location:Final Fantasy IVFinal Fantasy IV Easy TypeFinal Fantasy II
BF1Unicorn HornHeal-All MedicineHeal
BF22000 Gil500 Gil500 GP
BF3Spider WebX-PotionCure3
BF3Bronze HourglassRevive MedicineLife
BF3Fairy ClawCharm ClawCharm Claw
BF4Emergency ExitEther DryEther2

Similar to a previous section of the game, it’s really interesting how Easy Type and the English releases have a chest that gives you less money than the original version. It kind of seems like the opposite of making the game easier, but maybe there was some logical reason for the change.

I mean, at some point someone actually said, “Okay, we should change the amount of money this chest gives to, oh, 500.” So there must’ve been some reason, right?

Slip-n-Slide

I found a similar sort of secret thing in Contra way back in the 80s too. I love tiny tricks like this!I found a similar sort of secret thing in Contra way back in the 80s too. I love tiny tricks like this!

There’s a trick I discovered in this cave way back when I was a kid, and to this day I love using it.

Basically, there’s a chest near the final area of the cave, but to get to it you need to walk around a big chasm and then all the way back… which means you’ll probably get into a random battle or two along the way.

But if you just try to move across this particular part of the chasm, you’ll walk right over it and end up right next to the chest. It’s super handy!

I was curious to see if it worked in the different versions of the game, and it indeed works in both Japanese Super Famicom versions and the English Super NES version.

I haven’t tested it, but I assume this works in the PlayStation version too and that it doesn’t work in all other versions, given that they were reprogrammed from scratch. If I’m wrong about these assumptions, let me know!

Meeting the Dark Elf

I AM A ROBOT NO WAIT I AM AN ELF OR NO WAIT MAYBE THIS IS ONE OF THOSE GAMES THAT ONLY HAS AN UPPERCASE FONT?I AM A ROBOT NO WAIT I AM AN ELF OR NO WAIT MAYBE THIS IS ONE OF THOSE GAMES THAT ONLY HAS AN UPPERCASE FONT?

At last, it’s time to take back the Earth Crystal… but not before an encounter with the Dark Elf!

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
Dark Elf: YOU HAVE DONE WELL TO COME THIS FAR!Dark Elf: YOU CANNOT GO ANY FURTHER.
BUT ALTHOUGH YOU WERE ABLE TO REACH THIS PLACE, THE EARTH CRYSTAL WILL NOT RETURN TO YOUR HANDS.YOU CANNOT TAKE MY CRYSTAL!
DO YOU HONESTLY THINK SUCH EQUIPMENT CAN DEFEAT MY MAGIC POWER?YOU CANNOT USE METALLIC WEAPONS. YOU CANNOT DEFEAT ME.
Yang: Sir Cecil!Yang: Don’t worry!
Tella: Leave this to us!Tellah: We’ll do it!

Right off the bat there’s a number of interesting things at work here.

  • First, the Dark Elf speaks entirely in katakana in the Japanese version. This usually denotes a type of voice or speech style that’s not normal – it’s often used with aliens, robots, and supernatural creatures, for example. As such, all-katakana text like this is almost always translated into all-caps text in English to sort of give the same “something’s different” feeling. And, in fact, the official English translators did just that here.
  • The actual content of the Dark Elf’s text here has been reduced in size and changed a bit in translation.In the original text, he (is it even a he?) speaks in decent Japanese grammar and with a reasonable amount of intelligence – he even greets the party with a bit of sarcasm.

    In contrast, the English translation has him speaking a little less intelligently. It kind of reminds me of caveman talk or the Hulk in a way. Basically, throughout this entire part of the game, the Dark Elf sounds more like a greedy, simpleminded creature. Which isn’t necessarily bad; I think it sounds kind of cool and fitting.

    Also, his excessive use of “cannot” in the translation is interesting for reasons we’ll see in a little bit.

  • After the Dark Elf speaks, Yang and Tellah talk. I always assumed the lines in the English translation were directed at the Dark Elf – in this interpretation, both Yang and Tellah come off as really cool and confident and badass. But looking at the Japanese text, I now see that they were actually meant to be speaking to Cecil, and the “Don’t worry” and “We’ll do it” lines were meant to tell Cecil that they’ll handle things for him, since they aren’t hindered by the cave’s magnetism.

    So in a way, the unintended meanings of the official translation came across as much cooler than what was originally intended.

I honestly really like this localization choice, good work, guy I'm usually super critical of!I honestly really like this localization choice, good work, guy I'm usually super critical of!

Other translations of the game actually try to show the Dark Elf’s unusual speech pattern through other means. The PlayStation translation makes the Dark Elf sound a little more intelligent again, plus it mixes lowercase and uppercase letters to create something that definitely has an “unnatural” feeling to it:

I comMEND your efFort. But your excurSION ends here. You will nevER get the crysTAL.

I really like this localization choice. Good job, localizers!

And, as the Game Boy Advance translation is based heavily on the PlayStation translation, he speaks the same way in the GBA version too. In fact, it looks like they literally just copied-and-pasted the PlayStation script into the GBA script – the GBA team didn’t even bother to reformat text to fit in the text boxes more naturally. For text that’s in a main story scene, that’s kind of lazy, I feel.

The DS version of the English script doesn’t use any special capitalization with the Dark Elf’s text. He also speaks with normal grammar and has normal intelligence, so he comes across as your normal bad guy.

If all-caps wasn’t an option for the DS translation or if the idea ended up being vetoed, I think a good alternate option would’ve been to give the Dark Elf’s text a unique font – one that looked a little different but also not too crazy. It would’ve been a neat way to accomplish the task, and it’s something plenty of other games have done in the past.

Anyway, so begins the battle against the Dark Elf!

Are we halfway through the game yet? If not, we're somewhere near there I thinkAre we halfway through the game yet? If not, we're somewhere near there I think

During the battle, the Dark Elf says some stuff to the party:

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
Foolishness! Now it’s MY turn!ME ATTACK YOU!

This is another good example of the Dark Elf’s text being altered to give him a less-intelligent, wild creature feel. Although it’s strange that the Dark Elf was using the word “cannot” a lot in the English translation just a minute ago, yet now he can’t even get the simplest of pronouns right.

Here's a trick - if you take these lines out of context and look at them, can you still tell what's going on in the scene? Good translations will retain approximately the same level of info as the original.Here's a trick - if you take these lines out of context and look at them, can you still tell what's going on in the scene? Good translations will retain approximately the same level of info as the original.

The Dark Elf unleashes some devastating attacks on Cecil and friends. On the verge of defeat, the party has this to say:

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
Yang: It’s no use…. We don’t stand a chance….Yang: Oh…
Cecil: If only I could use my sword….Cecil: We can’t…
Tella: Damn….Tellah: My dear…

The English text was considerably changed here. The hopelessness of the situation is made a lot clearer in the original text. The translated scene still retains much of the tension, but it’s not at quite the same level as the Japanese scene.

The Japanese version of this scene includes a “kuso”, which could be translated to any number of things, it doesn’t necessarily need to be “damn” as I’ve shown here. The fan translation does go this “damn” route though, while the PlayStation translation goes with “Ugh…” and the DS translation goes with “Urgh…”

Bed is niceBed is nice

The scene eventually switches to Gilbert/Edward in bed. He senses that the party’s in trouble and attempts to crawl to his harp. The nurse and the doctor in the room have something to say to him, though:

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
“You aren’t well enough to move around yet!”
“Just where are you going?!”
Stay in bed!
You cannot move around!
Where are you going!?

The difference is hard to explain, but basically I always assumed that the English text here was spoken by one person. Checking the Japanese text, though, it becomes clear that these lines are separate pieces of dialogue spoken by both the nurse and doctor. The original text denotes this fact with little Japanese quote marks, but the English text doesn’t do anything similar, so it always seemed to me as the text was just one big statement made by one character.

The English translation also puts three lines here rather than the original two, which confuses things a tiny bit more. It’s certainly no big deal, but it’s nice to have that cleared up after all this time.

Today I played more of Phantasy Star 1, I got to that doctor guy in the gothic forest or whatever, I accidentally went to Medusa Tower though and ohhh manToday I played more of Phantasy Star 1, I got to that doctor guy in the gothic forest or whatever, I accidentally went to Medusa Tower though and ohhh manToday I played more of Phantasy Star 1, I got to that doctor guy in the gothic forest or whatever, I accidentally went to Medusa Tower though and ohhh man

Actually, this whole scene is probably worth a quick look:

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
Gilbert: Cecil and the others…. are in danger!Edward: They’re in danger!
“You aren’t well enough to move around yet!”
“Just where are you going?!”
Stay in bed!
You cannot move around!
Where are you going!?
Gilbert: ….There’s no need to worry. I just need to get to that harp right there…. Ugh!Edward: Don’t worry. I just want to get to… …my …harp. … …Ouch!
“You can’t even properly walk yet! You mustn’t overexert yourself!”I told you! Do not overstrain yourself!
Gilbert: I don’t care….Edward: Let me do this.
The only one who can save Cecil and the others…. is me!I must save them!

Besides the previously-mentioned confusing lines, I really like how this translation turned out. It’s nice and terse and I like Edward’s use of “they” and “them” here. It makes it less clear to the nurse and doctor what he’s talking about and makes his actions seem even more rash and difficult to understand. But we know what’s going on, and that information gap helps up the drama just a little bit.

Incidentally, the Easy Type version here simplifies the line a bit. It’s always tough to convey these simplification differences, but it basically cuts out the word for “properly”.

Wait we were carrying around a big metal-looking harp in a cave full of magnetic nonsense? How did we manage that? Unless it was a wooden harp, which I guess is possible, but I think even certain low strings are usually metalWait we were carrying around a big metal-looking harp in a cave full of magnetic nonsense? How did we manage that? Unless it was a wooden harp, which I guess is possible, but I think even certain low strings are usually metal

Gilbert/Edward starts playing his harp, and the music somehow reaches Cecil and company. The scene then continues with:

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
Gilbert’s harp could be heard from the Whisper Grass!♪TwinHarp made a sound synchronizing the tune played by Edward!

I’m kind of surprised by this translation, as it’s actually more complicated in terms of vocabulary and grammar than the original. But it’s still clear what’s happening, which is what matters most.

I haven't had a hot dog in a while. Have you had a hot dog recently? I should have one sometime.I haven't had a hot dog in a while. Have you had a hot dog recently? I should have one sometime.I haven't had a hot dog in a while. Have you had a hot dog recently? I should have one sometime.

The scene keeps going:

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
Yang: Oh….Yang: Oh!
Tella: These warm notes….Tellah: This melody is…
Cecil: It’s Gilbert’s harp!Cecil: Edward’s harp!
Dark Elf: WHAT IS THIS UNPLEASANT SOUND?! GU….GEGEGE!Dark Elf: WHAT!? WHAT IS THIS NASTY MUSIC!? U-Ugh!
Gilbert: Now, Cecil!Edward: Wield your sword…!
He shouldn’t be able to control the magnetism while these notes are playing!Dark Elf cannot control metallic weight while I am playing.
Your sword! Equip your sword….!
Cecil: Right…. Gilbert!Cecil: It’s… Edward!

The translation here is pretty close to the original text. The main, significant things of note I can spot are:

  • Edward refers to “metallic weight” in the English translation, which isn’t at all in the original text and is such an odd thing to say anyway. Part of me wants to think that maybe this line was the source of the fan translators’ focus on making this cave about weight rather than magnetism. But nope, it’s always been about magnetism, this is just an oddly-translated line.
  • Cecil’s line at the end has surprise in the translation, while the original line has more of a “NOW the tables have turned and it’s time to kick butt!” vibe.

The Easy Type script also has a small change here:

Original Release (basic translation)Easy Type Release (basic translation)
Your sword! Equip your sword….!Equip your sword….!

This is such a simple little thing to change that at first I wasn’t really sure why it happened, but I guess someone on the Easy Type team really wanted to make it clear to players that Cecil should equip the sword. I can totally see some kids pressing the button quickly to skip through the scene or a kid accidentally pressing the button before reading the entire line, so it makes some sense that this line would be shaved down to its bare minimum.

Incidentally, the fan translation translates the magnetism line here as:

Cecil, attack now!

While this music is playing he shouldn’t be able to control gravity!

Again, the fan translators either mistranslated the word for magnetism or knowingly rewrote all the magnetism stuff to be about gravity instead.

IKILLUSCUMIKILLUSCUM

After the party gets reinvigorated, the Dark Elf is angry:

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
GAGOGO….HOW DARE YOU!GRRR…
I’LL KILL YOU ALL….!YOU… YOU…!

The threat to “kill” the party was removed and replaced with generic anger.

The GBA team at least took the time to add who was speakingThe GBA team at least took the time to add who was speaking

The PlayStation and Game Boy Advance translation also leave out this threat.

You…
GAAAH!

It’s kind of puzzling that this tiny bit of censorship continued past the Super NES release.

But once more, the DS shows that it stays closer to the original than the other translations:

Gah! How dare you? I will kill you all!

I should mention that I beat Xenoblade last week after 150 hours of playing it. I'm now having withdrawalsI should mention that I beat Xenoblade last week after 150 hours of playing it. I'm now having withdrawals

The battle with the Dark Elf resumes, and this time he’s not so happy!

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
IN THAT CASE, I’LL JUST HAVE TO CHANGE FORM!ME CHANGE!

Again, the English text makes him sound more like a dumb troll that acts on wild instinct. The Japanese text has a tad more intelligence behind it.

I feel I might be critiquing this one a bit much but there's something about it that I'm having trouble putting my finger on. All this stuff said, I do like the SNES Dark Elf's characterizationI feel I might be critiquing this one a bit much but there's something about it that I'm having trouble putting my finger on. All this stuff said, I do like the SNES Dark Elf's characterization

Once the Dark Elf has been defeated, he cries out some final words:

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
Dark Elf: KUKU…. HOW DID THAT SOUND REACH HERE!?Dark Elf: W… WHY DID THAT MUSIC REACH HERE?
WITH THE CRYSTAL…. ETERNAL LIFE COULD HAVE BEEN MINE….GIVE ME THE CRYSTAL. THE EVERLASTING LIFE.
GUGAGEGO!
Cecil: We did it, Gilbert!Cecil: Thank you, Edward!

The English translation’s sudden jump to “Give me the crystal.” feels a bit strange here – after all, he already has the crystal. And the phrase “The everlasting life.” doesn’t explain things as fully as the original line does. But in the end, I think most players of the translation could tell what was meant, so it’s not too shabby. It’s kind of neat, in a way.

We can also see that the Dark Elf’s death throes have gone missing in the translation. Although “gu-ga-ge-go” sounds and looks ridiculous in English, in Japanese it’s got a good, creepy feel to it. Those “g” syllables seem to have that effect; apparently even Gyiyg/Giygas from EarthBound was named for that very reason.

Anyway, it’s strange, because any death sound would’ve worked just fine in translation, even just “Graaaargh!” I’m guessing the death sound was left out in order to save space for other text in the script, or because someone on the translation team couldn’t think of a good English equivalent.

A Fool’s Errand

Thanks to Stefan for this tip!Thanks to Stefan for this tip!Thanks to Stefan for this tip!

Actually, if you try to fight the Dark Elf before you get Edward/Gilbert’s special item, the battle will go a little differently – the Dark Elf will say, “YOU FOOLS!” and then wipe out the party with extremely powerful attacks.

This text is pretty much the same in all versions of the game, but since it’s a line most players never see, I thought I’d mention it anyway just for trivia’s sake.

Crystal Receiver

You know, what's this crystal room doing at the bottom of a deep, scary, dark cave anyway? I doubt the Dark Elf built it... so what's the deal? Do the crystals create their own 'homes'? Or is this something brought up in the sequel?You know, what's this crystal room doing at the bottom of a deep, scary, dark cave anyway? I doubt the Dark Elf built it... so what's the deal? Do the crystals create their own 'homes'? Or is this something brought up in the sequel?

The Dark Elf is dead! Now it’s time to take the crystal!

When the party takes the crystal from its spot, it says something like, “Obtained the Earth Crystal!” in the Japanese version. The English translation is basically the same and is 100% A-OK.

I only bring this up because the PlayStation translation translates this line as:

Received Earth

I guess players would still understand what was being meant, but that’s some pretty sloppy work. This sort of thing happens often in the PlayStation translation, actually.

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