I’ve written extensively about Final Fantasy IV and its many different translations, and I’ve always wanted to give Final Fantasy VI the same treatment.
I’m only familiar with the original Super NES translation, so to get up to speed I’d need to play the same game multiple times and do a whole bunch of organization and comparison work afterward. That’d amount to several hundred hours of work… so I devised a way to see the text in all the games at the same time while just playing one game:
Although this sounds like some heavy-duty serious stuff, I actually just really missed playing Final Fantasy VI and decided to play it again and finally look at the different translations all at the same time. So this project is mostly about having fun while learning new things at the same time. I hope you’ll have fun and learn new things too!
FAQ / Details
Q: How are you automatically displaying each game’s text while playing one game?
A: I’m using some custom software I started developing last year. The simple explanation is that I glued a Super NES emulator to a web browser, so the game can talk to the browser and the browser can talk to the game. The text that appears is actually just ordinary HTML, so I can do cool extra things like this:
Q: Are you going to release your custom software?
A: Yes, I’ve released it here.
Q: Why all the different fonts?
A: Originally I had wanted to use the actual font used in each game, but I realized that that wasn’t doable. I could’ve changed them all back to use the same font, but a handy trick to translation checking/editing/proofreading is to put things into different fonts. This helps keep your brain from zoning out upon seeing walls of text and helps things jump out more easily.
Q: Which fan translation are you looking at?
A: I’m looking specifically at the most famous one – RPGOne’s Final Fantasy VI re-translation from 10 or 15 years ago. It’s also sometimes called the SkyRender version, based on the translator’s online name.
Note that I’m looking at the fan translation not to crap all over it – it’s already notorious for being full of issues, and SkyRender has learned a ton about translation and localization since those days. Instead, I hope to look at some of the translation issues to explain what’s going on in the original source text, why it was so problematic in the first place, and how translators-in-training can improve by avoiding those same problems/tendencies.
Part 1: Game Start to South Figaro
This was my first large-scale test of my custom software, so I was worried it might crash or run too slowly while streaming. Luckily everything worked wonderfully, minus a few hiccups. I still need to do quite a bit of programming, but I’ll tackle that little by little as I can.
Since I’m essentially playing five different versions of the game at the same time and analyzing every line of text, I had expected things to go slowly. Things indeed went slowly, so there was a constant inner struggle of “should I skim stuff and move faster or should I take my time and not miss anything?”. Hopefully as we progress I’ll discover what works best and get into a nice groove.
I’ve summarized a lot of my findings from Day 1 below, but note that I actually covered much more during the live stream – these are just some of the highlights. If you like what you see below and crave more, definitely check out the video archive.
Madō and Mahō
The ancient war is called the 魔大戦, with the 魔 (ma, definition details) leaning toward the “magic” meaning.
The official translations go with “War of the Magi” as a result, but the fan translation uses the “demon/devil” meaning of 魔 and perplexingly calls it the “Great Demon Wars” instead.
In my experience, amateur translators do tend to translate every 魔 as “demon/devil”, so this didn’t come as a surprise here.
Also, the Japanese script uses two words for “magic”: 魔法 (mahō) and 魔導 (madō). The question of how they’re different came up a lot during the stream, but it was hard to explain them as their nuances aren’t set in stone and can vary from author to author and work to work. But I did some checking around after the stream and it seems that in general mahō refers to magic more in the sense of a natural phenomenon, while this particular madō (there’s more than one – the other is 魔道 and has its own nuances) is more connected to magic in the sense of something that you’d study or seek out. It gets a little confusing seeing both terms thrown around in the Japanese script with no clear distinction at the moment, but I think the game’s logic will start to solidify as we continue.
The official translations don’t usually make a distinction between the mahō and madō and simply use “magic” for both. In some cases, when the need for a clear distinction is needed, they’ll use the word “MagiTek” for madō.
The fan translation took clear care to keep the two words separate – mahō is usually “Magic” and madō seems to be “Majick”. I’ve noticed one or two times where this separation was handled inconsistently.
The Japanese text doesn’t indicate who’s speaking, but the English translations add a name in. In at least one instance the SNES and GBA translations attribute the same line to a different person in this scene.
Espers and Phantom Beasts
Espers are called 幻獣 (genjū) in Japanese. The SNES version calls them “Espers”, and the GBA translation retains that choice. For some reason I thought the GBA translation would’ve called them “eidolons”, but I guess not. The fan translation focuses on the individual kanji characters in the name to reach the term “phantom beast”.
Incidentally, the English word “esper” is commonly used in Japanese to refer people with ESP abilities – they’re “ESPers”, in other words.
Guards and Daughters
In the Japanese script, it’s clear that three different guards are shouting here, but the SNES translation combines them all into a single line attributed to a single guard. The GBA translation does the same thing.
Also, the word 娘 (musume) is usually translated as “daughter” but in many situations it’s also just used to mean “girl”. As a result, Google talks a lot about daughters during the game’s intro.
The last line here translates as something like “Even if I try to explain, I doubt they’ll listen to me.”
Japanese sentences tend to leave out subjects, verbs, etc., and it’s assumed that you can fill in the blanks when info goes unstated. So Japanese-to-English translators need to be mind readers, basically.
In this case, translators had difficulty figuring out who’s talking about who, so only the GBA translation gets it right. The fan translation took a wild stab in the dark and missed – my hunch is that the translator didn’t fully understand the grammar at the time.
Not so Secret
The Japanese script uses the word 裏 (ura), which usually means “rear”, “reverse”, or “behind here”. In some situations (but not this one) it can mean “secret”, which is why the fan translation talks about a “hidden mine”, even though it’s clearly not a secret to the Narshe guards.
Wrench vs Spanner
In Japanese, this enemy’s attack is called “Spanner”. The words “spanner” and “wrench” mean slightly different things in different countries, even among different English speaking countries.
In Japanese, a “spanner” generally refers to this the fixed-size, open-ended tool. A “wrench” in Japanese refers more to what we’d maybe call a “monkey wrench” in America.
Basically, this is all to show how being a translator leads you to learn about a wide variety of topics you’d probably never study otherwise. I’ve learned about Chinese astronomy, particle physics, World War II guns, Japanese MMOs, Japanese sex scandals, and so many other random things over the years. If you’re a translator, let me know what kind of crazy things you’ve had to learn about too!
Kefka vs Cefca
The fan translation famously spells “Kefka” as “Cefca”. I’m not sure why SkyRender made this choice, but I assume it was because he saw it written as “Cefca” in Japanese strategy guides back then. It’s important to note that Japanese merchandise can be helpful for choosing how to spell names in English, but merchandise and secondary materials should never be trusted 100%. I vaguely recall that the official GBA translation pokes fun at this “Cefca” fan translation choice later on.
Wash Your Hands, Wash Your Feet
In English, we say you “wash your hands of ___” when you’re cutting ties with something/going legit. There’s a very similar phrase in Japanese, but you instead say that you “wash your feet of ___”. This idiom is why Google talks about feet for some reason.
Oddly, the SNES and GBA lines don’t convey this same question about Locke going legit. It’s also clear that the fan translator didn’t understand the idiom, but saw the character for “foot” in the line and added something about being quick-footed to fill in the gaps. I remember this feeling and tactic very well from my very earliest amateur days too.
In Locke’s Japanese text, he makes a “tch tch” sound that sometimes called “tutting” in English I think?
In any case, he makes this sound because he’s correcting the old man’s wrong statement in that sassy way that involves wagging your finger. This is why he actually wags his finger after the line too.
All the translations drop this “tch tch” sound though, so the minor connection between the dialogue and character animation isn’t as obvious.
Getting it All Wrong
This whole scene came as a surprise to me – the SNES translation gets everything completely wrong – and it’s genuinely serious and important plot information. The fan translation makes many other mistakes of its own and gets a lot wrong. Only the GBA translation gets it all right.
Basically, the SNES translation says that imperial soldiers are currently pursuing Terra, that Narshe is no match for the empire, and that they need to find and meet up with the Returners if Narshe is to stand a chance.
In Japanese, it’s actually the city guards who are chasing Terra, Narshe is capable of standing up to the empire (hence the entire intro and the scenes yet to come), and this guy already is a member of the Returners – he’s just having a hard time convincing the Narshe people to team up with the Returners.
There are many more issues here than what I’ve listed, so if you’re interested, I’d suggest checking out the video for Day 1 for more.
Moogles are called モーグリ (mōguri) in Japanese. The name could be written out as Mohgli, Moguri, and a dozen different things. They were renamed “Moogles” outside of Japan at some point – I think maybe it first appeared in Final Fantasy Adventure? Anyway, the fan translation calls them “Moglies”, which is in line with the original Japanese word.
A Foreshadowing Hint
The SNES translation adds in a whole extra window’s-worth of text to help the player remember that this cave is here. This text is absent in the Japanese text and in every other translation. I wonder who suggested adding this and why specifically it was added…
Cut the Chatter
This guy in front of the Beginners’ House had some unimportant text about the outside world removed in the SNES translation.
Changing it Back
Ethers were renamed Tinctures for the SNES translation. The GBA translation has leaned pretty heavily on the SNES translation so far, but this item name was changed back to “Ether” to match modern Final Fantasy translation terminology.
Gotta Shorten Those Names
Relics are simply called “accessories” in the Japanese version of the game. I always assumed “Relics” was used so that it could fit on the main menu screen without weird text abbreviations. I kind of prefer “relics” though, it makes them sound cooler and more in line with all the cool mysterious stuff they do.
What About My Boots?
This guy explains what a bunch of different relics do. The fan translation accidentally leaves out the part about the Dragoon Boots.
A New Googleism
Google translated “Oh… Sorry!” as “Oopshui.” which is a wonderful, newly invented word that we should all embrace.
The Google translation has been surprisingly understandable so far, but sometimes it suddenly loses its mind.
More Tricky Magic Names
The word 魔導士 (madōshi) is used throughout the Japanese script. It’s a common word in Japanese entertainment and basically refers to a person who uses madō, with the possible implication of that magic being used for battle, but not necessarily. As such, it’s common to see it translated as “wizard”, “mage”, “sorcerer”, and the like in Japanese games, manga, etc.
It looks like the SNES translator wasn’t really familiar with the word though, so it gets handled quite inconsistently throughout the game. Here it’s translated as “Mage Knight”, which isn’t too far off from the original word, but then we never, ever see the term “Mage Knight” again in the SNES script. The GBA script seems to fix this specific problem by tying the word back into the “War of the Magi” name.
The fan translation, because it tries to keep mahō and madō separate, goes with the “Majick Warrior” term.
Edgar Has Eyes for All
The SNES translation omits a line here about how Edgar will even hit on old women and little girls.
Accidental Name Change
One NPC in the castle mentions a “high priestess”, but then you never actually find a high priestess in the SNES translation. That’s because she’s identified as “Matron” when you talk to her. In other words, this high priestess and this matron lady are one and the same. I think most fans figure it out pretty quickly but I still see confusion about this from time to time.
Also, in Japanese, there’s a different word for an older brother and a younger brother – there’s not really a good, single word for “brother” like we have in English. This means you can immediately glean extra details about how siblings relate to each other when reading or listening to Japanese. In this case, Sabin is identified as Edgar’s younger brother, which is a tiny detail that only the fan translation keeps intact. Even Google drops the extra info.
Now that I think about it, this is absolutely something I should’ve included in my article about common problems in English-to-Japanese game translation – since we don’t always specify who’s younger or older in English, Japanese translators sometimes just have to use a Japanese word for “sibling” or take a random guess at who’s older and who’s younger and pray for good luck.
Mash the Squirrel
Sabin is now a squirrel that jumped out of a castle. I’d play that game.
Oh yeah, and he’s known as “Mash” in the fan translation, because his Japanese name is マッシュ (masshu). Some fans wonder if his name is supposed to be “Matthew” instead, but I don’t know much about official FF6 Japanese name romanization choices. It’s definitely plausible – after all, it’s like one of a dozen different ways of spelling “Matthew” in Japanese katakana. Here’s an example of it in the real world, in fact.
Defeat of the Three Kingdoms
The SNES translation says that the Empire has taken over three cities, but in Japanese it’s more like “three nations”. Every other translation keeps this detail intact. Defeating three nations/countries/kingdoms sure sounds much more threatening than three cities, so this is an odd translation choice.
In Japanese, this guy literally says “Edgar-sama”. Google decided to leave the name suffix untranslated… but at the same time it dropped the deferential “-sama” down to a meager “-san”. What’s going on in that algorithm of yours, Google? Is this AI why YouTube algorithms are so crazy?
Kefka the Magician
The madōshi term from earlier is back, and this time it’s being applied to Kefka. Going by the SNES translation so far, that means Kefka is a “Mage Knight”, which certainly feels off. But as I mentioned, the SNES translation handles the term in a messy, inconsistent way, and in this case the word is dropped entirely. Since this is the one first times we’re meeting Kefka, knowing that he has rare, magical abilities is certainly very important info to have!
In the GBA translation, the word becomes “mage” here, the fan translation keeps it as “Majick Warrior”, and Google goes with “magician”.
Punched Up Personality
In Japanese, Kefka says here, “It’s none of your business. More importantly, is she here?”
In the SNES translation, this line was changed almost entirely. I actually feel like this new line is a marked improvement over the dry original. Apparently the GBA translator felt the same way, as the exact same line is used there too.
I’ve heard rumors that Kefka is more popular outside of Japan, supposedly because the localization process added to his personality. I never really looked into it myself, but tiny little lines like this, added up over time, could definitely give him a distinct impression.
Sand vs Stars
In Japanese, Edgar literally says “there are more girls here than there are stars”. The SNES translation changes this in a way that better fits the situation, the location, and Edgar’s spoony, hopeless romantic personality, all at the same time. I really like this line, and I can see why it was left in the GBA translation.
Cave Under Construction
I surprised everyone when I left the castle with just Edgar by himself. As a game translator and programmer, it’s almost second instinct to try to break games by doing weird stuff that nobody would think to do. It’s how you find the really rare text that most people will miss – and it’s this rare text that’s most likely to have problems. This instinct has backfired on me in some past stream projects though!
Anyway, if you try to go to South Figaro via the cave, a guard blocks the way. His second line in Japanese says, “But I cannot let you through at the moment.” In the SNES translation, this was changed to “it’s closed now due to construction”. I almost didn’t pay it attention, but then I realized that it’s pretty weird to say a cave is under construction, especially when no construction work has gone on in the cave. Basically, the SNES translation changed this line in a weird way for no real reason. Or maybe it’s a leftover from a pre-final Japanese script? I dunno.
In any case, all the other translations reflect the original Japanese line. Just the SNES one has mystery construction.
Dropping the Dialect
This engine room guy speaks with a Japanese dialect that’s associated with the Osaka area. I get a sorta “working man” vibe from it, but then again I’m not a native speaker so dialects are always difficult to explain and describe. Imagine being a non-native English speaker trying to explain the significance of Bronx accents or Appalachian dialects to other non-native English speakers!
Can’t Leave Yet
The SNES translation gets this line wrong – the guy is saying that the engine is under maintenance.
I guess I never noticed before, but the SNES translation has a typo here – “potatos” instead of “potatoes”. I was reminded of Dan Quayle’s infamous misspelling, but then I got asked who Dan Quayle was and somehow felt so very old.
No Sir, I Don’t Like It
In Japanese, Locke says something like “I don’t like those guys one bit.” In the SNES translation, he instead just talks about one person – presumably Kefka, and mentions that he seems legitimately insane.
The GBA translation doesn’t really mention anyone, and the fan translation mistakenly uses the singular form instead of the plural form.
Let’s Do a Rudeness
In Japanese, Edgar says he’s either going to talk with “the ministers” or “the minister and the others”. In other words, he’s going to confer with multiple people. In a surprise upset, only Google gets this detail right.
Also, Edgar’s last line is a way of saying that he has to go now. It’s literally an apology (“I’m going to do a rudeness.”) which is why the fan translation has him literally apologizing, but functionally it’s an ordinary parting phrase, kind of like “See you later.”
The 1990s Creep In
I never realized it before, but this line in the SNES translation really seems like a reference to Beavis and Butthead:
Even the article writers at GamePro caught the reference when the game was released:
Be Polite to be Rude
In this line, Kefka speaks about Edgar in a sarcastic way in each script, but the Japanese version also has him using an overly reverential Japanese speech style that enhances that sarcasm even more. The GBA translation is definitely the closest in this extra regard.
I noticed that the GBA translation uses the phrase “Yahoo!” here. Normally it wouldn’t stand out, but Nintendo actually changed every instance of “YAHOO!” in Link’s Awakening to “Hello!” and “Yippee!” before releasing it on the Virtual Console. So if this GBA port ever gets a re-release or a Virtual Console-style release, I wonder if they’ll decide to change this “Yahoo!” too. We’ll have to wait and see, I guess!
Getting to the Point
I’ve noted in many articles that modern Final Fantasy translations sometimes use “flowery” language to give the scripts more of a high-fantasy vibe than earlier translations. This usually results in text that’s longer and fancier-sounding than the original Japanese text… but here we see just the opposite. The original Japanese line talks about diving into a great golden ocean and how the castle has a gallant appearance. The SNES and GBA translations both condense things down into plain-sounding lines.
Go for the Kill
Back in the 1990s, Nintendo prohibited references to killing. That’s why Kefka yells “GET THEM!” in the SNES translation but says “KILL THEM!” in every other translation, including Google’s translation.
Loaded for What?
This “loaded for bear” line is one I see mentioned as a weird, confusing example of a “Woolseyism”. Ted Woolsey actually briefly touched on it in this old interview. I never had an issue with the line, so I was surprised to learn that it caused confusion back in the day.
At this point I stopped to discuss Japanese ellipsis usage and how it tends to get handled by professionals and by amateurs. I actually wrote about this topic in more detail here, so it’s just easier to link to that article than restate it all here.
Son of a –!
Here’s one of the most iconic lines in the game: “son of submariner”. I wrote about this topic in one of my very first articles a long time ago – you can check it out here. This is another good example of how the SNES translation adds to Kefka’s character/memorability and how the GBA translation tries to pay respect to the classic original translation while doing things in its own way at the same time.
Google Knows About Eidolons?
Here we see that Google is now calling the genjū “eidolons”. Modern Final Fantasy localizations use the word “eidolon” for these magical beasts that you can summon in battle, so this is a surprising find. Since Google Translate is an AI that grows and learns, I wonder if somehow it read a bunch of Final Fantasy stuff to learn that “genjū = eidolon”. Oh, I so hope that it learned this from some weird fanfics or something.
Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, the GBA translation seems to use the old “Esper” term rather than the modern “eidolon” choice. So, in a weird twist, Google is actually handling this term closer to a modern, official translation than the actual, official translation!
Don’t Ditch Directions!
Edgar explains the group’s plan to a soldier. In Japanese, he also mentions that they intend to turn north past South Figaro to make their way to the Returners’ headquarters. This detail was left out of the SNES translation entirely, so if you played very slowly or were still trying to soak in all the new information you were just given in the past 30 minutes, you’d probably be wondering, “Wait, where am I going again? Why am I supposed to go through this mountain pass to the north again?” once you got to South Figaro.
This is a little thing, but it’s very interesting that the fan translation mistranslated “大臣達” as “chancellor”, the exact same way the official translation did.
It’s pretty weird that everyone (except the robots at Google) managed to translate the clearly plural “ministers” as a singular, but does the fact that the fan translation did so while also using same specific word choice as the official translation suggest they cribbed part of the translation from Ted Woolsey?
It’s possible – that sort of thing was really blatant in the J2e fan translation – but I can easily see the 達 getting overlooked.
You mentioned NoA’s prohibition on killing. I found FF6SNES to be really inconsistent on that, especially as you get further in. I recall that at various points in the original translation Locke’s girlfriend is referred to as “arrested” (No idea how they were going to work with that), “taken” (That’s a phrase a normal person would use, so it’s hard to tell if it was censorship or a writing choice), and finally admitting she was killed. There’s a lot of other references to death and killing the further in you get too.
Checking around, Nintendo loosened up on their censorship in 1994 (Nintendo explicitly said this to the LA Times that year in an article titled “Nintendo’s Looser Stance on Violence Means a Bloody Mortal Kombat II”, noting it’s also when the ESRB started.) the same year FF6 released. I suspect FF6’s translators didn’t get this news mid-project and missed uncensoring some stuff.
Interesting, thanks! I’ll keep an eye out for this as we continue. It’s definitely true that many of the things I’ve posted on Day 1 might not apply in later days – that’s part of the whole discovery process. I think it’s part of the why I’m writing this stuff more stream of consciousness-style than what I’d normally do.
I once saw a Japanese trailer for Dissidia that wrote Kefka’s name as “Cefca”, so I assume that’s the official spelling in Japan.
Yeah, Mato makes it sound like “Cefca” is a wierd thing the fan-translation made up, but I’m pretty sure that’s the official Japanese spelling. Maybe the article should reflect that.
Oh, no, in the article I actually specifically mention that the name likely came from a Japanese strategy guide. See my other nearby comment for more details.
I guess what I was trying to say is that, if I’m not mistaken, the “Cefca” spelling isn’t just from some old stratefy guide, it’s how Kefka’s name is spelled in Japan whenever they spell it in romaji 100% of the time, even today (kinda like Bartz and Butz from FFV). So I thought that fact might have warranted a mention, since the way that part was writen made it sound like Cefca was an odd, obscure choice.
Then again, I see you’ve edited the article and maybe I’m the only one who thought that the Cefca part sounded wierd, so feel free to ignore this.
Yeah, I assume that the “Cefca” spelling has appeared in Japanese stuff, which is why the fan translation used that spelling. Stuff like that is very common in Japanese strategy guides, which is why I mentioned it there. I don’t remember much, but I vaguely recall SkyRender defending the spelling a lot back when the project was underway. That’d certainly fit the “it was spelled Cefca somewhere” idea.
Of course, English names on Japanese things aren’t always reliable, which is a common misunderstanding among translators just starting out. Now that I think about it, that topic alone is probably worthy of its own dedicated article.
You work as a translator but it looks like you could cut it as a workflow efficiency consultant. I’m looking forward to your opinions on SkyRender’s translation as that was controversial back in the day, for diametrically opposite issues of being simultaneously overly literal to the point of having strange syntax but also having heavy editorializing/swearing.
Just a guess, but the added dialogue regarding Narshe’s secret passage could have been added due to issues with play testing during the localization process.
A potential entry if you haven’t covered it before: legend has it for Sega’s Out Run, the song originally named “Passing Wind” (in English/Katakana?) was caught during localization and changed to “Passing Breeze” when bringing the title over to the States. As rough as early localization was, this would have been an impressive effort to avoid embarrassment.
People had a problem with “loaded for bear”? It just means that she’s heavily armed (well, heavily encumbered would be more direct but the implication is clear).
And guys, localizing “Cefca” to “Kefka” just ensures that people pronounce it with the intended K sound instead of a S sound. It’s pretty useful, gotta say.
As for “get them!” being censoring, he’s trying to capture Terra alive, recall. Though I guess an argument could be made that at that point Kefka doesn’t care about the mission and wants revenge for his humiliation.
I’m guessing ‘loaded for bear’ evokes hunting, then? I’m in the UK (not noted for its bear shooting), and that wasn’t clear at all to me, so maybe it’s a matter of localisation within the Anglophone world.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/loaded%20for%20bear does mark it “US, informal’.
I’ve lived in America my whole life and I never heard that phrase outside of this very website (I never played the SNES version of this game). And idioms can be a tad jarring if you’ve never seen them before and can’t figure out what they mean.
I don’t know how it would come about but it doesn’t have to be weapons. Just carrying a lot of stuff.
While “loaded for bear” has that meaning, to someone unfamiliar with the phrase saying that she is “loaded” would give an implication that she has a large breast size.
Or that she’s filthy rich.
I thought it was a weird phrase. I had never heard it before (I’m from Canada, but don’t have a hunting background) and I had to look it up to figure out that it meant “bear” the animal and not something like “loaded so that she could bear (support against) something” like I initially thought.
Random guess about the Figaro cave: maybe someone thought ‘I cannot let you through’ was an odd thing to say to one’s king without giving a reason.
I wonder if it’s also meant to connect to the boss you fight there later, a tunneling machine. Though I’m not sure you could call digging “construction,” exactly.
Loaded for bear, huh? Looking it up, it appears to be an actual idiom, but it’s not one I’ve ever heard. To be honest, if I’d come across before today, I would assume it was Engrish.
Perhaps it’s a regional thing, but I take “loaded for bear” in stride. I’ve heard it plenty of times, even in creative works.
I’d say translating 魔法 as “magic” and 魔導 as “sorcery” would’ve been a great job of handling it. It carries the distinction you mentioned pretty well.
Definitely a better idea than the “just translate both terms the same way and pretend it was always the same word” nonsense they went with, at least. I expected more from the GBA retranslation than that.
On the other hand, the translator(s) probably realized that there’s never any point where the difference is important but isn’t obvious from context.
“Why put any thought into an aspect of your translation if you realize you don’t necessarily have to?”
By that logic they could’ve just named all the monsters in the game “Enemy” because there’s never any point in the game where the enemies having distinct names is important. Come on, now.
Um… I get the point you’re trying to make, but you’re… really wrong. There are a ton of places in the game where having distinct names is important. Any monster that gets identified by name by an NPC, for example, or any monster that Gau can learn a Rage from.
IMO that isn’t nonsense because they are the same word in English. Without the second character it reads as “magic(al, malevolent being),” so in forming the word you necessarily make the distinction between “magic (as a thing being done)” and “magic (as a field of enquiry).” The English word doesn’t have that issue most of the time. Imagine if you were translating from English and the text used the terms “rockets,” “rocketry,” and “rocket science” a lot– sometimes those are exact synonyms, sometimes they aren’t, you can “study rockets” but you can’t “launch several rocketry.” So you gotta use some discretion, informed by good grasp of both the target language and what the original text is actually trying to communicate.
Oh, and regarding the official romanizations of the character names, they’re all listed during the ending credits:
Cayenne, Setzer, Edgar, Mash, Mog, Umaro, Gogo, Gau, Lock, Celes, Tina, Relm, Shadow and Stragus.
Also, Cefca and Ghastra are at the very least named in the tracklist of the official soundtrack.
Mash is supposedly short for Macías, according to the FF wiki.
Yeah, I found it weird they didn’t use Macías during the ending. Instead, it just says “Mash Rene Figaro.” It’s a shame, because Macías would have fit the character limit.
I still don’t know who decided to go with Cayenne, though. It makes no sense. The character is a samurai and Doma is called a “foreign land,” implying it’s meant to be a Japanese-inspired area. His name should have been the literally transliterated Kaien. And, of course, that wouldn’t have required a name change because Kaien also fits the character limit.
The GBA translation seems pretty good so far actually, though it’s obviously based off the original Woolsey translation with some flavor texts added.
Seems when fan translations try to translate based on the original Japanese lots of things go wrong with context or being overly literal, while other things get added out of the blue that weren’t in the original Japanese. Say what you want about Woolsey but he came up with very creative translation choices while also not straying too far from the original Japanese text.
Honestly, I think part of it comes down to what you are familiar with. I grew up with the Woolsey-era translations of games like FF3/6 and Chrono Trigger and so those feel “correct” to me. I’ve been disappointed in most retranslations (that’s part of why I’m stubborn about calling it “FF3”; the version of the game with that name is the only one I actually liked). For me they lack color and humor and come across as dry, stiff, and overly serious. It can be argued that they are more “correct” (since they may be closer to the original text), but they’re inferior products for me.
I guess it comes down to what you like. I think I’ll take “Son of a Submariner!” any day. It’s just more fun.
I don’t get that kind of thinking at all. Woolsey’s translations come off as too goofy sometimes, and when he gets into what is often considered “Woolseyisms” it makes the characters not sound like themselves, but instead the same oldish guy from the U.S.
I think more modern translations of FF games have gotten a better balance between “localizing” and “accuracy, but still with character”, likely in part because of voice acting (though early ones like 10 and 12 can be a bit awkward thanks to trying to match lip flaps, where in the later 15 they could be adjusted).
Why is “goofy” necessarily a bad thing? FF3/6 had plenty of overtly goofy moments irrespective of dialogue. Each major character in the game even has a unique ‘shocked’ sprite, and these over-the-top sprites are used quite liberally. So clearly the game is not solely meant to operating at “morose and grimdark” all the time; it’s very obvious that the original story writers left plenty of room for zaniness. Zaniness which Woolsey’s translations fit perfectly, in my estimation.
Also, I’d have to point out that your assessment of the Woolseyisms as evoking “the same oldish guy from the U.S.” is jaundiced by your post hoc knowledge of Woolsey and his infamous translations compared to the original Japanese script. Speaking as someone who played the game as a kid – with zero clue whatsoever about who translated the game, or that there even was an original Japanese script for that matter – the Woolseyisms did feel like they were coming from the characters themselves rather than some quirky American translator at a desk having a laugh. Everyone I know who has played the game when they were young feels the same way, and whenever we quote lines like “Son of a submariner!” the response is never “Oh, that Woolsey!” but “Oh, that Kefka!”
All that being said, modern FF games feel to me like they take themselves a little too seriously, and what humorous moments can be found in these games are somewhat lost on me since they now tend to be rooted in a distinctly Japanese style of humor. That’s fine for people who are big into Japanese culture, but it’s just not for me. The way Woolsey localized FF3/6 for a distinctly Western style of humor is, I think, something to be applauded. Some people may see it as somehow culturally shallow, but au contraire, the purist tendency to deride such localizations as not being the “true” versions strikes me as even more culturally shallow. After all, American media gets localized to suit Japanese sensibilities all the time, and nobody bats an eye. Plenty of bilingual English/Spanish speakers say the Spanish language localization of The Simpsons is markedly funnier than the original English, so clearly there’s some value to shaping a translation to fit the culture to which the target language is attached.
Hard disagree on your comment about Woolsey. When I saw lines like “Son of a submariner” or “spooky bard” I did not associate them with the character who said them because they seemed so jarringly inappropriate for the setting. As a kid I might not have traced them back to Woolsey but as soon as I heard about him and how he did that stuff regularly it clicked into place and suddenly made sense as to why some truly terrible and/or incomprehensible (to my child mind) lines ended up in some old translations.
Also, I think FF 12 and 13 might have taken themselves “too seriously” but 15 and the 7 Remake have some great lighter moments among the more serious overarching story. The English versions also go away from the Japanese scripts in some instances which isn’t always BAD, I just think that how Woolsey and some others in those early days did it felt more like inserting in-jokes than making something “more enjoyable to a wide audience”.
Also, sometimes Woolsey messed up and moved away from the Japanese script in ways that impacted the story too much from what it originally was (see a lot of mistranslation about espers and other lore in FF 6) that I say makes a more accurate re-translation a better one, because the story is more coherent.
I think it’s important to separate accuracy from style. Conflating them doesn’t help the discussion any.
Woolsey was not perfect. He made mistakes due to time pressure and incomplete context. Those mistakes manifest as mistranslations that cause important information about the story to be lost. Such errors are saddening, to be sure, but they’re mistakes, not intentional decisions.
By contrast, updating cultural references and reading flavor into characters is not something you can do by accident. Such things require intentional consideration. Whether any given change of this type is good or bad is a matter of opinion and perspective, and reasonable people can disagree.
Importantly, people who defend a more creative localization style ARE NOT defending things that are actual, concrete mistakes. So bringing those mistakes up when criticizing localization choices only serves to pollute the discussion.
Well forgive me for mentioning the mistakes then, though I do think they can be important to consider in some instances when people are purists who say “this localization is the best because it’s the original that I grew up with” even if it’s a very flawed one on a technical level.
Personally I just don’t like all of what Woolsey added, like I said, the “goofy” stuff — and what makes something what I would call inappropriately “goofy” is mostly context, such as the “spoony bard” line coming up when the scene is supposed to be dramatic, being about Tellah’s distress and anger over his DAUGHTER DYING.
Some Kefka lines that are Woolseyisms just personally don’t fit the character, and some lines like Locke saying that Terra is “loaded for bear” is annoying to me because : 1. I have literally never heard the phrase anywhere else, so it was distracting, and I know I’m not the only other person who was confused by it, 2. It doesn’t sound like something Locke would say, but is rather the sort of “older man from the U.S.” kind of line that I mean, and 3. It doesn’t fit the world because there aren’t conventional guns like the idiom is referencing.
I don’t hate all of what Woolsey did to make more natural dialogue, but sometimes his choices don’t work for me as well as, say, later translators.
Ted Woolsey had no involvement with Final Fantasy IV. “Spoony bard” is the invention of some other localizer.
I know but he’s made translations like that and I couldn’t come up with an example offhand. Regardless, it’s a similar style to Woolseyisms.
I certainly can’t disagree about the fanboys — they commit exactly the same error from the other side, being so caught up in defending the parts they like that they forget to separate out the factual errors and end up polluting the discussion the same way. Even so, one can still defend the work as a whole as being one’s favorite DESPITE its flaws without blindly asserting that there are no errors in it whatsoever.
Woolsey didn’t even work on FF4, so you can’t blame “spoony” on him. (*footnote)
The “loaded for bear” line is unfortunate. It’s the normal way of saying it where I’m from, and like Mato I was surprised to learn that people DIDN’T know it. For people my age who grew up in my area, that line sounds SO natural that I wouldn’t have imagined any other way to say it. (But then again, perhaps I AM an older man from the US. I wasn’t one in 1996, though.)
As I said, reasonable people can disagree over the creative decisions, so I’m not judging you for disliking it.
*footnote: “Spoony” is a short, punchy-sounding, accurate insult, perfect for an emotional outburst. It wasn’t MEANT to be humorous. Imagine a good Shakespearean actor getting choked up on words until he SPITS that line with all of the anger and pain in his heart. Unfortunately, the target audience was unfamiliar with the word, which completely ruins the effect.
The GBA version is the only version i’ve played, so i tend to prefer that translation. I do have access to the original SNES version via the SNES Classic, but it seems unlikely i’ll have to time to play a longer game like that anytime soon.
Also, just a heads up, but a screenshot immediately following that Beavis and Butthead video is awkwardly sized.
I tried checking the article on different systems but I can’t find anything wrong with the screenshot after the video. What does it look like on your end? It’s possible I messed something up.
The screenshot loads just fine on my computer.
Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like on my end:
Thanks, it should hopefully be fixed now.
Looks good now
It’s interesting to me that Google automatically translates 「わが国」 as “Japan” instead of “our country”. I suppose it’s not an entirely unreasonable assumption that someone writing in Japanese would be from Japan, and would be talking about Japan when they say “our country”, but that’s the kind of assumption that, sooner or later, can really turn around and bite you when it turns out the thing you’re translating was written by someone who isn’t Japanese after all.
Also, it’s strange how Google seems to spell 「ガストラ」 a different way every time it appears: we’ve got “Gastra”, “Gurstra”, and “Gastrating”. (No “Gas Tiger”, though, which is what would have seemed to me like the obvious mistake for an automated translator to make.) Maybe it uses an n-gram model that primes it to expect certain words to appear together, and when it encounters a word it doesn’t recognize, it’s biased towards spelling it similarly to the words it considers most likely to appear in that sentence, as if it was a variation of one of those words, like Gary Oak saying “smell you later” instead of “see you later”?
Although I’m willing to defend most of the decisions Ted Woolsey made in his scripts, he does seem to have a bit of a recurring problem with characters who use magic not being named consistently (though without ever succumbing to the common issue of always translating 「魔」 as “demon”.) 「魔導士」 being translated as “Mage Knights” in Figaro Castle, but nowhere else, reminds me of the way some plot points in the English release of Chrono Trigger weren’t as clear as they could have been because 「魔族」 was sometimes translated as “Mystics” and sometimes as “Wizards”. (For instance, when you meet the kid at the Millenial Fair who says “so what if we won a war against a Wizard hundreds of years ago”, it’s not clear that they’re talking about Magus, the leader of the Mystics, and when Spekkio says “it got so bad that no one was allowed to use magic except wizards”, it’s not clear that the people he’s talking about are the same people you see in Medina Village.)
And a lot of people have pointed out that the name of Moogles in the original Japanese, 「モーグリ」, probably comes from a portmanteau of “mole” (モグラ) and “bat” (コウモリ). That would explain why they always seem to live in caves, anyway.
Yeah, Woolsey made a lot more errors than the bizarrely defensive fanbase he has would make you think, and a bunch of them come from the fact that he wasn’t given enough time to do more than just translate one bit of dialogue after another. The 魔族 example you give is definitely a result of him not having any clue that this was referring to anything concrete that existed in the game until he reached the part where they’re actually introduced, at which point he’s long since forgotten he already encountered that term somewhere.
Then you got stuff like the example above where この都市のガード gets “translated” as “imperial troops”, the kind of classic screwup where you know perfectly well what a line translates to, but you end up writing something entirely wrong because your head is elsewhere. We’ve all made them, and they’re the kind of stuff that’s easy to catch by just looking over what you wrote before submitting it, which makes it fairly clear he never got the chance to actually do so.
Re: defense of Woolsey, it seems both sides of the argument have gotten more polarized over the years. In the end, he probably had about 80% of the knowledge he needed and compounded mistakes due to deadlines. On the other hand, the FFVI localization was a landmark in terms of script work and readability and holds up better than contemporary and even later projects. But you’re right in that Woolsey though some combination of accessibility and indirect marketing became some sort of translator rock star with groupies to match.
Yeah, don’t get me wrong, Woolsey was definitely a step up from the standard quality of video game translations at the time, and he did a good job considering the shitty deadlines and general lack of reference material he had to work with. It’s the way his translations are hailed as some sort of infallible masterpieces and that all later translations of the same games are criticized for essentially “being worse than Woolsey’s translations because they aren’t Woolsey’s translations” that’s really bizarre, especially when stuff he clearly mistranslated by accident just gets written off as “improvements”, complete with endless complaints when later translations come out and translate said stuff correctly. I don’t envy the translators of those games one bit.
Ted Woolsey is like the Working Designs translation of Lunar: heavily flawed, but the state of game translations was so terrible back then that they seem excellent by comparison.
Also, I’d say a big hurdle he had to work with was space constraints. Video games had very little space for text back then, and a word that takes two kanji or four kana may take twice as many Roman letters, for instance. That’s why menu text was so abbreviated back then.
Hey now. I’m not exactly a Woolsey fan, but comparing him to Working Designs is pretty harsh.
I think his fame also owes a lot to the strength of the games he was translating more than anything. Like, he had better contemporaries. EarthBound’s localization was top notch stuff, but hardly anyone talks up Dan Owsen and Marcus Lindblom like they do Woolsey.
That comparison was not intended as an insult.
Forgive me. I feel compelled to take a jab at WD whenever they come up.
When I was growing up it seemed like they were revered as much as if not more than Woolsey, and their “fan translate-y” nature has always rubbed me the wrong way.
That’s a really good point regarding the quality of Dan Owsen and Marcus Lindblom’s translation work. It also makes me wonder what other games from the 90’s received great Japanese to English translations, but for some reason went under the radar.
One example that does come to mind is Shining in the Darkness for the Genesis/Megadrive. It’s not as text heavy as some of the other 90’s RPGs, but I thought the translation was excellent for a game released in 1991, as the NPCs tend to have a surprising amount of personality. Unfortunately I don’t know who was the behind the game’s translation however.
All the Dragon Quest/Warrior translations are unrecognized gems.
I’ll go to bat for SNK for at least being very distinctive and attempting to punch things up, even if the results were…odd. A lot of stuff that looks like a mistranslation or nonsense until you read the Japanese or think about it really hard.
I never thought about it, but I think the language inconsistency caused me to consider Magus as an outsider who rose to power. This turned out to be actually true, but maybe I wasn’t supposed to think this in advance. I thought he was otherworldly, like an actual alien, or hailed from another continent or realm. Again, this is actually pretty much true, but it looks like I got more prompting than I should have, even if it was indirectly.
Hmm. I always thought the Chrono Trigger “it got so bad that no one was allowed to use magic except wizards” line was referring to the Kingdom of Zeal, and the elite magic-based society in the sky, whose people didn’t share the benefits of magic with those who were left behind on the ground. I’d be interested to see an explanation of how/why it’s referring to the “Mystics” instead.
On the 「わが国」being translated as “Japan”, I’m not completely sure, but in Mandarin Chinese it’s common for journalists to use the phrase “我国/我國” (“my country”, but with no possessive indicator) to refer to the country they’re writing in. I see it especially often in headlines. I wonder if Japanese journalists don’t do something similar occasionally which Google then learned from.
Nope! Always means “Japan.”
If it does indeed always mean “Japan” then that would be a reason for the answer to be “yes”, not “nope”. Keep in mind that the way that Google Translate works is a statistical model: It finds texts that have already been translated into multiple languages, maps them together based on the words it already knows, and then learns new words by associating together what’s not matched up yet.
Suppose Google Translate came across, say, a news article written in Japanese that a human translator had also published in English. It would see “わが国” in one article and “Japan” in the same place in the other article, and so it would learn “this is how you’re supposed to translate that phrase.”
Looking at Google Translate, it’s interesting to note that it does get the phrase correct in isolation as “our country”, but my Japanese is too elementary to construct anything around it.
That said, it is indeed the same kanji. Google has to have seen many contexts where it was “our country”, but just happened to see a similar structure to the one above where it was “Japan”.
I was under the impression that “Mash” is supossed to be a shortened form of Macias, though I’m not sure where I read it.
You know, seeing the intro reminds I can’t think of a single instance of gunpowder actually existing in FF6’s world despite the intro saying it does. There’s not even a cannon as background decoration. Lethal Weapon enemies look like they have guns, but the nearest they get is launching missiles.
In the GBA translation, none of the relics were left out. The bit about the Gauntlets is still in there, it’s just in a different order than in the other translations, coming right after Sprint Shoes instead of at the end.
Does the game make it clear if Edgar and Sabin are older and younger in the Western sense (ie. The first to come out of the vagina is older) or the traditional Japanese sense (ie. The older twin let’s the younger leave first)?
I know the traditional meaning stopped popular use long before videogames became a thing, but I wonder if there’s any firm of clarification or if it’s just assumed as read?
It seems that since 1874, legally speaking, the first one to be born is the older twin. They also have to be listed that way in the family register, so while it seems like the traditional view persisted for at least a couple decades after the initial ruling, I’m pretty sure the older twin is just assumed to have been born first at this point.
@Clyde, GBA translation does NOT leave out the description of gauntlets. It does flip-flop the order of descriptions though, so it is easy to miss. See 1:38:04 in your video.
I’m thinking the Beginners’ House flavor text was left out in the SNES version because it was overwritten with the extra secret passage text. It’s just a guess based on how close together they appear, but I think it’s a safe one.
So…I take it when this comparison is finished you’re going to state which translation is the most accurate? What do you make of hacks like the “Ted Woolsey Uncensored Edition”, the “Final Fantasy VI Relocalization Project”, and the “Woolsey Slattery Compromise Patch” and how do they compare with the original Woolsey (FFII for SNES) and Slattery (FFVI for GBA) and the RPGOne fan translation?
After five articles of this I can already tell you that the GBA translation is the most accurate, haha.
I can realistically only look at so many versions of the game, so I don’t plan to do much beyond what I’m doing now. When I release my program though, it shouldn’t be hard for other ROM hackers to load different translations into the sidebar for themselves and compare. I didn’t even know there were so many different fan translations/script fix hacks until I started this project!
Hi, I really enjoyed this. Thank you for your effort.
A mismatch between my memories from 2002 and what is shown as the “unofficial translation” in this series compels me to mention that there is at least one unofficial translation that predates RPGOne. In the unofficial translation I remember playing:
The font used in game was the same as the official Ted Woolsey translation.
Magic was “Magic” and never referred to as “Majick”.
The War of the Magi was referred to by this name (vs Demon War in the RPGOne translation).
Gestahl was called Gastra (vs Ghastra).
Banon was called Banan (vs Bannan).
Ultros was called Ultros (vs Orthros, but not too sure of this actually).
In an instance of uncensoring, I recall at least one occasion where Terra was referred to as a bitch as opposed to a witch, I think by Locke talking the Old Man before undertaking the original mission to rescue Terra.
Most of the character names were the same (Tina, Mash, Lock etc.). I can’t recall if Cyan was called Cayenne or Cayene (as he is in the RPGOne translation), but I think it was Cayene. Character names were not all-caps as in the official translation but title case, similar to RPGOne. Espers were referred to as Phantom Beasts.
Out of academic curiosity — do you recall any translation along these lines?
You can check the reddit post I made here for more details: https://www.reddit.com/r/snes/comments/clnf0g/looking_for_a_specific_ff_vi_translation/
I didn’t follow the FF6 scene much back then, but while looking for stuff for this article I did see that this RPGOne translation went through several incarnations, starting out as a lone fan’s passion project. So maybe it was a predecessor of this fan translation that you played back then?
AY probably played Sky Render’s MIP (“My Insane Project”). Not so much a retranslation but an early partial rewrite.
(I have not tested whether the links still work)
This was the first version of FF6 I played. I remember there being a bunch of changes that don’t have a basis in the Japanese text. Unlike the later RPGOne translation Sky Render worked on, it extends the heads/tails mixup to say Mash ignored the result of the coin-flip.
FYI Eidolon is a word outside of Final Fantasy.
Definition of eidolon
1: an unsubstantial image : PHANTOM
2: IDEAL (Ex: A self made man)
I also find it odd that Clyde/Mato thought of “eidolon” as “the modern Final Fantasy translation of genju” when that term was only used in the DS version of FF IV and the various FF XIIIs. I guess that he hadn’t been following Final Fantasy stuff very closely at the time, as this is just another case of “each FF game basically calls them a different thing” (though interestingly enough, XII called them Espers, just like VI).
By the time he started streaming, FF XV had already come out, and the summons were called “Astrals” (based on them being literal gods in that universe), making it evident that eidolons wasn’t the new default (and thank goodness for that, the word feels unwieldy…) .
The Kefka/Cefca thing reminds me of Final Fantasy XII, where probably the same mistake happened. I’m not 100% certain, but I’m pretty sure that Basch fon Ronsenburg is supposed to be “Basch von Ronsenburg”. The “v” is pronounced like a “f” here, so it would be written as “fon” in Katakana. The translator, probably not aware of this (and German pronunciation in general), saw no reason to doubt the “fon”, so used it himself.
Admittedly, a bit of a pet peeve, simply because I think the “fon” looks stupid. I wished at least the German translation would have changed it to “von”, but it sadly never did.