This is part of my ongoing series in which I compare four translations of Final Fantasy VI with the original Japanese script. For project details and my translation notes from Day 1, see here.
We started this stream right after Setzer takes the party to the Empire’s continent. I had expected us to get to about halfway through the Magitek Factory, but we wound up going much further. We even streamed a little longer than usual to get to a good stopping point in the story.
This day’s stream covered so much material that I couldn’t feasibly write about all of it here. So even though I’ve written about a lot of stuff below, definitely check out the video for more things that were messed up in translation, added in, cut out, and whatnot!
What we know in English as the town of Albrook is known as “Albroog” in the official Japanese strategy guides. The Japanese name is アルブルグ (aruburugu), which indeed has a “g” sound in there. I’m guessing the Super NES translator saw “Albroog” in English in some stuff, felt it sounded bad, and changed the “g” to a “k”.
Still, I can’t help but wonder if this town’s English name was really meant to be something else entirely. As a translator, my first instinct for this name would actually be “Alburg”.
Incidentally, I occasionally talk about how “decorative English” appears in Japanese entertainment all the time. These “Albroog” pics are perfect examples of decorative English in action.
In Japanese, a scholar in Albrook mentions that monsters on this continent are weak to magic.
The Super NES translator misunderstood the line, which turned the line to something very different. Now the scholar says that monsters on the continent have weak magic!
The GBA translation fixes this line. The fan translation clearly copies and rephrases the faulty Super NES translation. It’s not a difficult line in Japanese, so I’m surprised the fan translator didn’t notice this obvious mistake in the Super NES script. In fact, it’s such a straightforward sentence that even Google gets it spot-on.
In Japanese, this woman proclaims that she’s drunk. Unsurprisingly, this line was completely changed in the Super NES translation. The GBA translation fixes it in an amusing way, and even the fan translation reverts her back to being drunk – although the only correctly translated part is her hiccup sound.
To be fair though, the lady slurs her words so much that it’s not immediately clear what she’s saying. Drunk talk is hard to understand in any language, so trying to understand it as a non-native speaker can be even more challenging. It’s a topic that’s not taught in schools, obviously, so in the interest of improving drunk people communication, here’s how this line works:
|think I’m drunk…
Breaking Japanese sentences into their individual syllables makes it easier to analyze drunken dialogue. In my experience, Japanese entertainment writers tend to keep the beginning syllables in a word unchanged to serve as a sort of linguistic handrail. Syllables after that are altered, but usually still rhyme with the intended syllable. As an example, in the drunk line above, the ta in watashi becomes ra and the shi becomes hi. The result: warahi.
On a side note, this same syllable-parsing technique is useful in other situations too, like when trying to decipher spoken Japanese that you don’t fully understand.
In the town of Maranda, a soldier comically chases a woman around in a never-ending circle.
In Japanese, the woman says that the soldier persistently asks her to marry him. The phrasing leaves out the subject and object, so it’s a bit of a tricky line that requires the player to fill in the blanks based on the context. But it’s at least something along the lines of “Stop asking me to marry you!” or maybe even “He won’t stop asking me to marry him!”.
Due to the unclear phrasing and a lack of context, the Super NES translator mistranslated this line as “Say, you wanna get hitched?”. It’s weird enough that I bet some players without Japanese knowledge or translation experience also felt that this line didn’t seem quite right.
Anyway, the GBA translation fixes this simple problem. The fan translation does it own translation this time, but the grammar and phrasing led to a truly bizarre mistranslation: “I’m gonna be persistent and get married!”.
Every mention of killing and dying has been wiped away from the Super NES translation so far, so it was surprising to see this mention of a family getting “slaughtered” was left untouched.
A woman in Tzen mentions that her child has run off somewhere even after she said it was dangerous to go outside.
If you find and talk to the boy, he says something weird in the Super NES translation:
I said it’s dangerous outside, so you can’t go out!
That doesn’t seem right – why would he be saying that? Some chatters in the stream suggested he was making fun of his mom by repeating what she told him, but my instinct says that isn’t quite right either.
Checking the Japanese script, we see that he actually says:
Mom says I can’t play outside because it’s dangerous.
The Japanese line is very clear and straightforward, so this appears to be another weird and basic mistake by the Super NES translator. The GBA translation fixes the mistranslation, while the fan translation does its own translation of the line but gets part of it wrong and/or adds new stuff out of nowhere.
Google has changed the entire family relationship.
If you get into a battle with soldiers while exploring the Imperial capital of Vector, you’ll get sent back to the entrance of the city. Someone in the party will also say, “Danger…danger…” in the Super NES version. This line always felt strange to me, even back when the game was first released.
The Japanese line is あぶない、あぶない… (abunai, abunai...). The word abunai has a wide reach and can mean a bunch of different things, most of which boil down to “dangerous”. That’s why the Super NES line says “danger, danger”.
But in some situations – like this one in Vector – abunai is used after narrowly avoiding something, much like “That was close!” in English. The GBA translator picked up on this and updated the line to use the intended “that was close” meaning.
The fan translator wasn’t familiar with the multiple uses of abunai and went with the first translation you’d find in a dictionary. I have no idea what Google was thinking though.
A guy in Vector’s pub shares some important story info, some of which involves Kefka’s backstory. In the Super NES translation, this guy says:
That guy Kefka? He was Cid’s first experimental Magitek Knight. But the process wasn’t perfected yet. Something in Kefka’s mind snapped that day…!
I’ve been looking forward to checking this particular line, and it seems the wait was worth it – the original Japanese text includes some extra details and some slightly different information:
They say Kefka is one of the first mages created by Dr. Cid. Supposedly there were still issues with the technology, so he wound up with extraordinary magic power, but his mind was broken.
This brings up a couple things of note:
- The term “Magitek Knight” in the Super NES translation is the same 魔導士 (madōshi) term that has appeared before in the Japaense script. It’s mostly just a generic term for a wizard, mage, or sorcerer, especially in the Final Fantasy games – Rosa from Final Fantasy IV is called a “white madōshi”, for example, and Vivi from Final Fantasy IX is a “black madōshi”. Basically, the unique term of “Magitek Knight” is misleading in the Final Fantasy VI translations, as plenty of madōshis existed 1000 years ago too.
- Kefka wasn’t necessarily the very first one to experimented on, as is claimed in both official translations. He was just one of the first.
- The Japanese line explains that technological issues made Kefka extra powerful, but this is missing from the Super NES translation. I guess that extra detail does sort of explain how he gets so strong so quickly as the game progresses.
We can see that the GBA translation reintroduces text that was cut out of the Super NES translation, but it also leaves in the mistake about Kefka being first. The fan translation actually gets that detail correct by saying “early on” rather than “first”. But the fan translation also adds in some new text out of nowhere about how the procedure caused Kefka to hate everybody.
An old man distracts some Imperial guards so the heroes can sneak by. In Japanese, the man does this by acting drunk and literally saying that he’s drunk. This line was altered to “I… I’m gonna be sick!” in the Super NES translation.
The GBA translation changes things back a little, but isn’t as on-the-nose with the declaration of drunkenness. The fan translation more or less copies the Super NES translation. Given that the fan translation also messed up the “whoopie” lady’s line back in Albrook, I think maybe the translator wasn’t familiar with the Japanese phrase for “I’m drunk”.
In Japanese, Kefka declares that he’s God. This was changed to “all-powerful” in the Super NES translation to adhere to Nintendo’s content policies at the time. The GBA translation puts the religious content back in, but also inserts the “I’m all-powerful!” line from the Super NES translation afterward. The fan translation goes with “I am a living god”.
Kefka also announces that he’s going to revive the 三闘神 (santōshin), which we later learn are three supreme magical beings that are currently in statue form or have had important statues of them made.
This santо̄shin is of those names that can be translated in a hundred different ways with no single “correct” one. First, let’s look at the idea behind each character in the name:
- 三 means “three”
- 闘 refers to fighting, combat, conflict, strife, and that sort of thing
- 神 refers to gods, deities, certain types of spirits, and other things along those lines
Again, there are multiple ways of handling made-up, fictional names like this in translation. If you missed it, we previously looked at five different methods when examining the “Magicite” name.
Anyway, the Super NES translation ditches the religious references and calls them the “Statues”. I assume this short name was chosen partly with SNES memory limitations in mind.
The GBA translation drops the “Statues” name and comes up with something new: the “Warring Triad”. The fan translation chooses “Gods of Battle”, and Google simply goes with “three gods”. It’s surprising to see that the machine translation system actually understood the made-up term to some degree.
In Japanese, Ifrit mentions that he was put inside a beaker and had his power drained from him. The actual word he uses is ビーカー (bīkā), which is just the English word “beaker” pronounced with Japanese syllables.
By itself this isn’t a big deal, although when I think of a beaker I think of the small containers used in chemistry classes and not giant vats for holding living beings. Apparently every other translator felt the same way about this weird use of “beaker”, because:
- The Super NES translation calls them “glass tubes”
- The GBA translation calls them “capsules”
- The fan translation calls them “test tubes”
This is a good example of how English words can change slightly when used in Japanese, and how translators try to compensate for such changes. I feel like there’s still some better technical English word out there for the giant glass tubes holding the Espers though.
In Japanese, Ifrit mentions that he, Shiva, and Ramuh are siblings, each with their own power. This detail – and in fact this entire sentence – was dropped from the Super NES translation. The GBA translation puts it back in. The fan script makes a good attempt at translating this line, but misses the sibling part entirely and calls them “representatives” instead.
Thanks to the heroes, Cid finally discovers the secret to obtaining an Esper’s full power. In Japanese, this revelation accompanies this dialogue:
So, when Espers die, they’re able to leave behind just their power…
The power contained within these stones is many times– no, HUNDREDS of times stronger than the power obtained from Espers via direct extraction…
This goes to show just how powerful Magicite is. I always knew that Magicite was stronger than the old extraction method, but not this much stronger. That’s because the Super NES translation actually drops a bunch of text in this line. The GBA translation puts the missing text back in, but removes the talk about specific numbers for comparison purposes.
The fan translation gets the line very wrong:
…So, the powers of Phantom Beasts can only truly be transferred when they die…
The true power lies hidden within the stones that Phantom Beasts leave behind when they die… All of those hundreds of Phantom Beasts…
Part of this line is based on the altered Super NES line, and the other part of the line is a complete mistranslation. It seems the translator recognized the word “hundred” in the Japanese text, but didn’t quite understand Japanese grammar enough to see how it fits into the line.
When I first started this big comparison project, one or two people asked me to keep an eye on Celes’ speech style in Japanese, as it apparently changes over time. And it’s true: she speaks sternly and very to-the-point in Japanese at first, but as soon as she puts on the opera dress, she starts speaking more femininely and continues that way even afterward.
Of course, Celes hasn’t had many new lines of text since the opera, but I have noticed that she’s started to use the occasional feminine speech particle like wa and no.
Even now, far away from all the opera stuff, she uses feminine speech:
I’ve heard her speech continues to move in this direction as the game goes on, but I don’t know if that’s true or not. As we progress through the game I’ll be sure to watch for any further developments.
The factory is thrown into chaos after Celes saves the day with a mystery spell. In the Japanese script, Cid says that they’re in danger because the capsules’ energy flow has reversed.
The Super NES translation mishandles the line and says that the fighting has caused the capsules to rupture and that their contents are spilling out. The GBA version properly translates the line, while the fan translation is mostly a rephrasing of the Super NES line combined with some genuinely re-translated (but mistranslated) content.
Incidentally, unlike Ifrit’s use of the word “beaker” earlier, Cid uses the word “capsule” here.
Cid explains how he cares for Celes and feels terrible about what he’s put her through. In the Super NES translation, he continues by saying:
But she was forced to become a Magitek Knight, and has done some awful things.
But this is incorrect. In Japanese, he actually says that he was the one who did something awful by raising/training her to be a mage.
The GBA translation fixes the mistake and uses wording that implies the “awful” idea instead of stating it outright. The fan translation follows the incorrect Super NES translation.
This translation issue isn’t as problematic as other issues we’ve seen, but since this is the first we’ve really heard about the relationship between Cid and Celes, I thought I’d mention it now in case more changes pile up later.
Terra’s father is an Esper. In Japanese, his name is マディン (Madin), but this became “Maduin” in the Super NES translation and was kept the same in the GBA translation.
I never knew why this name change occurred or what “Madin” is even supposed to reference, if anything. Chatters in the stream looked it up and apparently it’s a reference to Máel Dúin, the main character of an old Irish tale. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this claim, but it seems convincing enough to me.
The fan translation goes with “Madeen” to more clearly match the Japanese pronunciation of the name. But as far as I can tell, there’s no specific reference behind this spelling choice.
On a different note, the whole flashback scene that takes place in the Esper World has a strangely consistent translation issue in the Super NES version. Everyone is talking about how there’s some crazy storm going on in the Japanese script, but “storm” is almost always translated as “wind” in the SNES script. I’m not really sure why this is – all I can think of is that the Japanese character for wind (風) and the character for storm (嵐) do look somewhat similar, especially when using tiny fonts. Any other theories I come up with seem pretty weak, like trying to save game memory.
The GBA translation fixes this “wind” problem and changes everything back to “storm”. Even the fan translation and Google get the storm thing correct.
Earlier in the game, Ramuh gave a brief overview of the history of the Esper World. We discovered that the translated scripts tangle the facts up, while the Japanese script makes it very clear: after the big War of the Magi, the Espers went to some spot in this world, erected a magical barrier around it, and called it their own realm/world. But some humans eventually found them and caused trouble, so the Espers finally erected a physical door to keep the humans out for good.
The translated versions continue to use a messy mix of terms that makes it hard to follow how exactly the Esper World connects with the outside world. One example was a stream favorite: “the link between worlds”.
Terra’s mother is named “Madeline” in Japanese, but this was changed to “Madonna” in the Super NES translation. I’m not really sure why the name was changed, but her name is reverted back to “Madeline” in the GBA, fan, and machine translations.
The Super NES translation makes a major mistake with her introduction too:
|Japanese Version (basic translation)
|Super NES Translation
|Madeline: I’m Madeline.
|ESPER: I am Maduin.
|I grew sick and tired of the human world.
|I tired living in the human world…
Somehow the line was taken from the girl and given to the Esper! The line was even changed to use Maduin’s name instead of Madeline/Madonna’s name.
The two names do look vaguely similar if you’re not paying attention, so my theory is that the Super NES translator mistook Madeline’s Japanese name for Maduin’s Japanese name. As a result, we never see Madonna’s name formally introduced – the text boxes just suddenly start calling her that out of nowhere. I guess that’s why this scene always felt kind of off to me – it’s a weird name that makes me think of the real world pop star and the weird name just suddenly appears.
In this Japanese line, we see that the word 門 (mon, "gate") has something in parentheses after it. That “something” is a note about how you’re supposed to pronounce the word – except in this case it’s saying to pronounce it like the English word “gate”.
If this game had been on a more modern console, we would’ve seen the text in parentheses printed on top of 門 instead. This is an example of Japanese furigana in action. The topic of furigana takes some time to explain, but it’s really interesting and helpful to know. Luckily, I wrote an entire article about it here a few years ago!
After Imperial soldiers invade the Espers’ village, one villager says in Japanese:
Damn! Retreat to the elder’s house!
The Super NES translation gets this line wrong and instead says that the invaders have reached the elder’s house.
The GBA translation fixes this mistake. The fan translation copies the incorrect Super NES line but makes sure to put “damn” back into the line.
I’ve noticed that whenever Emperor Gestahl talks about stuff in the Super NES translation, he often uses the word “we” or “us”. He says stuff like:
- We’ve finally found it!
- We will own this world!
- Just when we were in reach of a veritable bonanza…!
In Japanese, though, he’s clearly only thinking about himself and uses “I” and “me” everywhere instead. I guess you could argue that maybe he’s using ”we” in the majestic plural sense, but given how he talks otherwise in English, I don’t really feel that that’s the case.
In any case, the GBA, fan, and machine translations all follow the original Japanese text and use “I” and “me”.
The Esper elder says that he intends to use a spell to get rid of the Imperial invaders and keep them out for good. Casting the spell will likely kill the elder, though.
In the Super NES translation, this information is explained like this:
MADUIN: But in your state, you might just…
ELDER: Pass away… but at least we will finally be safe.
This makes logical sense and never seemed odd to me before, but the Japanese line gives more important details:
Madin: But, if you use the Magic-Sealing Wall spell in your condition…
Elder: I might die. Once I die, it will be impossible to open the Magic-Sealing Wall ever again.
From this, we get to see that the elder has a very specific plan in place and is even counting on his death as part of that plan. I guess I never grasped the level of sacrifice involved until now.
The GBA translation puts these details back in, as does the fan translation. The Google translation gets comically close to being correct. It reminds of me funny quotes like “I’m gonna kill you to death!” for some reason.
The elder has cast the big magic spell. In Japanese, his dialogue includes a sounds of being in pain, which makes sense. After all, he just said that casting the spell could kill him. The actual sound he makes is uguu, which is a clear sign that he’s in pain.
The Super NES translation keeps this sound intact… sort of. Instead of uguu or something like it, it’s now “D’goh”. I remember not understanding what this was supposed to mean, so I always assumed it was maybe a unique sound or word he uses sometimes. He does look pretty weird and all, so a weird speech quirk seemed plausible.
Anyway, the GBA translation drops this whole sound of pain thing entirely. The fan translation drops it too, and replaces it with the question “What is it?”. I’m not sure why this was done.
Madonna has been sucked back out into the human world, so Maduin wants to hurry to her. The elder warns him that the magic spell has already activated, so once the gate closes, Maduin will never be able to return to the Esper World.
In response, Maduin says “That fool!” in the Super NES translation. Is he saying this about Madonna? Or maybe the Emperor? I don’t really know, because in Japanese he instead says “I don’t care!”. Basically, in the Super NES line, he’s insulting someone. In the original text, he’s fully prepared to make some self-sacrifices for his otherworldly family.
The GBA translation fixes this mistake, as does the fan translation. Even the Google translation gets it right.
The spell has been cast and all the humans are being sucked out of the Esper World. During this, a soldier yells “Look what popped out!” in the Super NES translation just as Maduin shows up.
The Japanese line is actually quite different though: “W-w-we’re being sucked out!”.
The GBA translation fixes this line, but uses “pushed” instead of “sucked”. The fan translation doesn’t fix the line, however. Instead, it’s “L, l, look what showed up!”, which is clearly a rephrasing of the faulty Super NES translation.
Madonna, Baby Terra, and Emperor Gestahl all wind up in a forest somewhere. In Japanese, Madonna says something like:
Stay… away… from my child…
The Super NES translation says the exact opposite, however:
Please… take care… of my baby…
I’m not sure why this translation change happened. But this line and the “That fool” line above both use the verb 構う (kamau) in Japanese. The fact that both of these lines are so clearly wrong in the Super NES translation makes me wonder if the translator had trouble with kamau. Then again, the Super NES translation has messed up lots of lines in this little Esper World scene, so maybe something bigger than kamau was the problem here.
The GBA translation and fan translation fix this obvious problem.
The story switches back to the present day. Terra has regained her human form after reacting to her father’s Magicite. In Japanese, she says:
But I’m okay now. I can control this power as long as it’s for a short amount of time…
This ties in with Terra’s transformation ability in battle and explains why she can only stay in Esper form until her transformation bar turns empty.
The Super NES translation distorts this connection between the story and gameplay by changing this line a tiny bit:
I finally feel I can begin to control this power of mine…
It’s not much, but the omission of “for short amounts of time” left me wondering why Terra had a limit to her transformation ability in battle. I remember it feeling like it came out of nowhere, especially since there haven’t any other special skills with similar countdown bars.
Anyway, the GBA translation fixes this line. The fan translation fixes the problem too.
Man, the Super NES translation really fell apart during this section of the game. I wonder if it’ll continue to be this way. I had no idea there were this many issues until now!