How a Kangaroo Accidentally Appeared in Tales of Phantasia’s Translation


The game Tales of Phantasia never had an official English release until 2006, when a localized Game Boy Advance port was released outside of Japan. I honestly don’t know a whole lot about this release, but there’s one line in this translation that’s become a bit of a legend among gamers – somehow the word “Ragnarok” in the game’s script was replaced with “Kangaroo”!

How the heck did this mistake happen? I’m not sure, but I’d always heard faint rumors that it was the result of Microsoft Office’s spell checker – supposedly it didn’t recognize “Ragnarok” and replaced it with “Kangaroo” instead.

I never really thought much about it until the other day, when I suddenly got the urge to see how true this rumor might be. So I fired up my copy of MS Word and typed in a sample sentence with “Ragnarok” in it. And when I hit the spell check button… it didn’t find anything wrong.

Microsoft Word 2010

That didn’t seem to work – maybe Ragnarok became a part of the MS Word dictionary since then? Or maybe it at least became a part of my own personal dictionary on this computer? At this point, I figured maybe it would be better to try it on an earlier version of the MS Office suite, on a computer from the mid-2000s… and just by luck, I have one!

So, after digging around in the back of my closet and hooking ancient technology back together, I tried spell-checking the word “Ragnarok” and got…

Microsoft Word 2003 (or thereabouts)

Voila! “Ragnarok” is indeed flagged as a misspelled word and the first replacement it suggests is “Kangaroo” with a capital K. It looks like the rumor might be true after all.

I’m guessing what happened is that someone on the translation team (I believe it was outsourced to a translation agency, actually) accidentally hit “Replace” or “Change” while running a last-minute automatic spell check through the entire script. Also, the script was most likely not in an MS Word .doc file but in an MS Excel spreadsheet file, which is more or less the industry standard. Staring at never-ending spreadsheets of text really numbs the mind, so it’s understandable how this mistake happened… but how the typo made it all the way through the quality assurance/testing phase is another question altogether 😛

You know, I wonder what other mishaps in game scripts have been caused by automatic spell-checking tools. Surely this isn’t the only one – if you know of any, share it in the comments or let me know on Twitter!

Oh, an extra question! It seems like whenever gamers talk about this GBA version of Tales of Phantasia, the translation quality is quickly dismissed solely because of this one line. Is the rest of the translation really that bad, or is this an isolated incident that doesn’t really represent the rest of the script’s quality?

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  1. There’s the infamous “Kidere” and “Kidink” in Hirameki’s commercial localisation of Ever17, which I can only assume were caused by a whitespace-ignoring find and replace from “Youth” to “Kid” gone horribly awry. This is the same localisation that featured the legendary “Naturally, I knows the hacker” line.

    1. Wow, that’s amazing. Never heard of that until now! Gonna have to look at that one sometime!

      1. To pile onto the haphazard visual novel search/replace, Koihime Musou had a massive search/replace error when they changed “alliance” to “anti-Totaku alliance” for god only knows what reason. So for the early game, you ended up with a ton of “anti-Totaku anti-Totaku alliance” and then the rest of the game after Totaku was long dead, every alliance was an “anti-Totaku alliance.”

        1. Writing “Totaku” instead of Dong Zhuo is haphazard and terrible enough on its own.

          1. It’s a Japanese and kanji thing. Basically, they read the Chinese letters as if they’re Japanese.

            Dong Zhuo/Totaku is 董卓 and you can compare the readings to see how Japan ended up with Totaku and everyone else with Dong Zhuo.


            It’s so ingrained into Japan now that it’s never going to change. There IS the possibility that’s correct since Chinese/Japanese readings are half at random when it comes to names and the readings are obviously subject to a similar kind misreading or lingual drift, but it is a bit unusual/silly that they use a different reading than China itself does.

            1. Yeah, but this concerns an English translation, doesn’t it? The non-Japanese world doesn’t use the Japanese readings for Chinese names.

            2. Dong Zhuo for 董卓 is a neologism anyway. It’s based on the Mandarin pronunciation of the name, a language which did not exist at the time. Neither modern Mandarin or modern Japanese pronunciation accurately reflect how the name would have been pronounced.

              It’s sort of like how English, and French naturally, have a huge amount of vocabulary from Old French but words are pronounced differently due to sound changes in both languages, sometimes to the point of being unrecognizable. («To wait» vs. «guetter» come to mind as being cognate, although the word in French is a borrowing from a Germanic language, don’t know which.)

              Sound changes are usually systematic, though. There are lots of characters in Mandarin that are pronounced with a ng sound at the end that are just (long?) vowels in Japanese, and characters which originally were pronounced with consonants at the end have lost the final consonant in Mandarin and it has become a second syllable in Japanese. The «zh» sound in Mandarin in this case is ultimately derived from a «t» sound, which is preserved in Japanese, and it’s hard to guess at what the original vowel might have been but it could have been close to the «o» in «bother».

              1. Would that be in British or American pronunciation? Standard British pronunciation has a round vowel in ‘bother’. A better example would have been the A in ‘father’, if we’re considering American pronunciation.

  2. I haven’t played this version, but from what I’ve read, the translation overall is much more in line with the original Japanese than it tends to get credit for. The western audience had simply gotten accustomed to the DeJap fan translation, which, unknown to a lot of people, took a ton of liberties (the adult humor was amped up considerably, for example). As a result, the official translation took a lot of flak for “censoring” and/or “removing” things that hadn’t been in the original version in the first place.

    1. You have a point there, but they could have given the language a bit of spicing up. I’m not saying add sexual or dirty things, but they could have used some adverbs or adjectives to really capture each character’s speaking style. The problem is, read word for word, Tales of Phantasia is a very straightforward experience that doesn’t make it much different from other SFC/SNES RPG scripts of its time. The voice acting is probably what set it above the rest, since it was an unheard of thing at the time.

  3. The GBA ToP also suffers from a watered down soundtrack with some key pieces being replaced by other songs in the game and the atrocious robotic voice acting in battle. Also, I’ve heard the script is rather tame and lackluster in comparison to the fan translations’ unique twists. It’s not terrible, but it’s not terribly thrilling either. The battles are also supposedly too easy, which was put off a lot of hopeful fans who want their Tales game crazy hard. The Tales community pretends this version of Phantasia doesn’t exist and that the only quality version to play is the PSX version with the fan translation. However, despite all of that, the game did score surprisingly positive reviews since it’s the first and so far only official localization of the first Tales game in history. A shame that its presentation wasn’t the best it could have been. They really have should let us have Tales of the World Narikiri Dungeon X, which came with Tales of Phantasia X, an enhanced version with all the bonuses and add-ons from past remakes and ports of the original game.

    In essence, the Bowne Global Solutions translation group really didn’t do a very good job with the script so it’s not really attention-grabbing.

  4. From what I remember of the GBA version (I haven’t played it for years, and I never played the DeJap SNES version), the script wasn’t the main issue that game had. First, it had the infamous voice acting:


    Second, the game play ran somewhat sluggishly for me. Mind you, the other version I’ve since played and preferred is the PSX release, so I’m not sure how much of that is it being a better port or being on a better platform.

  5. Makes me feel better about how ridiculously careful I am with my find and replaces!

    And amen to “Staring at never-ending spreadsheets of text really numbs the mind”

  6. Something similar to the Ever17 thing above happened in Mega Man Battle Network 4, where every instance of “Heel” became “Heal” instead. That means the generic “mean” Navis became HealNavis when they should be HeelNavis, as in wrestling heel. Hooray.

    1. This has explained something that I wondered about at the time but totally forgot. Thank you!

    2. Late but, another infamous MMBN line is “Leg’s go!”

  7. I think I got stuck in the GBA Tales of Phantasia and never got back to it. But I don’t recall the translation being that noticeably bad. I thought it was a pretty good game overall, but I stopped playing for a few months and when I got back I couldn’t remember which part I was at/where to go next and the game wasn’t helping. /shrug

  8. As a fan of the DeJap translation, and never really having played the PS1 version, I always felt the GBA version was boring. Nothing really stood out that made the characters feel interesting. Even if most Tales characters are anime tropes personified, you still remember something about them.

  9. This isn’t an auto-spellchecking error, but I figure it’s close enough since it’s a mass-text replace error.

    In the early-mid 2000s, the YuGiOh TCG replaced “Magic” cards with “Spell” cards for most territories outside of Japan. As a result, in the YuGiOh World Championship 2004 game for the GBA, “Magician” was changed to “Spellian” in the card texts.

    1. Oh man, using replace all in a game script is just ASKING for trouble 😯

    2. I’m not sure what’s better-

      1) That ‘Spellian’ totally sounds like a Yu-Gi-Oh word,
      2) or that ‘spellian’ is an actual Old English word meaning ‘to speak’, and the one that led to ‘spell’ as in ‘magic words’.

  10. Interestingly, Word 2003 suggests Angarsk for a capitalized Ragnarok, and kangaroo for a non-capitalized ragnarok. Excel 2003 is the same. Excel/Word 2007 does not recognize the word, but offers no suggestions, so if the game had been released just a year later with a newer Office suite, the error would have been avoided!

    1. That’s what they get for using outdated software.

  11. One thing that is often talked about is the spellings of Cress’s and Klarth/Claus’s names. The DeJap translation used “Cless” and “Klarth”, while the GBA translation used “Cress” and “Claus”.

    The DeJap names were featured in Namco’s official Japanese-language materials that have English spellings, such as the credits for the PlayStation version, but the GBA translation links Cress’s name with Mint’s name in that both words refer to plants.

    Because of the theme naming, I am inclined to believe that “Cress” is correct, but I do not know of a way to verify the true spelling of “Klarth”/”Claus”.

    Does anyone know which is more likely to be correct? Please keep it civil if you can; I read of heated flame wars regarding this topic.

    1. This actually immediately reminds me of how the official Star Ocean 1 translation for the PSP went with completely different names than the fan translation I worked on. Which was weird, because some of the names I chose I chose because of official sources or even the official SO2 translation. So it always felt like the official SO1 translators purposely renamed everyone and everything to avoid matching with the Super Famicom fan translation.

      I hadn’t realized that Tales of Phantasia’s names had a similar sort of treatment, although I don’t know much about ToP so I don’t know if it’s at the same level that Star Ocean was.

      1. To be honest, I always did wonder about that, though name changes like those weren’t drastically different from the SFC translation. On a personal preference level, Mavelle sounds a bit more feminine and womanly than Marvel.

      2. Usually developers opt not to use the “canon” names for characters for good reasons. For example, they don’t make any sense to an English reader (Cefca is a classic example; most people would read that “sefka” or “sefsa”, not “kefka”), or are a blatant error (Crawd for Claude in SO2, Blenda for Brenda in Front Mission, etc.). Other times, it’s just because the name is just generally kinda weird as it is, and a little stylization spices things up a bit (Ratix and Ronixis in SO1 getting renamed to Roddick and Ronyx for that reason).

        None of that really justifies renaming Matias in FF6 to Sabin, of course. That was just silly.

        1. But his name was Mashe, not Matias. And Mashe not only would sound weird to an American ear, but it would also be mispronounced by most people (it should be mah-SHAY).

          1. Sabin’s original Japanese name is given in English at the end of the Japanese version of the game as “Mash” from マッシュ (masshu). There’s no indication it should be pronounced “mah-SHAY”.

  12. The European release of American PC adventure game “KGB” was renamed “Conspiracy” for some reason. While the game itself wasn’t changed beyond a new title screen, the manual is another story. The manual is a rather heavy affair that spends quite some time explaining the events that led up to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the history of the KGB, GRU, the communist party, and various other things that you need to be familar with to follow what goes on in the game.

    So the European publisher took this manual, did an automatic search-and-replace changing “KGB” to “CONSPIRACY” and called it a day.

  13. Opinionated Vector Chimera

    Looks like Microsoft upgraded their spellcheck dictionary once fantasy games started coming out for the Xbox 360.

    Also, nice Metal Gear Solid 2 reference there!

  14. Nintendo removed the title theme in the US and EU versions of ToP.
    Probably because they (thankfully!) didn’t want to try to dub it, but also didn’t want Japanese vocals in a non-Japanese game.
    That right there is probably enough to turn off a sizable number of hardcore fans. 😛

    It was also kind of famous for its questionable-quality voice acting, and a fair amount of slowdown.

    And the Nintendo translation of the infamous boat scene (because of DeJap’s sexually-explicit translation).

    1. That translation seems fine in a vacuum, but I’m not familiar with what DeJap did. Is this a case of actual censorship, or did DeJap “punch it up” in a crazy way?

      1. They indeed punched it up. Saying “Arche fucks like a tiger” for example is crazier than what Klarth’s line implied (I think he meant she’s a rambunctious girl because of her personality). Also, DeJap made it sound like Arche was dreaming of wild raunchy sex with Cless when she got drunk and fell asleep in the ship’s bar. The GBA translation just makes it sound like she’s resisting a date or a kiss or something. Really tame context basically.

      2. Also while Arche is talking her sleep later in the scene, and it’s left to the reader to guess what’s she dreaming of (“we shouldn’t…”), the DeJap translation was like “Give it to me HARD!” (obviously talking about sex)

        1. Yeah, I want to know which is stupider, It’s ether DeJap’s sex jokes in Tales of Phantasia or J2e’s pop culture references in FF4.

    2. Yeah, the voice acting in the GBA version killed me. “What the heeEEEEeeck is thaaaat?”

  15. I think this is my new favourite post on this site. It’s been a whole day, and I’m still laughing at it. 🙂

  16. To add an opinion to the pile, the ToP GBA translation was… serviceable. Aside from Kangaroo, there weren’t any obvious mistakes or problems (and it *was* clearly being done with an eye toward continuity with the then-recently-successful Tales of Symphonia), but a lot of it did end up feeling… dry. As much as some might complain about the amount of “flavor” DeJap added to certain scenes, the GBA script makes a case for just that sort of practice. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it really lacks that certain je ne sais quoi.

    It wasn’t helped by the technical issues the port had, as well, mind. But it was definitely a middle-of-the-road sort of thing.

  17. The iPhone version just got an English release (yay?) and all signs indicate that it’s based on the GBA translation (the names and one line shown match). Wonder if they fixed that error in this release.

  18. Don’t know about that one error, haven’t gotten that far in the IOS port, but the translation is already pretty bad. There’s a bunch of grammar and punctuation mistakes, one mistakenly-placed double-negative, and every time they say LongSword(The weapon item) It goes off the text box. They kept the Japanese audio, though(It’s based off the fully voiced PSP version) and it’s rather entertaining if you can understand a bit. It’s decently true to the audio I can hear, but for example, in the boat scene where they’re drinking, they used eating instead of drinking(the sprites show beer mugs, and the audio says drinking), so I can only assume they censored it a bit. As to the other boat scene, the “Arche fucks like a tiger”, Klarth is indeed asking Cress which one of the girls he would go for, but he doesn’t quite say that equivalent.

  19. Mars Adept Enten

    This kind of reminds me of a few errors in the GBA Golden Sun games. Like how GS1 translated every instance of Breath as Blessing. So you’d end up with gems like Fire Blessing and Water Blessing, instead of the presumably intended Fire Breath and Water Breath. Another one in GS:TLA is Dullahan’s infamous ‘Formina Sage’ line, which should have been ‘Fulminous Edge’ (as the animation shows a giant lightning bolt. I have the official Nintendo Power Player’s Guide and saw a screenshot of the battle with that move being used and I remember wondering what a ‘formina’ was (I was ~14 at the time and had never heard of the word ‘fulminous’ before.
    (Note: even the spellcheck in this comment section doesn’t even recognize ‘fulminous’.