Is Helen Keller Seriously in this Japanese Video Game?


Dylan sent in a question about a line in a cool-looking NES/Famicom game:

There’s a rather obscure NES game that I think is a bit of an underrated gem called Wurm: Journey to the Center of the Earth. Despite being a Shmup/Platformer/FPS (putting a genre on this is pretty hard, to say the least) on the NES, it has a pretty heavy amount of cutscenes and dialogue. I get the impression that most of the game was a pretty direct translation (and not very well translated either but that’s besides the point) except for one line of dialogue.

Basically, what happens is that when you ask a character about certain boss’s weakness, they’ll tell you that the weakness is water. Ask a character named Mike in the English version, and he’ll crack a joke about how he’s “Sounding like Hellen Keller”. My question is, what was this line in the Japanese version?

I looked into it and here’s what I found! First, here’s the line in both versions of the game – this is said after your crewmates have discovered that the boss’s weakness is water:

I gotta say, talking about Helen Keller in the context of video games almost makes me feel evil and/or uncomfortableI gotta say, talking about Helen Keller in the context of video games almost makes me feel evil and/or uncomfortable

And here’s what Mike says in both versions of the game:

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
I’m feelin’ like Helen Keller here!
Water…I’m sounding like Hellen Keller.

So, yep, the line was the same in the original Japanese script! The localizers are blame-free 😛

Although I can’t help but notice that it’s spelled “Hellen Keller” in the English text, when it’s apparently only spelled with one “l”. I wonder if this was done on purpose to avoid legal issues or of it was just a typo the translator made. Also, just for trivia purposes, Mike says the actual English word “water” in the Japanese script rather than the Japanese word.

Anyway, for those not in the know, there’s an actual meaning behind this reference, it wasn’t just thrown in out of nowhere – ”water” was Helen Keller’s first word. Although why the Japanese writers chose to mention her in a sci-fi game about journeying to the center of the planet and fighting bizarre creatures is a mystery to me!

Incidentally, this game’s actually really cool! I wish I’d played it back in the day, I probably would’ve loved it!

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  1. Both games developed by Cyclone System (Saint Sword being the other) had essentially simultaneous releases in Japan and the US. It’s pretty certain there was a bilingual (give or take) on staff that was working on both the English and Japanese simultaneously.

    1. Pardon, or maybe just shouldn’t be searching late at night, Cyclone System did that for a number more games, including releasing the English version first in at least one case.

      1. Whoa, that’s surprisingly cool for the times! I didn’t know game companies did anything like that back then.

  2. I’m kind of surprised myself. It’s a reference Japanese gamers wouldn’t really get over there unless they actually studied it.

    1. Yeah, I’m curious to know how much they teach about her in Japanese schools, if at all.

      1. I agree. Not to be mean to them, but I always imagined they didn’t really give a crap about anything outside of their country.

      2. Do you personally know anyone from Japan, Clyde?

        1. Of course 😛 I intend to ask some friends about it just for my own curiosity’s sake.

      3. It’s my understanding that “The Miracle Worker” has been a classic in Japan since at least the 1970s — it’s plausible that the developers in the late 80s had at least heard of the famous play and were thus vaguely aware of Keller’s story, as well as the fact that “water” (said in English) was her first word. So I can’t speak for schools necessarily, but she is an established figure in pop culture even now.

  3. Re-reading this article today, I remembered that Helen Keller was also referenced in the Japanese TV series, “My Boss, My Hero.” At least that’s how I interpreted this scene:

    Two examples are always(!) too many to be coincidence, so I did my utmost to research Helen Keller’s connection to Japan, and opened up her Wikipedia page.

    Apparently Helen Keller visited dozens of countries during her journeys as a political and social activists. She visited Japan multiple times and became “a favorite of the Japanese people,” and is even credited with introducing the Akita dog into the United States.

  4. It’s almost certainly referencing “The Miracle Worker”. There was an interview with Yuko Miyamura (a well-known voice actress), where she said that getting inside a particular character’s head (Asuka from Evangelion) made her feel like Anne Sullivan (Keller’s tutor). It’s in the back of Manga Volume 4, in English.