Did Project X Zone 2 Reference All These Things in Japanese?

Okay! It's time to play Spot the Differences!Okay! It's time to play Spot the Differences!

I received a couple questions about some English lines in the recently-released Project X Zone 2 for the 3DS. I haven’t played any of the games in the series (for some reason I thought they were a fighting game crossover), but the questions were straightforward enough that I could answer them. So let’s take a look!

Question #1: M. Bison and the Animals

This first question comes from Darien, who asks:

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Project X Zone games — they’re the later Namco x Capcom games, after more companies got involved. Kind of Disgaea-esque comedy SRPGs, but these are huge silly mashups of characters from lots of different games. […]

At the beginning of chapter five, there’s a scene featuring M. Bison and a few of the game’s original characters discussing their evil plan. One of them, Sheath, is presented as an American girl who learned her Japanese on the internet, so she speaks in a very strange fashion, and wears Toriyama-like bunny ears. When Bison leaves, she says (referring to herself and two other villains, who are anthropomorphic animals) “we also have rabbit, cow, horse! Mr. Bison fit right in!”

I’m curious about this line in the Japanese, since, of course, his Japanese name is Vega, which ruins the whole setup. Is there a joke in there at all? Is it anything similar?

Darien kindly provided YouTube links to the Japanese and English scenes, and here’s the line in question:

I feel really, really out of the loop with games like this where I only recognize 10% of the charactersI feel really, really out of the loop with games like this where I only recognize 10% of the characters

And here’s a look at the text:

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
We have a rabbit and a cow and a horse, Mr. Vega. Are you really going to go?We have also rabbit, cow, horse! Mr. Bison fit right in! Why you leave?

First, an important note: in Japan, the final boss of Street Fighter II was known as “Vega” rather than “M. Bison”.

Seriously, they should've cast Jay Leno as Ryu for the Street Fighter movie, I can't unsee his face in this gameSeriously, they should've cast Jay Leno as Ryu for the Street Fighter movie, I can't unsee his face in this game

Because his name isn’t “Bison” in the Japanese Street Fighter series, it makes sense that this Japanese line doesn’t have a joke about his name being an animal’s name. Instead, it was likely an English localizer who picked up on that logical connection and added the clever little mention to the line. This new joke feels so natural that I’m almost inclined to think the English text was written first, but something tells me that that probably wasn’t the case. It does happen sometimes, though.

Question #2: Shadowgate & More?

John R. asked on Twitter about a line from the game’s ending. In the English release, a character references three classic point-and-click NES games. He wanted to know what the Japanese line was like, so I dug that up too:

I think the guy on the left is Captain Commando but I dunno what role he could play in a game. No idea who the girl on the right is thoughI think the guy on the left is Captain Commando but I dunno what role he could play in a game. No idea who the girl on the right is though

And here’s the text side-by-side:

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
Yeah, Demitri gave us a devil’s invitation. So with an “Open sesame-sesame!” we passed through the door to get here.Yup. For a moment I thought we were uninvited, but then the shadow-gate swung right open. Gave me the weirdest déjà vu.

For reference, the three games mentioned in the English line are: Uninvited, Shadowgate, and Deja Vu.

I need to get back into these games someday, I played Shadowgate a lot back in the 90s but remember almost nothing anymoreI need to get back into these games someday, I played Shadowgate a lot back in the 90s but remember almost nothing anymoreI need to get back into these games someday, I played Shadowgate a lot back in the 90s but remember almost nothing anymore

The Japanese line doesn’t seem to mention any of them at first, but it turns out that “Devil’s Invitation” was the Japanese name for Uninvited:

Interesting formatting, also this Japanese text is in the first-person just like Japanese Shadowgate, which is worrisome

And the “Open Sesame-Sesame” part is a reference to a spell in the same game. In the English NES release, the spell was known as “O Sesame”.

Some cute little red monster danced by before this, I wonder what his deal wasSome cute little red monster danced by before this, I wonder what his deal was

So it looks like the Japanese line did indeed include a reference to the old point-and-click games. It only references Uninvited, but at the very least we can see that the English line didn’t come out of nowhere. Again, this line almost feels like it could’ve been written in English first, although that probably wasn’t the case. I guess that’s one of the highest praises a localization can get!

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  1. In Question 2, Xiaomu (the girl on the right) is an original character. There’s only a small handful of original characters compared to licensed characters, but I don’t blame you for having trouble telling them apart.

    This is such a weird series character wise. A big chunk if not a majority of the characters are from games that aren’t on Nintendo platforms. Namco x Capcom, the first game from 2005, has a pretty diverse set of recognizable characters from a roughly 20 year period. It’s also the only game out of 3 to not come out in the US. Project X Zone (2012) and PXZ 2 lean really heavily on Sony-centric series and games (particularly on the Namco side) which is totally bizarre considering Monolith Soft has been owned by Nintendo since 2007 although Namco published all 3 games.

  2. The text for the first question makes it really seem like the English script might have been written first. Without Vega being M. Bison, the animal references seem completely out of nowhere, unless there’s something else in the Japanese text to justify it.

    I’ve also heard that the Japanese sales for the original Project X Zone weren’t stellar, and that it sold much better over here, which is the only reason PXZ 2 got made at all. I’m not certain how valid that rumor is, though. If that’s the case, there might actually be a serious argument to be made that the game’s script was written in English first.

    1. I suppose it possible that Japanese fans are aware of the Vega/M. Bison problem, and that this was actually a reference to that. So, a meta joke, that was just turned into an actual joke in localization.

  3. Regarding the second hidden text: Yeah, i’m definitely in the same boat. I tried the demos for both the original and sequel, but I felt a lot of the inside jokes for many of the characters just went way over my head.

  4. Can’t believe I never heard of this series!

    1. Namco’s ‘Cross’ series can be slogs to get through, especially the first PxZ, since the battles are long and drawn out the games take dozens upon dozens of hours to complete. They have stellar writting tho. (imo, of course)

      1. Well, that and I guess you don’t have a 3DS to play these in first place? Certainly would be awesome if they would do an installment for PC one day…

  5. I really like PXZ’s localizations, they’re super charming and I feel they just follow the original tone impeccably.

  6. At least the second line feels like it was written in Japanese first, then got turned into a different joke referencing the same series due to the difficulty of translating the original Japanese joke into something that would be recognizable enough at first glance. It sounds rather unlikely a Japanese translator would get to that reference to the three MacVenture game titles and decide to turn it into a reference to Uninvited only.

    1. Or, to go a bit more into detail, I can see from the end result how the translator was thinking.
      “Akuma no shotaijo” is a unique enough phrase to make people think of the game, and while “hirake yo goma goma” might not be super memorable on its own, people that see the game title are likely to make the connection to the spell.

      “Uninvited”, however, is just a word, and I doubt there’s a single person that’s ever read “O sesame” with no further context and thought “Oh, like the spell in Uninvited”.

      So while the first line would have to be rewritten into something that works in the game’s English name (and “I thought we were uninvited, but” is as good a way as any), the full thing COULD have been translated as “I thought we were uninvited, but then we tried saying “O sesame” and the door swung open” and give people equal references to what the Japanese got.

      The question is, would people actually have read that line and gone “I get it, it’s an Uninvited reference!” The translator clearly thought “no”, and I have to agree with him on that. As such, he chose to ditch the reference to the spell and toss in the titles to the other MacVenture games instead, giving us a reference that’s much easier to get at first glance.

      So I can see this train of thought. I can, however, not see any kind of train of thought that would lead a Japanese translator to translate the English line into the Japanese one. That’s why I’m pretty positive the Japanese line came first.

      1. Oh, I believe the same as you, no worries. In fact, one of the game’s developers even let me know a few hours ago that the script was written in Japanese first.

        I could just envision in some parallel world where maybe the three references were written first in English, but maybe Akuma no Shoutaijou was the most memorable in Japan, so the E->J guys would’ve narrowed in on that (hence my “almost”). I’m not actually sure about the status of the three games in Japan though.

  7. Xiaomu seems to talk in a weird old man way in Japanese; am I imagining things>

    1. The > should have been a ?, sorry.

    2. If she does (and I know very little so I cannot confirm this), that actually fits the character: she’s a zillion-year-old magical fox spirit.

  8. You’re right, incidentally: that’s Captain Commando hisself. He’s a pretty amusing inclusion — though not quite as amusing as Segata Sanshiro, mind you, who does constantly go on about the Sega Saturn.

  9. The PXZ2 translation is kinda infamous for making up many lines and not being really faithful outside the general plot. Kinda annoying on the parts you can hear the original voices if you can tell they’re saying something different.

    1. I get the feeling “not faithful outside the general plot” would be just fine, provided that everything outside the general plot is a string of references, gags, and things to tickle nostalgia, which is quite possible for crossover games like this. If you’re on this site, then you should know that bringing foreign media to other places is just as much about conveying what the creator(s) were trying to do as is translating the words.

      1. You’re pretty much spot-on; the dialogue is basically just non-stop gags.

    2. Bushnell help us, they actually made sure the jokes were still funny in english! THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END THIS ISN’T WHAT LOCALIZATION IS ABOUT!

    3. “Not faithful” in what way? I haven’t played the game myself, but that Uninvited stuff above is certainly not unfaithful: It carries the same rough meaning, it references the same material, and mostly rewrites out of necessity due to the completely different names the game has between languages and a need to make sure the player realizes what’s being referenced.

      Is that the kind of stuff it’s “infamous” for?

  10. I wanted to like Project X Zone so much. But it was pretty much a mindless button masher (yes, seriously) where every map was trivial to complete, which isn’t really what I want out of an SRPG. And the plot was just “Oh, there are some characters over there! Hey, do you guys know what’s going on? No? Okay. Look, there are some more characters over there! Do YOU guys know what’s going on…?”

    The vague joy I got when I saw characters I recognized wasn’t worth the tedious boredom, and at this point I barely remember anything about it.

  11. So Xiaomu does make game references in the Japanese version (albeit not that often). They amped up her otaku levels in the English release like crazy. The references are all over the place with the things she mentions. Somehow Carmen Sandiego even got into the localization. It’s fantastic writing. XD

    1. Xiaomu is an original character who first debuted alongside her partner Reiji in Namco x Capcom back in 2005. She’s a spirit fox who claims she’s 765 years old (famous Namco reference) and has built up a reputation for being a zany otaku who talks about all manner of anime, games and even overseas stuff whenever she talks. She’s become a bit of a cult icon, even to U.S. and European gamers.

  12. I remember playing this and seeing, of all things, a reference to Cheetahmen/Action 52 – I laughed so hard when that happened. And it would actually be appropiate for a character like Xiaomu to keep dropping references left and right x3