What’s with the “Dark Friar” Attack in Illusion of Gaia?


A Legends of Localization reader named Theodore asked a question about Illusion of Gaia for the Super NES:

In the SNES game “Illusion of Gaia” (called “Illusion of Time” in Europe), there’s a special move (used by Freedan the Dark Knight) called “Dark Friar”. The move has absolutely nothing to do with friars, so I assume it’s a mistranslation (especially since the rest of the game isn’t translated very well). Can you tell (or at least guess) what this move was supposed to be called?

I’ve never played this myself, I only watched HCBailley’s LP of the game a while back and recall being confused by the “Dark Friar” move too. So I just took a look in both the Japanese and the English versions of the games to see what the deal is:

I seriously originally thought Freedan was some sort of religious monk priest guy as a result of this translationI seriously originally thought Freedan was some sort of religious monk priest guy as a result of this translation

So it looks like the “Dark Friar” move is called “ダークフライヤー” in Japanese. Because of how Japanese-to-English transliteration works, it could be written a bunch of different ways in English, “Dark Friar” being one of them. Another could be “Dark Flier”, like a move that has something to do with flying or sending something flying. But since the game specifically mentions that you can use the move to “scorch a distant enemy”, it seems that “Dark Frier” was the intended meaning:

Scorsha, Merlock, or Mongo?

This move also causes a big, red fireball to shoot out of Freedan’s sword, and if you’re sufficiently powered up you can even make it explode into more whirling fireballs:

I don't see what's so dark about it personally

So it seems clear-cut (in fact, I thought I figured it out at this point myself!) but there’s a bit of added confusion – the Japanese description for the move says, “A shockwave flies from your sword.” Which fits more with the “Flyer” meaning. And since that’s the connection made in the original source text, I’m inclined to think “Flier” was intended all along.

I’m not sure why the translators went with “friar” instead of “frier/fryer” or “flier”, but in hindsight I doubt they would ever have been as memorable as “Dark Friar” 😛

Anyway, hopefully that helps solve that little mystery! And thanks to Dan for bopping me on the head with my own screenshot!

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  1. Also, the leaked beta of the English version is slightly less censored than the retail US version (but has already some of the graphical censorship like the blood fountain under the ocean, that became a grey …something else)

    1. Oh, neat, I never knew there was a beta localization of it floating around.

      Now if only we could find beta English versions of FFIV and EarthBound I’d be set for life 😛

      1. Oh wow, FF IV (but especially VI, and maybe SoM too) would be really interesting (even though realistically the first draft of the script wouldn’t have fit the space limitations).
        An Earthbound build without graphical/text censorship? Would be really nice 😛
        I’d like frankly whatever they managed to finish with Final Fantasy V, Front Mission or Bahamut Lagoon (which were announced then suddenly scrapped).
        Or the beta localization of GBA Mother 3. Even if it’s merely Engrish (probably).

        Illusion of Gaia is a special case though. It was really planned to be released in this beta form under that title (“Soul Blazer: Illusion of Gaia”), but Nintendo came and published it, not before editing the text a bit. Same thing happened with the Tenchi Suzo sequel, except that the planned North American version (as an Enix-published “Genesis”) was never done to begin with due to Enix America closing up, and Nintendo finished that translation on their own instead as “Terranigma”.
        It was done by Nintendo of America staff with utter disregard to their own guidelines regarding censorship, yet released only in Europe and Australia -and the American translators got a very unique NTSC English build as a stamped prototype Enix cartridge, if a certain comment in a longplay video is to be believed… and considering the IoG Beta leak cart name, it’s not that far-fetched-
        Truly an enigma. Then again Nintendo did crazier things (like translating and releasing Harvest Moon SNES in Europe in 1998).

        1. wait, Nintendo translated/release Harvest Moon in Europe? I have to ask, is it less…well…funky than the US version?

  2. Maybe it’s supposed to be “Dark Flare”?

    Dark Frier just seems really odd…

    1. A lot of times, people will use foreign words because they sound “cool”, purely by virtue of being foreign. Then, they use words in ways that sound ridiculous to native speakers. I wouldn’t be surprised.

    2. Nah, there’s no chance of that. Dark Flare would be ダークフレア or ダークフレアー, not ダークフライヤー.

  3. Sorry, but I’m gonna have to disagree here, Tom. Have a look at the move description in the Japanese version… けんからしょうげきがとぶ. The move is supposed to be more of a shock or such. I’m going with Flyer on this one.

    1. “A shock flies from your sword.”

      Dark Flyer sounds likely, now. Then again, it looks a lot more like fire than electricity. It’s still possible for it to translate to, “An crash leaps from your sword”, or something along those lines.

      1. Freedan must be quite an hero to have a move like that.

    2. Ack, you’re right, I didn’t even think to check the descriptions there! I’ll amend stuff in a bit.

  4. I was always a big fan of the name “Dark Friar.” It didn’t make any sense, to be sure, but it sounded mysterious and powerful.

  5. Dark Frier is indeed the most sensible translation, and a fine example of why direct translation is often a bad idea. As for the tooltip question of why it’s called “dark” when it doesn’t seem to be all that dark, that’s because all of Will’s moves in Illusion of Gaia are considered to be aligned with darkness.

    Quintet was really big on “light and dark” themes in their Super Famicom line-up, especially with their “big three” (Soul Blader/Soul Blazer, Gaia Gensouki/Illusion of Gaia, and Tenchi Souzou/Terranigma). As the official Japanese title of Soul Blazer should tell you, they were not good at gratuitous English. At all.

  6. How many mistranslations can you make for one attack? XD

    1. You’d be quite surprised. XD

  7. The French localization changed a lot of things (starting with the protagonists’ names), but at least it just translated this attack as “fireball”.

  8. Ah memories, one of my favorite SNES RPGs ever (rented it as often as Secret of Mana; too bad I never bought a copy)! I sadly never played Soul Blazer though, and I don’t need to mention the travesty that was Terranigma not being released here.

    Even as a kid, I always knew “friar” was not correct at all (with thanks to the story of Robin Hood for first introducing me to the term), but I just had to accept the fact somebody didn’t do their homework in the proofreading department. Despite that, the move itself is just awesome when you acquire the upgrade. It can clear out enemies within two seconds of using the split extension.

  9. Given the religious overtones the rest of the game has anyways, I preffered “Dark Friar” over a more sensical name I guessed it could have.

    Still, the translation of this game is a mess, with outright wrong texts everywhere. I’ve been wanting to replay it with the beta to see differences.

  10. just thought I’d mention that at least one person out there noticed and understood your dumb random reference in the middle 😛

  11. You guys arent realizing the simplicity of it all, its just a play on words. I grew up on this game and have came to light about the religious references in the beta, that aside, Dark Friar means Hes a Dark (Fryer) hint the flame, and he is of a Holy dark legion, A dark paladin if anything light comes from the darkness.

  12. I always figured it was meant to be a reference to Freedan himself since he’s sort of a holy knight of Gaia.