Reader Feedback: Final Fantasy IV’s Fan Translation


A reader by the name of Yannick recently sent me a pretty big e-mail that covers a lot of stuff. A lot of it has to do with how critical I am of the J2E Final Fantasy IV fan translation, which I wasn’t associated with although I was doing fan translations of other games for J2E at the same time.

Anyway, every once in a while I receive messages like this – sometimes they’re sticking up for the PlayStation translation or sometimes they’re sticking up for something else. This one is about the fan translation:

I have read your Legends Of Localisation website and I’m happy and thankful that finally someone has done this.

I am a bit sceptical however over you unnecessary bashing of the J2E fan-translation in your final fantasy 4 comparison. You seem to show only the (in your opinion) worst translated parts and have very weird commentary about it for example you said that they only translated the game partially and copied the rest of the official snes translation, but the parts that were `copied` were in itself well translated parts.

It’s true that I’ve tended to only show stuff in the fan translation that has issues, but that’s generally the case for each version of the game, actually. If I had the time I’d take an even closer look at the alternate translations too, like the fan translation, the PlayStation translation, etc. Still, I don’t think my criticism of the fan translation is unwarranted – it has its good points but it also has its bad points (as outlined here) and I think it’s fair to point out those specific flaws. Even one of the translators on the project agrees that the fan translation isn’t so great after looking back all these years:

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If I seem harsh on the fan translation it’s partly because it was touted – and has been touted for well over a decade – as the definitive translation of the game. But it’s not, and I want to point out why. Most fans have to take it on faith that a translation is accurate. In fact, without playing the original version and knowing Japanese yourself, there’s no way to know if a translation is accurate or not.

One of the problems the fan translation has is that it often didn’t translate at all, it just rephrased what the official translation said. First, that’s not what I would consider a definitive translation, and second, whenever I notice this happening it’s because the fan translation is including lines that weren’t in the original Japanese text at all!

In other words, the parts the fan translation copied were not “well-translated” as suggested, but were made up out of thin air. The first time I noticed this was Mt. Ordeals because I decided to take a look at that scene on a lark, but since then I’ve noticed this is a pattern in the fan translation.

It is also logical that if 2 translators separately translate the same text some part would be the same.

Two translators translating the same line might come up with similar phrasing, but there’s no way they’d come up with the same made-up lines that weren’t in the original text. So I think it’s completely fair to point out and criticize this line-copying issue.

You call the translation poor and error prone, said it uses swearing inappropriately and call the presentation poor and very unprofessional yet you can provide very few good actual examples.

Sure I do. Here’s some unwarranted swearing, unnecessary character re-writing, and more:

I also point out actual, genuine translation mistakes and explain how they likely came about.

By “poor presentation”, I generally mean that the mixing and matching of different fonts is poorly done, the expansion of windows in battle leaves a lot to be desired, there are typos, and other similar things.

Image 1Image 2Image 3

Another thing I can think of off the top of my head is that dialog boxes were expanded to the very edges of the screen to fit in more text and accommodate the big font – except this puts the main text outside the “safe area” of the screen and the game would’ve immediately failed the official Nintendo lot check. That’s why I say it’s poorly presented and unprofessional.

There are also instances when the J2E fan-translation make some parts better then a literal translation (for example the part were Cecil battles the water fiend) and you use that as a chance to unfairly criticise them. In my opinion games should be translated in meaning, but if a translator sees a option to use something that is the same but better, that should be used instead.

I agree that literal translations aren’t always the best, but retranslating the game to make the definitive version was the purpose of the fan translation, so when it doesn’t live up to that I point it out. The fan translation often makes things up, and when it does I’ll say so. When it gets something wrong I’ll say so. But I also point out where the fan translation shines too – the amount of research put into some terms, the correctly-translated references to the Divine Comedy, the nicely-done handling of Cid’s speech… That and a bunch of other things is all stuff that the fan translation did better than the official translation, and I made sure to share all that as well.

It is also funny how you make the bar/cafe look like a disaster but praise the ds translation when they incorrectly chanced legend sword to Mythgraven Blade which is a sign of a bad translation.

The fan translation is supposed to be the go-to translation, but it sometimes mistakenly calls the pubs and bars cafes. I think that’s like one of the first things any re-translator would go and fix, so the idea that this fan translation is the “fully uncensored and as it was meant to be” version seems silly.

I’m not sure why you think I’m okay with “Mythgraven Blade”, though. I actually think that’s a goofy name and I’m not really a fan of the “flower-y” tone of the DS translation. Actually, a lot of Square Enix translations use this style lately when it doesn’t seem appropriate and it sort of irks me. I’ve touched on that topic briefly but I don’t have it in me to play through the entire DS version too, so I only bring up the DS translation from time to time.

Do you even realise that you make it look like the official snes translation is better than the J2E fan-translation?

Absolutely. Even with all its shortcomings, I feel the official translation has more discipline and consistency. Aside from the fact that it has all the original items and gameplay elements, the fan translation is a big mess that sorely needed the supervision of someone with experience. Fan translators usually are amateurs though, so I can understand why this translation turned out the way it did.

Again, I was actually friends with and worked with some folks on J2E, and one of the translators even agrees that the fan translation wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. So it’s not that I have an agenda against these guys or something, I’m just trying to call everything like I see it.

I have played and completed the J2E translation and I also noticed that it is sometimes different then what you tell. I am not accusing you however and saw a rumour on FF wiki that could explain it(see screen shot). I can also tell from personal experience that it was a high quality translation.

Yeah, this is something I noticed recently too. They did have earlier versions of the translation patch, and I’ve been using the latest, most commonly found version. It took a lot of work but I found some earlier patches and checked them out. They seem to have the same translation mistakes as the final patch, but don’t have the pop references. I think the earlier patches didn’t have as many copied lines too, I don’t know what’s up with that. But most of all I know some of the earlier patches have some event bugs that break the game, so I don’t really think it’s worth delving too deep into these early, hard-to-find, buggy versions.

Anyway, all that stuff said, I do always worry that my criticism of the various translations might come across as unwarranted or that my criticism of stuff might seem too harsh, so if it ever seems that way it’s probably not intentional. I also worry that some people might visit a random page on my FFIV comparison section and get the wrong idea that I think everything is a terrible travesty of a translation or that I think everything must be translated a certain way or else it’s garbage.

In actuality, analyzing translations at this deep of a level is a big part of my professional work, so this is just an instance of sharing that analysis process for everyone to see. In the end, I just hope this comparison stuff will be interesting for fans of the game and that it might help people understand the inner workings of game translations.

I would also suggest that you add examples for better censored translations(for example the death bringer sword could also be translated as XXXX sword)

I’m not sure what this means… Is that from an alternate release? An online search didn’t really turn up anything.

If it isn`t a problem I have also a small thing that I would have liked find out/translated I was playing rune factory frontier on the Wii and I saw an item which has a weird use if you look at the item name. It was called energy drink so you would expect it restores RP, but instead it restores HP. Is that the same in the Japanese original? I have included some pictures of the English version.

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I looked online and it appears to be called a 回復ドリンク, which is something like “Restorative Drink”. I can see why they’d call it an “Energy Drink” in translation. I don’t know much about Rune Factory stuff, so I don’t know if calling it one way or the other is better.

I would appreciate it very much if you would do a full comparison of phantasy star 1. It is a RPG-game on the Sega master system which was very poorly officially translated. It has 2 fan – translations(one done by smspower) as far as I know on that are fairly unknown (they don`t even know it at the phantasy star wiki), a ps2 remake known as phantasy star generation 1 which was never officially translated and had a better known fan-translation done by Kyence. I am interested in playing the game and am curious about the changes.

I’ve always wanted to get into early Phantasy Star stuff, so this might be a good chance. I want to try to stray from RPGs for a while though, they burn me out and take a long time to not only play through, but to document, take screenshots, write up pages for, etc. But it sounds interesting and seems to be an often-requested game, so who knows!

I watch the anime the one piece online and was wondering whether it was your translation or some one else’s and if it was done by some else if it is a good translation.

Umm… thanks…? I can’t tell if this is an insult or praise 😯

Ah, now I understand. The run-on sentence had me confused. Basically, if you’re watching the official subtitles online then there’s maybe a 1/3 chance it was my translation. I worked primarily on episodes 1-215 or so, and even then only about half of those. After that I moved on to Fairy Tail, so I don’t do much One Piece stuff anymore. My coworker did a lot of the other One Piece translations and she’s a great translator, so I’m sure her stuff is good too. There’s one other official translator who works on the simulcast but I haven’t watched their work so I can’t say anything about their translations.

Finally I wanted to know if you still need final fantasy or other screen shots( I have final fantasy origins,final fantasy dawn of souls,final fantasy 3 fan-translation from Alex W. Jackson Neill Corlett SoM2freak,final fantasy 4 J2E-fantranslation, final fantasy 5 fan-translation (I think from RPGe but not 100% sure),final fantasy 6 RPG one translation) Do you intend to implement the option of comment on your comparisons? I think it would be a great idea. Note that despite my complains regarding J2E I am grateful for your work and time to do this I only wrote that to make sure people who read it will get a true and unbiased idea of what the best translation is and which version they should play.

I which you good luck with you future projects.

Actually, what I could really use are screenshots from the DS FFIV and the PSP FFIV… Some kind readers have sent me DS pics up to Kaipo and PSP pics up to Yang, but because of my slow update pace I think I scared people away :X

Earlier this year I asked readers if they’d like me to allow comments on individual LoL pages and it was really strange – people seemed all for it on my blog, but on Twitter a lot of people were iffy about it. So I decided to leave them off for now. I was thinking of possibly starting a message board or something for each individual game though. That might help keep the clutter off the main pages.

Again, I hope my critiques of each translation of Final Fantasy IV or other games don’t come off as antagonistic – I don’t mean them to be. I might show actual surprise or be a little blunt sometimes, but I don’t mean to be negative – I know how much work it takes to translate a game and it’s clear that fan translators and professional translators generally do these projects out of genuine enthusiasm for the medium. It’s just, pointing out little flaws and mistakes sort of comes with a natural negative vibe, you know? In any case, I’ll keep working on trying to explain things in a better way.
  1. I love you analyses! Some people just get upset over nothing. It’s not like that person even was part of the translation team.

  2. One thing I really have to praise J2e for is how they handed expanding the dialogue box in battle to allow two lines. That makes such a huge difference, there simply isn’t enough room in the original box, even if it’s expanded to the edges of the screen, to allow full translations of those lines to fit. I suppose that if the translation were done today, their coder probably would’ve implemented a VWF and been done with it, but aesthetically the window expansion matches the rest of the text in battle much better.

    Otherwise, I think presentation-wise you’re spot on. I always thought the fan translation looked a lot sloppier than the official translation, even though more effort was put into it. Another thing that always bugged me was that they have like four different tables of item names and three of magic, when one (maybe two, for unabbreviated names) would suffice and keep everything much more consistent throughout the game.

    That XXXX Sword comment is probably a reference to Death being translated as XXXX in the original Final Fantasy.

    1. To be honest, I kind of feel the opposite – the IDEA of having two lines in battle was great, but the presentation leaves a lot to be desired I think. I can understand why it’d be really hard to make it look good, but man it doesn’t look professional at all to me :X

  3. Tomato,

    I like your unbiased honesty to call it as you see it without being too sentimental about things. I get the strong impression that the reader who emailed you probably played the J2e version and grew attached to it, and so felt the need to defend your modest criticisms of that translation’s accuracy. Seems like the real mistake the FFIV fan translation people made was the claim that their translation is definitive and follows the Japanese script as closely as possible. As an experienced translator, of course you have to take some exception to that when you notice inaccuracies and copied or made-up content, and you show your disapproval, confusion, and amusement in your analysis without getting overly nasty about it (in my opinion).

    It’s to be expected that fan translations will have their errors and quirks – they can’t all be like Mother 3 and done by a professional to high standards (and without any official English translation to compare it to either). What’s more annoying to me is how shoddy the official re-releases have been… it seems like Square-Enix just hires people to touch-up the SNES translation again and again rather than rolling up their sleeves and working to make a ‘definitive’ version themselves. Seems lazy and has to be at least a bit disorienting to fans playing multiple versions.

    With all the solid translation work you’ve already done with FFIV for your LoL pages, how hard would it be to come up with a solid translation patch of your own? I know it’d be a lot of work, but it seems called-for and would do this great game some justice…

    Thanks for covering FFIV and the other games, I’m really digging your site and appreciate the frequent blog posting!

    1. I can’t comment on its accuracy too closely, but the DS version should definitely be considered the definitive translation, even if it is a bit flowery as Mato puts it. Tom Slattery comments on it a bit in this interview:

      It’s a shame that they didn’t reuse his translation in the PSP version, leaving people stuck with a slightly touched-up GBA script. The DS version, gameplay wise, was a bit disappointment to me.

      1. Not a fan of the “flower-y” style either but who knows, it’s entirely possible that some or most of that actually comes from the Japanese DS script? As Slattery commented in that nice interview you linked to:

        “The Japanese script itself was also heavily revised for the DS version; they even modified the name of the Red Wings in Japanese to give it more medieval flair.”

        So even if the DS-version is a truly fantastic translation on its own, it cannot really be considered for the superfamicom original imo. That of course depending on how much the Japanese script was altered.

        1. Yeah, that’s definitely a possibility. FF6 Advance doesn’t seem to suffer from the flowery writing at all, and I don’t remember it in the DS port of Chrono Trigger either, so it doesn’t seem to be Slattery’s personal style or anything like that.

          Maybe Mato should be asking someone to grab Japanese screenshots of FF4 DS too (sorry for making more work for ya, heh).

    2. To be honest, I only consider myself a mediocre translator – I work with and around other people that never ceases to impress me, so I got a long way to go. So I wouldn’t say my Mother 3 translation or other translations are super amazing or anything.

      That said, I still really would like to make a patch of my own sometime – not necessarily to say “this is how it’s supposed to be! argh! rage!” but just to have it out there for people who sometimes ask me which version they should play. Right now I’d probably steer most people to the DS version, but the gameplay in that was pretty different so it’s also a whole different experience of its own, so I dunno.

      I do fear that making another patch would be this too 😛

      1. Yes, it would be different, but it would be a f*****g fantastic experience! A future mato FFIV translation-patch is somehow inevitable I think. *making jedi mind tricks* 😉

        Anyway, you should definitely continue excactly in the same spirit you have been doing these comparisons so far, simply awesome work…

  4. stone cold steve austin (scsa)

    Tomato you’re right on the mark man, I’m following what you’re saying 100%. You might feel like some people might feel like you’re not doing a good enough job doing this or that but rest assured that with LoL you are. Translations are incredibly interesting to me and don’t stop telling it like it is in the good way that you do.

    That’s the Bottom Line Cause Stone Cold Said So!

  5. Don’t censor yourself for these people. I love the way that you handle things. You never pull punches to avoid hurt feelings, you don’t overstate errors in an EFFORT to hurt feelings…it’s a straightforward, honest analysis. Keep it up.

    1. Thanks, although if it ever does seem like I’ve gone over the fine line of detailed analysis to fan rage analysis let me know. It’s so easy to fall into the latter if you’re not careful 😯

  6. Matt Broussard

    Tomato, I’ve never played Final Fantasy IV before, but I’d like to. Would you recommend the original SNES version? Or any of the fan translations? I ask this because its important to me that I’m able to play it with a SNES controller as the game was intended.

    1. Right now I’d suggest either the original English release (FFII for the SNES) or the DS release. Although the DS release changes a ton of stuff in the game and the gameplay, so it’s kind of like its own game in a way.

  7. This article inspired me to make my own translation of FFIV. Maybe it’ll be finished someday, maybe not…

    1. At one point, I considered using Mato’s notes from this site and creating a sort of “repaired” translation, but I really don’t have the time.

  8. Yikes! DS screenshots! I forgot them again. 😮 I’m on the road right now visiting beautiful sunny Fairbanks, but I absolutely promise I will get back to them once I get home. Once I get caught up to where you are, it’ll be easier to keep track of, since I can use your progress bar as my own deadline. 😉

    That aside, I am still hardcore in favour of comments. Way too often I have something I’d like to say or ask about a given note, but no particularly good way of doing so publicly.

    One more: pretty sure the XXXX in “XXXX sword” was a variable; my read on it was that he was asking for your opinion on better versions of the things that got censored into oblivion. So in the case of the Deathbringer, you could say something along the lines of “the name ‘Black Sword’ doesn’t give you any clue about the effect; they could have called it ‘Poison Blade’ like the Dragon Warrior ‘Poison Needle’ and it might suggest that it kills things instantly without violating Nintendo’s content policy.” (Note: I know that name is crap; it was off the top of my head to try to explain what he meant.)

    1. And of course I set myself up to fail by giving a better fake name one sentence earlier and not even realising it. Oblivion. Oblivion Sword. 😉

    2. I believe I already mentioned it in one of the other blog posts, but the Black Sword is actually called the Hades Sword in the manual. I doubt the change was censorship (the script uses “Hades” in Milon’s dialogue), but rather for consistency with the rest of the Black equipment set.

    3. Thanks for the info and suggestions and screenshot help! I’m still very much in the “I have no idea what I’m doing with this site” phase so it’s possible I’ll open up comments at some point. I gotta figure out a good update system too, the progress bar thing is nice but I feel it could be improved somehow. And I gotta teach myself not to dig too deep into games or it’ll take me a million years to get through a single game 😯

      1. At the risk of being an enabler — feeding the fire, as it were — I prefer for these to take a long time but go into crazy minute detail. I didn’t really mind waiting ten years for M2EB to finish, even! 😉 Especially these two games; you have such a unique insight into Mother 3’s translation (for obvious reasons), and Final Fantasy 4… well, if there is such a thing as a legend of localisation, FF4 is that thing. It really demands an obsessive deconstruction, and I for one appreciate that you’re there doing it, even if it will take a million years. And if your wife is going to kill me for encouraging you to spend even more time on this site… I guess I pretty much deserve it. 😉

        1. I actually agree with this sentiment very much. The more minute the details become, the more fascinated I am by it. I don’t mind it taking time and accounting for breathers to avoid burnout, since I really love seeing what goes into translating, localizing and comparing the different versions of these games.

  9. Possibly my favorite part of the FFIV Legends of Localization is when you call out J2E’s terrible localization. I played it when it was first released and even though I don’t know Japanese I always felt their writing was atrocious and full of embarrassing attempts at “maturity.” Plus it’s so interesting to see all the different approaches people have taken when localizing this game over the years.

    1. Yeah, more than anything I’ve really been enjoying seeing how many different ways things have been translated. In that sense it almost does have a VERY slight academic feel to it… but then I go and make poop jokes in the alt image text and such 😛

  10. I’m really glad fan translators as a whole have moved away from pop culture references. Nothing is more immersion-breaking than having a character suddenly spout lines like “…IN AMERICA!” or “TIME TO RESTART LULZ” like they do in Fire Emblem Thracia 776’s fan translation.

    1. Now if only we can get the people who write original English scripts to learn that lesson, yes? Back when I played World of Warcraft, I remember getting really irritated with the constant pop culture references. Oh look — a whole overworld zone full of nothing but Rambo jokes! That blends.

      Even worse than that is *outdated* cultural references. I almost couldn’t believe, even being acquainted with Gearbox’s rather poor sense of comedy, that Borderlands 2 honestly contains a character whose schtick is that she recites Chappelle’s Show routines. I’m not really confident that would have been funny ten years ago, when it was current, but now? Yikes.

      1. Agree, I don’t get why they often feel the need to do it. The Japanese script writers isn’t always innocent though. For example in the Japanese version of A Link to the Past you get this silly message when obtaining the Magical Hammer:

        くい なんかバンバンたたけ!     

        “I got the M.C Hammer!
        BAM BAM pound the likes of stakes!
        BAM BAM pound, pound other things too!”
        (not my translation)

        Thankfully NOA removed that silly joke. I guess we sometimes take these games more seriously than the developers intended but nothing breaks the immersion more than when you get these silly pop culture references in fantasy game worlds.

        1. Never knew about that one!

          I do feel pop culture references are right at home in some other games though, like Earthbound. NoA handled the Japanese script quite well in that game, replacing Japanese references with ones an English speaking audience would understand.

          1. Certainly they fit better in some games than others. Also the frequency is important; Earthbound is hardly wall-to-wall winking pop culture references, like far too many games can be.

            One example that I actually did enjoy was the L33t Hamm3r Broz. in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. It’s hard to be annoyed with a Mario game for breaking immersion, since they’re like nonstop madcap to begin with, and frankly I just found the dialogue hilarious. “NOOBZ STILL R NOT PWNED. CONTINUE PWNERSHIP UNTIL ALL NOOBZ R PWNED.” Now, if ALL the mobs in the game spoke like that, it would get old real fast. But it’s exactly one encounter with eight lines of dialogue, and it’s so far over the top that it amused me instead of making me angry. 😀

            While we’re on the subject: what on earth did the L33t Hamm3r Broz. say in the Japanese game?

          2. Darien: I’ve never played the game but a quick look online turns up that they just go by the name of “Hammer Bros” and speak in all katakana, but otherwise don’t talk particularly strange or different. They just talk in a brainwashed sort of fashion.

          3. Mato: Makes sense, in most other languages(Spanish, Korean, German)they use a brainwashed/robotic tone in that scene as well, because “l33tspeak” isn’t really a thing in those languages on the internet.

  11. I don’t think you’re too critical…but I do think there’s a lot of people who don’t know how to recognize critique. I mean, critique is a complicated skill that a lot of people aren’t taught. I wasn’t, and I can still get a bit defensive sometimes if something I treasure comes under analysis.

  12. Well in your FF4 comparison, you forgot to mention that Golbez is called Golbeze in the J2e patch.

    1. Speaking of which, Cagnazzio/Kainazzo is called Caignozzio in early versions of the patch.

    2. Yeah, there’s actually a lot I missed in the J2e patch since I didn’t really start looking into it until around Mt. Ordeals. I might go back and check out that earlier stuff sometime, but I also feel like I should just keep pushing forward. I’m so conflicted!

      I just remembered that I posted a query about Golbez’s name spelling on RHDN a good while back. It has some info, although I still ought to do further research into it someday:,13228.msg217843.html#msg217843

      1. What do you think about FF All The Bravest.

        1. I’ve never played it and I don’t know what kind of translation/localization stuff it would have, but as a game it just seems like the biggest, most obvious cash grab.

  13. Whiny little butthurt fan babies can’t accept the fact the J2e translation was horrible and just plain sucked on every level. Gaaaaaaaaarbage.


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