This Be Bad Translation #13, Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment!

43 Comments

In 2014, Bandai Namco Games released Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment for the PS Vita. The Asian release of the game included a full English translation of the game, which is a common thing with Asian releases.

This version was released well before the North American and European versions were released, so Sword Art Online fans eagerly imported the Asian version to play it as soon as possible.

This initial English translation turned out to be notoriously bad. News of the translation’s quality spread across news websites, message boards, fan sites, and social media.

Most of the articles and posts about the game’s translation repost the same dozen or so screenshots though, so I was always curious to see what else there was to find. So, years after buying the Asian version of the game, I’ve started playing through the game to experience it for myself.

Along the way, I plan to take screenshots of everything noteworthy and then share the best examples here from time to time. Think of this as a weird Let’s Play article about the game’s bad translation and not the game itself.

I’ve heard that the North American and European English translations cleaned up the problems found in this Asian release and/or that these versions were given new translations altogether. There was also a PS4 re-release/remake at some point, which probably had a new translation of its own. If anyone can share details, please do!

Part 1

I originally had 393 screenshots from this introductory section of the game alone. Here are 40 or so of them:

Be sure to check out Part 2! We’re just getting started!
43 Comments
  1. That one with the overflowing textbox reminded me of this from Splatoon 2:
    https://i.imgur.com/f2h2NTu.jpg

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    1. Mmm, glorious meta. That’s my Marina at her best.

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  2. I honestly never really got the appeal of this series. I saw both anime series on Toonami a few years back, and while it was good, i’d hardly put it as one of my favorite anime, and really don’t get why so many people obsess over it so much.

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    1. It is a pretty friggin’ terrible adaptation of a series of books that is thoroughly mediocre to start with(I have read several, in large part because the same author did Accel World). But it struck a chord with a lot of people.

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    2. I’m confused at your assertion that this series is liked or beloved by anyone.
      All I ever hear is the massive amounts of hatred that everyone i’ve ever seen has about this series. It’s become one of those “butt of everyone’s jokes” things, like Twilight or Fifty Shades Of Grey, that everyone uses it as an iconic go-to example of the worst of something. I hardly know anything about this series, I only know it by it’s reputation for being massively hated by all.

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      1. SAO is extremely popular and well-known by people who don’t know they’re not supposed to like it. It’s on TV and everything. It even has side stories like GGO that are actually well written.

        SAO itself… you can guess every line the characters say as it comes out of their mouths. It’s funny that the author’s deepest fantasy that he wrote in his self-insert fanfic is just to have a wife and kids though.

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  3. Ah, my favourite trainwreck.^^ To me, it’s always been fascinating to read because it’s so amusingly wrong. Also part of why I picked the game up on PSN when it was on sale.

    Some of these really were cleaned up for the European (and American, I assume) PSN release. For example, the “[enemy] received [item]” message was changed to “[enemy] drops [item]”: https://i.imgur.com/XiJdsBL.jpg

    I’m a bit unsure about the “penetration” part because I don’t remember it from my playthrough and don’t have any screenshots displaying that phrase among the around 400 pictures I took. They may have replaced it with another word but if that’s indeed the case, I don’t think it’s a better one: https://i.imgur.com/JWX7h3F.jpg

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    1. Yeah, we actually noticed that it was “assaulting” in the e-mails during the stream. Here’s how that same thing looked for us btw:

      https://legendsoflocalization.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/assaulting.jpg

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    2. I am fairly sure the official US translation is just a heavy editing job on the asian english translation. It is still a trainwreck, just one that is grammatically correct more often than not.

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  4. Interdimensional Observer

    To be fair, why would an Asian version have high-quality English? In a sense, I’m expecting issues abound here. Isn’t the English option only because Hong Kong used to be a British colony? And it is not like Chinese got thoroughly replaced by English there I would imagine. Crude English should suit most East Asian needs I would think, would they understand/be affected by the difference between good and bad unless they really knew their Anglais?

    Not to say that I don’t appreciate an English option, I’ll be liking it if I ever get a PS4 and want Super Robot Wars: Original Generations: The Moon Dwellers. Why’d Banpresto only give us OG1&2 on the GBA?

    Also, I’m still loving all the bad English goodness.

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    1. Assuming the game is sold for the South-East Asian market, chances are, English is the de-facto Linguia Francia.
      Talking, specifically, about Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Places where people may not speak Chinese or Japanese, but will probably have a good grasp of English for the purposes of reading comprehension.

      Take me with a grain of salt, but this is what I believe to be the case. And the reason for a lot of Asian-only English translated releases.

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      1. Yeah, I always assumed that Asian releases were heavily targeted with southeast Asian markets in mind too, but I’ve never looked too much into it myself.

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        1. I think even Dragon Ball Z got one of these kinds of translations . I’m pretty sure Toei Animation Enterprises (T.A.E.) in Hong Kong is responsible for the horrible English dub (the “Speedy dub”) for those southern Asian countries. And that horrible translation is what Funimation based their dub off before they hired Steve “Daimao” Simmons (and probably even after). The voice actors used “Well, the translation Toei gave us was horrible” as their excuse for why they “had” to ignore it and make up their own story/dialog. Luckily for DB, they seemed to use your translation instead…tho not very closely.

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      2. This is what I’ve picked up from being in the Super Robot Wars fandom, at least. Doing a translation for every SEA country would be expensive and time-consuming, but nerds that play anime video games will probably have relatively high English literacy.

        SRW and SEA translations are kind of interesting in their own right. The first one, Super Robot Wars OG: The Moon Dwellers had a translation on about the same level of SAO here. Very poor grammar, lots of strange mistakes, just generally a poor translation. But after that Banpresto started hiring better translators who natively spoke English (and one who was already a SRW nerd) and now the translations are very good, especially when it comes to references and humor.

        I’m not sure why it happened, but I’m glad it did.

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        1. That’s the one with the “What a Damn itty operator” line isn’t it?

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  5. These are all so very bad, but for some reason the Lizardmans one stood out as my favourite.

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  6. Why is “hidding skill” surrounded by double chevrons?

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    1. I guess it’s a leftover from the original Japanese text. I don’t know much about Sword Art Online so I don’t know why it would be highlighted to begin with in the first place though.

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  7. I THINK it is just highlighted to emphasize it is a skill name instead of normal dialog. She’s not good at concealing herself, but she has an actual skill called “hidding”.

    Given all the characters are themselves trapped inside an RPG with skills and stats, and where not taking the game seriously means you die in the real world, much of common language usage within the game winds up being gamer terminology and slang. In cases where the gamer terms have meanings outside of games, the “real-world” uses get set aside as everyone starts talking like GameFAQs.

    Long story short, the players trapped inside Sword Art Online would be using skill exclusively to mean game-mechanic skill slots. But the Vita game is not a very faithful adaptation, so I make no guarantees they use it that way.

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    1. Interdimensional Observer

      Reminds me of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, where important terms, mostly of a story nature, were highlighted a different color, and due to the dual screen would be touched for a popup of what they meant.
      It too reminds me of Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, where IIRC, story terms were spoken of in square brackets. This was a bit out of place, since even when Shanoa confronts Dracula at the long end of her story, she fiercely addresses him as [Dracula]. Which cuts into the intensity of the moment. And I don’t think players need to be reminded Dracula is plot-relevant when he is standing right there ready to danse macabre.

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      1. Yeah, I noticed that in Order of Ecclesia. It’s jarring, but I figured it was the kind of thing I’ve seen in a fair amount of video games, especially those aimed at a younger audience, like the Legend of Zelda ones where the text mentioning important items or actions would be in a different colour so it stands out. I don’t know why they couldn’t bold or colour it though.

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        1. Yes, it’s certainly common in RPG and other such games to highlight important portions of the text in some fashion.

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  8. Really the one that sticks with me the most is the line “Hey, is that black man sexually harassing the maid?”. It’s a complete mistranslation, yet somehow it’s one of the few lines that’s grammatically correct and something a native English speaker would actually say. I have no idea how that happened. Monkey on typewriter type random accident? Non-translator competent at English doing cleanup on this one part of the script (and ignoring everything else)?

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  9. I really want to know about that “flowerpot of a houseplant” line. Is it a mistranslation or something that went over my head because I’m not as familiar with Japanese insult culture or Sword Art Online?

    By the way, it’s irrelevant, but while I was watching this stream, I thought of “Radiant Historia” for some reason (I guess because I don’t play a lot of text-heavy games). It’s not a particularly well-known game, but the 3DS NA release has an unexpectedly really good translation (as far as I can tell), and I was wondering if you had heard of it.

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  10. “I hope you like penetration, because this translation won’t stop talking about it,” please, game, not until we’re level 35

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  11. What’s the deal with monopoly? Is that prostitution?

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    1. It’s in the context of monopolizing someone’s time. The winner of the game gets to spend the day with Kirito.

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    2. I’m guessing it’s what we’d call “have all to myself” in ordinary English.

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  12. Were the monopoly lines originally 独り占め or have a read too many VNs where I see that used the most often…

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    1. Yeah, that’s what my instinct says too. In fact, when I first learned the word so long ago it was literally explained as “to monpolize” which felt kind of strange for whatever context I was seeing it in. I’m guessing it’s one of those “it can’t be helped” sort of catch-all phrases but less well known.

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  13. Can you leave credits of the individuals who translated the games? Just fir chuckles

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  14. Kirito’s line about using your brain reminded me of that one boss’ winquote from the Double Dragon Neo Geo fighter

    “If you don’t use your brain it will become useless!”
    Also I forgot how horribly sappy the Yui subplot was.

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  15. Winners don’t do heroiz!

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  16. “Is Daddy going to monopoly me? Hehehe, I’m so happy!”
    Big yikes from me dawg! It’s like they created an involuntary, not so family-friendly doujinshi due to strange translations…
    I mean, who doesn’t want some good ol’ monopolizing with daddy? Even for a whole day!

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  17. Interdimensional Observer

    A game that leaves the lord of translations in utter bewilderment. Were you a teacher, you could probably make retranslating this someone’s undergrad capstone, or maybe it’d be fairer to assign it for an MA.

    Limit Liberalization is so confusing! Are we talking classical or modern-American liberalization?

    Devil’s Cave Story 3 sounds like a game that needs to happen, after Angel’s Cave Story 2.

    Also, could some road in the US please change its name to Silent Fresh Greenwood Avenue? Sure it’d need some space on a street sign, but it’d be worth it. And make sure it’s a good place, ideally one where someone could rap.

    Lastly, why do you say Treant so often poorly translated? I generally haven’t seen this be the case, outside of one intentional misspelling.

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  18. Why is this translation so obsessed with penetration?

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  19. Kirito’s title was translated as “black swordsman” in the anime, so Leafa’s line in part 4 isn’t exactly a mistranslation. Or at least not a problem endemic to this localization.

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  20. It does seem as if some of the translation is from Chinese. While quotation marks can used (especially in mainland China), it’s more common to see the corner brackets when writing in traditional characters in Taiwan or Hong Kong (『「these things」』) which seem to be used in Japan as well. I can’t find anything on Japanese using double chevrons/angle brackets (《Like this》) which can be seen in one of the images of part 3, but they can be used in Chinese kind of like italics in English, usually denoting the title of a book or song.

    I’d say that this supports the theory that it was not only multiple people translating, but at least one was working from the Chinese translation. I’m interested to see how that translation came out, to be honest.

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  21. “Pets” isn’t actually a bad translation, necessarily. In an MMO like SAO is pretending to be, pretty much any creature allied with a player that isn’t a mount is usually called a pet.

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  22. Interdimensional Observer

    Feeling at all burned out from this? How much of it can you take? If you haven’t played very far in, and already have enough material for ten pages, going to the end sounds utterly laborious.
    Thank you for all the laughs though!

    On the topic of games with multiple translations, I don’t know if it is true or not, but I heard heresay that Final Fantasy Tactics had several translators who never actually met each other.

    As for other bad game translations to tackle, perhaps the DS Visual Novel Lux Pain? That game has a reputation for a trainwreck transration, worsened by it being a VN and hence text is absolutely central to it.

    The translator of Lux Pain was Ignition, which also did the translation for Muramasa: The Demon Blade. The game has gotten some notoriety in the translation world, since its Rebirth port to the Vita had a brand new translation by Aksys Games. Aksys also, with skill apparently, translated the VN Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.
    https://militarypenguin.livejournal.com/281392.html
    Looking at the two translations side by side, like the above person did for the very beginning, you can see how the Ignition translation is really short. When playing the game, the Japanese VAs give you the idea more is being said than is in the text box, since the lines sound longer than the English would be if pronounced, more than just a fundamental difference in spoken word length between languages. It reminds me of the SNES FF translations you’ve been doing- except we’re past the era of space limitations and video game translation is now taken seriously.

    Ignition also translated Arc Rise Fantasia, no major screwups there from what I can tell, other than Papirusagu. It’s supposed to be Pabilsag, a mythological reference. It did introduce me to an old English expression right away though- “The Devil is beating his wife”.

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  23. “Please come back soo, good translators”

    Yes, please get them back. I can’t stand reading this alphabet vomit these morons have shoved into this game.

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  24. I think ‘Tree Fork’ isn’t an L/R problem but a ‘long O vs or’ problem.

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  25. “you can’t finish anything by that” sounds like “you can’t do anything during that [time]”

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