The Origin of Final Fantasy’s “I Will Knock You All Down!”

17 Comments

One of the most infamous instances of goofy-sounding English in an old NES game is from Final Fantasy I.

It happens near the very start of the game – when you go to save the princess, a bad guy named Garland says some angry stuff and then finishes with:

I, Garland, will knock you all down!!

Oh, no! I feel so threatened!

So a common question I run into is, “What does he actually say in the Japanese version?” Let’s take a look:

In kid language, I'm a bowling ball and you're the pins neener neener neenerIn kid language, I'm a bowling ball and you're the pins neener neener neener
Japanese textMy example translationOfficial NES Translation
この ガーランドが けちらしてくれよう!I, Garland, shall vanquish you!I, Garland, will knock you all down!!

Technically, the word used in Japanese is 蹴散らす (kechirasu), which super-ultra-literally (as in you really shouldn’t take it at face-value) is to “kick and scatter about”. In contexts like this, it usually means something like “to devastatingly or handily defeat” or “to rout”. So although I have “vanquish” up there it could really be translated in a number of different ways.

So, how did that turn out as “knock you all down” in the official release? Well, my translation spidey-senses say it was all a pretty simple mistake, but explaining it is a little tough if you don’t already know Japanese. But here goes:

  • First, at this point in Square and Nintendo’s history, they were still using non-native English speakers to translate games. In other words, a Japanese person in Japan translated the original Final Fantasy script. The same happened with the unreleased English sequel and later games released in English, actually.
  • Second, the word 蹴散らす is a pretty uncommon one in everyday speech, so the translator was most likely like, “Okay, so 蹴散らす roughly means ‘to defeat’ here. 倒す (taosu) has the same meaning and I KNOW how to translate that word, so I’ll do that!”

    Indeed, 倒す is a much more common word and does mean “to defeat” in contexts like this – it’s actually pretty much the default word for “to defeat” in games. The problem is that 倒す has multiple meanings, and the more common meaning is “to knock over” or “to knock down”. In fact, if you look the word up in a dictionary, “to knock down” is the first definition you’ll get most of the time:

    Man, I haven't checked a paper dictionary in so long...

    …While “to defeat” is usually the last definition given.

So that’s likely what happened – a mix of a non-native English speaker, an uncommon Japanese word, and a synonym with multiple possible translations. Mix it all together and you get a bad guy whose terrifying threat is “to knock you all down!”

Whew! All that explanation for just one line of text!

Actually, it’s been a long time since I played the PlayStation release of Final Fantasy I, so I checked it out again and it looks like they decided to replace the famous mistranslation with, “I shall take on all of you!”

Even that seems kind of a weird translation choice, though. Taking someone on isn't the same as declaring certain victory

I also briefly played the GBA port/remake when it was released. I forgot what it said, so I checked that out too just now, and apparently the translators decided to edit the script a bit and put the original famous line back:

Hooray! Evil end boss now sounds like a dweeb again!

Interesting – they even included the double-exclamation marks from the original translation.

Actually, there are like five hundred thousand million other versions of Final Fantasy I so I won’t look through them all, but this feels a lot like what I’ve been seeing with my Final Fantasy IV comparison – the translation in various ports vary ever-so-slightly from previous ports. Whenever I get around to a full analysis of FFI maybe I’ll take a look at these re-releases too. It’s a lot of fun seeing how things change over time!

Anyway, hopefully that helps clear things up a little bit! It’s a pretty weird situation and it’s another case where a wacky translation went on to become such a big deal that it’s been deliberately left in despite being a poor translation. It’s an interesting phenomenon, in a way it’s almost like mistranslations or unintended translations sometimes add spice to otherwise bland, conventional parts of games 😛

Actually, while I’m on the subject, here’s a question for you! I’m pretty sure this “knock over” and “defeat” mistake has happened in a handful of other games and such – do you know of any? If so, let me know, I’d love to compile a list of this common mistake!

17 Comments
  1. In the European English translation of FF1 GBA it says “I, Garland, shall cut you down to size!” instead. Those of us who knew about the original line were appalled.

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  2. in the European manual of the PS1 game “Crisis Beat” one of the character bios says something like “he will knock all the bad guys down” – and in what is surely either an amazing coincidence or a deliberate reference, the character’s name is Eiji Garland.

    To this day I have no idea if they did that on purpose or if it was just another awkward translation of “倒す”.

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  3. I have an excellent book on the history of Famicom games, published in Japan but with English translations alongside the Japanese text. You can tell the book was translated by a non-native speaker since there are many awkward phrases that were obviously using a very literal Japanese-to-English translation. I actually enjoy the strange phrasings a lot of the time and it doesn’t muddy the understanding too much.

    But what I’m getting at is that in paragraphs where the book refers to defeating in-game enemies, the translator almost always uses the phrase “get down.” As in, “you had to get down all the enemies one after another,” or some such. This seems like it comes from literally translating “taosu.”

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  4. Er … if you are still looking for other instances of this … I’ve never played it, but apparently in AD&D:Pool of Radiance, once you’ve beaten the final baddie, if you go back to the tavern, the only piece of gossip you can hear is “Who on Earth knocked down The Boss?” — which, unlike Garland’s boast, is pretty hard to decipher if you aren’t aware of the translation issue, and ends up having a kind of surreal tone, to my ear anyway.

    (Here’s a game walkthrough that includes that information: http://www.gamefaqs.com/nes/587518-advanced-dungeons-and-dragons-pool-of-radiance/faqs/51292 ; if you were interested in getting screen shots ever, the author mentions that he’s put up an extensive walkthrough on youtube that might include the relevant material.)

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    1. Wait, so the NES version of Pool of Radiance was a back translation from the Famicom version, rather than simply using the original English text?

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  5. I hate how the GBA version reverted back to the mistranslation. I don’t care how hilarious and famous that line was; it’s still a mistranslation and Garland’s line wasn’t that narmy in the original Japanese version, so it shouldn’t have been kept. If the GBA port had been my first FF1 version, I would be enraged that the translators made me put up with such a poor translation just to cater to old coots who can’t let go of such a stupid old meme.

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    1. Settle down, Beavis.

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    2. I get knocked down
      I get knocked down again
      You’re never gonna knock me down

      Hey just so long as Garland doesn’t try to knock us all UP!

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    3. Old comment is old, but it actually kinda makes sense. To (pretty much) quote some other person in this comments section, he’s not going to cut you all down, or kill you all. He’s just going to wave his hand and every last one of you falls.

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  6. He uses くれよう in description of his own actions? Is that normal for arrogant characters?

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  7. Just so you know, the reason why Square Enix did a brand new translation for the GBA version of Final Fantasy I & II is because the Japanese GBA version changed some lines and added new ones. The Japanese PS1 version had the same script as the original Famicom version. When it was time for SE to localize the GBA version, rather than using the PS1 translation they just did a brand new translation altogether since the GBA FF1&2 Japanese scripts are NOT identical to the original Famicom versions (unlike the PS1 FF1&2 Japanese scripts)

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    1. Actually only the one for FF2 was redone. For FF1, they simply reused the NES script and added onto it.

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      1. The script for FF1 GBA is COMPLETELY different from FF1 NES. Unless if you were talking about the PS1 script.

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  8. I guess I’m crazy, but I never got the big deal with that line. Sounds to me like he’s saying “I’ll strike you all down”, except “strike” sounds like a precision thing that you’d do to one person, but he’s saying he’ll do it to multiple people. So maybe “cut you all down” would be more like it, but then “knock you all down” has the connotation of requiring even less effort. He’s not even going to strike or cut or fight, he’s just going to casually wave his hand and then every last one of you falls. I don’t know, sounds badass to me? Meh.

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    1. I guess I take it slightly more figuratively too. “Knock down” doesn’t make me think like he’s going to just shuffle up and shove you literally, but that he’s going to “knock you down” as in make you “fall” as in “leave you defeated completely in every sense of the word”, or “make you irrelevant”

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  9. The line was also famously mocked in the 8-Bit Theater web-comic, when Garland forgets his originally-planned evil speech (because forest imps stole his notes) and is forced to improvise.

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  10. Another possible sighting: in Final Fantasy Adventure for GB, death is called “falling” almost every time. Sometimes it works well enough (“Many fighters have fallen from their wounds.”), sometimes… not (“See that, Auntie? A boy’s falling!”). Probably not the same Japanese words involved, but maybe related ones?

    Reply

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