The Unexpected Abe Lincoln Reference in Secret of Mana

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While doing some research for my Final Fantasy Adventure translation comparison, I ran across an interesting localization change in the game’s English sequel, Secret of Mana.

Many hours into Secret of Mana, you find a temple that contains relics from an old civilization. These relics seem to contain old television recordings of news clips, political speeches, and the like. But there’s one recording that seemed particularly out of place:

"...Who was Abe Lincoln? Correct! That makes you our new champion..!"

This surprising line references two things from American culture:

I hadn’t played Secret of Mana in quite some time, so I completely forgot about this line. I immediately wondered what the original Japanese line was like, so I looked into it. Here are the Japanese and English lines side by side:

Image 1Image 2
Japanese Version (basic translation)English Translation
..Question #7! Q!
Ding, ding! Correct!
"You really know your stuff, ma’am!”
…Who was Abe Lincoln?
Correct!
That makes you our new champion!

The Japanese line is clearly very different, but is still making some sort of game show reference. Lots of Japanese quiz shows use “Q” as part of their titles or catchphrases. There was a popular Japanese show in particular called “Cult Q” that aired in the early 1990s, which was also when this game was being developed. My guess is that this is what’s being referenced.

For reference, here’s a clip from a video game-themed “Cult Q” episode:

Whatever the case, this is actually a nice, clear example of what localization is all about: a reference in one locale was replaced with a different, but similar reference for another locale. In this instance, the result is that both Japanese players and American players will stop and think “wait a minute, the game’s talking about the real world!” after seeing this line.

This does make me wonder how the reference was handled in other localizations of the game. If you happen to know, please share in the comments – I’d love to add them to this article sometime!


If you enjoy learning about Japanese references in games, you should definitely check out my article about the pop-culture obsessed monsters in Japanese Super Mario RPG!

6 Comments
  1. I guess Konami sold an unused Castlevania cutscene for use as the Cult Q intro.

    Reply
    1. Why does the woman in the Cult Q video dress like Isabelle from Animal Crossing?

      Reply
  2. I always did find the records of the ancient civilization rather dark in the sense that the world of Fa’Diel may have been Earth, or something similar to it, at one point. It would certainly explain the recordings and the subway system in the Tree Palace.

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  3. The German version also references an old German game show (“Die 100.000 Mark Show”).

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  4. What were the other references in this scene?

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    1. I looked up the other orbs from the SoM English script, for anyone who is curious:

      Orb 1: …Gzzzaza…zzzz… Beeeep! THERE! You can see the Mana Beast! Just
      moments ago it hit the Fortress… Oh! It’s coming this way! We’re going off
      the… Zazaza…Gzzz…

      Orb 2: …Gzzzaza…zzzz… Beeeep! …Who was Abe Lincoln? Correct! That makes
      you our new champion..! Gzzz…zzz

      Orb 3: …Gzzzaza…zzzz… Beeeep! We must restrict the use of Mana Energy!
      What utter nonsense! We’re using it up! Ha! You can’t USE up Mana! Argh! You
      don’t understand! …Gzzz…

      Orb 4: …Gzzzaza…zzzz… Beeeep! Whoa! Exploded!

      Orb 5: …Gzzzaza…zzzz… Beeeep! Gzz…zegazega… This one’s Broken!

      Orb 6: …Gzzzaza…zzzz… Beeeep! Oh, my heart brea-ks when she’s not
      a-round, and I mi-ss her… …Gzzz…

      Orb 7: …Gzzzaza…zzzz… Beeeep! …evening news. At dawn Lorima launched
      missiles at the Empire… …which had threatened to take Lorima’s capital by
      nightfall. …Gzzz…

      —–

      I like that the orbs strongly suggest that the world of Mana is a post-apocalyptic Earth. Orbs 1 and 7 clearly reference TV news, with Orb 7 even mentioning missiles! Orb 2 is referencing game shows. Orb 6 is referencing love songs on the radio. And Orb 3 suggests a sort of FF7-style notion of magic/mana being routed into power plants or engines or something. =)

      Reply

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