Usually on this site I find myself covering popular games – mostly Nintendo games at that – since that’s what readers usually ask about. But today I want to quickly highlight a really impressive piece of localization in a pretty obscure Nintendo DS game!
The other day, Freezair posted this in the comments of another article:
There’s also an obscure-but-great RPG (I know an awful lot of obscure-but-great RPGs) called Monster Racers for the DS that has a pretty excellent localization, and one particular moment in it stuck out as so sublime that I have no idea how it was translated, because it feels like it should’ve been in English all along!
That particular moment is in the name of one of the monsters in the game. It’s a wolf-like creature with a flower for a tail, which also happens to run everywhere backwards–it’s kind of a pushme-pullyou, and the “flower” is as much a head as the one that’s got teeth! The English name given to this creature is “Flowrwolf”–not only is it a flowery wolf, its a PALINDROME, reflecting the the two-headed nature of the creature, and it works beautiful in English!
I don’t know what better name you could give to a flowery wolf–indeed, it almost seems like it was BASED on that palindrome–so really, it took me by surprise how perfect its name was! Hmm…
Freezair provided a camera shot of this localized monster, but I was so amazed by it that I had to get actual screenshots from both games!
|Monster Racers (Japanese release)||Monster Racers (English release)|
Whoa! “Flowrwolf” is so perfect for this monster – it’s literally a wolf on one side and a flower on the other, and the name is a palindrome that works the same way 😯 In fact, had I not known this was a translation I would’ve assumed the monster was created BECAUSE of the Flowrwolf name!
…But, nope, the Japanese name is actually “Bush”. Yep. Bush.
So whoever was responsible for the localization of Monster Racers, I salute you for your amazing display of creativity!
The most obvious one I can think of is from Pokemon itself: Girafarig. http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Girafarig
That one is also a palindrome in Japanese that’s pretty much the same.
There’s also Eevee, which following the pattern of pretty much all Japanese generation 1 Pokemon names being incredibly lame is “EV” rendered in Japanese (It sounds exactly the same, but it lacks the clever spelling of the English name).
(seriously, the Japanese gen 1 names are LAME. Most of them are just English words or animal sounds, and you have “gems” like “サンダー”, or “Thunder”, and “サンダース”, or “Thunders”, which two completely unrelated Pokemon.)
As for lame names, don’t forget about Showers (Vaporeon), Fire (Moltres), Ghost (Haunter), and Blacky (Umbreon). At least Flareon’s Japanese name is better than the rest (Booster).
to be fair, a lot of those are English words from a Japanese player’s perspective… though, I don’t think that excuses Houou. And I gotta say that the name “Ghost” especially bugs me because that’s liable to be confused with the Ghost-type (the name of which is English in the Japanese version). I wouldn’t have minded the Pokemon’s name being “Ghost” quite as much had they just referred to the type as “yuurei” or “seirei” or whatever (when they first appear in the anime, they’re even frequently referred to as “yuurei Pokemon”). But no, instead we get a Pokemon and a type with the exact same name, and I gotta ask “why?”
Though, the English version is equally guilty of this crap; “Psychic” is the name of both a type and an attack. What makes this even more grating is the fact that both of them were named differently in the Japanese version, and they even used English words. The Psychic-type was originally the “Esper-type” (or “ESP-type”), while the attack Psychic was originally “Psychokinesis”.
Psychokinesis was probably changed to Psychic due to text limitations, but now I kinda wish that they called the Psychic type “ESP”.
Jolteon’s Japanese name is “Thunders”, I think.
Magmar is “Boober” in Japan. Tee hee.
I feel like adding on to that for some reason, so here goes.
The point about Zapdos (Thunder / サンダー) reminds me that Articuno (Freezer / フリーザー)and Moltres (Fire / ファイヤー) are similarly lame.
At first Magnemite and Magneton confused me since it’s Coil (コイル) and Rarecoil (レアコイル) in Japanese. Or Ratatta and Raticate, being Koratta (コラッタ) and Ratta (ラッタ). And Koratta just means “Kid Ratta”.
But Kakuna and Beedrill are pretty lame too. Like, Cocoon (コクーン) and Spear (スピアー)?
And also Clefable (Pixie / プクシー) and Sandshrew (Sand / サンド). And Jigglypuff (Purin / プリン, which is the word for “pudding”). Or Gloom, which is just “Smelly flower” (Kusaihana / クサイハナ).
And there’s also Pidgey (Poppo / ポッポ) and Clefairy (Pippi / ピッピ).
I’m not saying any of the English names aren’t stupid, though.
There are also, from Generation III, the Aron line. In Japanese they’re known as Kokodora, Kodora and Bosugodora, basically “Baby Kodora”, “Kodora” and “Boss Kodora”
I think Articuno and Moltres were pretty clever (especially Moltres, a nice combination of “molt”, “molten”, and “tres”), but Zapdos is where they dropped the ball.
Names like Muk or Seel are among the REALLY bad ones. The latter basically admits they put no thought into it, other than taking a real animal and barely changing it at all.
Seel’s Japanese name is just a sound seals make, so it’s still an improvement.
From the new generation, there’s the English ‘Diggersby’. It just… Sounds so weird…
Diggersby scares me…
FEAR DA WABBIT!
Once I took linguistics in college, I realized exactly why I feel like “Zapdos” feels unnatural: Assuming the English-speaking Pokemon world follows the same rules of assimilation as the US, and assuming legendaries are spoken of frequently, it should become “Zabdos” or “Zaptos” over time. (In fact, I pronounce Zapdos more like the latter.)
Zaptos sounds great. But then you lose the uno, dos, tres sequence.
Beedrill’s Japanese name is actually a bee pun as well. Supia (Spear) backwards is Apisu (Apis), the genus of honey bees.
There’s actually a riddle in an episode of the TV series where we’re asked “Which Pokémon becomes legendary if a character is removed from its name?”
The answer is, of course, “Thunders”, which becomes Thunder if you remove the ス at the end.
Have you ever seen the beta Pokemon names from first gen? A lot of them were also really, really lame (like Omanyte and Omastar being named “Ess” and “Cargo,” respectively). http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_Red_and_Green_beta#Localization-specific_information Nintendo seems like it didn’t really know what it should do with the series in America at first–there’s a rumor (though I don’t know how true it is) that they originally thought the cute characters wouldn’t sell, and almost invented a whole new crop of Americanized, “tough” and “cool” Pokemon for the US.
Well, it *was* the 90s. Things had to be Xtr33m! Can you imagine Machop… with sunglasses?? Rad to the maxx!
Here’s a true story you guys might appreciate. I got my copy of Pokémon Red more or less at launch. Super excited for it. So I’m sitting in the lounge in my dorm (I was in college at the time) at like 1 a.m., playing Pokémon and watching VH1, because, hey, I’m the coolest guy you know. Somebody comes in, sees me playing the Game Boy, asks me what I’m playing. I say I’m playing Pokémon. You know what he says to me?
(Wait for it)
He says “what’s Pokémon?”
Did I just blow your mind?
This comment made my night (Fellow 90’s children unite?). Especially that “Xtr33m” part. xD
This flowrwolf thing just seems to me like a straight up ripoff of Girafarig, not just with the name palendrome, but also in how their bodies are designed. Seriously, before i scrolled down the page and saw the screenshot, just reading the description of the thing instantly made me think of Girafarig.
Does the rest of this Monster Racer game so transparently rip off Pokemon like that?
Monster Race got two games on the Game Boy, so maybe Koei’s been ripping off Pokemon since 1998 (I don’t know, I haven’t actually played them. I just know they exist, but that the DS version is the only localized version.)
Not really, unless you consider having a plot about being the very best at something to be ripping of Pokemon (and you really, REALLY shouldn’t, because it’s a VERY standard shonen anime and game plot that’s way older than Pokemon). For one thing, the game’s a sidescrolling racing platformer (think like Uniracers) instead of a turn-based RPG. There is collecting monsters, but the gameplay’s pretty different. (The older games on the Game Boy were more like standard JRPGs, but still not quite the same.)
Speaking of things Pokemon didn’t invent, Girafarig is actually based on a creatue invented in the Doctor Doolittle series of children’s books, which I called a “pushme-pullyou” in my original comment, but it’s actually spelled “Pushmi-pullyu.” It’s a two-headed llama-goat-unicorn-like creature:
The resemblance is especially obvious when you look at the beta design for Girafarig, which may even have been changed to avoid getting Nintendo into legal trouble with the owners of the Doctor Doolittle property:
Although I do know of one other game, Culdcept, that includes a creature called the “pushpull” that’s the original creature exactly, so maybe not so much a legal issue as they just decided to change the design.
Every time a Mons game comes along, people call it a rip-off of Pokemon. It happened to Digimon and Monster Rancher, which have almost nothing to do with Pokemon, both with story and gameplay. It’s like people assume Pokemon was the first game of its genre. Even though Shin Megami Tensei, for example, predates it by more than half a decade.
I’ve always liked the Mons genre, so this disappoints me quite a bit when this happens. Heck, the three “big” series (to say nothing of Shin Megami Tensei) in the genre even STARTED in different places–Pokemon began life as a portable JRPG, while Digimon started out with keychain virtual pets, and Monster Rancher is a raising simulation game. People seem to do it more with Pokemon than any other series, too–I almost never hear action-adventure games called “Zelda clones” (at least, not any more), or FPSes “Doom clones,” or match-three games “Panepon clones.” I guess there is “Metroidvania,” but that’s considered a badge of honor, almost, while “Pokemon clone” is usually said with scorn at worst and sheepish apology at best. It’s a stigma I’ve never understood–at their hearts, the “core” of the Mons genre is about giving the player a lot of different characters to play around with. Lots of variety. I mean, heck, the Suikoden series has been doing it for years and RPG gamers love that series, but the instant you make the characters monsters in some fashion, people tend to glare at you and accuse you of being a ripoff.
I really don’t get why people are so protective of Pokemon in this fashion. But I have noticed some games taking note of it. The PS3/DS RPG Ni no Kuni, for example, had advertising and press that almost EXCLUSIVELY focused either on A) that the game was a collaboration between Level-5 (of Professor Layton fame) and Studio Ghibli or B) the game’s spell(book) system. There were VERY few mentions that the game was a Mons game until after it was already released. I wouldn’t be surprised if Level-5 was trying to deliberately avoid the stigma of the genre. It seems to have worked, since the game was loved by critics in spite of its genre, even though I would go so far as to say it borrows far more from Pokemon than other games I’ve seen labeled as Poke-clones… (And like I said, I love the genre, so whether or not it’s a “clone” doesn’t matter to me. And I thought it was an excellent game, both in spite of and because of its mons elements!)
“Doom clone” is most certainly a term, and it was pretty prevalent back when Doom was pretty much the be-all end-all of FPS games, and everything else mostly played like reskinned Dooms with different weapons at best.
The “not anymore” bit was sort of meant to be more encompassing. It was a term at one point, but usage died down. I suppose my writing didn’t make it clear enough, then, that I was talking about terms that may have once been used once upon a time, but less so now–not just in terms of Zelda clones, but all the “clones” I was mentioning.
I don’t happen to know of any palindromic monster names off the top of my head, but I do recall being very impressed at the some of the monster names in Dragon Quest IX, for exactly the same “they must have designed this monster so the localisation team could give it a good name” feeling.
For example, there’s (at least) three tiers of spear-wielding vegetable enemies, including Zumeanie, Cruelcumber, and Scourgette. I would have been hard-pressed to come up with one aggressive vegetable name, and here they came up with three for near-identical vegetables.
Actually, pretty much everything in that game made me wonder if they’d designed it first in English. I’d love to learn more about it on Legends of Localisation, but I expect Mato has enough on his plate as it is. 🙂
The “attack vegetables” are sort of a running gag in the Dragon Warrior / Quest series. Eggplants in 7, peppers in 8 — been too long since I’ve played the others, I’m afraid. That said, DW7’s Eggplaton will stick with me forever… for some reason.
Rocket Slime (Slime Mori Mori 2 in Japan) is amazing too. It gives pretty much the same vibe and has brilliant puns everywhere.
Floro Lupis. Kinda like Super Paper Mario and the whole Floro Sapiens thing. BTW, does anyone know what those were called in Japanese?
Puplant? Yeah, i dunno.
If you can nickname them, though, I’d name it Buddy, because it’s a dog name and also a flower pun.
Oh! Maybe Fleur de Loup. Like fleur de lys, like the symbol (apparently a lily), except with the french word for wolf. I guess that’s more of a french pun though.
“Lupinus” seems like a pretty obvious name to use.
After a lot of deliberation, Perronnial.
I guess you could say the Japanese name is vomit inducing!
Hey Mato, I got a question! So Persona 4’s translation seems to be pretty good, but there’s a certain line that’s always stood out to me as strange. Early in the game, the protagonist and his new friends Chie and Yukiko come across a crime scene, and as they’re leaving the place, Chie says “[…] starting tomorrow, neighbor, let’s do our best!”
Not only is that phrase kind of strangely-constructed, I think it’s also the only instance of the word “neighbor” being used in the game at all, and it’s never even said if she actually is the protagonist’s neighbor. So I’m assuming that a direct translation was made, but I wanted to see what you’d think.
The cutscene in question: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9ezgZoGl3Q (skip to 12:20)
And the original japanese: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9usvFguEKRU (skip to 2:07)
I looked up the kanji, and can tell you that it’s a direct translation. The only problem is that it’s TOO direct, so it sounds stiff.
Pawler, Petalpaw, Tazzy Tulips, Rholf =)
How about Romulily or floweremus? They have Romulus and Remus ,who were raised by a wolf, in them.
Good find! I really like Floweremus but I would spell it Flowremmus so it would spell summer wolf backwards.
And for the wolf’s name, howabout…
I’m surprised you didn’t translate the Japanese description! It’s pretty funny and almost completely different from the official English translation. Something like: “It loves the feeling of the wind on the flower on its butt, so it always runs backwards.”
Can I ask, why do you think they translated the description for Bush so completely differently from the original? I’ve noticed that sometimes this happens in video games. They could do a very similar translation which would work well and get some laughs but often just go for something totally different and often less amusing..
My guess is that the description was changed in this particular case to work in tandem with the localized palindrome. A lot of players might not notice the palindrome without it – I think I probably wouldn’t have noticed it for a long time until someone pointed it out, for example.
I think it would’ve been translated to Blossomutt if it had been in the Pokémon series instead.
Well, they aren’t palindromic, but are kind of interesting nonetheless:
The Gen 5 Pokémon Deino, Zweilous, and Hydreigon have pretty interesting names, because they pull off the ‘foreign language numbering’ trick that Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres did back in the days of Gen 1.
Deino: Makes use of eins, German for one. Source: https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Deino_(Pok%C3%A9mon)#Name_origin
Interestingly, all the different languages name translates to using a word synonymous with one.
Zweilous: Makes use of zwei, German for two. Source: https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Zweilous_(Pok%C3%A9mon)#Name_origin
Like Deino, all the names for this Pokémon all make use of some word synonymous with two.
Hydreigon: Makes use of drei, German for three. Source: https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Hydreigon_(Pok%C3%A9mon)#Name_origin
Again, all the different language versions of the name make use of three somehow.
I noticed the bilingual pun almost immediately when I saw their English names, as having German heritage is very common among ancestors where I live.