Why Are Tootsie Pops and M&M’s in a Japanese RPG?


A Legends of Localization reader named Bretto sent in a question about Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete for the original PlayStation:

I’m playing it for the first time and I came across a pop culture joke in the game (all the way back from ’96!) about the famous Tootsie Pop short with Mr. Owl. Attached is the snippet. I was curious what was used here in Japanese – possibly some other type of famous CM or pop reference of the time?

Additionally, subsequent dialogue has him asking about M&Ms and the “stuck-up” character makes a comment something like how “even plebians know that they melt in your mouth”.

There are actually many versions of this game, some in Japanese and some in English. There’s the original Sega CD version, a Sega Saturn version, the well-known PlayStation version, a Game Boy Advance version, a Windows version, a mobile version, and possibly more.

Because there are so many versions, information about specific text is spotty and tough to find online. Luckily, the English PlayStation version of this scene is well-known and documented on several sites and videos. The Japanese version isn’t, though – I only managed to find it in a video of the Sega Saturn release. So, assuming that the script didn’t drastically change between the Saturn and PlayStation releases, here’s the Japanese and English text side-by-side for both dialogue exchanges:

I'm actually surprised how little about this localization is documented online, it sounds like it's a future project for me if I can find the time!I'm actually surprised how little about this localization is documented online, it sounds like it's a future project for me if I can find the time!
Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
Random Guy: Man, the Magic City of Vane… How the heck can something so huge float in the air?Random Guy: Just how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?
Whenever I think that it could come crashing down I get so worried that I can’t even nap!I really wanna know!
Nall: Then don’t think about it.Nall: That’s not me, you idiot! It’s a dumb owl that does that! Geez!
Thanks to CanisSky for documenting this stuff in her video series! Also, I correspond very occasionally with a fellow who worked on this localization - it'd be cool to find out more about the history of how everything went downThanks to CanisSky for documenting this stuff in her video series! Also, I correspond very occasionally with a fellow who worked on this localization - it'd be cool to find out more about the history of how everything went down
Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
Random Guy: If Vane does come crashing down, maybe I’ll head there and grab me some pieces of its Silver Tower.Random Guy: All right…why do M&Ms melt in your mouth, but not in your hand?
Nash: Don’t joke about such horrible things! You couldn’t be any more rude!Nash: The thick candy shell, of course! Don’t they teach you peasants ANYTHING?

So to answer Bretto’s question, the original Japanese lines (at least in the Saturn script) don’t contain any pop culture references – they’re just standard lines about the floating city of Vane. The localization team at Working Designs was well-known for adding pop culture referencs like this, so it’s pretty normal for this game.

I’ve never played the original Sega CD version, but I’ve heard good things about it, so it’s something I want to play in the near future. From what little I’ve seen, its localization is equally pop culture-filled:

All they want to hear are bland pleasantries embellished by an occasional saxophone solo or infant kiss

Anyway, hopefully this clears up fans’ questions about these two particular candy-themed lines in Lunar!

If you liked this write-up and know someone else who's a Lunar fan, I hope you'll share it online. Thanks for your help!
  1. Not a huge fan of these sort of changes, but I will admit that the guy’s response about the M&Ms is pretty hilarious. On another note, not too familiar with these games but I recall there being a kid in Lunar Silver Star where a kid says he has to eat his Wheaties to get strong or something.

    1. I liked it better back in the day than I do now, which is probably in no small part because it was novel then. I never played Silver Star Story on the PSX; I played the GBA port, which is an entirely fresh translation without the Working Designs pop culture stuff. Afterward, though, I picked up Eternal Blue on the PSX and was floored by the wild localization — though even moreso by Ghaleon’s voice work. That is the best video game acting of all time.

    2. I feel like this kind of translation wouldn’t go over so well today, not only because fans would make (not unjustified) complaints about straying from the original script for the sake of jokes, but also because it must’ve been a legal nightmare to name-drop all these brand names!

  2. Fun fact! The “tootsie roll” line IS in the original English Sega-CD version (but the second m&m line isn’t, I believe) but the Japanese line IS different in the original. According to Lunar-net (http://lunar-net.com/tss/tss_diff.php) he says “The town that floats in the sky… Hmm… I have memories of it from some adventures here and there from long ago… But it’s no good… I don’t remember it. Who in the world am I?” In the original version, his sprite kind of looks like Adol. I think, originally, this was an Ys reference! That’s just a theory, though. In any case, if it is an Ys reference, the English version didn’t catch onto it, and the joke was removed in the remake.

    1. Ooh, very interesting stuff, thanks! I did some quick searching on Japanese sites but so far I haven’t found anything (or even any theories) about the possible Ys connection. I’ll check around some more though, it seems pretty plausible to me.

      1. The original Sega CD Lunar games were developed by Studio Alex, which was apparently founded by former Falcom staff members. Much like the Ys franchise, both Lunar games have blue-haired female characters who are significant to the plot.

    2. And, of course, Adol begins at least the current Ys 4 having lost his memory. I’m not sure if either Ys 4 that existed at the time used that plot point, though.

      1. The Japanese version of “Lunar: The Silver Star” was released in 1992, which was one year before both versions of Ys IV came out.

    3. Oh, and here’s some screenshots that give you a better look at that NPC in the original version: http://lparchive.org/Lunar-The-Silver-Star/Update%2008/19-update615.png
      http://lparchive.org/Lunar-The-Silver-Star/Update%2008/20-update616.png (it’s in the wrong aspect ration but I think you can see what I mean)

  3. Ah, Working Designs… they danced with wild abandon along that line between “fantastically enjoyable localizations” and “kicking the fourth wall in the nuts”

  4. Honestly, I haven’t played any Working Designs translations yet, but everything I see about them makes me hate them more and more. They remind me of really bad fan translations, not an actual professional localization group. If you had told me “I think William Shatner is more convincing than you!” had come from a Working Designs game, I would have believed it.

    1. You have to realize that at the time, Working Designs was one of the best in the business when it came to localization, if not the best. Sure, they injected a lot of humor that didn’t exist in the original Japanese text, but they were also one of the only companies at the time that actually tried to make translations that read naturally. They also raised the bar for English dubs in games at a time when quality dubs were few and far between.

    2. They earned the Wrecking Designs nickname. I really wish Sega Europe finished their own translation of Lunar for the Saturn – as you can see, most of the localized dialogue from the remakes is just re-purposed from the original versions with not much regard for context.

      They made most of their releases hard mods of the original versions, cut offensive stuff whenever they wanted (like Silhouette Mirage’s entire story, oh and its gameplay is now sado-masochism), and whenever they wanted added offensive stuff with little regard to the scene’s context (say what you want about DeJap’s “I bet she f*cks like a tiger” line in ToP’s fan-translation, at least there was some loose story relevance for that line being there -said girl has an actual sexual dream even in the original script-, but WD’s incestuous town and Clinton jokes in Lunar, and the girls in Rayearth being fool-mouthed in what should have been a light-hearted game…)

      Other companies have tried imitating them. I’m so glad that Atlus quickly realized that toying with the game balance (Thousand Arms) and reworking stories as Americanized abridged dubs regardless ofthe mood (Persona) wasn’t that popular and quickly adopted saner localization methods.

      1. What you don’t mention is that most of Working Design’s gameplay modifications were so well received that Japanese players would actually import the American version of those games to play them. I’ve also never heard of anyone calling them “Wrecking Designs”. Another case of myopic internet hyperbole, I’m sure.

        1. Uh… that’s been a really, really old nickname for them for ages. I found articles criticizing their localizations using that name “Wrecking Designs” from back in 2005, too.

          And this isn’t even delving into the really scummy business practices of Gaijinworks (the current version of Working Designs)!

  5. As a little kid, I worshipped Working Designs for giving me the Lunar games. I still even vaguely remember the layout of their old website. But as an adult, I realize they really put too much of themselves into the localization instead of just staying true to what the games were supposed to be.

    That being said, Working Designs was the best possible group to have published Lunar. It was WD that had the idea to make use of the Harp at the end of the game, a brilliant notion that was absent in the original Japanese version. And the voice acting was so full of life. No other game ever captured my imagination like Lunar: The Silver Star and its PS1 remake.

    1. I hear ya, but I’ve never really forgiven them for adding an actual cost to saving your game in Lunar 2. In the Japanese version, it was free!

      1. The save cost thing is a common complaint, and one that always struck me as odd due to how little impact it actually HAS. The cost never rises high enough to actually be a concern, and tends to sit at one random encounter’s worth of MXP.

        Which does, admittedly, makes me wonder why they even bothered.

        I think people only care about the save cost because WD explicitly called the change out in the manual, so they have something concrete to latch on to and wave around as “proof” that WD are hacks. And for some reason, paying to save really grinds people’s gears. But if it hadn’t been in the manual, no one would even KNOW.

        You would be better off citing Silhouette Mirage, which both bungles the translation mightily(it misses that the bosses are named after the seven deadly sins), and has gameplay changes that completely unbalance the game. It is a rare example of Working Designs ACTUALLY ruining the game instead of just being accused of doing so.

        1. At the point I’m at in the game, you get maybe 6 MP from a fight while saving the game costs around 75 MP. Maybe it gets better later on, but it’s really frustrating right now.

          Victor Ireland said that they did it because all the other RPGs forced you to go to an inn or the world map to save. Which to me sounds like he hated things that were different from the norm, even if they were more convenient.

          1. Are you on the world map? One mob in a dungeon will typically drop enough MXP to make one save. Even on the world map, unless you save every few steps, you should still earn a decent amount of MXP. Don’t worry about not having enough to level up magic, either. Levelling up magic too quickly can actually be a problem, because your magic levels can outpace your character’s MP. You’d be surprised at how far you can get into the game with just the basic set of spells.

        2. Rare? Even in the first game they cut items for no reason. And most of their RPGs have messed-up stats and progressions, to the point of one (TG16) being potentially impossible to finish due to one of their “rebalancing” changes.

          And one of the biggest problems of WD’s localizations is that their fluff isn’t flavor they add to the game, they’re gutting plot-relevant text and replacing it with their fluff. At a lot of parts, they’re no longer proper translations.

          1. More hyperbole. I doubt that you can name more than one RPG that Working Designs broke due to rebalancing.

        3. “And for some reason, paying to save really grinds people’s gears. But if it hadn’t been in the manual, no one would even KNOW.”

          Everyone. This is what we call a shill.

          1. He’s right, though. Working Designs was one of the only companies back then that was transparent about the localization process. Back in the day, people played a ton of Japanese games that had gameplay altered during localization, and they didn’t even know it. Had it not been mentioned in the translation notes in the manual, most people wouldn’t have been the wiser.

  6. I’m not personally a fan of translations like these. Sometimes, the translators might actually improve the dialog compared to the Japanese version (the translation of FFXIV, in particular, is apparently considered pretty dry and forgettable in Japanese and the English version made it a more enjoyable read, but I wouldn’t know for sure myself since I’m hearing this second hand). However, the vast majority of the time they end up practicing some lame jokes that kinda ruin the experience. This isn’t really a good example, but I’m not a particular fan of the “spoony bard” line from FFIV. Yes, it’s “classic” bad translation, but I really don’t like how Squeenix, and the fans for that matter, have all decided that because it’s a “classic”, all modern retranslations MUST keep the line. The problem is the moment when the line is spoken is supposed to be a serious one, and there hasn’t been a single time I’ve played the game where I can actually take that moment as seriously as intended because they keep shoving that line in there in the name of some misguided sense of honoring the past, even the past’s mistakes.

    So, Working Designs. I enjoyed this game the first time I played it. It plays like a Disney fairy tale, though the costume designs on the female villains get pretty ridiculous (if Disney ever actually did adopt this story into a movie, that’d be the first thing to change). People tell me Adventure Time’s “deep dark true story” is basically the background setting of Lunar as well, but I’ve never really been able to “get” that show (every time I tried to watch an episode, it was just a kid and dog saying weird made up words and making fart jokes, which isn’t really my kind of humor), so I’ll just have to take their word for it. Some of Working Design’s additions work pretty well. I still consider the “dragon diamonds are literally dragon dung” thing to be more or less cannon, because it works both as a good joke and as a “take that” to humanity’s obsession with shiny rocks AND as a nice little bit of world building (what exactly ARE dragon diamonds if that’s not what they are?). Still, in terms of a story I can actually get invested in, Working Designs kinda broke that forth wall way too often for my taste. The forth wall humor got old really quick anyway, so it stopped being funny pretty early on, and any time the story started to get serious, bam, they take the time to remind you it’s a video game and none of it is real. On average, I’d say I prefer they didn’t take so many liberties with that translation. The PSP remake did a better job I think.

    1. The problem with spoony bard is with the audience.

      Spoony is, in fact, a real insult. Check your dictionary. On top of that, it is applicable to the circumstance, and the dated nature of the slur is appropriate to the line’s speaker.
      The humor, if we can call it that, only arises because people don’t know the word and assume it is a random word substitution(because censorship omg!).

      The Final Fantasy 2 had a lot of problems, but that line is not among them. The only sin it commits is trusting the audience to be literate.

      1. There is a huge difference between being literate and knowing a word that literally no one has used in centuries. Besides, many, MANY people know (or managed to guess) that “spoony” is a real word, but it’s extremely strange to see such an obscure, archaic word from a character who never used such outdated modes of speech before or afterwards.

        1. I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game, but I’ve heard people reference the line plenty of times. Before looking it up, I assumed it had something to do with spooning (laying on someone, front-to-back).

    2. I played FFXIV for a while with Japanese language/English text and can confirm, the Japanese version is never an improvement and is usually underwritten.

      The pirate city in particular felt lifeless, no one sounds like a pirate and they just sound vaguely military. Some of the actors phoned in their lines too, Miyuki Sawashiro for one.

      On the other hand FFXV has lots of personality, they really sound like bros.

      1. Totally agree about FFXV’s translation, though there are a few small lines that I don’t like. Namely at one point the villain references that “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” meme from the Life Alert commercials which makes me feel uneasy, and during an emotional moment Noctis says “You guys are the best” when the original Japanese is much more along the lines of “I love you guys”, which is what I wish the translation WAS, especially because omitting it has this weird “no homo” feel to it that I’m not sure, but hope wasn’t intentional.

  7. The only way I can imagine tangents this big being a good idea in a translation, is if the original set of questions are supposed to just as weird, and the translators needed to make a change heavy enough to clarify that none of these questions were originally meant to be going anywhere serious with the lore.

    So, like, I guess my question is, do the original Vane City questions have anything to do with foreshadowing?

  8. “Don’t they teach you peasants ANYTHING?” Always one of my favorite lines. I also loved the comment about how “it’s surprising these hicks know how to nail down something other than what’s related to them” when you enter Meryod for the first time. That line did survive for the PSP port, but Kyle says it instead of Nash.

    I will never forget how Working Designs made me laugh with their quirky localizations and fantastic dubs. It reminds me of the first Sailor Moon dub; it may have went off the rails from time to time but it sure was far more amusing than a straight up translation (the Japanese lines are a touch on the dorky side of things with that anime). Silver Star Story Harmony is a more accurate translation, true, but it’s not really that funny. A few of the original lines from WD’s script are in there, but there is no mention of product brands, so purists can calm down.

    At least WD lives on as Gaijinworks, who are taking the time to bring us the numbered Summon Night titles starting with 5.

    1. Funny or not, straying away from the work’s original feel is highly dangerous since you’re essentially creating experiences not originally intended by its developers. Each and every single change effects a game’s feel no matter how great, how small and what’s being changed. Even playing an otherwise perfect port on an entirely different console may change the experience due to the difference in technology.

      1. That may be true, but sometimes those intended experiences are often duller than some would be led to believe. I’m not saying that everything should be translated all wacky and loopy, but sometimes it adds a little charm here and there.

        1. There is a fine line between embellishment and taking the piss. Quite frankly, the new Dragon Quest translations have it about right for as far as you should take the localization process. There’s plenty of offbeat humor and punny references, but that’s because that was the case in the original text as well. Replacing otherwise uninteresting dialogue with something that has no relevance to anything at all is not good localization practice. Making it more interesting while retaining the spirit of the original dialogue is good localization practice.

          1. Well it was a product of its time. They don’t really do this kind of thing much anymore.

    2. “At least WD lives on as Gaijinworks, who are taking the time to bring us the numbered Summon Night titles starting with 5.”

      First time I’ve ever heard that considering how unethical the company is now.

      1. How are they unethical exactly?

      2. I love how it’s over a year later and you still haven’t explained what you meant by unethical, random Anon.

  9. Now, here’s something that you should take a look at. In FFX, as you’re visiting Kilika Temple for the first time, in one of the side rooms there’s two monk kids apparently playing tag with each other. One of them mentions that one of his parents went to ‘far plain’ when spoken to. In the context of the game, the ‘far plain’ is obviously Farplane, the place for the dead in FFX’s world. In the japanese version, that place is known as 異界 (ikai). roughly meaning Otherworld. The question is, what does the kid say in the Japanese version? It’s likely that 異界 is spelled in kana there, highlighting the fact that he’s still just a child and thus likely doesn’t know many kanji yet, but i’m not really sure…

    1. Well. Suddenly the song Otherworld makes a whole heck of a lot more sense. And is much, much darker.

      1. Well, that’s certainly an interesting way to think about it. 🙂