Unusual English in Japanese Video Game Credits

47 Comments

If you’ve ever played Japanese-language or Japanese-made video games, you’ve probably noticed that Japanese video game credits are usually written in English. And, as we’ve seen in previous articles, the unpredictable mixture of Japanese and English sometimes leads to surprising – and amusing – results.

Many of these Japanese credits quirks aren’t well known, so I thought I’d share some common patterns I see all the time and explain why they happen.

Why English?

There are a number of reasons why Japanese game credits are usually written in English. It’s a longstanding tradition that’s been around since the very first Japanese video games, for example, and using English this way also lends Japanese credits a solid, professional feeling.

Here are some examples of English in Japanese credits from a variety of companies and systems across several decades:

This heavy reliance on English writing is another example of why you don’t need to translate everything when localizing a game into Japanese.

Of course, this isn’t to say that all Japanese game credits are written in English, though. English is more common, but Japanese does get used:

Notable Patterns in Japanese Credits

Whenever I play a Japanese video game, I always look forward to seeing the credits and trying to spot the following patterns. Try looking for these the next time you play a game made in Japan!

Programer

It’s extremely common to see “programmer” written as “programer” in Japanese games. It’s an understandable mistake, but it’s one that everyone seems to make, whether they’re a zero-budget hobby programmer, a mid-tier development studio, or even a billion-dollar company.

This “programer” phenomenon is less common these days now that game companies are more internationally minded, but the next time you play a Japanese-made game, keep an eye out. You just might spot a “programer”!


Stuff

Naturally, the word “staff” appears a lot in video game credits. But the letters A and U are notoriously problematic when switching between Japanese and English, so it’s common to see Japanese video games say “stuff” instead:


Produce

The word “produce”, as in “to produce something” entered the Japanese language at some point, but its usage changed ever so slightly. As a result, it’s common to see “produce” in Japanese credits when you’d normally expect “produced by” or “producer”:


Hard and Soft

The Japanese language also absorbed the English words “hardware” and “software”, but they’re kind of clunky in Japanese. In English, they’re two syllables each, but in Japanese, they become five Japanese-style syllables each: ハードウェア (hādowea) and ソフトウェア (sofutowea). So most people just use the shorter words “hard” and “soft” instead.

As a result, it’s common to see Japanese games talk about “hard” and “soft”:


Congraturation

Another common sight in Japanese game credits is the word “congratulations”, but misspelled in some way:

”Congratulations” is an understandably easy word for anyone to misspell – I even remember a native English-speaking classmate spelling it “congradulations” and insisting it was correct. But this “messed-up congratulations” phenomenon is so widespread in Japanese games that I felt it deserved a mention here. It happens so often it probably deserves its own dedicated gallery someday.


Other Surprises

As we’ve seen, Japanese game credits are kind of unpredictable, so there are always new linguistic surprises in store. Here are some examples:


Unusual Special Thanks

”Special thanks” sections are a common sight in video game staff rolls, regardless of the country of origin. But I’ve noticed that Japanese game developers sometimes used these “special thanks” sections to share behind-the-scenes messages or even to gripe about other development team members.

I seriously doubt this is a Japan-only thing, of course. I know programmers hide secret messages in game data all the time, but it’s surprising to me to see this sort of stuff right there in the credits. If you know of any examples of game credits being used as a message board like this, let me know!

Funny Staff Names

In the early days, Japanese game companies were always concerned that rival companies might try to steal their top talent. So it was pretty common for developers to go by pseudonyms or nicknames in their games’ credits. This phenomenon led to some unique names that remain memorable around the world, even decades later.


The Send-Off

Lastly, we have one of my favorite things to look forward to in Japanese credits: the final “send-off” message. Usually you’d expect something like “Thanks for playing!”, but Japanese games tend to use amusing variations or unusual English grammar.

Some phrases like “thank you for your playing” and “see you next” even appear with regularity. And sometimes the send-off is perfectly correct English, but just seems out of place in the context it’s being used.

Summary

Japanese game credits are always something I look forward to, because I never know what to expect. Sometimes the credits will be written in Japanese, sometimes they’ll be written in English, and sometimes they’ll be in a unique mixture of both languages.

As we’ve seen in previous articles, mixing Japanese and English can lead to unpredictable results, so whenever English is used in Japanese credits, there’s no telling what unique surprises are in store. It’s an aspect of Japanese games that I just really enjoy for some reason.

Anyway, hopefully this was a fun and enlightening look at a topic that gamers don’t normally consider. If you happen to discover any good “programer” examples, funny pseudonyms, or other interesting Japanese credits, let me know – I might add them to the site sometime!


Many thanks go to VGMuseum for many of the screenshots in this article - it's such a great resource that I can't recommend it enough. Also, if you enjoyed this article, I think you'd like my article about English filler text in Japanese entertainment too. Check it out!

47 Comments
  1. I’m honestly surprised you didn’t include a picture of the ending screen from Ghostbusters on NES.

    Reply
    1. Probably the most famous “conglaturation” message, especially after the AVGN treatment. What’s weird is that it’s an Activision game and thus has no reason for such errors. It was ported by a Japanese company, but they had the original ending text.

      Reply
    2. I thought about it, but lately I like to share things that aren’t as well known, when possible. Plus now it’s here in the comments anyway!

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      1. This always makes me think of Brentalfloss’ “What if VG Endings Had Lyrics?”

        CONGLATURATION!!
        I’ve never seen such finger speed!
        Let’s get a burger!
        It was a dream!
        We won’t tell if Jason died!
        SO STARE AT YOUR BROTHER’S HEAD IN THE SKY!!!

        Reply
      2. The best part is how they botched the programming in the Japanese version of Ghostbusters (read the text data from the wrong CHR-ROM bank), leading to an ending that is blank for 1 minute, then the hiragana “riri” eventually scrolls up.

        The actual text is the same as the English version, except it says “GRATE GAME”.

        Reply
  2. I wonder if back in the day seeing a full name among a bunch pseudonyms meant that developer was expendable or not as highly valued.

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    1. That’s a good point. Or it could also be the other way too – they’re so loyal and/or confident in sticking with their current employer that they don’t need one? I dunno, it’d be an interesting subject to look more into someday.

      Reply
  3. Isn’t game development all just truly stuff in the end? XD

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  4. TIL Golgo 13 is on the SG-1000.

    What’s with “Crazy Stuff”? I’m assuming the intention isn’t to communicate that the development staff is psychotic.

    Is “TANK YOU” intentional in T.N.K. III or a convenient typo?

    I got used to “produce” but when I was a kid I actually thought they were crediting the people who brought carrots and lettuce to the office.

    Change Air Blade manages “congratulations” and correctly puts an apostrophe in “let’s” but fumbles “compleated”. To be fair I might spell it that way if I didn’t know how.

    Reply
    1. If you do a Google image search for “Dezani World” it’ll make sense why the staff would call themselves crazy 😛

      Reply
      1. All I get are news articles about a Magic: The Gathering player.

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        1. Oops, try “Dezeni World”

          Reply
  5. Aside from the proverbial “Congratulation” and other common variants, I’ve also seen things along the lines of “Thank’s you for playing”.

    Too bad I can’t remember the title of the culprits in question.

    Reply
  6. “Thanks a Million.”

    Besides the common “Produce” and “Compose”, I often see the word Background split in two as in “Back Ground Design”

    Reply
    1. “You Have an Amazing Wisdom and Power.”

      Reply
  7. I once encountered this in an obscure arcade puzzle game called Pnickies, and used it for a LiveJournal icon for many years back in the day: http://nleseul.this-life.us/pnickies/thanxforplaying.gif

    Sadly, I didn’t save any screenshots of the full context.

    Reply
  8. I love that an example of ‘Stuff’ instead of ‘Staff’, Ikari (MSX2), also has an example of ‘Produce’.

    Reply
  9. The way you half-translated A Link Between Worlds’ Japanese name confuses me. Is that what it’s called in official documents or something?

    Reply
    1. Haha, I expected someone to ask about that. I wasn’t sure what to do either, so I just went with what the game’s title screen says:

      Reply
      1. yeah, the Japanese games have been using the English logo for a while now. only the subtitle is in Japanese

        Reply
  10. I would love to see a “Congratulations” misspelling gallery! I feel like misspellings of that word tend to be some of the more iconic pieces of mistranslation in video games. I feel like I’ve even seen mainstream TV shows have jokes about “Conglatutons!” in them, so I bet there’s plenty of fuel out there for such a piece!

    The “See you again someday” send-off feels curiously wholesome. I like it.

    Reply
  11. I see “graphicer” as a real Japanese term all the time… Is that just lowly graphics support?

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  12. “Ethiopian Taro” up there…yeah, that’s a name I want the story behind!

    Reply
  13. “Dragon.
    Likes: The Sky.
    Dislikes: Indecisive Person”

    This reminds me of those hilariously bad translations of the Robot Data for Mega Man and Bass (GBA). That’s an article in itself.

    One of my favorite sendoffs is Blaster Master’s “VERY THANKS!!”

    Reply
    1. I’m now remembering ExoParadigmGamer’s reaction to “douchie” on Dr. Light’s bio in his Mega Man & Bass review.

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      1. Flash Man’s is pretty funny, too

        GOOD POINT: Caring boss
        BAD POINT: Miseryguts
        LIKES: Camera
        DISLIKES: Commercial for wig

        Also the Attack of the Clones reference with Ground Man’s quote being “I hate sand”

        Reply
  14. Interesting credit example for SDI with “Ashidematoi People”. I suppose the equivalent in English would be “Dead Weight”?

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  15. Re. griping about people in the credits, it reminds me of the way software cracking groups (and people in the demoscene which grew out of it) would flame other groups in their intros. Obviously that’s not in an ostensibly professional context, but I wonder if Japanese programmers were familiar with that sort of thing as kids and carried on doing it in their professional work.

    Reply
  16. I’d imagine the sheer variety of rare kanji in family names also plays a part in dev names being printed in Latin alphabet for older games, even if the game itself has some kanji support. No sense in implementing support for a character that’s only going to be used for one guy’s name.

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    1. That’s the other thing, older games rarely used kanji unless they were super-common or were of some importance. Using English letters and kana is much less resource-intensive.

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      1. Not to mention that at lower resolutions, many kanji are borderline unreadable.

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        1. Yup, just try popping in older NES or SNES games and see if you can make any sense of the text…

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  17. I’m glad that games mispelled “Congratulations” so often, because it means I (a bad speller) can take my best shot and just pretend I was making a joke about retro video games.

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  18. Mega Man 4 5 6 and 7 had my favorite codenames. Fish Man?? 2 meter 30 centimeter man?

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  19. Here’s another game with “Special no thanks” in the credits: https://youtu.be/82FRII1oZXI?t=438

    Special no thanx to the
    Key Nakanishi

    Reply
    1. Ha, that’s great, thanks! It even has “programer”, hooray!

      Reply
      1. Oh, and one thing that has always confounded me is “Based on the novels by Viet Nam 1972”.

        Reply
  20. You are welcomed 😉

    Reply

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