Final Fantasy IV has had more re-releases, ports, and remakes than almost any other classic JRPG. It’s also received multiple English translations since its Super NES debut nearly 30 years ago. So a common question I get from fellow fans is: “Which Final Fantasy IV translation should I play?”
My answer is never clear-cut, because different people have different tastes and are looking for different things. But since I’ve been researching, comparing, and writing about Final Fantasy IV translation differences for many years now, I thought I’d compile my findings and suggestions into a handy article. This way, you can see the pros and cons of each translation and choose one that best suits you.
Quick SummaryFirst, here are my Final Fantasy IV translation recommendations.
|If you…||Then I recommend:|
|…want the most accurate translation||DS, mobile, or PC versions (preferably DS)|
|…love 16-bit RPGs and all their quirks||Super NES version|
|…don’t speak English as your first language||Super NES, GBA, or PSP versions|
|…want to play a fan translation||avoid the J2e translation and use a more recent fan translation like Namingway Edition|
Why do I recommend these specific things? Let’s take a look at each translation and see.
Final Fantasy II (Super NES)This was the very first translation of Final Fantasy IV and is very much a product of its time. Because it was the first translation, many of the choices made in this release laid the foundation for all future re-translations.
- Pros: Easy to understand for non-fluent English speakers; many of the translation choices made offer a look at the “roots” of the series’ translation choices; provides a time capsule-like view of game translation in the early 1990s
- Cons: Significantly trimmed script; some text altered to fit Nintendo’s content guidelines; some genuine mistranslations; awkward phrasing; spelling, grammar, and capitalization issues
As a whole, the Super NES translation of Final Fantasy IV has many flaws, but is about on par with other console JRPGs from the same time.
Recommended for: Retro game fans; die-hard Final Fantasy IV fans; game historians; translators-in-training
Final Fantasy IV (PlayStation)Final Fantasy IV received a nearly-full re-translation before its PlayStation release. The text in this version was clearly handled by a native English speaker, so the awkward phrasing of the original translation is no longer an issue.
Instead, the PlayStation translation features something else: a constant streak of sarcasm throughout the script. In some ways, it feels like what Final Fantasy IV might’ve sounded like if Working Designs had localized it back in the day.
- Pros: Smoother-sounding text than the previous translation; easy to understand for non-fluent English speakers; clever writing choices; some missing lines from the original translation restored; sarcastic characters depicted wonderfully; served as the foundation for several major re-releases; offers a look at how game localization was changing at the time
- Cons: Font issues; poor text presentation; completely changed or made-up dialogue; characters given completely new (and often inconsistent) personalities; pop-culture references possibly added; some text censorship remains; some genuine translation mistakes
Recommended for: Final Fantasy IV fans who’d like to see a different twist on their favorite game
Final Fantasy IV (Game Boy Advance)The fancy GBA remake introduced a new generation of gamers to Final Fantasy IV fourteen years after the game’s original release.
While the game’s graphics and sound underwent some clear changes, the game’s translation didn’t change as drastically. The GBA version’s text is actually based on the PlayStation translation, but it also fixes many of the bigger issues in the PlayStation translation. At the same time, the GBA translation introduces potential new problems of its own, from added pop culture references to sloppy text editing mistakes.
- Pros: Smooth-sounding text; easy to understand for non-fluent English speakers; clear improvements to text formatting and presentation over the previous translation; fixes the most blatant issues from the previous translation
- Cons: Adds memes/pop culture references where none existed in the Japanese script; previously censored text remains censored; text-related programming mistakes; basic copy-and-paste errors in the script; English font is sometimes difficult to read
Recommended for: Gamers who want to play Final Fantasy IV and don’t speak English as their first language
Final Fantasy IV (DS)Final Fantasy IV got a full 3D remake in 2007/2008, and while the developers were at it, they redid the game’s translation from scratch too. The result was a modern localization that improved on many of the previous releases’ shortcomings while giving the game a new, fantasy-heavy atmosphere not found in any previous translation.
Here are some important notes about the DS translation:
- Because this is a remake, the Japanese DS version has some differences with the previous scripts. New characters and gameplay elements also change the script a bit too, which sets the DS version even further apart from the previous translations.
- The heavy, fantasy-style text in the DS version is actually a punched-up translation – almost nobody talks like “ye-olden Shakespeare times” in the Japanese script. Punched-up text is the norm for modern game translations, so it’s not anything noteworthy or even out of the ordinary, but I felt it was important to at least clarify here.
- The DS version does retain some of the translation choices from the previous releases – things like “spoony bard”, “Golbez”, “Edward”, and “Eblan” are kept the same. In that sense, it’s technically not a total re-translation, so I guess it’s more like a 99.9999% re-translation.
With all of these changes and not-changes in mind, the DS translation reminds me of the Star Wars movies in a way – some people strongly prefer the remastered editions, some strongly prefer the original releases, and many don’t really care either way. But my gut tells me the average player will get the most out of the DS translation.
- Pros: Most accurate translation; characterization is steady and consistent; text feels more fantasy-like than previous translations; previously censored content is finally restored; many weird choices from previous translations completely discarded; offers a great look at how game translation evolved since the early 1990s
- Cons: Non-standard phrasing and vocabulary may be difficult for some players (particularly non-fluent English speakers) to understand; stiff/fantasy-heavy text may be a big turn-off for some; some small in-jokes and pop culture references added to the script
Recommended for: Newcomers; almost everyone (except maybe for players who aren’t near-native fluent English speakers)
Final Fantasy IV (Playstation Portable)Final Fantasy IV returned to its 2D roots in 2011 as part of the remastered Final Fantasy IV Complete Collection. This PSP collection also included the sequel to Final Fantasy IV and a brand-new prequel to that sequel.
The PSP translation of Final Fantasy IV is based on the GBA translation, which itself is based on the old PlayStation translation. The PSP translation did go through another round of editing, so while it’s mostly identical to the GBA translation, many lines were tweaked in some way – sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. In addition, some text was changed to tie in with the new sequels, and a lot of the game’s special terminology was changed to match the DS translation.
- Pros: Smooth-sounding text; easy to understand for non-fluent English speakers; fixes issues found in the GBA translation
- Cons: Some new text changes are misleading or unnecessary; previously censored text remains censored; some previous memes/pop culture references remain intact; occasionally sloppy text presentation; minor but potentially annoying font quirks
Recommended for: Newcomers; gamers who want to play Final Fantasy IV and don’t speak English as their first language
Final Fantasy IV (Mobile)The DS version of Final Fantasy IV was ported to iOS devices in 2012 and Android devices in 2013. The mobile version isn’t a straight port of the DS version, however – certain characters and gameplay elements were changed or removed, and some text was changed accordingly.
As you might expect, the mobile translation of Final Fantasy IV is based on the DS translation. The mobile translation was initially hit by Square Enix’s mobile port curse, however, proving that it’s never safe to assume a port’s text fully matches the original’s text.
- Pros: Based on the most accurate translation; text feels more fantasy-like than most other translations
- Cons: Non-standard phrasing and vocabulary may be difficult for some players (particularly non-fluent English speakers) to understand; stiff/fantasy-heavy text may be a big turn-off for some; some small in-jokes and pop culture references added to the script; generic font might be a turn-off for some; sloppy font usage might cause rare confusion
Recommended for: Newcomers; almost everyone (except maybe for players who aren’t near-native fluent English speakers)
Final Fantasy IV (PC)The mobile port of Final Fantasy IV was ported to the PC in 2014. It’s pretty much a straight port – even the game’s UI uses the touchscreen menu layouts from the mobile version. As such, almost everything that applies to the mobile translation applies here, but with some weird little issues added.
- Pros: Based on the most accurate translation; text feels more fantasy-like than most other translations
- Cons: Non-standard phrasing and vocabulary may be difficult for some players (particularly non-fluent English speakers) to understand; stiff/fantasy-heavy text may be a big turn-off for some; some small in-jokes and pop culture references added to the script; generic font might be a turn-off for some; sloppy font usage might cause rare confusion; mobile-style UI might annoy some players at first; new text problems potentially added
Recommended for: Newcomers; almost everyone (except maybe for players who aren’t near-native fluent English speakers)
There’ve been many official translations of Final Fantasy IV over the years, and possibly just as many fan translations. Most fan translation projects focus on translating the Japanese Super Famicom ROM into English or editing the English Super NES ROM with new text. I can’t feasibly keep a running list of every fan translation, so we’ll just cover the three big ones.
J2e Fan Translation (link)
J2e Translations was a small ROM hacking group that translated Japanese games into English. They were most active between 1998 and 2003, which was sort of the “awkward puberty” phase for lots of things: the Internet, the game translation industry, video game emulation, and even ROM hackers themselves. J2e released a number of translations during this period, including translations that I helped with. But more than anything, J2e is known for is its Final Fantasy IV re-translation project.
After several years of work and several patch versions, J2e released what it touted as the definitive translation of Final Fantasy IV. Here’s how the team leader described the project in the readme file:
Why would we re-translate a game already translated here in North America? Simple… Square Soft did a HORRIBLE job translating this game! They used bad english, tons of abbreviations, and censored out many important parts of the story that were in the japanese scripts! Also FF2us was based on FF4j Easytype, which was alot easier than the hardtype version which is what we translated. Also in the Easytype version many things (like items and stuff) were censored out, but with this translation you get everything that was origianally meant to be in FF4! including the ever famous Porno Mag! hehehe
Almost 20 years later, the J2e fan translation is still widely considered the most accurate translation of Final Fantasy IV – but that’s absolutely wrong.
J2e’s passion and hard work was definitely admirable, but the final translation features: multiple fundamental translation mistakes, pop culture references added out of the blue, entirely new text added out of the blue, completely altered character personalities, completely new character motivations, new relationships where none existed before, excessive swearing, still-censored content, and the list goes on. And then there’s the simpler stuff like typos, capitalization errors, poor text presentation, etc. (see examples below)
Worst of all, while the J2e team did re-translate a lot of text, the majority of the script isn’t a translation at all – it’s literally just a blatant, fanfic-esque edit of the original Super NES script. Basically, if this had been a project for a translation class, it would’ve received a failing grade for all of its actual problems and then reported for plagiarism.
- Pros: Restores some text that was censored in the original Super NES translation; names based on real-life references are properly spelled; serves as a time capsule of fan translation history; easy to understand for non-fluent English speakers
- Cons: Script is mostly a rewrite of the original Super NES translation and retains many of that translation’s flaws; genuinely re-translated text contains numerous translation mistakes; pop culture references added; entirely new text added; sex jokes added; excessive swearing and harsh language inserted; characters personalities and motivations changed, character relationships added out of the blue; some previously censored text remains censored; juvenile writing choices; poor text presentation; typos & capitalization errors
It’s safe to say that the J2e fan translation is closer to a fanfic than an actual translation. While going through the text in detail, it really felt to me that there were two or three different people on the team with very different goals for the translation: one person was excited to edit the original translation in a Working Designs-esque direction, one person was interested in doing an actual re-translation but was still very much a beginner; and one person was just a very passionate Final Fantasy IV fan who wanted to share that passion with this big-name project.
Recommended for: Anyone who’s interested in the history of fan translations; translators-in-training who want to study via “spot-the-problem”
Project II Fan Translation (link)
Project II: Final Fantasy IV is a recent project that’s often recommended as a modern alternative to the J2e fan translation. While it’s indeed superior to the J2e version, it’s important to note that it’s not so much a re-translation project as an improvement project combined with a restoration project.
The full list of Project II’s changes is too long to list here, but here are some big ones:
- Rewritten script, taking elements from various translations of Final Fantasy IV
- Restores missing content
- Changes graphics
- Adds dummied-out equipment
- Changes battle commands & gameplay mechanics in entirely new ways
- Changes things like shop contents, stats, etc.
In general, Project II appears to use a combination of re-translated text based on input from fans, all-new text, and text from the original Super NES translation.
- Pros: Far more accurate than the J2e translation; easy to read for non-fluent English speakers; restores previously missing content
- Cons: Many text changes; not a full re-translation; terminology choices somewhat messy; is more of an improvement/restoration project than a translation project
Recommended for: Old-school Final Fantasy fans with a strong fondness for the Super NES-era translations
Namingway Edition Fan Translation (link)
Final Fantasy IV Namingway Edition is an offshoot of the Project II hack listed above. The purpose of the Namingway Edition is to create an accurate translation that’s a little closer to modern, official Final Fantasy translations.
Additionally, the Namingway Edition translation is much less of an improvement project than Project II – instead, it focuses more on the translation side of things. With that said, it is heavily based on Project II’s translation, so most casual players won’t notice the text differences aside from certain terminology choices.
- Pros: Far more accurate than the J2e translation; a bit more accurate than Project II; closer to a dedicated re-translation project than Project II; restores previously missing content; easy to read for non-fluent English speakers; terminology closely matches modern official releases
- Cons: Some text changes; not a full re-translation
Recommended for: Anyone who wants to play a fan translation of Final Fantasy IV
The Curse of Multiple Translations
We’ve taken a look at a lot of different translations of Final Fantasy IV, and we’ve seen how different people have different tastes and different goals in any translation. That’s why it’s natural for things to get multiple translations over time – in fact, it’s already been happening for centuries with literature.
So if you think 10 Final Fantasy IV translations is weird, classic literature like The Iliad and Don Quixote goes way beyond that – and fierce arguments for and against each translation have raged for hundreds of years. We’re just now seeing that in video game form, so the important thing is to keep an open mind when dealing with multiple translations. There’s rarely ever a single “perfect” translation in situations like this – each translation will have its pros and cons.
In any case, I hope this overview of all the major Final Fantasy IV translations has been educational and entertaining. I’m just some random guy on the Internet though, and I absolutely don’t want to be the “gatekeeper of FFIV translation”, so I hope you’ll use the above information to choose what you prefer. In the end, Final Fantasy IV is meant to be fun. If your translation of choice is fun for you, that’s all that matters.
Of course, if you want to experience the ultimate Final Fantasy IV translation, check out my Google-Translated translation patch here. Or, if you liked this in-depth translation review, you might enjoy my detailed Breath of Fire II localization review too!
Even as a relative latecomer to FF4, I’m one of the more anti-J2E people out there. It’s nice to see a more “professional” review of its flaws.
Thanks, glad you like it! I originally meant for this to be a short little article but it wound up taking me months to write up, haha
The J2E project turned out exactly how I’d expect from a disconnected teenaged team of variable talent and motivation plus flimsy leadership and oversight. Back in the day I was impressed with Anus P’s hacking. He did some amazing things with the text boxes and font in an era where there were no real tools–until J2E created them–and early second generation ROM hacking knowledge. Aesthetically, though, it never looked right, with battle text actually being worse than the original.
There was some noise back in the day about the liberties taken by J2E, which led to them releasing a memo rationalizing the changes as localization. The memo had a mixed reception at the time, but I guess everyone eventually forgot, given how J2E is still considered the definitive version by many.
Oh yeah, I had nearly forgotten about all of that!
Very few people could do any sort of assembly-level hacking back then – in fact, even just simple text replacement seemed like impossible voodoo for a lot of people – so I remember being impressed by the amount of technical work they put into it. I remember thinking that the font changes + text box resizing was neat but still looked like a big step backward for some reason. I only paid attention when there was a patch update though, so I only barely remember that localization document you brought up.
Most people in the community were kids back then, so it’s understandable and probably not a J2e-only thing at the time. I didn’t do anything so outlandish with my own fan translations, but one of these days I want to share how I handled some of my early fan translations too, pick them apart, and show how boneheaded I was in places.
>even just simple text replacement seemed like impossible voodoo for a lot of people
J2E created a tool called Thingy, which was the first or at least one of the earliest generalized script insertion tools. While created for FFIV initially, they ended up abstracting it. I recall Thingy being moderately to very popular in the ROM hacking community at the time.
Back in the day it was amazing when any project was completed. It seemed most teams dissolved part way through due to internal drama, which is something you’d expect from kids, though, to be fair, people of any age are much less tolerant when it comes to doing large amounts of tedious work for no pay.
Looking at your old, *old* translation of Famicom Tantei Club Part II, you used “The Girl in Back” as a translation for うしろに立つ少女 (Ushiro ni Tatsu Shōjo), while Wikipedia uses “The Girl who Stands Behind”. Do you recall anything that influenced that decision (text space, translation, etc.) As a whole, I enjoyed it very much. Thanks!
Demi actually deserves most of the credit for the final patch translation – I was the one who got the project started and pushed it forward, but that was around the time I was starting to go pro and realized I didn’t have time for fan translations anymore so I passed almost everything on to him. I don’t remember why that title was chosen specifically, but my gut says the title screen + the tight text menu were a big reason for the shorter name.
I think in a professional translation the title would’ve been changed entirely to something else that sounds more natural in English.
Even not being familiar at all with FF IV (aside from the Funky Fantasy version), the J2E translation just…doesn’t seem good. I know you’re mostly only pointing out bad lines and maybe they’re more drowned out in the context of the full game, but it just…doesn’t feel like that would’ve been the original intent in most of those cases. Maybe that’s because I’ve already heard you talk about it before and already have a pre-existing negative view of it (also, I’m now curious what the ‘Fire Rod’ line is…though maybe it’s best I just leave it alone…).
But anyway, this was pretty helpful! I picked up the SNES version on the Wii eshop before it went down, so I’ll probably stick with that for my first playthrough, but after reading this it’s making me consider trying either the GBA or DS versions as well (but I already have too many other RPGs to play noooooo). Though I think I’ve heard the GBA version has bugs and stuff, which I think is one of the reasons I went with the original version…
Oh man, that reminds me that I should’ve looked at the Virtual Console releases too. They’re probably identical but VC games sometimes come with secret data/text changes.
Are we positive goons is a Something Awful reference?
I assumed that Cid was just implying Cecil’s crew were a ragtag bunch of thugs or fools.
Yep, I’m positive, but I don’t have the old SA forum links handy (and they’re probably long archived anyway). It’s one of those added references that works because you wouldn’t notice it if you weren’t familiar with the reference, similar to the “totally sweet” reference too.
This actually hits the nail on the head of what I think of references (memetic or otherwise) inserted into localizations; it’s fine so long as the text still makes sense to someone who doesn’t know the intended reference. You’re right; this could be a SA reference, or it could be Cid simply calling the Red Wings a bunch of roughnecks, and that’s why it works.
Having “goons” and “something awful” in the same textbox is too much of a coincidence to be a mere coincidence.
Something Awful references happened a few more times. Nob Ogasawara who worked on some Castlevanias and all Pokemon games until Platinium reportedly went overboard with “My Pokémon is fight!”, “Fishing for the win” and even more direct references. Nintendo let go of him in late 2008.
References or shout outs to message boards in games meant for the mainstream, no matter how the reference by itself is innocuous, is really risky considering how much these forum reputation change unpredictably for the worse and that association for game publishers is not something you want anything to do with.
There are Japanese fans who complained about 2ch lingo in Bravely Second, and that Super Paper Mario joke about “going to imageboards to complain about games I never played” was (if Treehouse is to be believed, so take with a grain of salt) considered for the Japanese version’s draft but ultimately rejected. I don’t think chans reputation needs any further expanding upon. And then in South Korea you have the Megalia forums involved in political activism AND really nasty crimes that made national news (and with an history of covering up for fellow members and fundraising for legal expenses), so any game publisher associating with it, directly or not, is opening a horrible pandora box whatever their course of action after that is.
It’s a liability. Even for games that set out to offend or make a political statement (Sega’s “I am sorry” for arcades, or “Segagaga” where they take the piss out a destitute corrupt prime minister, and their gaming competition respectively) the risks were calculated and accounted for. But here, there’s no telling which way will all of that bottled internet’s wrath go in an age where offscreen photographs of computer monitors are enhanced to guess political leanings from unopened browser tabs. The developers would be tried in the court of public opinion for the sins of amorphous internet communities they have nothing to do with outside of a joke snuck in by some editors, not even judged for THEIR work. It’s no wonder AAA publishers have dedicated departments to comb through this kind of associations.
Whoa, that’s a really good point that I hadn’t considered – that references to real life can quickly turn bad later on for factors outside of your control. Thanks for the insight!
In general, games should feel as timeless as possible. If the script has references to then-current events and (yes) memes, they can date the game pretty quickly.
Due to long production pipelines, trying to shoehorn memes is on average a liability even in current media because no one knows what will still be relevant or stale months down the line. The TV series South Park can make it work because it has six day production cycles, but I’m pressed to think of other working examples. For games, I think exceptions can be made for long established industry-relevant memes, like “a winner is you” or “it is dangerous to go alone”, assuming such is appropriate for the tone of the game, rather than the translator editorializing.
Even so, imagine someone from like 20 years from now playing these games? Would they even ‘get’ what they’re saying here without looking it up for example?
According to Ogasawara himself, inserting references into scripts wasn’t why he was let go — Nintendo was bringing all their translations in-house at the time and even offered to hire him to The Pokemon Company, but he preferred to stay independent.
It’s interesting that you seemingly like the DS version’s localization the best; most people I’ve talked to didn’t like the DS version’s localization due to that same “punched-up” quality and generally prefer either the SNES or GBA localizations. It’s interesting to have a professional translator’s opinion on things like this.
Personally I’m not a fan of the DS’s fantasy-phrasing at all, but it’s definitely the most accurate, which is saying something when compared to all the others.
I find it interesting that the localization team for FFIV DS went with a heavy, fantasy-style approach as it reminds me of another localized DS game that followed the same approach when I believe the original script did not have such instances–Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon–that was released in North America roughly a year later. While the only basis for some comparison for Shadow Dragon at the time was a fan-translation for Book 1 Mystery of the Emblem, most of the Fire Emblem community loves 8-4’s localization for that game to this day. I wonder if there were any other revised localization of games during that era that added in that fantasy-style script as well as a trend, or if it just happened to be those two games.
I think it was becoming more common around that time with other games, yeah. I’m reminded of this article about Fire Emblem (GBA) although it’s not as heavy in tone. I have no real evidence, but I somehow feel like FF12’s translation (and maybe Vagrant Story before it) helped kick off this brand of localization writing across the industry.
All of the Dragon Quest re-translations have this punched fantasy language in them. I think they actually started the trend in the early 2000s with the original translation for VIII and then subsequent re-translations of all other titles which were re-released on various platforms.
Actually, the original NES Dragon Warrior versions also had that “high fantasy” language in them. Dragon Quest is… strange. It went from high fantasy medieval language in the original NES releases, then went to the simple modern language from the original JP versions in the GameBoy Color and DS versions as well as DQVII and in a lot of ways the VIII-onwards games still are more simple and less… “thou”-y than the old school translations… but then for the HD/Mobile re-dos of DQ1-3 they went BACK to the high fantasy dialogue of the NES versions, just with less typos. It’s so weird to see for me as someone used to the GBC versions now knowing “Loto” as “Erdrick” for example, even though that’s what NES DQ called him too. Plus, it does make “But thou must!” actually match the trope.
The DS version is definitely my favorite. I didn’t really feel like the fantasy-style language was overdone, and I’m glad it was so faithful to the Japanese. And thank goodness it doesn’t have any wacky, incomprehensible dialects!
Tom Slattery has some interesting comments on the retranslation of FF4DS here: https://archive.rpgamer.com/features/insidegaming/tslatteryint.html
“It was a bit sad to see that the PSP version fell back on the GBA script again, with only the DS version terminology retconned in. I had volunteered to adapt the DS script, even in my own free time, but ended up leaving the company before the project kicked up.”
Aw…I would’ve liked to see that.
That interview is really interesting.
He does bring up how the Japanese side on their own update guidelines for what’s grammatically correct, appropriate for a CERO A rating, and even their own Japanese flavor of political correctness for specific terms. I first noticed that when I first saw Japanese romhacks for fixing the many typos in the original versions (something Mato had an article on, and it apparently got so bad that first print copies of Romancing SaGa had an apology letter for all the typos and bugs…), and it would be lovely to see a wiki tracking down those changes.
A historic day to be covered on the site of one of the people I most respect in the translation team! Thank you, Mato! 😀
I said it on Twitter, but I’ll say it here too, especially since I have more space. Project II was intended to be what I’ve been calling a “natural bridging point” between Phil Sandhop’s Final Fantasy I and Ted Woolsey’s Final Fantasy VI. So we have the Silver Sword, but Rydia calls Espers. You use Tonics and Tinctures, but cast Lit3 and Virus. The hodgepodge seems messy at first glance, but it’s supposed to be the center in an evolution. Every choice was deliberate and thought out!
You hit the target audience right on the mark: people who are nostalgic for SNES-era games and censorship, but don’t want to play Kaoru Moriyama’s Final Fantasy IV script. Namingway Edition was conceived afterword, and it took my script and made the terms more consistent and modern with the use of digraph tiles. The only parts where I didn’t adhere to censorship were that heroes can and do die, and some of the religious references had to slip through because the alternatives sounded ridiculous. (Cross, Pray, House of Prayer, GodsFury) I figured this was OK since Breath of Fire II and EarthBound had some blatant religion in them too. Of course, FFIV: Namingway Edition further reverts the game to its Japanese counterpart in some interesting and exciting ways!
Your recommendation of FFIV: Namingway Edition makes me proud. Thank you!
By the way, if anyone is wondering what I personally recommend for FFIV? The PC version, with the 25 FPS battles mod and the Original Music mod applied. I love its script a lot!
I shared this to my university’s translation department’s Facebook page. This material would make for great grounds for a MA, or something similar.
For someone who got into professional translation and got a professional degree in music mostly thanks to FF and early years games and game translations, thank you so much for these insights. It’s kinda a remainder why I do what I do and plan to do.
Ha, that’s great to hear!
I’m actually considering sending my giant EarthBound translation/localization book to a bunch of colleges in the near future just to see if anyone likes it. Do you think your university’s translation department would be interested?
The Project II/Namingway edition is overall my favorite translation for the classic game. Although it’s not perfect, it’s pretty good for a fan translation, and doesn’t insult my intelligence like the J2E translation. They said they used a lot of ideas from this site to help with translation decisions too, which I think is pretty cool. DS is my overall favorite translation but I don’t particularly enjoy the augment system they added, as well as the extreme difficulty jump.
Thank you, Zachary! I appreciate that a lot. Yes, Mato’s FFIV page on Legends of Localization helped quite a bit in the script-rewriting process. As it continues to update, I see more places I could and should have tweaked the script–but Rodimus is doing a great job of continuing support for Namingway Edition, which has more features than Project II, (Like the original title screen and 1991 Developer’s Room.) ensuring that it continues to be the purest FFIV SNES experience.
On ‘dweomer’, you may find this interesting: http://phrontistery.info/disq6.html
Haha, wow, that’s really interesting. Dweomer is only one of many crazy words in the DS script, so I wonder if they were peppered in on purpose, if someone was just a really big obscure language fan and edits that way normally, or if there was a lot of thesaurus use to come up with them.
My guess with ‘dweomer’ was that maybe the writer thought of a D&D-ism as ‘fantasy RPG language’. I also wondered whether ‘Feymarch’ was inspired by D&D’s ‘Feywild’.
I haven’t played a version of FFIV with that script so I don’t know what flavour the other obscurities have.
(By the way, when unsubscribing from comments, is ‘Your are not longer subscribe to the post’ a deliberate joke or something inherited with the blog software?)
Haha, I think that’s the subscription programmer’s mistake and not mine. Hiding secret bad translation nods in obscure places sounds kind of fun though!
Well, deviantART does use Rocked Out in the address bar when you, well, log out of the site so…
You didn’t include Funky Fantasy 😛
It’s a bit late for this, but this article is absolutely great (not that this is any surprise, considering it’s a digest version of your existing extensive comparison articles for FF4 on the site). Review articles like this are usually hyperbolic and blatantly biased to whatever preferences their writers have towards either localization approaches and dismissing anything outside it, and it’s really refreshing to see one of them finally done right (in that it’s fair to all translation choices, and reviews the translations without covering up the cons of either one to make it seem better than it is), from an experienced translator no less.
Thanks a lot for writing it. Now I’m wishing for more of this (especially FF5’s weird PS1 translation, maybe FF6 and Chrono but those are a bit controversial… that said they all don’t have a translation history as tumultuous as FF4)
Thanks, glad you liked it! I didn’t expect it to get such a positive response when I wrote it, but now it has me considering doing it for other games with multiple translations… not sure how many of those there are though.
And I did include Funky Fantasy at the very end 😛
So the general idea is the PSP/GBA one is good for starter fans and the DS and Namingway versions are for those with a keener interest in IV? I’m a little fond of the PSP version now since its the first version of the game I beat and I love it for its party swap mechanic late in the game
Still can’t believe what J2E did to Rydia, poor gal.
The J2e “translation” is a god awful piece of festering sewage that should never have existed to begin with.
I’m one of those people who was at the exact right age when FFII came out to play through it basically immediately(across multiple rentals spanning a few months because it was the 90s (It was funny to pick up a save file, see a bunch of unfamiliar names, then see one of the names I’d given to a character show up during the ending because later players didn’t get to change it)), then play the J2E, PSX and GBA versions on release, and finally the DS version when it came out, so I got to see the evolution of the translation in more-or-less realtime. I might be in the minority who really enjoys the “D&D-ized” high fantasy flavor of the DS version because I grew up reading fantasy novels and Gygax’s “expand your word power” d&d books. Honestly, that version feels more “real” to me than a lot of other modern game translations, which don’t bother much with flavor and end up feeling a bit lifeless to me.
It’s funny because Final Fantasy as a whole draws a great deal from D&D in the first place, to the extent where some editing was done to the first game when it was brought to the US, presumably out of fear of infringement lawsuits.
Correct, such as redoing the Beholder monster so it didn’t look like the actual copyrighted Beholder, for example. I don’t understand though; shouldn’t the Japanese company get sued for using something that is under copyright?
I’m not a legal expert, but speculating, possible answers could be TSR was unaware at the time, didn’t think the high cost was worth it, or may have reached an agreement after the fact considering D&D references made their way back in, e.g. Piscodemon and Mindflayer replacing WIZARD and SORCERER in later titles like Final Fantasy Tactics (or they just forgot to obscure the references again). On the other hand, while there is basically a global copyright system that is a mirror of the U.S. system, this would have been much less the case in the late 80s, so maybe there wasn’t a viable lawsuit even if TSR wanted to take action.
You know, I do wonder, do the 2D and 3D versions of The After Years have the differing tones that the modern 2D and 3D FFIV scripts have?
Are the scripts different in Japanese?
The After Years translation doesn’t have the “high fantasy” tone of FF4DS, despite being made as a sequel to that version. There are some minor alterations between the Wii and PSP versions (the latter being used for its 3D releases) in some places, for clarification and removing awkwardness.
You can’t go wrong with the Final Fantasy Chronicles version since it does come with Chrono Trigger, though I suppose the script rewrite does get a little too sassy in places (such as brainwashed Kain saying Cecil is in drag as a Paladin).
I recently started playing both GBA and Namingway versions just to compare, and ended up finishing Namingway, it’s the one I recommend, the GBA translation is fine, but the font is too tiny and there is a considerable lag while moving through menus, I found it extremely annoying. And that was the European cartridge, which is supposed to fix some bugs.
Also this game is better played on an emulator with the fast-forward function, the encounter rate is just too much for my patience. The PSP version seems fine, but I’m not a big fan of the new sprites.
I’m surprised there isn’t more outrage at the deception that J2e perpetrated on a trusting community.
During (and especially in) the late 90s, gaming enthusiasts were becoming keenly aware of how many games were being improperly localized (or not at all!). For example, it came as a shock to many that Final Fantasy II and III were actually IV and VI and V was never even brought to the States.
Emerging from this realization came many who wished to take on the task of translation themselves. And for the most part, even if the translations were done poorly, at least they were done earnestly.
That was not the case with the J2e translation of Final Fantasy IV. The J2e team knew that their translation hardly relied whatsoever on the original Japanese script of Final Fantasy IV, yet represented themselves as translators taking on big projects for the rest of us. Many believed that the finalized product J2e offered was, in fact, an accurate translation sourced from the original Japanese script. And they did nothing to dissuade those beliefs.
If they had been forthright with the fans, it wouldn’t have been so egregious. People would have seen it as what it was: a new script, re-imagined by fans loosely based upon both the Japanese and American releases. But that message was never conveyed. They were happy to reap the adulation for what many were led to believe was an accurate translation. There’s no other way to describe that than a deception.
J2E did try to convey this message, but it was through a weasely memo that was polarizing but ultimately poorly received. If you’ve never read it, they basically asserted that any perceived differences were due to necessary localization choices rather than the project being basically a rewrite of the US version. Even at the time there was heavy skepticism, beyond the regular puritanical sentiments that “localization” means untranslated romanji. The reputation of the project improved over time as people forgot about the controversy and, likely, with modern let’s players asserting the translation as definitive.
But, yeah, I agree with you. The memo really sealed the deal on the deception, as they tried to over represent their expertise and wash away valid criticism. On the other hand, they released the first playable English version of the full Final Fantasy IV and the depth of the ROM hacking was impressive at the time, even if a number of the changes interfered with the game’s aesthetics.
Their ROM hacking was indeed impressive. I don’t doubt for a moment their abilities. Their technological aptitude is not in question; however, their integrity and ethics most certainly are.
I also read the memo. It was absolutely – as you put it – “weasely”. Their memo created an opposing false position (i.e. straw man) that anyone who didn’t approve of their translation were just demanding romanized Japanese. In other words, J2e gets to do whatever they want and if you don’t like it you’re just an unreasonable otaku fanboy. It was a convenient excuse to escape any personal responsibility for failing to translate from the original script yet claiming to do so.
They owe everyone an apology.
Oh my god, this article is so perfect. This is seriously one of the most well written and organized reviews/intros to a game I’ve ever seen. There is honestly talent in this article.
It’s interesting the way, even within a shared language, perceptions differ. Specifically, that you called the DS translation stiff in places. I get that I’m weird and actually think the loftier tone suits this particular story, but it always read to me like it flowed freely and naturally within the style. Probably speaks more to my upbringing than anything else; my mother introduced me to both JRR Tolkein and Gilbert and Sullivan before I was 10, so this sort of… slightly archaic style feels very familiar and easy to me. But as a result, “stiff” or “awkward” are not adjectives I would have associated with the DS translation, so I find the contrast in perceptions interesting.
(And yes, I definitely get that “sounds like that book I had to read for sophomore year English” is not exactly going to make it popular.)
Of course, there is one minor side-benefit to going for this sort of rarefied style: when you establish it as “normal” over hours and hours of gameplay, it means that you can give Edge that rough “ore” vibe without stuffing his mouth full of swear words just by writing him like a normal, modern person.
which one would you recommend for someone who doesn’t think that highly of it?
I recommend the DS version or its mobile derivatives. I grew up with the US SNES version but the newer versions are better in pretty much every way. Besides the translation being more accurate, it’s much more pleasant to read. The SNES versions are much easier, though, even the so-called “Hard Type” version. I’d say the DS version is well above average in JRPG difficulty, though nowhere near something like Dragon Quest II or 7th Saga.
In the image talking about the swearing in the J2E translation, the bottom-right image is also a pop-culture reference to Duke Nukem 3D. Saw that you didn’t catch that, so I just wanted to bring that up.
What bottom-right image? You’re not talking about “I’m gonna get medieval on your ass”, are you? Because that’s a Pulp Fiction reference.
What translation does the Pixel Remaster use?
PSP. Go on Youtube and compare the scripts. PR made very few changes, and if you want to know what they are, I can give some examples, but 99% of it is PSP, which is basically GBA, as others have said.