A while back, a reader named Dhillon521 submitted a question about Zero Wing’s ending text:
Hello, A little while ago I saw your article about Zero Wing. I decided to look in the game. So I got a Japanese rom and looked at some of the endings. Apparently the Japanese version has 4 endings while the English only has 3! And more interesting the fourth ending is the only one with text. Maybe the bad translations had something to do with laziness? Do you think you could do a article on it? Here is a screenshot of the ending Just in case.
I was all set to translate the line when I decided to do some double-checking to make sure that the screenshot was real and that the Japanese really did have another ending. It turns out that not only is the screenshot 100% real, the Japanese version of Zero Wing has 35 endings! In contrast, the English version only has 3. For those not familiar with Zero Wing, the ending changes with each loop through the entire game.
Anyway, after learning this, I went and documented each Japanese ending, organized them into a table, and tried my hand at some simple translations. You can see all 35 endings below, but there are a few things to note first:
- From Ending #4 and on, the villain character starts to talk in very unusual Japanese. Most of the time he speaks in a very effeminate way, but sometimes he speaks in heavy dialects. Sometimes he talks normally, and sometimes he talks like a kid. His speech style is all over the place and is pretty silly.
- Due to a limited character font, some of the writing in the endings is presented unusually.
- Many of the extra endings feature references to old comedy routines, music, anime, and more. A lot of this information isn’t well-documented on Japanese sites, and it’s even harder to find info on it in English. The age of the references suggests this text was written by someone who grew up in the 1960s or 1970s. Some of the references seem to elude Japanese players, so I’m sure I’m missing a lot of them myself.
- After Ending #35, the endings simply loop around and start with Ending #4 again.
First, if you’re a video person, you can see all of the endings in this video compilation:
If text is more your thing, see below:
A bunch of Pipiru creatures – which were the developer’s mascots at the time – do a lot of silly dancing to the famous Can-Can/Infernal Galop tune
Some fancy graphics and a staff roll
The Zig ship gets scooped up by its mothership and taken to a green planet, then a giant Pipiru appears and winks at the screen
You aren’t a member of the Federation government forces! Just who are you?! Want to join CATS?
C’mon, stop already. We’re busy, you know. There’s nothing left to see here.
The gomashio* at our base is delightful! You should stop by.
* A dry condiment made from a mixture of salt and toasted sesame seeds
Gomashio is our doo-doo! If you put it on rice and mix it with an egg… it’s super-yummy!
Come on! Go to sleep already! This is bad for your health. I have no end, just so you know!
Okay, okay. You win. I would like to ask for your help! I hope we can be friends.
Do you know my name? It’s John Climen*! What’s your name?
* Other possible spellings: John Clemen, John Climent, John Kurimen, many others
My Maylene is gone. I wanted her to be with me! Do you know where she is?
I used to sell bananas in Kagoshima a long time ago. I sell apples now.
The battle isn’t necessarily over. Ha ha ha. Bwwoing! Oh, my butt’s itchy*!
* This appears to be a reference to Hazama Kanpei’s classic itchy butt comedy gag
Sheesh. Let me go home already! I’m at the peak of my beauty, after all!
Our CATS organization is sopping wet now, all because of you. You’d BETTER make this up to us! Kani, kani*
* “Kani, kani” sounds like a familiar gag to me but I can’t place it. If anyone has info, let me know!
CATS hereby issues you an order. “Sui-sui-sūdara-datta, sura-sura sui-sui-suī.”* Go on, try to say it.
* This is a reference to Hitoshi Ueki’s famous comedy song, “Sūdara-bushi”. I cover this very topic in more detail in the EarthBound Legends of Localization book!
A cow or a horse would look oh-so-delicious if it exploded. Hmm, what to do…
Oh my god! We never expected the Federation government forces to have someone like you! You made CATS sobby-sobby teary-weary! We can’t take this anymore!
I’m your mom. I gave birth to you 22 years ago on a Federation military base. Call me “Mommy”!
Don’t be dumb! You can’t beat us in a straight fight, so join us and have some fun!
The battle has only just begun. Are you ready? Ha ha ha. Okay, here goes! Heave-ho! Heave-ho!
After I beat you, I’m gonna clean-clean the world. And then I want to build even more bases!
Thanks to your Federation assistance, our CATS organization is BASU-GASU-BAKUHATSU*! How was that? Muhahahaha…
* This is a Japanese tongue-twister meant to be said quickly – it literally means “bus gas explosion”
”Niwa niwa niwa niwatori ga iru. Momo mo sumomo mo momotarō.”* Can you say it too?
* These are also Japanese tongue-twisters that literally mean “There are two chickens in the yard” and “Peaches and plums are both Momotarō”.
Ta-ratta-ratta-ratta! This is the CATS dance. What do you say? Won’t you dance with me?! Wahahahahaha!
Lulu lives for 10,000 years! Oh, I can’t stand it! Don’t let your cold get you down! SHE! HER! HER!
* Lulu is a reference to a cough medicine, and the phrasing here is apparently referring to an old commercial for Lulu. This is wrapped up with wordplay on an old proverb and a dialect/comedy gag. The last part could refer to a number of things – it’s originally a phrase used to learn English pronouns but has gone on to be used for all sorts of things, including songs and mint gum. I’m not sure what was intended in this case, though.
Is reading me really that fun?! You’re gonna make me cross, y’know! Just stop it already! Seriously, please!
C’mon, it’s time we stop this. I’m hungry, tired, and sleepy. Unnngh… Please! Let me leave!
Howdy, mister. If you quit now, I’ll introduce ya ta some nice gals. Whatcha say?!
I’m gonna go pee-pee behind you! Now do you give up?!
Wh-who are you?! A c-cow? Or maybe a crab? I dunno. Oh! I bet you’re an elephant.
Look up into the sky. You just might see me flying across it. CATS can fly through the sky…. Not! Ha!
You’re that determined to keep this from ending. I give up, good sir! Ha ha ha! HANA TAKADAKA! TAKADAKKA!*
* This appears to be referring to a decades-old comedy gag, but I can’t find much info about it. I assume it’s a play on the phrase “hana takadaka” which roughly means “filled with pride” or “elated”.
Acroooozzz the skyyyyy la la la…
* He’s trying to sing the lyrics of the famous Astro Boy/Mighty Atom /Tetsuwan Atom anime song.
* This is a secret code that remained hidden for over 20 years until a fan posted it on the Japanese Nico Nico video site. Viewers worked together to decipher it, but the code just didn’t seem to work for some reason. An astute fan figured out the issue, though – for some reason “West” means “right” here instead of “left”. The end result is this code:
Press Start to pause the game, then press C, Up, B, Down, A, Left, Right, B, C, C, Right, Left, Right, A, Down and Start. This brings up the game’s “Test Mode”, which works in the English version of the game as well.
So there we go, all 35 Japanese Zero Wing endings. Again, most of this text is so silly, is filled with unusual speech patterns, and is brimming with pop culture references that I’m sure I’m missing something or gotten something wrong. If you can help fill in the blanks or correct anything above, definitely let me know in the comments or on Twitter.
So you get the hidden endings if you beat the game repeatedly in the same session?
Yeah, I shoulda mentioned that. You can also see them by using the cheat code… luckily the cheat code had already been found before I wrote this article 😛
Holy crap, that’s a whole lot of endings! When I played through it, I didn’t even know there was an ending that wasn’t the weird Pipiru ending! (Boy, did I feel kinda disappointed…)
That’s definitely a good way to keep a code hidden though: keep it locked behind a ton of other weird endings. And then mix up your compass directions.
Yeah, I don’t know what was up with getting the directions wrong like that. I wonder if whoever did these endings is still around/alive and remembers working on any of this stuff. I’d love to ask him about it, but I’m not even sure who to ask.
What kind of game was this in the first place?
And… Wow. Just wow. I would love for modern games to have more things like this for dedicated fans!
It’s a normal side-scrolling space shooter, kind of like Gradius.
If I remember right, the gimmick with Zero Wing was that you had a tractor beam, so you can suck in enemies and shoot them at other enemies. But you also had a normal shot.
oh my god this is incredible
if only all of this had been translated back then by the same team, it’d have been glorious
somehow I expected him being all “wanna join CATS? come on let’s be friends?” though
seriously though, what a weird game
apparently it’s been almost exactly 16 years since “all your base” became a meme too
Ah crap, 16 years already? :O
And yeah, I would’ve loved to have seen this translated like the intro. I think it would’ve gone down in translation history, right alongside the intro’s translation.
With regards to the Astro Boy thing, there’s two English variations for the theme song (Maybe three? I haven’t bothered looking into the 80s series Canadian dub).
I’m going to grab the relevant lines from the 80s series Australian/British (?) dub, for some context. Particularly given it seems far closer than the 60s series dub.
“Soaring high through the skies.
He may be small, but only in size.
Astro Booy~ Astro Booy~”
And it goes on from there. Not actually being able to speak Japanese, however, I couldn’t tell you what the original lines were for the 80s series. I should conduct some research of my own.
The lyrics can be found here, either way! http://www.astroboy-online.com/wiki/lyrics
I’m a bit of a fan of the series!
Erp, actually. I just realized, the 60s series got the theme lyrics BEFORE the Japanese wrote their own opening!
So, thank the American translation crew for inspiring the now classic theme tune!
Ah, thanks so much for looking into this! I should’ve researched it myself but I got lazy 😛
If I’m not mistaken, that was actually the first ever anime opening song with vocals, and all because Fred Ladd decided the show needed a theme song.
Just imagine if all these lines had been translated too, that would have been amazing
Oh man, that would’ve been so great. Maybe that’s partly why they were ditched to begin with – translating this craziness would’ve probably been beyond the skill of the intro’s translator.
There is no part of this series of endings that doesn’t confuse me. Even the order doesn’t make any sense.
About Ending #26
In case you really wanna know
It’s based on old saying
Tsuru wa sen-nen ( Cranes live 1000 years)
Kame wa man-nen ( Turtles live 10000 years)
but mixed with
Ruru :It’s name of famous cold medicne at the time. So Kaze means cold,not wind in this case.
Tamrimasennen : It`s another comedy gag at the time.Just means “I can’t stand” or something like that.
Ah, thanks! I was aware of the proverb/idiom but I couldn’t figure out what るる was.
I suspect that the West in the code is a nod to a mahjong configuration.
Cardinal points in reality are of course
In a game of mahjong, the dealer is assigned the East wind with the other players’ winds being assigned in anticlockwise sequence (East, the South, then West, then North):
The wide variety of jokes isn’t particularly surprising given that Zero Wing was a game made by new recruits to Toaplan to test their abilities.
The more I learn about mahjong the less sense it makes.
The conventional configuration applies when looking to the ground. The mahjong configuration would suggest the view of someone facing towards the sky. I think that’s a rather plausible interpretation, although I don’t know if there is any philosophy to the game.
I’ve heard that Zero Wing was a test for newcomers too, but I haven’t been able to find any info on it. There were multiple versions of Zero Wing, so I wonder if one of them was a test while the others weren’t, or if they were all tests.
more info here http://shmuplations.com/toaplan-chronicleqa/
Oh good, I was gonna say the same thing, but someone else caught on.
Well, this is rather surprising. And no, CATS will never have me no matter how you try.
Good grief, this must have killed a few thousand brain cells for you. XD
I sat on it for a good while for a reason 😛
Oh my. XD
Ending #6 kind of gives off a “come to the dark side, we have cookies” vibe.
Apparently Pipiru also makes a cameo in DonPachi (its creator Cave being formed by ex-Toaplan programmers) with his eyes crossed out, being dropped into the sky by one of the ships.
All this time I thought it was one of the California Raisins.
Haha, yeah, I thought they were the California Raisins too when I first saw them. I’d heard that the Pipirus were used in other games but I only did a quick Google image search to confirm it before writing this article. I wonder how widespread they wound up being.
Yeah. The Japanese shooting game fandom knows a lot of stuff the average Western gamer doesn’t. I figured with Donpachi, they used the censor bar over the eyes because it’s a California Raisin, but turns out it was because Cave was doing a (quite literal) send-off to the then-recently bankrupt Toaplan because much of Do(Do)nPachi’s staff formerly worked there.
And speaking of Toaplan and Cave, this article inspired me to send another email to you about a Cave-developed arcade game that has… some very weird Engrish text that doesn’t make any sense, especially near the ending (Dangun Feveron itself is very odd. Coincidentally, it was finally announced that it was getting a PS4 port)
Does anyone else think the first 3 endings would make more sense in a different order? The 2nd and 3rd seem like actual endings, whereas the 1st comes across more as a easter egg for people who actually play the game through multiple times.
Yeah, that was surprising to me too. I actually like the 2nd ending more than the 3rd one too – it’s got cooler graphics, shows your success, and has a simple credits sequence with nice music. I thought the ship was getting destroyed at first in the 3rd ending, and then the giant Pipiru at the end comes out of nowhere.
the first is the same as the arcade ending
Seems like reddit has noticed this entry. There’s a thread discussing this post here: https://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/5bg14y/zero_wing_had_32_secret_endings_in_japan/
Haha, this stuff’s hilarious! XD
One tiny correction on #18 though: I’m pretty sure おーまいがっ！ is not a colloquial form of お前が！ but a hiragana transcription of “Oh my god!” which is usually written as オーマイガッ in katakana.
Yep, absolutely correct, thanks for the tip!
Is it possible that Ending #10 is referencing Jeanne Calment, at the time the world’s oldest living person, and recently (at the time) famous for her recollections of meeting Vincent van Gogh? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeanne_Calment
That’s a cool theory, so I checked it out just now. The Japanese name for Jeanne Calment (ジャンヌ・カルマン) is very different from the name used in Zero Wing though, so I feel doubtful about a connection between the two. It’s not impossible though.
I thought for a minute that Ending #11 was talking about Mylene from Macross 7 but that came out in 1994.
LISTEN TO MY SONG!!!!!
Hi! I’m the original poster. I checked the game and thought there were only 4 endings, I had no idea there were 35! But thank you for translating this and all. It’s a real shame that all of this has been overlooked for the last 25 years.
Thank you for the ALT-text gags — I laughed the hardest at “U-M-A! U-M-A!!”. Ah, MAX.
I never was able to figure out what this was supposed to mean, and no one I ever asked had any idea either.
Oh, UMA stands for Unidentified Mysterious Animal, it’s a wasei eigo-esque term for cryptids.
What I want to know is this-is CATS a person or an organization? So confusing. Seems more like it’s an organization based on the endings, but then what does CATS mean? And what is that All Your Base dude’s name in actuality? Or does he just not get one?
Man, this game just keeps giving and giving with the sheer strange.
It’s made fairly clear in the Japanese intro that CATS is the name of the evil organization you’re fighting, and that the dude that appears in the cutscenes isn’t named (well, outside of this ending).
“…with 30 different endings translated into English for the first time.”
I think ending 13 is supposed to be a dirty joke
the “ha, ha, ha” seem to be panting rather than laughter, since it’s followed by ッ and separated with commas
the following sound is an erection
and the part about “my butt is itchy” ( can it be translated as ticklish or something? ) is said by someone else, whose butt is being touched by said erection
it’s a reference to this comedian’s act
you can find out more googling かいーの