Caught in a #TorrentialDownpour
English-language fans of Japanese video games had been awaiting Fire Emblem Fates from Nintendo for the 3DS for all of 2015. The game reinvigorated the Fire Emblem franchise and was a runaway success in Japan. When the game shipped for the U.S. market in early 2016, a lot had changed. Some of the localization differences had been expected and welcome, such as removing a subplot from the Japanese version widely considered homophobic. As well, a minigame that allowed you to pet the faces of NPCs to improve your relationship was also scrapped. All of this was done to ostensibly make the game more palatable for U.S. markets. Though these changes were at times hotly debated, they were all anticipated due to advanced coverage in the gaming press.
Yet this week the Twittersphere erupted into outrage at Nintendo under the hashtag of #TorrentialDownpour. Aside from the expected changes to the game, the American release was riddled with bad or missing translated dialogue.
— Agent Smith (@HeroOfCanton42) February 22, 2016
Here’s an example of missing dialogue, replaced entirely with ellipses:
Fans of the original version are shocked and dismayed by the way the game was butchered. Josh Bray gives an extensive breakdown and examples of the most egregious problems on SuperNerdLand.
— (laughs) (@MarcheWasRight) February 21, 2016
“All Games Should Be Localised Like Ni no Kuni.”
Compare this with Jennifer O’Donnell’s review of the localization of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. Her title says it all: “All Games Should Be Localised Like Ni no Kuni.” As a professional translator, she loved the Japanese version of the PS3 game, and was thrilled the English version even more. She notes how the Japanese fairy characters spoke with an Osaka accent, and how this was rendered into the English-language version having them speak with an equally distinct Welsh accent instead. The comedy, especially the puns, were pulled off in sterling manner by Shloc, the UK translator that handled the project.
“It’s clear that every choice made in the translation of this game was carefully made and discussed among a group of translators and the original Japanese developers. It certainly paid off creating a charming and amusing game which, if you speak Japanese and English, comes off as extra charming as you enjoy the best of both worlds.”
O’Donnell in her review stresses the need for translators to “step away from the source, and produce entertaining localised translations.” The caveat here is the example of Fire Emblem, where the translators did far more than just “step away.” They apparently ignored the original meaning or intent of the Japanese source entirely. The fans caught them out, and the brutal memes filed under #TorrentialDownpour are the result.