As a translator and gamer when I have the chance to play a game in Japanese and English, I will. I love playing them listening to the Japanese audio and reading the English text to see how the game was translated.
I did this with Nino Kuni and gushed over it’s beautiful translation. Aaand I’m about to do the same with Final Fantasy XV (FFXV).
Where do I begin? First the team at Square Enix did an amazing job with this game. It’s been a few years since a Final Fantasy game felt like a Final Fantasy game. By this I mean great story, great characters, great interaction, great exploration, great side quests, and a challenge. I don’t think fans of the FF series have seen all of this in one game since (arguably) Final Fantasy IX (maybe FFX, but that lacked exploration).
Like the classic FFs, XV is a huge game. So there was a lot to translate. And unlike the classic games (up to IX) this one has voice over, adding to the translation challenge.
The Translation of FFXV
Similar to what I loved in the translation of Nino Kuni, it’s obvious the team working on this game had a lot of fun translating it to English.
This is simply evident in the genius puns and cultural references they slipped into the English version of the game. Which is perfectly good to use when translating a game because it’s more entertaining and interesting than a direct translation. (Which is evident in Street Fighter V)
Instead of simply translating “行くぞ” to “let’s go”, it was translated to “chop chop”. Which is a very British term for ‘hurry up’ and fits perfectly with Ignis’ British butler image.
Instead of using “of course chocobo stink” for “やっぱチョコボくせーな” they used a more sarcastic tone in English with “no mistaking the stink of chocobo”.
Some Things That Worked
What I really liked was complete localization. Some phrases were replaced with sentences that meant something completely different, but worked really, really well in the context of the English.
Such as one off hand comment a character makes when you go fishing. There’s a mini game where you can fish but the characters with you don’t do anything besides heckle you. What the characters say is random but after a while Noctis (the main character who’s fishing) might say “うるさいな” in Japanese, which means “you’re so noisy” or “shut up”. But the localization team decided to go with “talk about back-seat fishing”.
When you run up to a fishing spot Noctis will get excited about the possibility of fishing. To which Gladiolus says “like a kid in a toy shop”. This is completely different from the Japanese “ずいぶん楽しそうだな” or “you’re pretty excited”, but works even better in English.
One character, Prompto, loves photography and takes pictures regularly. There are spots where you can take group pictures. In the Japanese he will say “じゃ撮るよ。。。いい感じ” which directly translated to “I’m taking [the picture]… Feels good” but was localized to “Ready or not… Love the lighting.” This use of language fit the situation and Prompto’s character really nicely.
Not every sentence in the game was completely changed in the translation because they still worked really well and sounded natural. There were one or two points where a direct translation didn’t sound right in English though…
Some Things That Didn’t Work
The first thing that jumped out at me where I thought it was a strange translation was “mother and child rice bowl”. In Japanese this would be “親子丼” which literally means mother and child rice bowl and consists of chicken and egg over rice. But it’s such a clunky title in English. I understand they wanted to keep the amusing title of the Japanese, but in this case it didn’t really work.
Another example is “だるいな” which was translated to “feel sluggish”. This is another direct translation that doesn’t really work. Nobody says “feel sluggish”, they would say “I’m bored” or “this is tiring”.
As I mentioned there aren’t many instances where I thought a strange translation was used. Overall the translation of the game is beautiful!
One of fan’s biggest complaints is the change in character with Ignis. He’s a childhood friend and kind of servant to Prince Noctis. In the Japanese he acts very casually with Noctis despite Noctis’ higher rank as a Prince. In the English localization Ignis is given a very still British butler type character who can be quite cold at times.
Despite many fan’s getting upset about the change in character I honestly don’t mind it. I think it works well and creates an interesting dynamic between the group.
I’ve mentioned in the past how video games and localizations are products of their culture. This, I think, is just another instance where localization choices have been made because of the target culture and I don’t think the game is any worse for it.
Even if you don’t speak any Japanese Final Fantasy XV is a beautiful game to play. Playing it bilingually and seeing the localization choices has added a level of amusement for myself.
The localization team did a great job creating refreshing and entertaining dialogue, especially considering the size of the game. After each new plot point and in each new area the character’s conversations changed slightly, so the dialogue never got dry or repetitive.
I love this game and the localization made it even more special.