Video Game Translation – 6 Memorable Mistakes

Video game translation is a priority. That is because video games across the world are localized. As a result, they are translated to fit the culture and video preferences of various markets. Therefore, game developers recognize the worth of a video game translation as well as the localization of graphics, symbols, sounds, and content. However, early games were not professionally and carefully translated as they are today. As a result, some memorable bloopers occurred. The following video game translation bloopers are mistakes that we hope today’s developers will avoid.

The video game translation of Fatal Fury contained some memorable mistakes.

The video game translation of Fatal Fury contained some memorable mistakes.

#1 – The Japanese Sega Game, “Zero Wing”

Zero Wing is one of the early video games that is considered fraught with errors. Poorly translated, the side-scrolling arcade game made its debut in 1998. The translations in the game still stand out after more than a decade because of their ludicrous inaccuracies. One of the translations is delivered as follows: “Somebody set up us the bomb.” When correctly translated, the sentence should read “Somebody has planted a bomb.”

#2 – Zero Wing (once more)

This translation is perhaps the most quotable bad translation of all time. It is written as follows: “All your base are belong to us . . ..” The quote should read something like the following: “. . . [W]ith the help of the Federation Government forces, we have taken . . . your bases.” Unfortunately, because the phrase is not professionally translated, this part of the text is lost in the translation.

#3 – Nintendo Entertainment’s Ghostbuster’s Video Game

Upon completion of the Ghostbuster’s video in the US, audiences were given a translation that was downright laughable. The game’s original version is in Japanese. Its entire screen in the English language reads as follows: “. . . You have completed a great game. And prooved the justice of our culture. Now go and rest our heroes!”

#4 – Fatal Fury Special

Fatal Fury Special, which is a 1993 fighting game, was translated to English from the Japanese original. While the game does not display grammatical errors, the video game translation is not correct for the genre of the game. Do you really think someone who is a brawler and troublemaker uses a word like “flustered?” Most translators and video game aficionados do agree that this translation does not make sense.

Needless to say, this particular video game translation shows why it is necessary for translators to familiarize themselves with the nuances of a language in order to accurately translate a game’s content. Most gamers will not play a game that does not retain a game’s tone even if it is properly translated.

#5 – Fatal Fury Special (Again)

Fatal Fury Special, again, shows that one of its translations was undeniably perplexing. While the text is grammatically correct, some of the translations simply do not fit the rough-and-tumbleness of the game itself. For example, the protagonist proclaims that he is a “steel wall of niceness” – not exactly the image you have of a macho, intimidating fighter.

#6 – Metroid Video Game

The 1987 Metroid Video Game races out of the starting gate with a bad translation. Players are told, “Defeat the Metroid of the Planet Zebeth and destroy the mother brain the mechanical life vein.” That translation only leaves players looking perplexed and asking “What?” time and again. While the mission ultimately is revealed through gameplay, the English translation of the original Japanese version is erroneous. Game players are still asking today about the mechanical life vein.

Needless to say, whether they are sublime or absolutely ridiculous, translations that are good walk a very thin line. Good translations are pricey. However, you don’t want to sacrifice quality either. Some translation companies feature translation databases and templates that employ the same phrases and words over and over again. Still, this technique takes the creativity out of writing. If you are not careful, the word you believe is clear and comprehensible is not.