A reader named Alex was curious if I could address an issue someone had over on reddit regarding a translation/localization choice for Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon.
Warning: Plot spoilers (up until the end of the game) may follow. Please be weary.
To understand the context, Dark Matter seems to be a being that is made up of all the negativity in the world. As such, its Japanese dialogue is very interesting, and meant to be several different tones/voices. How do you portray this in a game that has no voice acting?
Well, their choice was interesting. The dialogue is constantly like this, but the specific sample I provide is from Chapter 21:
Wow! Look at that! If anyone knows Japanese, they can see what looks like a total mess (which still makes sense). It goes through four different writing styles in Japanese: romaji, katakana, kanji, and hiragana (in order of appearance above).
Words that could have been in kanji are in katakana. Words that are in kanji could have been in hiragana, etc. The grammar, too, changes up. From the informal drawl to the formal, back and forth. Aggressive, passive. There is a lot going on in there.
All these different writing styles and grammar gives off that impression that it is not just one, but many people talking. That’s a pretty creative way to utilize text without voices.
So, how did localization go about it? Well, the same scene I wrote above came out like this:
All OF cREaTIOn… HaRkEN tO My wOrDs!
The TReE of LiFE shAll wiTHEr aNd FALL!
DeVOid OF all POweR, thE TreE nOw fLiEs
tHRouGH spACe-to Be drAwN INto tHe sUN!
You can already see the limitations (and mess). They opted for capitalization and lower casing, two variants compared to four (plus five from grammar) from the Japanese. It looks more like a disturbing tantrum than a mass of several voices.
When you take a close look though, you realize there really can be three different voices. Such as:
One that talks properly: “All…The…of…to…drawn…”
One that talks in all caps: “OF…FALL…OF…”
And then one that does a mix of both (or, can be seen as both the above talking at the same time): “cREaTIOn…HaRkEN…tO…My…wOrDs…TReE…LiFE…aNd…DeVOid…POweR…thE…TreE…nOW fLiEs…tHRouGH…spACe…etc”
(Note: Auto-correct probably destroyed some of the words as they were meant to be portrayed, but I think you get the point. It’s accurate for the most part).
A few things to note is the above is just speculative, and not really sure if that was the intention. After all, one typing “properly” could just be a coincidence of the jumble just lining up properly, among other things. Considering the vast majority is the jumble, though that would be expected if it is both talking rather than a third party.
Still, it requires more reading into and speculative thinking compared to the more straightforward Japanese approach.
When you take a step back and think about it, what else could have been done? I came up with a few thoughts, such as perhaps using different colors on the text/words combined with this lower/upper case stuff. However, I believe all the text in the game is white so perhaps they were limited by the tech itself (that lacked multi-colored text on a black background). So, that may rule that out.
So how about grammar? Well it is a bit harder to express a formal and casual tone in English than it is in Japanese. That usually comes down to word choice in English as opposed to specific sentence and verb ends. Okay, so then there’s punctuation. There are a lot of exclamation marks in there, not really too much of anything else. Perhaps a variety in punctuation would have helped?
When you start eliminating factors in what they could have done, you begin to accept and appreciate what they did do (in the practical sense, meaning without editing any actual programming) rather than writing it off as purely lazy. I would not say it was lazy, but just a limitation of the language, if anything.
An additional thing of note, so far translation comparisons I’ve done on the game (Espurr talking to Watchog to distract him, and Mawile spotting the impostor) shows the translation has been pretty accurate for the most part, and likewise, the meaning here comes across too. I just wanted to note this down for those wondering about translational accuracies. Of course these are just three groups of dialogue in the overall game, so if you have specific counter-examples, please provide them!
I would love to hear what other suggestions you all could come up with portraying that clump of voices in English. Feel free to comment with ideas below!
As usual, I like to encourage readers to send in things they may want looked at. This year is Pokemon’s 20th anniversary so I’ll be looking into a ton of comparisons regarding that.
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