My friends over at Source Gaming are doing a special Zelda week (February 22nd through March 1st) to celebrate the upcoming release of Breath of the Wild on the Switch.
They have made plenty of Zelda-themed content for the week, such as various facts about the first game of the series, and a piece on defending Skyward Sword from backlash.
So, today, on my end, I look at a great example of localization found within Windwaker. The localization team behind the game managed to place a fitting cultural reference to an old story in an appropriately humorous moment in the game.
Upon clearing Windwaker, you’re able to start the game again with new features with what is called the “second quest.” Among the new features is Link retaining the outfit he wears from the start of the game, rather than being forced to change into his green tunic.
At the scene he normally gets the signature tunic, he instead receives, well, apparently nothing!
The Japanese dialogue says this:
なんだい？ そんな変な顔して お前にも、見えるだろ？
Why not try putting this on? These are clothes that only the most honest people can see!
What’s wrong? You’re making a funny face… maybe…you can’t see it?
You got the clothes that only the most honest people…can…see???
Uh… it’s rather light…
The joke is about how the clothes are invisible as an excuse to keep your starting outfit. If you watch the scene itself (as seen on the picture at the top, Link looks a little ridiculous holding nothing (and his expression shows it).
Yet, from his Grandma saying only the most honest can see it –and then wondering if he can’t –may make the poor boy look dubious at best, even if he’s actually pure –and the Grandma is just being mischievous.
As such, it sounds like he comes up with an excuse, saying it’s rather light! (Because he can totally see it!)
This gag is actually a running theme of a story that the localization chose to refer to more directly as well. So let’s take a look at how the localization handled it:
These are special clothes…made of a
special fabric that only the honest can see!
What’s the matter? Why the long face?
You CAN see them, can’t you? Hm hm hm…
You got the Hero’s New Clothes…
Wow! They’re really light…
Here they call it the “Hero’s New Clothes,” which is a fantastic pun. For one, it is the new clothes in terms of for the player (who is doing a second quest). It is also new for Link, as this is the first time he is receiving the outfit. So the name alone works, and it comes off as a simple silly joke about not getting a new outfit at first.
But then when we look deeper at that naming convention with the “invisible clothes” context in mind, we see the localization also managed to make a fun reference to “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
It is a Danish short story by Hans Christian Andersen that has since been translated into more than a hundred languages. I provide a synopsis (from Wikipedia) below, but you should read it in its entirety, too! It is not too long and has a nice moral to it. Here is a link to an English translation of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
And here is the story summary if you are pressed on time:
“[The story is] about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they don’t see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as “unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent”. Finally, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”
(The summary does not mention that the weavers were swindlers and did not make an outfit at all, however the end result theme is the same. Also, never use Wikipedia as a source for anything beyond simple summaries like this)!
Now you can see how that relates pretty well! We can assume the joke is everyone else pretends they can see this outfit when they can’t, either. The dialogue going from “What the…” to “Wow! They’re really light…” emphasizes Link attempting to save face like the characters of the story. Link acts much like the honest wise man that could not see the outfit but worried more about what people would think of him rather than doubt the swindlers and admit nothing is there. His Grandma, meanwhile, is much like the swindlers –especially in the NoA version where she’s even more confrontational about it!
So, in naming the outfit the “Hero’s New Clothes,” the localizers made a fun reference that carries a nice joke –much like how the situation was already silly in the original Japanese version.
It is likely the original Japanese (regarding honesty/purity) was already referencing the story anyway, but it is vaguer than the English end result. The original Japanese did not have “hero” or “new” anywhere in it, so it had to at the very least be a very conscious decision by the localizers who managed to convey the fun joke while using a cultural reference and making it into an item pun all at the same time.
Yes, the item/outfit called the “Hero’s New Clothes” is very likely a sly reference to the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” in the English version of the game. Naming it this managed to maintain the humor and intent of the original Japanese while providing a culturally relevant example –elements of good localization.
It also shows that Grandma can be quite mischievous –and that poor Link cares about saving face (while also being quite gullible).
And that’s that! This is likely my last post for Zelda week, and I hope you enjoyed these comparisons. If there is anything else you are curious about in a Zelda game as to what the Japanese may have said, be sure to let me know! I love looking into things like this.