A fun trivia and comparison post today!
A reader brought this nifty easter egg that reddit user PeppersJacks noticed in English to my attention. It involved items you trade while getting the Two-Toned Whetstone to either Shamir or Catherine, and whether the item names are actually references to previous games in the series.
The main items people point to are the Whetstone referring to Fates, the eyedrops referencing Awakening, and the book Path of Dawn being the Tellius games. Is this also the case in Japanese? Are there references that weren’t fully translated, or is this just a little nod by the localization team, or is it all a coincidence?
I took a look in Japanese as requested, and it turns out they most likely are intentional references when looking at the Japanese! But whether the localization opted to convey these (or realized the references) is up to interpretation. They do not seem to reference individual titles per se, but rather the sagas seen over the series …with one exception.
PeppersJacks got most of it, though the Tome of Comely Saints left them a little unsure. However it and the others are made more obvious in Japanese.
Let’s take a deeper look.
So I’ll go down the items in the order they’re acquired, which also lines up to the order of the games’ releases, making this more evidently intentional:
English: Crestological Mysteries
Literal Translation: Mystery Book of Emblem Studies
Game Referenced: Mystery of the Emblem 紋章の謎 (FE2/12)
Saga: Archanea/Valentia (FE1, 2, 3, 11, 12) (Note: Valentia included as it still takes place at the same time, as opposed to FE13)
How it connects:
紋章の謎 (Mystery of the Emblem)
紋章学の謎の書 (Book of Mysteries in Emblem Studies)
In English we see “Mysteries” made it into the title. One difficulty for Localization however is the word used for “emblem” in this game’s title is what Three Houses uses for “crest.” While they are both indeed “emblems,” naming it an “emblem” for this specific case may be jarring when the game has otherwise referred to them as “crests” the entire time.
So “Crestological” (“study of crests”, or “emblems”) and “Mysteries” (from the same “mystery” in Japanese).
The reference gets a little watered down as a result, from the much more obvious Japanese one.
English: Tome of Comely Saints
Literal Translation: Genealogy Record of the Graceful Holy People
Game Referenced: Genealogy of the Holy War 聖戦の系譜 (FE4)
Saga: Jugdral (FE4, 5)
How it connects:
聖戦の系譜 (Genealogy of the Holy War)
麗しき聖人の系譜録 (Genealogy of the Graceful Holy People)
“Holy People” sounds a little silly, but is for the sake of literal translation here (otherwise “Saints” is much better, and fits the setting).
However the result is there is no direct reference to the title of FE4, where as the Japanese retains some of the keywords. The “Tome” accounts for it being a record. The “Comely” is rather different, to account for “Graceful” (can also mean “lovely” among other things).
Regardless, this is the one the reference is lost on the most. Considering it is given to Manuela, perhaps they wanted to make it more like something she would want to look at. But I hope that at least solves the mystery for PeppersJacks!
English: Fire Amulet
Literal Translation: Bound Blaze Charm (“Fire Seal Charm”)
Game Referenced: Binding Blade 封印の剣 (FE6), Blazing Blade 烈火の剣 (FE7)
Literal JP Game Names: Sword of Seals (FE6), Sword of Flame (FE7)
Saga: Elibe (FE6, 7)
How it connects:
封印の剣 (Binding Blade, or “Sword of Seals“), 烈火の剣 (Blazing Blade, or “Sword of Flame“)
火封じのお守り (Bound Blaze Charm, or “Sealed Flame Charm”)
As we enter the realm of the officially localized titles, it gets a little harder to portray the literal translations as sometimes the terminology may differ, but they have the same meaning. I provide the literal names that fans would sometimes call them instead. The important point to take away is the “Fire/Blaze” in FE7, and “Binding/Seal” in FE6, which together make this charm.
Unfortunately, the localization here went with Fire Amulet, which while accurate to what the item is, may lose out on the fun reference to both games beyond a reference to fire, which could apply to any of the games.
Though, FE7 was simply “Fire Emblem” on GBA for the west –in which case this is a rather clever reference to the localized title instead!
English: Glowing Stone
Literal Translation: Shining Stone
Game Referenced: The Sacred Stones 聖魔の光石 (FE8)
Literal JP Game Name: Light Stones of Good and Evil
Saga: Magvel (FE8)
How it connects:
聖魔の光石 (The Sacred Stones, or “Light Stones of Good and Evil”)
光り輝く石 (Shining Stone)
I avoided using “Light and Darkness” for “Good and Evil” only because, while it relates to morally “light” or “dark,” I didn’t want it to reflect “Light Stones of Light and Dark”. It is inconsequential to the overall example though.
Anyway, while “Light Stone” would be inaccurate to what the item becomes, the characters are clearly seen in Japanese.
It’s curious, as localization could have easily called it a “Sacred Stone” considering you give it to Mercedes, it would have fit the setting, reference, and target character all at the same time. However, doing so would lose the fact it is indeed a stone that glows, or “shines.” The Japanese can keep both meanings thanks to the nature of its characters, but the English localization loses out on this. Glowing Stone does carry across the Japanese meaning, but not the reference as much.
English: Path of Dawn
Literal Translation: Records of the Path of Dawn
Game Referenced: Path of Radiance 蒼炎の軌跡 (FE9) Radiant Dawn 暁の女神 (FE10)
Literal JP Game Names: Path of Azure Flame (FE9), Goddess of Dawn (FE10)
Saga: Tellius (FE9, 10)
How it connects:
蒼炎の軌跡 (Path of Radiance), 暁の女神 (Radiant Dawn)
夜明けの軌跡の記録 (Records of the Path of Dawn)
This is the one that alerted most readers to possible references. Indeed, it is probably the closest of the batch!
This time the literal translations of the titles are not needed to convey the reference, but are provided anyway. One thing you may note is that 暁 and 夜明け are highlighted as the same word here, unlike previous ones that used the same character in the item and game title. The above characters both mean “Dawn,” however, so the reference remains.
The part about “Records” is omitted, as indeed it sounds more awkward than “Path of Dawn.” I liked this one, it was pretty clever! Whether it was intentional or not.
English: Eye Drops
Literal Translation: Powerful Eye Drops
Game Referenced: Awakening 覚醒 (FE13)
Saga: Ylisse (FE13) (Can be considered part of Archanea?)
How it connects:
This one is the most abstract one. and is the only one with no direct title references. This one goes by context, namely: powerful eye drops to help keep one awake. How do we know it’s to help keep someone awake? Well, it is given to the ever sleepy Linhardt, and thus, “Awakening.”
It is after Tellius, and before Fates, too, so this helps back that claim.
It’s a bit of a stretch, the localization went with what the item is, as it would have been difficult to tie this to the game title. Perhaps “Drops of Awakening”? Or “Wakeful Eye Drops” or something. But those do sound awkward in their own way. It is a little difficult to depict a conceptual thing (such as an Awakening) to a physical item that adheres to what the original item is.
English: Two-Toned Whetstone
Literal Translation: White and Black Whetstone
Game Referenced: Fates: Birthright and Conquest if – 白夜王国, 暗夜王国 (FE14)
Literal JP Game Names: if – White Night Kingdom, Dark Night Kingdom
Saga: Fates (FE14) (They never named the Fates continent…)
How it connects:
白夜王国 (Birthright, or “White Night Kingdom”), 暗夜王国 (Conquest, or “Dark Night Kingdom”)
白と黒の砥石 (White and Black Whetstone)
The English titles don’t work here as they are completely different, and thus I provided the literal terms. Like with Radiant Dawn, Two different characters for “black” are used. Only this time, they aren’t synonyms, but rather one evokes the other. 暗 is more accurately “darkness,” which is associated with (but is not) the color “black” directly.
As the stone is both black and white, localization went with “Two-Toned.” This helps eliminate the possibility it is two separate stones, too, as that could be a possible issue with the literal translation (whether it is “white AND black” or two separate stones of two different colors).
This one would be difficult to keep consistent with the officially localized names for Fates… Whetstone of Birthright, or Whetstone of Conquest, or Whetstone of Conquest and Birthright would just sound strange…
So are the references purposeful in Japanese?
So with the above in mind, it seems like the Japanese was definitely intending on referencing the older games. The exact characters used in many of them appearing in the order of the games’ chronological releases would be a little too perfect to be a coincidence. Though there were certainly more abstract exceptions (Awakening and Eye Drops), it may have been to consider that the quest involved items first and foremost, with the names needing to fit who the item is going to as well.
The nature of Japanese enables fun with double meanings and different words that share characters, which is something that is much more difficult to do in English.
Update 4/13: A recent Nintendo Dream interview translated by Nintendo Everything hints the Japanese references were very intentional:
Does the world-building of Three Houses have any connection to other games in the Fire Emblem series?
Kusakihara: I don’t think so. At least, not as far as I can tell. I mean, there could still be some mysteries in the land of Archanea that we don’t know about yet. There are some items in the exploration quests that are evocative of past titles, and that was all thanks to the developers at Koei Tecmo. I think it was all really clever.
Though that sounds pluralized, like items from outside this single quest may apply. I have not seen the original Japanese for that interview, but still, it is not fandom entirely drawing at straws!
What about in English?
They may have missed it, or more likely chosen to ignore it.
Localization had to be careful not to just make up names that would better fit a game that is being referenced as these were still items that had to make sense to the player to trade to different characters in this quest. They could have either conveyed the reference at the loss of the core objective (naming an object), or simply conveyed the object at the loss of the direct reference (which is what they did).
However not all the references were lost. After all, many players picked up on Path of Dawn being the hint that the other items may be references too. In a way, in both Japanese and English, one would have to be aware of what the previous game titles were in order to truly grasp the references. That being said, a Japanese player would have a much easier time identifying the references having the exact characters compared to the more abstract English player that has to jump a few more degrees due to the different words involved.
It makes it difficult to tell if the localization was aware of the references, or if it was just a coincidence of conveying the Japanese item name, which, as a reference itself, would have spilled over to a good translation even if the translator realized it or not.
It may be a case where localization worked with text out of context, so may not have seen the items in association with each other, and instead just as they were individually. If it were just one item at a time, it would be much harder to identify a purposeful reference over coincidence. Many players likely would not have batted an eye if they did not look back after seeing “Path of Dawn.” I myself skimmed right through the names without thinking twice until looked at together!
That said, localizers these days are often in contact with developer teams over content. But in this case, perhaps it was just a minor thing that was never brought up?
Or, it was brought up but just something that was not deemed worthy enough to play with and instead they opted to convey what the item is rather than what it references.
The items are very likely references in Japanese as most contain characters that appear in games of the same sagas/worlds, with the exception of the more abstract FE13 reference. The English localization had a bit of a harder time due to the dilemma of representing an item over the reference unless it was possible to naturally fit it in. Not a bad approach, but it does rely on the English-reading player to make more of the connections than a Japanese-reading one would. While Japanese seems very purposeful in its reference, it’s harder to tell if localization realized the reference, as text is often looked at out of its context.
|Tome of Comely Saints||麗しき聖人の系譜録||Jugdral||FE4|
|Path of Dawn||夜明けの軌跡の記録||Tellius||FE9,10|
|Two-Toned Whetstone||白と黒の砥石||Fates||FE14 B&C|
A big thanks to the reader who brought this fun thing to my attention in English, and I hope this look on the Japanese side was fun and answered your question!
By the way, I wonder what these names are in non-ENG languages? If you are playing in another language, let me know if it becomes like a game of telephone or if they managed to pull off something awesome!