Today, I look at what I would say is an example of good localization found in the Legend of Zelda: Windwaker.
The player receives something called the “Complimentary ID” which results in a silly dialogue exchange where it is literally an item that has the shop keeper (Beedle) compliment the player –rather than offering any actual tangible goods to your purchases free of charge. A different kind of complimentary than what one may expect!
And that is where the question comes in: What was the ID’s name, and the scene like, in Japanese?
In short: It does revolve around “compliments” (or praise), but the localization team seized the opportunity to make this even more fun in the English language with a pun that was different, yet worked with the original Japanese intent.
Let’s take a closer look!
For context, Beedle is a shop keeper in Windwaker who the player regularly sees throughout the game. Eventually, the player can earn a membership card that accumulates points for the player with more purchases.
After earning 30 points, the player receives the following letter with the “Complimentary ID” included.
Thank you for your frequent patronage of Beedle Shop Ships.
Since you have earned 30 points, you have been granted Silver Membership. All silver Membership holders receive a special gift of one Complimentary ID.
It is valid at all Beedle Shop Ships, so bring it to a Shop Ship near you.
(Source: Zelda Wiki)
From this dialogue, one would imagine it will grant a special bonus of some kind, perhaps a Piece of Heart or other useful collectible item? Or at least some kind of privilege that comes out of a complimentary item to reaching silver status?
Here is the scene in English:
You want to use your Complimentary ID?
OK! Here it goes…
You are soooooooooooooooooo GREAT! Absolutely fantastic! Incredible!
And there you go! Isn’t it nice to be complimented once in a while? It is, isn’t it?
Beedle ends up literally complimenting the player, and that’s it! What a fun little ID, even if it is not what one would expect.
For those unaware, “complimentary” has two meanings in English:
- expressing a compliment; praising or approving.
- given or supplied free of charge.
Often a complimentary item is more than just receiving praises, so, Beedle sort of did two in one by giving you free praise, or, compliments!
Now, let’s look at the Japanese:
The “Complimentary ID” is called a “オホメ券” (ohome-ken lit. “Praise” or “Compliment” Card). It should be noted that ohome specifically refers to praising or complimenting someone, but it is not used for the other definition that English has, such as it would not be used for a “complimentary” item, for example. So, it would not be used for the second definition of “Complimentary” above.
There is a JPN kanji character for “Prize/reward” (賞) which can be read ho(meru). It is usually read as shou, but a pun is possible in this case given Beedle’s use of katakana. A Japanese reader could think of In this case it could have a meaning of “Praise” (and) “Prize/reward” card. For JP it’d be a “Prize (and) Praise” card, that your prize is praise! But this assumes this is intentional, rather than just me reaching. The reason I did not really factor this is because I cannot think of many actual instances of this character being read this way, as it often defaults just to the “praise” meaning rather than “prize” meaning. I did not want to rule it out completely, though!
With that in mind, the word already has a definition of being more of a “Compliment” (rather than “Complimentary”) card in Japanese. Rather than assume they may get a tangible item, the player may instead just be puzzled by what exactly a “Praise Card” (or “Prize card”) would do.
Here is how the scene plays out in Japanese:
You wanna use your Compliment Card?
Alrighty, here we go…
You are THE GREATEST!
THE BESTEST OF THE BEST!
There, all done…
Being praised feels good right?
Japanese readers will see a lot of his dialogue is in katakana rather than the usual hiragana, which comes off as a very foreign or unnatural (goofy) tone. The content is very much the same! Beedle unleashes silly praise upon the player, saying it feels good to be praised once in a while. The usage of the word saikou (“the best”) is repeated, which localization also mixed up to use different word choice rather than repetition.
Seeing this, the Japanese player would learn that the “Praise Card” leads to a silly scene full of praise for some laughs. In contrast, an English player would experience the same sort of feeling had localization gone with a literal “Compliment Card” or “Praise Card.” They would wonder “Well, what’s that?” and look forward to learning about it, slightly different than how the expectation comes off in the end product English-speakers got.
The localization took it one step further: Since ohome has the meaning of “compliment,” and there exists the word “complimentary” in English that has that meaning but also the meaning of a “complimentary item” in the context of stores or memberships, it came together really well to adjust the name slightly to a “complimentary ID.”
Thus an English-speaking player now has the added layer to the joke that betrays their expectation as jokes do: A free item? No! Just some compliments! Get it?
I do wonder what this joke is like in other languages! If you have any idea, please let me know! I would love to hear how they went about it.
The scene is silly in both languages, and localization carries over this intent with an opportunistic pun that does not significantly change the original, but instead builds off of it for this humorous payoff. The change from “compliment” (and possibly “prize” in ohome) to “complimentary” does a lot for it with minimal changes required. It changes the English player’s expectation compared to a Japanese player as to what exactly this item will do. The English gains a layer to its puntastic joke.
I do wonder why they went with “ID” rather than “Card” or “Coupon” or something. I feel it may be due to space limitations, as “Complimentary” is quite a long word…
In the follow up Phantom Hourglass, a similar item is called the “Compliment Card” –though this goes back to the issue with the literal translation and loses the added layer by making it “Complimentary”… unless that’s a translation mishap that may be an article of its own. Who knows!
And that’s that! Windwaker has fun little tidbits to look at here and there.
Obviously, one may have a different definition of what makes the scene more humorous. Some may prefer the Japanese way and some may prefer the localization’s way. I put this here just to make it clear I am not some expert on humor, but just that I personally think that added layer added to the humor of the situation. This should go without saying, but you should see some of the emails I receive…!
Also, it’s been awhile! I hope to regularly get through more reader requests and personal curiosities once again, but time has been an ever fleeting resource for me.
I’ve been asking this question for years and someone finally answered it. Thank you…