Lost in translation
With so many popular games coming from Japan and other foreign nations, weve all seen a fair amount of humorous mistranslations in our interactive entertainment. Usually, theyre pretty easy to shove off, because we can tell what the intended meaning is.
But heres the thing: What if our interpretations are wrong? Mistranslations can come in a variety of forms, with different levels of ambiguity. Thats why weve decided to give some of these oft-derided examples of poor grammar and spelling a second look, to see if we can derive some alternate--perhaps deeper--meaning from them.
Metal Gear: I feel asleep
The mistranslation: This guard clearly means to say I fell asleep, having startled himself awake from a quick nap on the job.
What it COULD mean: This guard is distraught and depressed, and potentially in need of a mental health professional. He sleepwalks through life in a sedate malaise, uncaring of the meaningless distinction between his slumber and his miserable waking life. How so very Kojima.
Aero Fighters 2: I never thought Id be frying over a jungle.
The mistranslation: Japanese translations often result in mistakes regarding the English l and r sounds, due to those sounds being similar in Japanese. This anthropomorphic pilot means to express his disbelief that hed actually be flying a plane one day, much less over an exotic location.
What it COULD mean: Hes a fighter pilot, and hes keenly aware of what hes getting into. And hes not optimistic about his chances. He thinks hes about to be shot down on his next mission, his plane exploding and him drowning in flames. Pretty morbid.
Ghostbusters (NES): Conglaturation
The mistranslation: This one is a bit of a doozy. Lets break it down: Conglaturation can be attributed to the common, aforementioned l and r mixup. Lets set aside that And prooved the Justice of our culture is just a sentence fragment. Because give them a break. And dont try to pretend like youve never accidentally spelled prove or lose with two os. The interesting part is in the last sentence, where the games developers are imploring either you or the games protagonists to take a well-deserved rest after such hard work.
What it COULD mean: It may be pertinent to ask who is speaking in this message. Its likely the games developers, offering a congratulations and a thank you. But its bizarre delivery suggests it could be something more sinister. Perhaps its a set of instructions meant to be some sort of subliminal trigger for the player, making them subconsciously feel like they need to put the characters of the Ghostbusters to rest in their mind, for good. Think about it: How has a film franchise as successful as Ghostbusters not seen a third entry yet?
Ghosts n Goblins: Congraturation. This story is happy end. Thank you.
The mistranslation: Congratulations. This story now has a happy ending, thanks to you. And, truly, getting to the end of Ghosts n Goblins is an accomplishment worthy of congratulations.
What it COULD mean: There are all sorts of directions I could go in with this, but lets choose the most family-friendly: These words arent spoken by the developer, theyre being uttered by the protagonist, Sir Arthur, to his love interest whom he just rescued. Hes congratulating her for still being alive, having been the only one to escape his homicidal rage after the killing spree hes been on for an indeterminate amount of time.
Ikari Warriors: ...I would express my sincere. Thanks to you.
The mistranslation: General Kawasaki, your characters boss in Ikari Warriors, is thanking you for your bravery in your service to the village of Ikari. Hes sincerely grateful.
What it COULD mean: Given the amount of other grammatical errors in this message, its reasonable to assume that some punctuation is incorrectly placed and that there may be some typos resulting from phonetic confusion. I would express my sincere. Thanks to you. should read, I would express my sins here, thanks to you. Functionally similar, but strengthening the Generals point, hes grateful to you for once again making Ikari feel like a safe and comfortable place, one where hes willing to admit his misdeeds to the entire population.
Pro Wrestling (NES): A winner is you
The mistranslation: One of the more famous examples of humorous mistranslations, this message is intended to say something to the effect of You are the winner, or you win. It refers, of course, to the wrestler you just controlled and won a match with.
What it COULD mean: This is actually an intentional statement, with a more penetrating idea of what games are and how we interact with them. It refers not to the character you control, but you, the player, and tells you that youre just one of the many players who successfully navigated the games rulesets in order to win a match.
Ninja Gaiden (NES): Ryu! - Thank God your safe!
The mistranslation: Look, Im a writer (and an English major) and even I sometimes confuse your and youre. (Im lying, but its understandable.)
What it COULD mean: This could just as easily mean Thank God for your safe, with Ryu Hayabusa endlessly grateful that you had a safe in your Vegas hotel room in which he could store his valuables, since he surely would have lost them during last nights bender.
Ninja Kids: The Satan of Flames
The mistranslation: To be honest, there are a few ways this could be interpreted. Most likely, its intended to say The Flames of Satan, or Satans Flames.
What it COULD mean: It could just be referring to one really bad flame, one far more evil than the rest, and one who potentially controls some sort of purgatory for other flames. But I like to believe its actually referring to Santas flames, meaning Santa Clauses romantic pursuits from before he met Mrs. Clause.
What do you think? Its possible I was reaching with a lot of these, but with so many sterling examples of amusing mistranslations, its wrong to assume we have every single one of them pegged.
But Ive only scratched the surface here. Do you have any interesting theories regarding what characters may or may not have said in the past? Let us know in the comments!
And if you're looking for more, check out 11 games that need sequels (and why they aren't getting them) and The most obvious weak points to attack for massive damage.