December 20, 2015

Legends of Localization - Book 1: The Legend of Zelda (Part 2)

Check out Part 1 if you missed it.

After the First Quest, the Second Quest is explored. There are a bunch of differences between the gameplay, so naturally there are a bunch of text differences as well.

Items are looked at next. A basic list of Japanese and English names for items are placed side-by-side for comparison. A few are looked at more in-depth. Rupee vs. Rupy, Wooden Sword vs. Sword, Recorder vs. Flute, and Book of Magic vs. Bible for example.

Next are enemies. These include Wizrobes, Like Likes, Zoras, Darknuts, and Manhandla. The origins and surprises of some of these enemies was very interesting. Mato has definitely done his homework.

The second large chapter of the book discusses the manual. Obviously, the FDS and NES are totally different formats, so there's a lot of expected differences there. This includes loading times and saving your game. Outside of that, though, the text is mostly the same. Promo art is also the same, although screenshots of gameplay are different.

The manual and the game localization were most likely handled by an entirely different team, which is why there's so many discrepancies between the two. Since there was only so much space on a game cart/disk, a lot of extra information was included in the manual. This was one of my favorite parts of this book. It's also not hard to see why there are so many inconsistencies throughout, as "translating games without playing them first is very common...most translators get a few spreadsheets with text to translate and that's it."

The penultimate chapter looks at items outside of the game for reference. This includes promotional material (often provided by companies outside of Nintendo), prototype versions, board games, Game & Watch, guide books, magazines, and TV commercials among other things. Very cool stuff.

The final section is a little bit of personal thoughts from Mato about the whole thing. It's not very long, and is a nice final touch for the book. There are also a number of places shown to explore more game history, as well as additional Zelda lore.

It's really nice that Mato touches on games that had an influence on Zelda or vice versa, and includes screenshots and examples to illustrate the point. It's also great that he digs into the "why" of things, instead of just stating "they translated it this way, the end." He really wants to reader to understand why certain changes were made, because there's usually a good reason.

And again, Fangamer outdoes itself with the quality of this tome. Hardcover with gold foil imprinting, and cool obi strip. The book clocks in at just over 200 pages.


This books works extremely well for two reasons.

  • Mato is very knowledgeable about Japanese translation and localization.
  • He knows the game itself inside and out. He could probably write a book just on the gameplay/secrets/etc. and not touch localization at all.

It makes the whole thing a very engaging and insightful read. It's not too dry, but it's also not too loose. It's a really good balance. He has a good voice, and speaks succinctly while at the same time being very informative . I can't recommend this book enough. Pick it up!

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