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SaGa Frontier/Lost in Translation

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This is a sub-page of SaGa Frontier.

Like many Japanese games of its era, SaGa Frontier received a less-than-perfect English translation for its international release. Some translation choices (occasionally, outright errors) hid content and flavor from non-Japanese players. In many cases they were dictated by cultural differences and technical limits, but in others they appear inexplicable. In a few cases, the mistakes come all the way from the original Japanese...

(Source: Sevon of the GameFAQs forums (Original Japanese text, translations); material from his translation project reposted with permission)

Lost In Translation

Sometimes, SaGa Frontier was a little too flavorful to make sense to an international audience, and translators had to flatten it somewhat. Occasionally, the references were probably too obscure even for the translators.

English Japanese Translation Notes
DoubleSlash, HardSlash, Thrust 切り返し, 巻き打ち, 諸手突き Repeated Cuts, Winding Strike, Two-handed Thrust The original names all refer to Japanese fencing techniques, from kenjutsu and kenpo.
ShadowCounter 燕返し Swallow Reversal The original name references legendary swordsman Sasaki Kojiro's signature technique (although in-game it looks nothing like it). Not a bad translation per se, because the reference would fly over everyone's head outside of Japan.
Fist 短勁 One Inch Punch The famous kung fu technique popularized by Bruce Lee.
Sabers 七支刀 Seven-Branched Sword One of Hell's Lord (end boss of the Blue scenario) attacks, and also what his weird sword (a Japanese national treasure) is called.
AGUNI-SSP, AGUNI-CP1, AGUNI-MBX アグニ SSP, アグニ CP1, アグニ MBX Agni SSP, Agni CP1, Agni MBX Agni is a Hindu fire god. Interviews with developers confirmed that this was the intended meaning of the name of this arms manufacturer.
ShockSoldier, Pop-Knight びっくりソルジャー, どっきりナイツ Shocked Soldier, Nonplussed Knight The original names of these Mec programs had a cute (if inexplicable) theme to them.
Koorong クーロン Kowloon A reference to the long since demolished Kowloon Walled City.

Cultural Ignorance in Reverse

Paradoxically, sometimes the Japanese developers seemed better versed in western culture than the translators.

English Japanese Translation Notes
Berva ベルヴァ Belva Considering what this boss character from Red's scenario looks like, it seems likely that its name was intended to be the Italian word for "beast".
RailCannon レールガン Railgun "Railgun" is the proper name for that kind of weapon.
Knife ボーイーナイフ Bowie Knife Unusually, this English translation removes American flavor.
LightRifle ブリューナク Brionac One of the worst translation errors of the entire game... although the translators are entirely innocent. This weapon is classified and coded as a single-shot gun, but it's actually a magic spear! In fact, the spear of Celtic god Lugh. The problem is that the spear is unnamed in Celtic lore, but somehow "Brionac" came to be attached to it in Japanese popular media, making the reference impossibly obscure. Good luck figuring that out in 1997!
Razorback バーゲスト Barghest For once the translation is better than the original, as these monsters are clearly boars and not Barghest. Most likely a call back to Romancing SaGa 3 that also featured boar enemies called Barghest.
Skeleton スパルトイ Spartoi Again, a middling low-level monster with a grandiose mythological name was cut down to size by translators.
Nidheg ニドヘッグ Níðhöggr
MecGod 機械神バロール Machine God Balor
Mystic エインヘリアル Einherjar Now you know why this generically-named male mystic enemy looks like a viking warrior.
Darkfairy アンシリーコート Unseelie Court Original name is the "proper" classification of dark fairies in Scottish folklore.

Cultural (In)sensitivity

Sometimes, Japanese developers give things names that make English translators cringe. Occasionally, it's the other way around...

English Japanese Translation Notes
Riki クーン Coon Good call... (While "coon" is occasionally used as shorthand for Raccoon, i.e. the Coonskin Cap, it is more commonly an ugly racial slur in American English).
Demongoat バフォメット Baphomet
KAMIKAZE-Crush, ZEKE 神威クラッシュ, ナカジマ零式 Heavenly Crash, Nakajima Type 0 No, the Japanese developers did not call an attack "kamikaze" (even though it is a suicide attack), nor did they call the Mec that performs it after a WWII American Navy slang word (but they did name it after the plane "Zeke" refers to)... Basically, a correct translation, but from the opposite side of the Pacific front of WWII. An interesting bit of political incorrectness.

And Now You Know!

Things that don't make sense or give you pause in SaGa Frontier can often be blamed on some puzzling translation choices. In many cases, better translations would've removed some of the guesswork the game is notorious for.

English Japanese Translation Notes
Chop サミング Eye Poke (literally, a transliteration of English word "thumbing") Now you know why a "chop" blinds enemies.
Grasp 丸のみ Swallow Whole
Heal (monster ability) 毛繕い Self Grooming Official translation is technically correct (it is a healing ability), but boring. Original name explains why a PC monster can't "heal" an ally but only itself.
Da-dum ぽんぽこ (onomatopoeia for drumming) And now you know!
CombatMastery 剣闘マスタリー Sword Mastery The original name of this Mec program is better in every way: perfectly understandable and 100% accurate.
NakajimaBoard, NakajimaBoard2 ナカジマ機動ボード, ナカジマ戦闘ボード Nakajima Maneuver Board, Nakajima Combat Board The original names were self-explanatory, while the translations force you to do some trial-and-error to understand what these pieces of Mec equipment do. The length limit for item names probably made this a necessary sacrifice.
MysticWear (Dr. Nusakan's armor) 妖魔の白衣 Mystic Lab Coat
Osc-Sword 高周波ブレード High Frequency Sword Mystery solved! "Osc" is for "oscillation".
LightningCannon 電磁放射銃 Electromagnetic Ray Gun
BlackX ブラッククロス Black Cross And now you know how the name of this shadowy criminal organization is pronounced. Ironically, the Japanese usually read the letter "X" as "cross" (such as with Xenoblade Chronicles X or Project X Zone), but in this case the reverse happened: English speakers reading "cross" (クロス) as "X", which is... not usual.
NornsBangle 三女神の腕輪 Three Goddess Bracelet Obscure but accurate, as the Norns were, indeed, three goddesses. A little misleading (the three goddesses of the Magical Kingdom don't seem to be related to the Norns), but an elegant use of the limited text box space.

Garbled Dialogue

Sometimes, bad translations obfuscated game events to the point of unintelligibility.

Nakajima's Robot Mouse

In T260G's scenario, the player has to find a robot mouse that got lost in King Sei's tomb and bring it back to Nakajima Robotics, who need it to activate their newest Mec (and recruitable character) ZEKE. Problem is, their explanation of why this is necessary, and why the robot mouse was in the tomb, doesn't make any sense.

Nakajima: We sent a robot mouse to Trinity’s restricted area to get some data. But after it got there, we lost its signal somewhere in Sei’s tomb.

What does Sei's tomb have to do with Trinity? And why do they need data stolen from competitor Trinity to move one of their own Mecs? This is what Nakajima was actually meant to say (emphasis added):

Nakajima: It’s kind of a long story. Before Trinity’s on-site inspection, we stored our important data in a robot mouse and sent it into Sei’s Tomb. No one would be able to find it there. After the inspection was over, we tried to call the mouse back, but it didn’t return.

So the real story is: shadowy military-industrial conglomerate Trinity accuses minor competitor Nakajima Robotics of stealing their designs. Nakajima is forced to agree to an on-site inspection, but first they store vital data on a small robot and hide it. Trinity inspectors seize storage media for an indefinite time, hoping to force Nakajima Robotics to shut down, but the plucky little factory can still rely on their hidden backup. Problem is, the backup doesn't answer to the recall command, and is stuck somewhere in monster-infested Sei's tomb. They'd use their heavily-armed ZEKE Mec to retrieve it... but the only copy of its operating system is stored on the lost backup.

And now you know!

Doll Arrests Berva

In Red's scenario, if you meet BlackX Emperor Berva with IRPO agent Doll in your party, she'll officially put the crime boss under arrest:

Doll: Berva, you are under arrest for violating penal code 20348.

This is not a bad line of dialogue, nor does it really matter (Berva won't let itself be taken alive either way), but it originally said something slightly different:

Doll: Laugh all you want. Region’s Most Wanted Criminal 20348, BlackX leader Berva, you are under arrest.

The Strange Case of King Sei

"I thought he would be lonely in the ancient graveyard, so I gave him a snake companion. And as if he wasn’t flashy enough, I added roses, too. Then he ended up looking charming (laugh)"

Sometimes, translation errors happen before translation and end up being baked into the game.

To unlock the funerary chamber of Sei, ancient king of Shrike, the player has to gather his three treasures from shrines scattered around the tomb: the Murakumo sword, the Mizukagami mirror-shield, and the Magatama bead pendant. So why does an ancient king associated with the Imperial Regalia of Japan look like an undead European knight, who references the Knights of the Round Table even as he cuts down the player's party with his very un-European Kusanagi sword?

Blame the concept artist.

Interviewed for The Essence of SaGa Frontier, hired artist Tomomi Kobayashi readily admits to her mistake:

He’s supposed to be from ancient Japan, especially with the tomb and three sacred treasures, but I accidentally made him look European.

Square 2nd Division clearly loved the "mistake" (it does kick ass), so much that they didn't ask for a redesign and modeled King Sei's in-game appearance after the concept art (pictured right), ignoring the inconsistency.

Horrors

Some translations are mind-boggling in how bad they were.

English Japanese Translation Notes
RavaBarrire 邪霊憑依 Evil Spirit Possession Ugh! Mistranslated and misspelled.
RavaShot 霊障, 雑霊撃 Harmful Spirit, Ghost Attack "Rava" again, what the heck does it mean? And yes, two unrelated attacks (the former, a signature attack of Red boss Arachne; the latter, an Evil Magic spell) were translated in the same, puzzling way.
GrainCannon, HG-Cannon 粒子加速砲, 重粒子砲 Particle Accelerator Cannon, Heavy Particle Cannon Turns out the infamous "grain" cannon was the victim of an overly literal translation of "particle".
Yolk Hat ヨーク綿の帽子 York Cotton Hat The original name could be translated as "yolk", "yoke", or "York", and somehow translators managed to pick the worst choice. This helmet is the starting equipment of character Lute, native of Yorkland, so it's not like they didn't have any context...