Kurt Kalata is an ardent video gamer from New Jersey. He has founded websites such as The Castlevania Dungeon, which focuses on Konami's long running, vampire slaying series, and Hardcore Gaming 101, which gives comprehensive reviews focusing on the history of gaming. In addition to his own sites and books, his writings have appeared in Retro Gamer magazine, The Overstreet Guide to Video Game Collecting, and at 1up, Siliconera, Gamasutra, and The Armchair Empire. His most recent work is Bitmap Books' A Guide to Japanese Role-Playing Games.

Hanenashi Error is a self-proclaimed "localization researcher" from Japan. He runs a website called Innovative Game Translator's Blog, which features a variety of interesting translations and localization changes from popular video game series like Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, etc.

Retro Game Super Translation Selection by Kurt Kalata and Hanenashi Error

Presented by retro video game website Hardcore Gaming 101. Localization is a tricky business, especially due to the myriad of differences between both the English and Japanese languages and cultures. Retro Game Super Translation Selection examines 101 lines of dialogue from classic video games, compares how they were localized, and includes some explanation for the business or cultural reasons surrounding such changes. Originally authored by a professional video game translator, this is a localized version of a doujinshi released at the Game Legend retro game event in late 2016, and features a unique perspective rarely seen in the English speaking world! Also includes four columns by guest writers that compare English and Japanese onomatopoeia, examines different game titles between territories, explains the math behind retro games, and illustrates the many changes made to the Pokemon Game Boy titles.

Covered games include: Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior / Dragon Quest, Super Mario World, Landstalker, Lunar: The Silver Star, Zero Wing, River City Ransom, Cybernator, Pokemon, Lufia II, Shadowgate, Shadowrun, Maniac Mansion, Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom, and many more!


Either you were there when "All your base are belong to us" became a favorited gaming meme, or you need Retro Game Super Translation Selection I. Kalata compares lines from Japanese games and their English translations, and explains where, why, and how changes were made. – David L. Craddock



  • "Very interesting look into how translations during the 1980s and 1990s went. The author looks at quirks and clever localization both for games from Japanese to English, and from English to Japanese, with context and explanations to elaborate on why the translator did what they did. Very recommended!"

    – Amazon.com review



Retro Game Super Translation Selection was made with the idea of introducing 100 "omoshiroi" translations and text alterations from localized retro games. In Japanese, "omoshiroi" is an adjective that means both "interesting" and "funny", and you'll find both types represented herein.

A good translation might give you some insight into the process that goes into localization. A bad translation may be humorous, while unusual expressions might come from knowledge obtained by learning English or Japanese. Text alterations can be an example of the differences between Japanese and American/European gaming culture, and so on. We have a total of 101 "omoshiroi" translations from various 8 and 16-bit games, so even if you're intimately familiar with game localizations, hopefully you'll learn something you weren't previously aware of. Furthermore, books focusing on retro games are common these days, but there aren't many that focus on localization. I hope this book can be useful to deepen everyone's knowledge on the subject.


Japanese: "...Come back alive"

English: "Now, I have but one command to give you guys, "WIN"

Cybernator is a mecha action game for the SNES, developed by NCS/Masaya and known as Assault Suits Valken in Japanese. In this game, you get advice at key points in each stage from the mother base, either from a woman named Crea or your Captain, Chack.

In the Japanese version, there's a portrait of the character next to their line of dialogue, but these were removed in the English release, so only the text is displayed. It's unclear if there were copyright issues with the art or if the localizers just decided not to include the manga-style portraits. (The character artwork was provided by famous artist Satoshi Urushihara. He also did the illustrations for the Langrisser games. The first entry in the series, released for the Genesis, was localized as Warsong, where his art was removed and replaced with designs less distinctly Japanese.)

The above lines are displayed at the beginning of the final chapter, "Last Stand". Crea is actually the hero's girlfriend, so she tells him with an uneasy look to "Come back alive". On the other hand, the face isn't displayed in the English version, leaving it unclear as to who's speaking. Based on the dialogue, it seems to be the Captain, since it's more forceful. It actually sounds a little more inspiring this way.

Typically, Japanese games wouldn't use a masculine captain in cases like this. The industry, and the audience, usually wants to see conversations between a manly soldier and a cute girlfriend. However, American and European gamers may be more motivated by a fierce speech from their commander. It's an interesting translation that shows the differences between Japanese and American gaming culture.