Good Bad Translation
I, Garland, will KNOCK YOU ALL DOWN!!!—Garland, Final Fantasy I
Whether it be due to Executive Meddling, bad translators, or just being a rush job, there are bad translations at times. Either the wording is funky, the grammar is off, or they just flubbed the line.
However, it proves so popular with the fans (either due to being unintentionally hilarious or Memetic Mutation) that not only do they not go back to correct it partway through the run, but reprints and sequels will keep the mistranslation in because the fans want it. Essentially, the bad translations are So Bad It's Good.
This is different from a Woolseyism because those are intentional, while these are mistakes that prove popular with fans.
- 1 Video game examples
- 2 Non-video game examples
Video game examples
- The original The Legend of Zelda is famous for its mistranslations, which were humorous in that they didn't always make a lot of sense; for example, "Eastmost penninsula is the secret" [sic].
- "Dodongo dislikes smoke." Sadly, the Gamecube and GBA rereleases make things at least a little better.
- Zelda II the Adventure of Link contains what was often mistaken as such, in the form of a character saying, "I am Error." Some players even thought the the phrase represented a literal error in the game's coding; in other words, text for the character's dialogue was not properly programmed in, so an "error message" was displayed instead. Anyone who actually bothered to get far enough in Zelda 2 would have met a man in Mido that actually references him by name. It got bad enough that Nintendo had to confirm it was his real name. The real translation mistake was another character named Bagu, who was just supposed to be named "Bug". This would have given us Bug and Error.
- Nintendo even jokingly referenced this themselves in Super Paper Mario; a robotic boss says this after he is hacked into and his systems are attacked.
- Cave Story: "Litagano motscoud." The translator, Aeon Genesis, simply didn't notice that it was supposed to be a backwards Title Drop. Also, Balrog's catchphrase wasn't really "Huzzah!" according to Pixel, but it became very popular; the same goes for "Grasstown", which was supposed to be more like "Bushlands". Nicalis' translation actually changed them to what Pixel was really thinking of.
- The original English dub for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was a rich source of Narm Charm for a lot of players. Many of these players were nonplussed when the PSP remake redubbed all the lines.
- The Russian-developed point-and-click adventure game, Midnight Nowhere, features numerous bizarre and hilarious lines when looking at the scenery. For example, looking at a stethoscope on a dead doctor's desk will produce the line, "He's probably lying here to show off. It's like he's saying, 'I'm not just wearing my pants out, I've got medical training!'" rendered in voiced, well-emoted English.
- The Spanish translation for The Secret of Monkey Island has an example. The closest counterpart for the slang I'm rubber, you're glue... used in the insult swordfighting, is Botellita de jerez (todo lo que digas será al revés, everything you said will be reversed). However it was literally translated as Yo soy cola, tú pegamento, resulting in a very funny phrase that lacks any coherence. It got very popular, becoming an icon of the game and even being preserved in the remake.
Beat Em Up
- Among many other examples in River City Ransom, one of the gangsters' anguished cries of pain was translated as "BARF!" For the translation of River City Ransom EX, Atlus not only kept this in, but they even made a wallpaper bearing the phrase.
- While technically not a translation error (the English version's script is completely different from the Japanese original), the NES version of Double Dragon III has Billy's name misspelled as "Bimmy" in the opening of the 2-Player Mode. The 1-Player Mode uses the correct spelling.
- The Samurai Shodown series never got around to fixing the title either. Considering SNK's track record on weird translations, whether or not this was intentional from the second game onwards is anyone's guess.
- Speaking of Samurai Shodown, who could forget this classic from the fourth game in that series: "VICTOLY!"
- Absolutely ridiculous translations. That's SNK. And don't forget it, dweebenheimer!
- The original US title of the game was actually supposed to be Shogun Shodown. The name was changed before release, but the intentional misspelling was kept.
- Keitai Denju Telefang was a monster-fighting game released in Japan only. Bootleggers, um, "translated" the game into English and packaged two versions of the game under the names Pokemon Diamond (not to be confused with the real Diamond.) and Pokemon Jade. The translation contains lines like "For the clever opponent, Injure increase!!", "Let us go to see the ball!", "Shit! Remember it!" and "I will use my strength to LET YOU SHUT UP!". Even the battles have their share of Engrish: "Some points of [number] lost!" Though horrific translation aside, it wasn't a bad game. Well, at least the Japanese version wasn't.
- There is a good reason for this, though: in Japanese, both 'let' and 'make' (as in, make you do something) are the same verb tense, saseru.
- Squall's gunblade shoots barrets. One has to wonder how he managed to turn a giant black man into an elemental being, then miniaturize him to use as ammunition.
- "A Winner Is You" from Nintendo's Pro Wrestling is a bit of a meme.
- A famous (or rather notorious) doujin H-game for Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, called Phoenix Drive, was translated from Japanese into English by someone who didn't seem to be fluent in either language. The game was laughable enough as it was, but turned into outright hilarity and unintentional brilliance with such lines as "I will beat a rod till...a tank empties", "Does sperm collect to your lower part of the body in large quantities?" and "Hey, Ni-ick. Your [Penix Wright]". Even the worksafe scenes are wonderfully Narmful. You can read a screencap recap of the game here, although it's fair to warn whoever might follow the link that it's pretty horrific, even when work safe.
- At the end of Ghosts N Goblins:
- 'Congratulation. This story is happy end. Thank you.'
- 'Being the wise and courageour knight that you are you feel strongth welling. In your body. Return to starting point. Challenge again!
- 'This room is an illusion and is a trap devisut by Satan. Go ahead dauntlessly! Make rapid progres!'
- Ghostbusters for the NES had an Engrish final message: "Conglaturation !!! You have completed a great game. And prooved the justice of our culture. Now go rest our heroes."
- The AVGN had a field day with this.
- It even appears in the new Ghostbusters game on a PC screen in their office!
- The Varia Suit in the first Metroid was actually originally meant to be called the Barrier Suit, but instead of fixing the mistake, it was kept (the reasoning apparently being that since the Varia Suit can handle many different variable conditions of planets, it could also be short for "Variable Suit".)
- The planet Zebes was supposed to be "Zebeth," and is called such in some early sources. The confusion comes from the katakana rendering, "Zebesu."
- In addition, the series often talks about a race of bird creatures called the Chozo. "Chozo" was used in the original Japanese to refer to the bird statues scattered throughout Zebes, and was taken to refer to the race of creatures. In fact, it referred to the statues themselves: chōzo is Japanese for "carved statue".
- Another wiki claims that "Barrier Suit" was at least in the manual for Metroid II, though the game itself features "Varia".
- Contra III begins the game with one of the heroes offering the brilliant suggestion of "Let's Attack Aggressively!" Never mind that attacking someone is already an aggressive action by nature. The line isn't even a direct translation. In the Japanese version, Lance's actual line is "Let's greet them with style!"
- Likely in tribute to this, Pliskin in Contra Rebirth says this line as well.
- Not to mention, when the heroes of Contra 3 reappear in Contra 4 as unlockable characters, they reprise this gem of a line, except (much like the Pliskin example above) now it's voice-acted.
- In The Goonies II, whenever you try to "PUNCH" an NPC, they will respond by saying "Ouch! What do you do?" (instead of "Ouch! What did you do that for?")
- The indie video games Mondo Medicals and Mondo Agency play this up on purpose in the cinematics, in which the games' "supervisor" characters speak in English that is not so much broken as it is atomized. The creator, though Swedish, is actually quite fluent in English—a fact easily missed unless you visit his website and notice the perfect English throughout.
- Tetris the Grand Master 3: "EXCELLENT, but...let's go better next time"
Role Playing Game
- In Final Fantasy IV, when Tellah fights Edward, the original featured Tellah cursing at Edward for taking the sage's daughter away. The original English script featured, instead, the line "You spoony bard!" This proved so popular that the line is in every single English rerelease (although the other lines have been translated more appropriately). At the current time, this comes out to three different rereleases that retranslated the game but kept that line.
- Lampshaded in the DS remake - talk to the lead translator in the Developer's Room in-game, and he'll state that they went through and fixed the erroneous translations - and then states "But the bard was spoony - we checked!"
- This phrase is so popular that it's actually started to appear in other Final Fantasy games, such as the PSP remake of Final Fantasy Tactics or in a somewhat obscure Shout-Out in Final Fantasy XII.
- Hell, even other companies make a Shout-Out to the famous line. In the last case of Phoenix Wright: Trials & Tribulations, the prosecutor Godot (who is fond of coffee metaphors) refers to Maya's mind as "a cup of café au lait" (referring to her current state of confusion), and then refers to the Judge as "the spoon" (inferring that his remarks are confusing Maya further). The judge's response: "I-I'm a spoon?! I'm no spoony bard, I'll have you know!"
- Which is because the translator for that game is so enamored with the phrase he tries to slip it in to everything he does.
- In Valkyrie Profile, a single vowel misheard led the incantation of the heroine's main attack being changed from the original "I shall annihilate your soul!" to "It shall be engraved upon your soul!" This translation proved so popular that four different characters say a variant of it in the prequel, Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria.
- In Radiata Stories, you can recruit the VP Valkyrie into your party during the bonus dungeon. When she unleashes her Volty Blast in that game, she repeats this line again.
- Most of the spelling and grammar mistakes that appeared in the first Wild ARMs game were corrected in its rerelease, Wild Arms Alter Code F. However, the Artificial Humans in the game were still called "Holmcross" instead of the correct "Homunculus" because fans felt it was emblematic of the series.
- Wild ARMs 2's translation is also seriously flawed, but at least one "mistake" turned into accidental genius; the game's Goldfish Poop Gang, Liz and Ard (who happen to be aliens) are turned into Cloud Cuckoolanders whose dialogue is both incomprehensible and hilarious. They were already comic relief characters in Japan, but translating Liz's "poetic" dialogue literally produced something much more entertaining than it has any right to be.
- Final Fantasy VII wasn't really cerebral. It graduated into an outright Mind Screw in the English version because of the notoriously dodgy translation—which arguably made the game better. There was plenty of wonderfully dorky Engrish to laugh at in lower-ticket scenes. While not exceptionally mangled, the phrase "This guy are sick" was so hilariously out of place that it's become something of a shibboleth amongst Final Fantasy VII fans to identify the newcomers who joined for the Cast Full of Pretty Boys better known as the Compilation. The PC edition corrected some of the more obvious mistakes (some of these include an option to continue the Battle Challenge in the Gold Saucer from "Off course!" [sic] to "Of course!" and the summon materia's name Kjata to the more appropriate and pronounceable Kujata).
- The Gold Saucer Arena also had an error in the punctuation of the quit option. When asked if you want to continue you get the aforementioned "Off course!" for yes and "No, way!" for no, with a misplaced comma. Perhaps this is Fridge Brilliance: after getting beaten on the head during your arena matches, your character can't speak straight?
- The German version went a step further and didn't translate a few lines of text at all. This leads to Yuffie starting a sentence in German and changing to English midsentence. Then back to German.
- The very first Final Fantasy gives us "I, Garland, will knock you all down!" which was kept for the GBA rerelease. The line did not, however, make it into the Playstation version, Final Fantasy Origins. Origins came first, which means the line was removed, then put back in for the GBA version.
- The line even made it into the PSP 20th anniversary edition, too!
- Secret of the Stars has a laughably bad translation possibly caused by little faith in the game's success in the United States or Tecmo simply not caring. This gave us such lines as "SCATT THE DOG-PILL," "CHAINMALE," AND "WHAT? YOU'RE SO ANYTHING! GO TO THE CIRCUS NOW!"
- Persona received a remake in the PSP which overhauls the dialogues. One line from the original remains. Guess which one. Mark danced crazy!
- Feudalism, a flash browser game which the first installment is plagued with misspellings and typos. One of the typos was Soul Braker. This was quite hilarious that it was not 'repaired' (probably intentional) on the second game.
- Maple Story used to be filled with these in the US port of the game as occasional lines of dialog contained obvious Engrish and other translation errors, with occasional lines not translated from the original Korean at all. As of the Big Bang patch, much of this has been fixed.
- A Vietnamese bootleg translation of Pokémon Crystal made famous in a Let's Play by DeliciousCinnamon on YouTube. Among other things: Professor Oak claiming that everyone call him [sic] "ELF MONSTER", the player character's mother preparing "VOLCANO BAKEMEAT", "put in" being translated as "fuck", nonsensical Pokémon names such as "OUD" and "LAP", Silver's dialogue making absolutely no sense, and a Pidgey saying "LITTLE STRAWBERRY ME BABY" if you talk to it.
Shoot Em Up
- R-Type: "The Byde Empire was annihilated to never scare people again."
- Zero Wing. "All your base are belong to us."
- While the English localization of the first Castle Shikigami game was just plain bad, the second and third games tilt more toward the So Bad It's Good scale, if still somewhat incomprehensible.
- "DAMNED NINJAAAAAS!"
- "Oh, you're into THAT."
- "I like girls. But now... it's about justice."
- The English Dreamcast version of Bangai-O. There are popular rumors that suggest that the English script is either an intentional homage done by the localization company to poor translations of the golden era of video gaming, or that Treasure had sent a preliminary translation of the script that said localizers liked so much that they left it as is in the game. Either way, fans wouldn't have it any other way.
- Beating Gradius III for the SNES on the hidden "Arcade" difficulty setting would end the credits with the baffling message "I'M GIVE UP YOUR APPELLATION'S TECHNICAL MONKEY". This may mean "You've won. Your ranking is: Cheater".
- The Data East-developer shooter Bloody Wolf has such gems as: "YOU! INVADERS! GET YOU THE HOT BULLETS OF SHOTGUN TO DIE!"
- Aero Fighters: "I never thought I'd be frying over a jungle.
- Armed Police Batrider brings us wonderful song titles such as "Choice Or Die" (menus), "Let Ass Kick Together !" (ground boss), and "Chop U!" (air boss).
- The instruction manual for Thunder Force VI shows a prototype continue screen: "DO YOU WANT TO CONTINUE? PLEASE SELECT YOUR MIND." (The second sentence was changed to "PLEASE SELECT YES OR NO" in the final release.)
- Do Don Pachi: "How dare you penetrate my territory ? You have robbed everything I possessed. You knoe,what you've done to me is just unforgivable. I'll punish you myself and see to it that you die a miserable death with my awesome weapon. Die,maggotts."
- The various Harvest Moon games are known for their somewhat lovably bad translations, which run the quality gamut from "Actually not bad" to "lol wut." Most famously, in Harvest Moon 64, Natsume misspelled their own name on the title screen (sort of).
- Start screens have always been a bit of a challenge for Natsume: Harvest Moon 64 welcomed players to "Push the START". The next game, Back to Nature, still hadn't quite gotten the hang of articles.
Stealth Based Game
- The NES port of Metal Gear. "The truck have started to move!" "I feel asleep!" "Contact missing our Grey Fox"
- The European localization of the MSX original was even worse. "Penetrate the enemy's Outer Heaven and destoroy the ultimate weapon Metal Gear." "Mision! Gain access to the enemy's fortress, Outer Heaven." "I goofed. The lorry started to move!" And cigarettes are Cigals, and landmines are L-Mains.
- Snake's Revenge, the NES sequel to Metal Gear, featured such a dubious writing quality despite being allegedly produced with the American market in mind with such cleverly written lines of dialogue such as "here are three graves for you!" or "that room is filled with gas". One of the most infamous examples is a segment where Snake gets in contact with a captured ally who is actually an enemy spy in disguise. The spy attempts to misdirect the player with such obviously deceptive advice such as "there is no trap in that car" or "there are no enemies in that room.
- The infamous "Jill Sandwich" quote from Resident Evil 1. was this. Barry was supposed to say, "You were almost made into a sandwich!" but it somehow got turned into, "You were almost a Jill Sandwich!" Nevertheless, memes have since had a field day with it.
Turn Based Strategy
- In Final Fantasy Tactics, Professor Daravon was famous for such lines as "This was the darkened items won't appear."
- "I got a good feeling" would occasionally pop up in tavern mission reviews. (And was sadly cut with said missions in the PSP remake.) Like the Spoony Bard reference above, another such Shout-Out is given to this line in Final Fantasy XII.
- Final Fantasy Tactics A2 referenced a similar interjection from tavern mission reviews: "This is the way!" To the uninitiated, both "I got a good feeling!" and "This is the way!" are random exclamations that party members issue while the mission leader is trying to recap the events of the mission to the player. Fittingly, "This is the way!" is the name of the document in FFTA2 that tells you about the implementation of a similar mechanic in that game.
- "Surrender, or die in obscurity!", which the PSP version retranslated as "Lay down your swords or die clutching them! None shall mourn your passing."
- The entire translation of Tactics gave memorably awesome lines, sadly removed in War of the Lions, like Delita's "Don't blame me. Blame yourself or God."
- An interesting Fan Translation example occurred with the fifth Fire Emblem game. Most of the FE community relies on a fan who goes by "Firelizard" for translations, which are actually of surprisingly good quality. While working on Thracia 776, Firelizard hit a snag and asked a message board for help, asking if anyone knew a more... elegant way to say "Purple Dragon Mountain". Everyone was too amused and the name stuck.
- Thunder Maiden Arycelle Dania in Tactics Ogre, in the original version was supposed to be called 'Alocer' based on the Ars Goetia Theme Naming. However, when the PSX version is out, her name becomes Aloser. But since she remained a Game Breaker despite such name, it was considered a charm on its own.
Non-video game examples
Anime and Manga
- In Dragon Half, Dug Fin's ultimate weapon is a sword that was initially translated as the "Godslayer of Hit Points". When retranslated for a DVD release, this line was kept in the subtitled version (the dub contains the better translation, "Demon Sword Godslayer").
- In Transformers Headmasters, Sixshot's title of ninja commander was infamously translated as 'ninja consultant' in the English dub. This became so well known that it even found its way into the subtitles. Another beloved mistranslation resulted in a bad guy gloating that "Fortress Maximus has come himself." (By which we mean "Fortress Maximus has arrived.")
- The mysterious "Armblast" from the English dub of Kiddy Grade was originally named "Armbrust" - German for "crossbow" (which also better fits the theme for the rest of the characters' names). The "correct" translation would be "Arbalest." (It's a word for a large crossbow. Here. Incidentally, Armbrust (and Armbruster) are perfectly legitimate German last names in real life.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion : EVERY SINGLE MISSILE HIT THE TARGET!! Game, Set, and Match.
- Code Geass: "You know full well what this badass mother can do!"
- One somewhat overly-literal fansubber for Fate Stay Night brought us the gem 'People die when they are killed'. The quote is taken out of context, since the character was speaking along the lines of: "People die when they are killed. That's the way things should be." As in, no cheating death. Not that the fandom cared.
- Inverted in the English dub of Excel Saga. One episode features Excel going to America. The original dialog contains poorly used English, while the dub contains poorly used Spanish and ghetto slang. However, the original audio of people's reactions to Excel popping out of a sewer is left the same. ("JEEEEEEEE-SUS!")
- Yo yo homies! Feliz Navidad. Me llamo Excel. You're my bitches!
- In the second season of Black Lagoon, Revy goes to Japan, where she doesn't speak the language (even though her character has been speaking it throughout both seasons) because she's American born. Even though the grammar and word choice is good, her diction and pronunciation is so far off it's impossible to believe she's ever been around a native speaker. Balalaika speaks similarly throughout the story arc, but she has the excuse of being native born Russian—and while Revy's attempts to sound tough in English come across...cute...Balalaika actually manages the intended menace.
- And who can forget Quattro's "Oh dear mother of God...!" during her very priceless Oh Crap moment during Episode 25 of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS?
- When Gundam Seed originally aired fansubbers went a very different route with some of the name translations, for instance they translated Yzak Joule and Rau Le Crueset as Issac Joule and Raul Cruz respectively.
- Axis Powers Hetalia: "CANADA is greatest country."
- The 1993 Yuen Woo-ping version of Iron Monkey both played this trope straight in the VHS dub, and subverted with the 2001 theatrical release of a subtitled version which was much more serious and dramatic. The earlier dub included all the overexaggerated Hong Kong-style fighting foley effects and such gems of dialogue like:
- "You're so ugly, no wonder you're still a virgin!" to a homely female adversary.
- "You! You're the monk who rebelled against the religion of Shaolin and destroyed the temple by burning it!" "They deserved it! And I won. So don't preach to me, it's your dead colleagues who are sorry now!"
- "Fight poison with poison! What a brilliant doctor!"
- "Wonder Palm!"
- The title of Bicycle Thieves was translated as The Bicycle Thief in some countries. Many consider this a better title than the original since it doesn't reveal the fact that there are two thieves.
- Backstroke of the West would be an excellent example. "Do Not Want!" indeed.
- The phrasebook The New Guide of the Conversation in Portuguese and English (also known as English As She Is Spoke) is famous for its mangled English phrases.
- The mangled phrase "To Craunch a marmoset" is especially great.
- Karl Marx wrote poetry when he was young. One of this poems was "The Fiddler" or "The Player".  It may be dark, but it's not funny. Meanwhile someone wrote a religious tract alleging Marx was a Satanist, in which a bit from the poem was "translated":
The hellish vapors rise and fill the brain,
Till I go mad and my heart is utterly changed.
See this sword?
The Prince of Darkness sold it to me.
- In an episode of Rude Awakening, Dave said he had to chase Christian Slater down the street. This was translated to Hebrew as "A Christian slate-layer".
- Hot Limit, AKA "We Drink Ritalin". An Italo-Engrish Eurobeat cover of a J-Rock song. "Yo say! Summer love will stimulate my heart tonight. Mysterious mermaid, barefoot all alone. Wishing, revealing. It's the fruit I want to eat. Precious love is always eating UP MY HEART!"
- To make things even better, not only are the lyric nonsense to begin with, but the band that sings the song is Italian and quite obviously can't speak English. This lead to the fantastic We Drink Ritalin.
- Spanish fans of Space Hulk often quoted the rule "Si Fire no Move", since it was translated that way into supposed Spanish.
- Another infamous bad Spanish translation: the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons translator didn't know "xbow" was short for "crossbow" and translated it as "Arco X" (Bow X)
- And yet another Spanish translator (early RPG translations in Spain were made cheap by using non professional fans). In the old Star Wars RPG by GDW, this translator slipped and translated "target" as "tarjeta" (meaning "card"). "Locking on your card" was a dogfight move.
- Some find cheap translations from Chinese products to be entertaining. There have been bands named after them (look up Glonous Cultual).
- The Mitsubishi Starion, a car from the 80's, is a victim of this. Rumor has it Mitsubishi intended to name the car Stallion to be a direct competitor to the Ford Mustang, but a misunderstanding between Japanese and european executive led to the more non-sensical "Starion" name.
- Word of God has it that Starion is a contraction of "Star of Orion". Another Mitsubishi car launched around the same time was called the "Cordia" - a contraction of "cordorite" (don't ask) and "diamond", and "Tredia" (again, launched in 1982) used a similar made-up name.
- And there was a videogame called Starion. Possibly named as a result of this car.
- Instructions for Tounge of Frog. (Always remember: never throw out the other person's head.)
- Mahir Cagri and his lovable homepage "I Kiss You". He's like the Web 1.0 Turkish Borat.
- The UK company Lush created a bubble bar (solid bubblebath) that was sent over to Japan, under the name Frosty Glitter. Once it had been translated to Japanese and then back, the product came back under the name Flosty Gritter. It's Good Bad Translation because the people at Lush loved it- and kept the name.
- Engrish.com is full of good bad translations from signs, product packaging and clothing around the world, mostly in Southeast Asia and especially in Japan.
- YouTube's closed captioning system can create good bad transcriptions, so long as you find videos that have the "CC" button on them first.
- The nation of Canada. Jacques Cartier showed up and asked the natives where he was. They said "Kanata" meaning "village" and he heard "Canada" meaning the land of Canada, so he put it on the maps.
- There is a myth that, when James Cook was exploring Australia, he came across a strange, jumping animal with huge feet and a large tail. Upon describing it to a native and asking what it was, he supposedly received the answer "Kangaroo". Assuming that was the name of the animal, he dutifully recorded it in his survey report, not knowing that it was native-speak for "I don't know." Unfortunately, this myth was debunked recently by a linguist researching that native language.
- Note that this is not incorrect English - "spoony" is an obscure word that means "foolishly or sentimentally in love".
- The line is another example of a translation that is literally accurate but semantically odd. The Japanese used literally means "fell," as in "cause to fall," but is commonly translated in situations like this as "defeat" or even "kill." Golden Sun translated it as "fell," which is an obscure verb which actually does hold the intended meaning in English and helps with giving it a bit of an archaic feel (whereas "knock you all down" just sounds silly). Another possible translation would be "All who face me shall fall!".