What the heck is sea salt ice-cream? Whenever a game is brought over to the US, there is always a question of culture changes. Each culture has different views and thoughts on symbols and events, sometimes resulting in a rice ball becoming a doughnut in a version brought over to the US. There is always the question of what to change and what to keep the same. But how does this translate into a game with both roots in Japan and the US? The Kingdom Hearts series is the result of a mixing of cultures, with characters and worlds from both the American company Disney, and Square Enix in Japan. Worlds that are based off of Disney characters are easy, American audiences are already familiar with many of the movies, so the background stories associated with the world are already known by the American audience. Obviously Disney is in Japan, but in comparison to shows or movies actually made for a Japanese audience it wouldn’t be quite as popular as here in the US with Disney movies making box office hits. Final Fantasy, a series integrated into the Kingdom Hearts series by Square Enix, is very popular in Japan. For example, Final Fantasy XII sold over 2.4 million units in Japan in about four months. Even with the mixing of different companies, Kingdom Hearts has managed to be popular in both countries, although the original game sold twice as well in North America than Japan. As with any text, different cultures are read and interpreted in different ways. The thought of living on a set of islands sounds almost like paradise to American players, as we live on a large landmass where the majority of our states are landlocked. Japan is made up of multiple islands, so the idea of living on islands is normal and commonplace for them. Paradise is on the beach for Americans, but for the Japanese it becomes the same life they know, nothing special, giving understanding to the characters as they attempt to go out past the islands. The game begins on Destiny Islands, the home of the main character, Sora, and his friends Riku and Kiari as they make plans to build a raft and leave the island. In this context, Japanese players may relate more to the characters in their wishes to leave since paradise for them is not living on a faraway island.
Translation issues are prevalent in many games brought over from Japan. Kingdom Hearts’ use of the world from Disney’s Tarzan, where the character, Jane, is surprised that Sora speaks English (in the version released in English). Obviously for the Japanese version it would be odd for Jane to say that Sora speaks English as they are all speaking in Japanese. Originally, she says “you understand speech”, but to English speakers it’s an awkward sounding sentence, so a change to “you speak English” sounds more natural. One awkward phrase in the English version occurs when Donald says “Daisy, can you take care of–” and stops. People who play the English version wonder what Donald was saying, but this was a bit of a left-over from the way Japanese sentences are formed. Verbs come at the end of sentences, so the original phrase would be saying “Daisy, the Queen”, referring to taking care of the Queen. In Nana Sato-Rossbergs book,
- Translation and Translation Studies in the Japanese Context
, she states “Square Enix periodically releases so-called ‘International’ or, in the case of the latter series, ‘Final Mix’ editions that are usually exclusive to the Japanese market.” She refers to the special Final Mix edition of Kingdom Hearts that only recently came out in the US with the extra cut scenes. For the Final Mix released in Japan, they included the feature of the English voice tracks as well as three more difficulty settings. Granted, this Final Mix version of the game was a re-release and it was eventually released in the U.S., but this is still an issue with how the games are released differently. For the Final Mix of Kingdom Hearts II, the Japanese release included Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories, that was previously only on the Game Boy Advance in America. Compared to the package deal that Japan had released in 2007, America didn’t get Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories even as a standalone until late 2008. To put it simply, there are multiple differences between release dates aside from the time it takes to translate the spoken text and menu screens into English. Even though Disney has rights on the game, they are more of consultants with how the game is put together, although it does provide a safer guarantee that the games will be brought over to the US. Due to games and other sources of media, more and more is integrated into what we perceive as our culture. Culture always makes a major impact on how a story is told and received, so changes have to be made to maintain the integrity of the game.
“FINAL FANTASY XII IN STORES OCTOBER 31, 2006.” FINAL FANTASY XII IN STORES OCTOBER 31, 2006. June 28, 2006. Accessed January 28, 2015. http://www.square-enix.com/na/company/press/2006/0628/.
Square (2007-02-05). “Kingdom Hearts Series Ships over 10 Million Worldwide”. GameSpot. Accessed January 28, 2015.
Legends of Localization: Q&A: Does Jane Talk About English in Japanese Kingdom Hearts? (Legends of Localization) http://legendsoflocalization.com/qa-does-jane-talk-about-english-in-japanese-kingdom-hearts/
Legends of Localization: Q&A: Is this Kingdom Hearts Translation Completely Wrong? (Legends of Localization) http://legendsoflocalization.com/qa-is-this-kingdom-hearts-translation-completely-wrong/
Rossberg, Nana. Translation and Translation Studies in the Japanese Context. London: Continuum, 2012.
“Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix (PlayStation 2).” IGN. Accessed January 29, 2015. http://www.ign.com/games/kingdom-hearts/ps2-665093.
“Kingdom Hearts II Update For PS2 – IGN.” IGN. September 13, 2006. Accessed January 29, 2015. http://www.ign.com/articles/2006/09/13/kingdom-hearts-ii-update-for-ps2.
“SQUARE ENIX ANNOUNCES KINGDOM HEARTS RE:CHAIN OF MEMORIES FOR NORTH AMERICA.” SQUARE ENIX ANNOUNCES KINGDOM HEARTS RE:CHAIN OF MEMORIES FOR NORTH AMERICA. September 19, 2008. Accessed January 29, 2015. http://www.square-enix.com/na/company/press/2008/0919/.