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Video Game / Zero Wing

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Zero Wing is an arcade shoot 'em up released in 1989 by Toaplan. The arcade version was published in Japan by Namco (before it merged into Bandai Namco Entertainment in 2006) and in North America by Williams Electronics.

The player controls "ZIG", a space fighter that can switch weapons by picking up power-ups. In addition, ZIG can utilize its "Seizer Beam", which catches enemies to hold them in front of ZIG a la R-Type or launch them as a projectile.

However, people don't remember Zero Wing for the gameplay, which is fairly simple and mundane for the genre. This game is best known for the Translation Train Wreck that is its opening cutscene:

In case you need proper context: At the dawn of the 22nd century, the Galactic Federation has its eyes set on taking over the Andromeda Galaxy, and recruits the Space Pirates CATS for assistance. The conquest goes as planned...until the Federation discovers the hard way that letting amoral space pirates do the work with Andromedan technology wasn't a brilliant idea. CATS backstabbed the Federation by taking over their bases, and their ambassador helpfully informs them through a video transmission that they detonated explosives on one of the Federation's major military vessels.

Said vessel is the ship that had just launched all its ZIG units—including yours. With your base ship destroyed, and armed only with a Tractor Beam and whatever weapons the ZIG can pick up on the field, you must take the fight to CATS and punish them for their treachery.

The poor translations gave way to Memetic Mutation due to how funny they are, most notably "All Your Base Are Belong To Us" quote, which was supposed to mean "All of your bases are now under our control." Some instances of Intentional Engrish for Funny will follow the form used in this game.

On this wiki, Zero Wing is also notable for being the Trope Namer for fivenote  separate tropes (denoted in bold in the above excerpt).

The game also received a port for the PC Engine CD-ROM2 in Japan. It features a different plot told through pre-level cutscenes and a remixed soundtrack.

The Sega Genesis version was made available on the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack's Sega Genesis library on June 30 or July 1, 2022, depending on region; the North American version of the app features the European version of the game. A Steam port was released on February 14, 2023 by Bitwave Games, with the description making good note of the game's infamous status. Another set of ports was released on July 20, 2023 on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch as part of the Zero Fire Compilation Re-release with Hellfire, as part of the M2 ShotTriggers and Toaplan Arcade Garage lines; the arcade versions of Zero Wing (both the 1-player version with checkpoints and the 2-player version without) are included in the base digital game, while the Japanese and European Mega Drive versions and the PC Engine CD-ROM2 version can be purchased as part of the physical edition or as add-on DLC for the digital version.

Not to be confused with the Wing Zero or Giga Wing.

Zero Wing provides examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: The nameless pilot Player Character in command of the sole surviving Zig.
  • Affably Evil: Before explaining that all their base are belong to him, CATS greets the heroes by politely shouting "How are you gentlemen!!". He also urges them to treasure what little time they have left to live, though the trainwreck of the translation mangles it to the point where it's hard to understand.
  • All There in the Manual: The instruction book has some more information on the storyline.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Trope Namer. The ship is informed that their headquarters has been invaded.
  • Anti Poop-Socking: Apparently, some of the extra endings in the Japanese Sega Megadrive version that were cut from the European English version are this, with text of CATS begging you to stop and go to sleep or to just stop playing.
  • Ascended Meme:
    • The intro for the Steam Zero Wing Arcade port fixes most of the rocky translation of the original. That said, it still acknowledges how lovably bad it used to be:
      • A Funny Background Event reads "TRANSLATION ERROR!".
      • While the captain's first line is now properly tensed, the text scroll pauses so it can still say "What happen" for a brief moment.
      • Nearly all of CATS' dialogue is unchanged, adding only minor punctuation changesnote  and the addition of a line that was absent from the original translation, "Thank you for your cooperation."
      • The captain's final line is "For Great Justice", spoken immediately after the proper Japanese translation of the corresponding line.
    • In the Compilation Re-release Zero Fire, when going from the title screen to choosing Zero Wing to play and highlighting the cursor over the European Mega Drive version, the description references the "All your base..." line, including a screenshot of it as well. The Direct Menu, which lists all titles available for play, uniquely has the CATS ambassador as the graphic for the European MD version, while the other versions of the game are represented by sprites of the ZIG fighter instead.
  • "Ass" in Ambassador: The PC-Engine version shows that CATS is (or has become) an empire, rather than being just Space Pirates, and the man with a half-metal head merely represents it.
  • Asteroid Thicket: Subverted in one stage, where the asteroid field is just part of the background and couldn't harm you in any way.
  • Attack Drone: The Zig is constantly fighting against them.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The intro in the Steam port starts off looking like it'll have the same Engrish-laden script as the infamous Genesis port, with the "In A.D. 2101" and "War was beginning." lines intact. Once it gets to the captain saying "What happen", however, the line is turned into the grammatically correct "What happened?" half a second later and the rest of the dialog (Except for "All your base are belong to us") is also similarly fixed.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: The PC-Engine version has the lead bad guy setting up the bomb on himself.
  • Big Bad: The ambassador of CATS is the one who led the conquering of the heroes' bases, sparking their mission to retake them.
  • Big "WHAT?!": What you say!!
  • Bridge Bunnies: Classic famous is operator signal get who main screen turn on. Version PC-Engine CD another bridge officer is purple-hair chick.
  • The Captain: He gave the famous order, "Take off every Zig!" and showed his great justice before his untimely death.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Three weapon Power Ups are colored as followed:
  • Cool Starship: The 'Zig', which can move, and trap minor enemies for later use.
  • Cyborg: CATS, who has a cybernetic metal plate as the right half of his face.
  • Damsel in Distress: The PC-Engine version's romance subplot is based around the purple-haired princess being held captive by the head of CATS.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: You simply start at the last checkpoint if you lose a life.
  • Defiant to the End: The captain of the doomed ship uses his last moments to launch all his Zig fighters and send them against CATS.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Other than the CATS representative and the Zig pilot, everyone you see in the initial cutscene dies moments later.
  • The Dragon: The PC-Engine version shows that the blond ambassador has a red-headed female underling, who is the Final Boss.
  • Dual Boss: The Gaias at the end of the Regulus base (st. 2; rendered as "Legrous" in all versions).
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole:
    • Mangled as it may be, the English translation preserves most of the key details of the storyline, with one exception: "All your base are belong to us" was originally "Thanks to the Federation's cooperation, we have taken all of your bases," which gives the important context that CATS used to work for the Federation before betraying them, and taunting them with "Thank you for your cooperation." before telling them they have no chance to survive. The 2023 Steam version reinserts the second line, but the extent of the cooperation isn't fully made clear. (The first line was likely left unchanged because of how iconic the line is.)
    • The Steam intro adds a Funny Background Event where a screen behind the captain reads "TRANSLATION ERROR!", referencing what the Genesis intro was infamous for among English speakers. This is still retained in the Japanese version, even though it can't be infamous for translation errors in the language the script was originally written in.
  • Everybody Calls Him "Barkeep": CAPTAIN, OPERATOR, and MECHANIC.
  • Evil Gloating: Ha Ha Ha Ha....
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: How the Galactic Federation thought asking Space Pirates to help in conquest wouldn't result in them turning on them is anyone's guess.
  • Evil Redhead: In the PC-Engine version, The Dragon is a red-headed woman.
  • Evolving Attack: Each weapon gets stronger if you collect the same colored power-up as your ship, otherwise it just changes the weapon to the same level but of a different kind. At most you can only reach 3 levels of your weapon and final upgrade requires to find a rare bomb-carrying supply ship, break it open, take the bomb into the tractor beam and hold it there until you find a second bomb-carrying ship and break it open too. As the bomb will explode after taking enough hits and there are very few bomb-carrying supply ships, this is not easy at all. In addition to that, it seems that it's not possible in the PC-Engine CD version of the game.
  • Excuse Plot: CATS destroyed your ship and has taken over your bases in order to take the Galactic Federation's place as rulers of the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxy. Get even with them.
  • Fighter-Launching Sequence: This is declared with the line "Take Off Every Zig". All ships in the intro are caught in an explosion, but only one escapes the ship.
  • Flash of Pain: Bosses will flash visibly once you damaged their weak spots.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: The Captain launches the ZIG fighters as his final order, knowing he's about to die along with everyone else remaining on the ship.
  • For Great Justice: Trope Namer. This is declared as soon as the Zigs are taking off.
  • Gainax Ending: The first ending for the Sega Genesis version shows a group of Toaplan's mascot Pipiru dancing around the screen. The second ending is A Winner Is You illustration and the third appears to be a Sequel Hook and closes with a giant Pipiru winking at the player. The Japanese release, however, follows this with a series of 32 endings featuring CATS saying something amusing to the player- the last one has him tell the player a cheat code.
  • Gratuitous English: The PC-Engine version of the Zig launch sequence has people shouting "All green!", "Scramble!", and "Okay!"
  • Hand Wave: The 2023 Steam and GOG version redoes the English intro cutscene, fixing all grammatical mistakes BUT the infamous "All your base are belong to us." line. Shortly before the dialoge with CATS, a screen is shown flashing the message "Translation error!" multiple times.
  • Homage: Go check out our reference page.
  • Homing Projectile: The green shots.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: In the Japanese version, the 19th ending has the Big Bad declare that he's your mother. Don't bother asking how that's supposed to work.
  • Multiple Endings: The Japanese Sega Genesis version has a whopping 32 endings after the first three. They're comical scenes featuring CATS, whose speech patterns are all over the place and he keeps making references to comedy routines or telling the player to stop bothering him. This is capped with a secret code only found 20 years after the game's release that had to be deciphered.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The Windows PC version by Bitwave features the iconic "All your base are belong to us" cutscene as the core of its marketing. However, this version of the game didn't have the cutscene at launch; it's a port of the arcade version, while the cutscenes were Version-Exclusive Content for the Genesis version and emulations thereof (such as the one on Nintendo Switch Online). It turned out that the developers had planned on including a redone version of the cutscene but were forced to leave it out at launch, as they added it in a patch soon after.
  • The Only One: Your Zig is the only one to escape the station after the "Take Off Every Zig!" sequence.
  • Shout-Out: The joke endings in the Japanese version involve several references to comedy routines and CATS attempting to sing the opening theme of the Astro Boy anime.
  • Sole Survivor: Your Zig is the only carrier fighter that clearly survives during the famous opening, sadly.
  • Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb: Trope Namer. A bomb is set on a fleet ship, and the fighters have barely enough time to get ready for battle before it blows.
  • Space Navy: CATS is in command of one, and there are also Zig houses, which only Zig can survive.
  • Space Opera: The backstory of the game involves an interstellar war.
  • Space Pirates: CATS in the arcade and Mega Drive versions. It's graduated to The Empire in the PC-Engine CD iteration.
  • Spread Shot: Red shots cover the screen with this.
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: The redone translation for the 2023 Steam port leaves CATS' dialogue in broken English while everyone else speaks normally. This, combined with the Funny Background Event of the "Translation Error!" screen suggests that CATS's bombing messed up the translation systems of the very ship he's taunting. This also turns the Captain's "What are you saying?!" into Lampshade Hanging.
  • This Cannot Be!: In the original Japanese, the captain says this, as opposed to the Engrish "What you say!!"
  • Tractor Beam: This was the game's main innovation. The Zig can project a short-ranged beam that traps minor enemies, which can later be flung at other enemies. You can only trap one enemy at a time, though, and you can't have both a captured enemy and a bomb. This can also be used as a shield to protect your ship, but only from the front and only for one shot.
  • Translation Train Wreck: Oh, so much. The game is famous for this.
  • War Was Beginning: Trope Namer, as the backstory involves this.
  • A Winner Is You: Less notorious than the introductory cutscene, but still part of the "Blind Idiot" Translation:
    A.D. 2111
    All bases of CATS were destroyed.
    It seems to be peaceful.
    But it is incorrect.
    CATS is still alive.
    ZIG-01 must fight with CATS again.
    And down with them completely! Good luck.
  • Wolfpack Boss: The three giant Gaskins at the end of the Barricade Zone (st. 6).
  • Womb Level: Bellon (st. 7) is full of what appears to be malevolent plant-animal-hybrid life, xenomorph-headed Hermits, and far too many eyes in the background. The Jeim mid-boss even has one great eye whose pupil occasionally becomes serpentine, and the boss, Eve, is some kind of Eldritch Abomination with a tail that keeps stabbing at you.
  • "You!" Exclamation: "It's you!"
  • You Have No Chance to Survive: Trope Namer. The enemy fleet leader says this after he's sure the humans have lost the war.


Video Example(s):


All Your Base Are Belong To Us

The infamous opening from Zero Wing, which became a meme in early 2000s due to the poor english translation that was considered to be so bad it's good.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / GoodBadTranslation

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