Legends of Localization is a website created in 2012 by Clyde "Tomato" Mandelin, a translator with years of experience in the field. Among many other things, he was a professional subtitler for Funimation and the lead translator for the famous Mother 3 Fan Translation, effectively becoming a Face of the Band for the Mother fandom as a result.
Stemming from an older feature he had made comparing the two languages EarthBound was officially released in, the site (run primarily by him and his wife Heidi/"Poe", with help from several other people) aims to examine the process of translation and localization in video games, as well as covering a variety of topics regarding Japanese culture and its interactions with the West. As the site is intended to deliver a sufficient analysis on the various ins and outs of localization for laypeople, it doesn't wrap itself up too heavily in professional-level concepts or jargon, allowing it to be just as accessible to someone who knows nothing about localization as it is to someone who, like Mato, is already an expert on the subject. At the same time, it's not meant as a concrete textbook on localizing video games; rather, it seeks to explain why localization works the way it does and why it's never as simple as just running a script through Google Translate and sanding off the edges, showing not only how much work it takes to make a good localization, but also how easy it is to royally mess a localization up for the worse.
The site encompasses several features, including several short articles where readers submit questions about translations in specific games, a section devoted entirely to exceptionally poor translations, and a semi-regular series of livestreams (dubbed "Poemato CX", after Game Center CX). One of the most notable features are the comparisons, which focus on comparing a specific game's translation with its original version from start to finish (with occasional shifts to focus on related topics and/or alternative translations).
- EarthBound (completed; expanded in book form some years later)
- The Legend of Zelda (completed; expanded in book form)
- Super Mario Bros. (completed)
- "The Angry Video Game Nerd Topics" (ongoing; examines the following games covered in the series:)note
- Final Fantasy IV (ongoing; also occasionally compares the many other versions of the game)
- Final Fantasy VI (Both text and video comparisons)
- Mother 3 (ongoing; unique in that it compares the original Japanese version to the Fan Translation that Mato himself spearheaded, allowing for further insight into the translation process)
In addition, Mato has also written several Legends of Localization books (available for purchase at Fangamer):
- Legends of Localization Book 1: The Legend of Zelda: An expanded version of the previously-mentioned full-scale comparison.
- Legends of Localization Book 2: EarthBound: An expanded version of the previously-mentioned full-scale comparison.
- This be book bad translation, video games!: A short book chronicling various bad translations in video games.
- I'm Stuck in a Video Game: A translation of a children's book (originally written by Game Center CX producer & narrator Tsuyoshi Kan and illustrated by Nina Matsumoto) concerning a young girl getting sucked inside her favorite video game, where she must conquer all the levels and beat the end boss in order to escape. It also includes a post-script detailing the book's creation and localization (including an annotated look at the original Japanese version).
- press start to translate: This is what happens when you let a computer translate a video game?: Another shorter book detailing Funky Fantasy IV, a Game Mod Mato made that replaces the original game's script with one that was Google Translated from the original Japanese. The end result is, of course, a Translation Train Wreck, and Mato elaborates on the reasoning behind many of the changes.
- C'mon Nintendo, Give Us Mother 3 (upcoming): A history of the demand for a localization of MOTHER 3 (which, as of present, has not come to pass).
- Legends of Localization Book 3: Super Mario Bros. (upcoming): An expanded version of the previously-mentioned full-scale comparison. Unlike the previous two installments, however, this book focuses more on the global impact of the franchise (as the game itself is largely unchanged in localization, barring Dub Name Changes).
Finally, there is also a "dev blog" where Poe and Mato post small updates and tidbits about the site, their projects, and odd translations they come across.
This website provides examples of:
- Alt Text: Up until posts from around 2016, all the images on the site had these. Among the stranger ones include one page from the Final Fantasy IV comparison where the bulk of it is comprised of local business listings, as well as the page comparing the endings in both versions of EarthBound telling a completely unrelated story in first person.
- Americans Hate Tingle: This article discusses how Japan regards Shadowgate's Famicom version as a notoriously terrible game. Mato investigates said version and discovers why - the translation strips the original script of much of the atmosphere that made the game so beloved, and adds in a number of narmy comments (not helped by a shift to first person narrative).
- Backstory Horror: Mato's remarks on the manual of Super Mario Bros. provide the page quote."I remember being dumbfounded when I read the instruction booklet as a kid, and even now I'm still like, 'What?!' whenever I stop to think that all the bricks and rocks in the game are actually the citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom! Makes me want to never break any of the bricks again "
- "Blind Idiot" Translation:
- Unsurprisingly, the site talks about too many of these to list. It tends to examine exactly why things got so mangled.
- On occasion, it's actually averted - oftentimes when something that is assumed to be a mistranslation is actually in the original Japanese. Among these include the townsfolk from Castlevania II: Simon's Quest actually mentioning a "graveyard duck" and the infamous "I wanna be a blitzball when I grow up!" line from Final Fantasy X being a completely accurate translation.
- Bowdlerize: Commonly brought up in regards to older translations covering questionable material. The Final Fantasy IV comparison, for example, shows both all references to prayer getting changed into "wishing", as well as a woman who strips before dancing having the former part removed.
- Broken Base:
- Illustrated in this article covering Cloud getting into Super Smash Bros. The reactions shown are remarkably polarized between people who are excited and people who dislike how much of an outsider he is.
- Likewise, this article concerning Japanese reactions to the Mario movie range from genuine fondness to disdain.
- Cowboy BeBop at His Computer: Referenced in the site's about page, accompanied by an example (the LA Times reporting on the debut of "Nintendo's white PlayStation 4")note :"You know how the news media gets things hilariously wrong whenever they talk about video games, science, or the Internet? Well, the same thing happens when they talk about translation too."
- Cultural Translation: Another frequent topic of discussion. Interestingly, this article shows the perils of not doing this - Super Chick Sisters has Bowser quoting a line from the prologue of Super Mario RPG,note but the game's Japanese translation literally translates both his name and the line, ignoring the fact that Bowser is called "Koopa" in Japan and that the line itself is slightly different in the Japanese version of Super Mario RPG.note
- Dub Name Change: Among many other examples, two separate articles reflect how the Sonic the Hedgehog series handles the "Dr. Robotnik/Eggman" snafu - this one shows that a conversation between Sonic and Eggman early in Sonic Adventure was rewritten from its original Japanese to incorporate an explanation for the change to "Eggman"note , and this one shows that Sonic Generations (which was written in English first) conversely had a reference to the Robotnik name taken out of the Japanese version.
- Funny Background Event: Of a sort. In this article, covering the Japanese reaction to the CD-i Zelda trilogy, there's a screencap◊ of a Nico Nico Douga fansub of The Angry Video Game Nerd episode covering it. It's not called out by Mato,note but among the many Japanese comments filling the screen is a single English comment:"As an American, I would like to apologize."
- Germans Love David Hasselhoff:
- A chunk of The Angry Video Game Nerd articles are dedicated to showing the reactions of his sizeable Japanese fanbase to his videos and the games he covers.
- One article concerning the Japanese reaction to Little Mac being revealed as a fighter in Super Smash Bros. 4 inverts this, and then downplays it - the average reaction in the games' native Japan was indifferent to negative, with several comments indicating the franchise's obscurity in Japan and a few specifically remarking that the Western crowd might be more excited.
- Similarly, two comments on the inclusion of Cloud as DLC for the same game believe that his inclusion was due to Final Fantasy VII being popular in the West.
- Intentional Engrish for Funny: This be book bad translation, video games!, which is only natural for a book focusing on "Blind Idiot" Translations. (In fact, it was the result of using Google Translate on what was presumably a properly-written title.)
- Japanese Ranguage: This article explains why this is a common translation mistake, notably mentioning that Japanese people stereotype English speakers as not being able to pronounce their L/R sounds correctly. (It also dives into similar issues with the language, such as B/V and "uh"/"ah" sound confusion & the lack of "ar"/"er"/"or" sounds.)
- Mood Whiplash: Funky Fantasy IV's livestream, which is normally light-hearted, has one rather stark moment after Rosa is kidnapped in Fabul where the king voices his concern that the Big Bad might rape her. Mato is left completely speechless by this and afterwards remarks that, as bowdlerized as the original SNES translation was, this was definitely not in the original Japanese script.
- Precision F-Strike: Mato doesn't generally use particularly harsh language on his own, but one bit of Alt Text in the first page of the FFIV comparison (specifically, on the first image from the game's DS remake) has this:"GOD DAMN HOW MANY VERSIONS OF THIS GAME ARE THERE"
- Questioning Title?: Technically the subtitle, but press start to translate: This is what happens when you let a machine translate a video game? has one. It was actually the result of a typo that was left in.
- Shout-Out: Conversed about in several articles.
- Some of them specifically touch on the controversy arising from less faithful translations adding in meme references (or even more specifically, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes's American release adding a reference to the doge meme). In another article, Mato points out that the practice isn't unique to Nintendo of America, showing how the Japanese version of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past dubs one item the "MC Hammer" (which the English version changed to the "Magic Hammer").
- Other articles cover references that are present in the Japanese version of the game, but are then taken up a notch in localization. Examples include Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance escalating a reference to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Yakuza 0 taking the Michael Jackson expy Miracle Johnson and adding several references to the former's songs' titles into the latter's dialogue.
- Spice Up the Subtitles: This page explains some reasons why this happens— generally speaking, Japanese rudeness levels are much more complicated than English swear words, so a translator has to ascertain the context and then go with an appropriate level of language. The trope is what happens when translators (usually inexperienced ones) get excessively intense.
- The Theme Park Version: Some of the Japanese comments on Mario Is Missing! criticize the game's usage of this trope:"For some reason theres a Tokyo stage but with a Buddha statue and stuff that isnt even actually in Tokyo"
"The music in the Tokyo stage goes heavy with the 'Westerners view of Chinese and Japanese stuff'"
"The Japan stage is filled with 'Toyota' signs written in green (sweatdrop)"
- Values Dissonance: Heavily examined in the site's article on the Japanese anti-LGBT+ slur "okama," which depending on the context can refer to gay men, trans women, crossdressing men, and even just overly-effeminate men. The article extensively details how much more commonplace the term has been compared to its western counterparts up until the late 2010's, and how its appearance in games has resulted in translators having to go out of their way to come up with replacements that'll be acceptable to a western audience.
- Woolseyism: Covered a few times, most notably in various Final Fantasy IV translations and this page (where a joke alluding to sexual activity in Yakuza 0 is altered to work better in English).