SNK has a long and time-honoured tradition of "creative" translations and this is primarily concerned with their fighting games that were released during the nineties.
Often these translations would reference American pop-culture, contain strange slang and sound completely unlike the line that was in the original.
Inspired by the site, Mad SNK Project, which chronicles the special brand of game localisation SNK had with rendering their games into English, I thought I might have a go at this.
We will taking a look at a couple of characters from the game Samurai Spirits (released in the west as Samurai Shodown [yes, Shodown]), how their lines are in the original first game, and how the staff at SNK localised these characters' specific way of talking.
A haiku-composing fencer from (...)
His victory lines are as follows:
.... O, onaji kao.... Yu, yurusen!
"...The same f-face... U-Unpardonable...!"
SNK: HEY! THAT'S MY FACE. YOU'RE MEAT, BEANHEAD
Thus Ukyou goes from speaking rather reticently and expressing indignation to sounding like an egocentric brat from a 90's-tastic family comedy.
Otherwise, Ukyou generally just treats the opponent in his generic victory quotes with ellipses which SNK "renders" (read: adds lines where there is mostly stoic silence) with:
CLEAR YOUR THOUGHTS AND MAYBE YOU WILL WIN. NOT!
STOP SHAKING! ONE SLASH AND IT'S ALL OVER!
Again, turning him into some manner of puerile blabbermouth, whilst in the original Ukyou rarely speaks, only when the moment requires it.
His other quotes are as follows:
げんげつに ぬれる我が骸も 美かんなり 右京
Gengetsu ni nureru waga mukuro mo bi kan nari
"By the crescent moon, my own soaked corpse, becomes beautiful"
SNK: EVEV (sic) IF YOU IMITATE ME, YOU STILL CAN'T GET A DATE!
Alas, I can very much say that the rest of his lines go from similar philosophical musings to blokish Don Juan with more in common with the gnarly dudes of some cheesy 90s comedy than that of wandering swordsmen of the Kurosawa films.
The kabuki actor and theatrical spear-fighter brandishes in the Japanese version archaic phrases that peppers his Hiroshima dialect, giving it a flair of the dancing opera of Japan. The English version however, decides to turn him into a deranged Disco dancer:
His victory quote prior to the ending gives us ample proof:
Yahari, washi no kono mai koso ga honmono no kabuki de atta you ja no!
"Ne'ertheless! This, my very dance, is the genuine article of Kabuki, sirrah!"
SNK: THIS IS HOW A REAL KABUKI DANCES! WOOGIE WOOGIE WEE!
"Sirrah" was added at the end to simulate the feel of the ja no that otherwise is an assertive emphatic particle in the older Hiroshima dialect, and generally also used as the generic geriatric sociolect as well as standard informal speech of film-samurai.
"Woogie woogie wee", indeed.
The perhaps most famous of Japanese samurai, Hattori Hanzou Masanari, to be portrayed as a ninja on film, appears here in his iconic jet-black garb and shinobi-armour. His speech is laden with Classical Japanese and often sombre reflections. The English localisation tends to not all too much spoil his stoic attitude, but a few lines such as this one gives him a sarcastic trait.
Waga isshou wa, naku roji no gotoku saredo waga tamashii wa manryou no gotoku
"My entire life is like unto the barren open earth, be that as it may, my soul is akin to coralberry."
SNK: MY LIFE IS A DESERT, MY SOLE (sic), A VOID. HAPPY THOUGHT. HUH?
Thus in a poetic mode of contrast Hanzou reflects the life of a lone ninja and in the English localisation it appears that he is making fun of himself.
Last, but not least, the troglodyte fusion of Gollum and Freddy Krueger, Shiranui Gen'an, whose weapon of choice is a massive gauntlet with great claws. His way of talking is essentially taking the traits of the generic geriatric sociolect and making it repulsive, from the victory quote prior to his ending:
Ke ke ke ke ke.... Dou da ke, nushi mo washi to madou e ochite min ke?
"Bleh-he-he-he! What say ye? Do ye too want to fall upon the path of wickedness? Bleh?"
SNK: HEH, HEH, HEH. COME BLACK MAGIC WALK WITH ME.)
Two things of note, his usage of "ke" is sounds akin creepy laughter and the Japanese onomatopoeia "ge" (げ, "blech, yuck, ack; expression of disgust"), which he uses as laughter, and as an emphatic particle, and his pronouns washi and nushi come off as an Gollum-esque creature, slithering and hiding away.
The English localisation makes it sound as if Gen'an is asking the foe to join in a strange manner of dance.
Thus, we see SNK's brand of weird localisation is as strong as ever. I will perhaps cover more of their quotes in the future.