Fire Emblem (GBA) Journal: #1

Just going to use this as a place to record my thoughts on games as I play them.

First of all, this games presentation is stunning! The music! The art! The animation! The writing! I'm blow away!

Especially by the writing/translation. Maybe it's because I've been playing "Secret of Mana" for the first time as well, and that games dialogue is about as stilted as it gets. Fire Emblem though... hats off to whatever soul translated this. This person obviously understands the art behind good translations: that you can't translate things literally or word for word.

That may seem painfully obvious to most of you out there- but take it from me, poor translations are the norm. Ever play a game with English dubbing and know that it's obviously wasn't originally written in English? Ever read dialogue in an old RPG and went "...huh?"

That's because languages are very fickle concepts. It's not all just vocabulary and grammar. Languages touch on the very core of our cultural norms and how we use words to evoke character traits and emotions.

Boring Japanese/English/Translation digression follows.

Take for example the Japanese phrase: 懐かしいです。(Read: Natsukashii desu)

Now, the literal translation for this would be "It's nostalgic". Japanese is a tricky language however. This sentence is incredibly vague and contextual. Now it is probably meant to evoke a certain emotion, sensation or character trait about the person saying it. This could be entirely lost by a literal translation.

Let's explore, shall we?

Now because Japanese tends to be a kind of vague language, an old surly warrior looking down on a battlefield and a blushing bride-to-be holding a childhood teddy bear could both say this phrase and have it fit perfectly. Every sentence is very contextual. English doesn't quite work that way though. Having both of those people simply say "It's nostalgic" sounds stilted and gives no insight into their character.

So here is where the work of a good translator and writer begins.

What is the importance of the phrase to each character? Why did the original writer use this choice of words? Essentially, what is the writer trying to convey with the original words and phrasing?

In my example, the dialogue is showing that the warrior is presumably recalling past battles and glory.

Now, I can promise this is not a literal translation of the original Japanese, but doesn't it convey Sain's character and the idea perfectly?

Perhaps his line could be translated to: "Ah, this takes me back," or "Just like the good 'ol days." Now both of these are a far cry from the literal translation yet convey the intended message much clearer. Languages are not about words. They are about communicating ideas, concepts and emotions. If you let yourself get tied down with words, your translation is going to come out unnatural, stilted and awkward.

This is an almost impossible thing to be good at if you are not a native speaker of the language who has been steeped in the culture's reference points since birth.

It is possible though, and whoever is responsible for translating Fire Emblem for the GBA definitely gets it. Kudos to you sir or madam. I fully intend on looking you up when the end credits roll.

Back to the game now.

Considering I loved me some advance wars it's really not a surprise that I'm enjoying Fire Emblem so much so far. The tactics gameplay is right up my alley, but the characters are all so much better defined here than in advance wars. Love the terror of not wanting a party member to die- forever. This encourages the perfectionist in me. I'm going to be aiming to clear the game without losing a soul. I presume it can be done, but we'll see.

Going to have to look up some OC Remixes of some of these tunes. They are already way to catchy. That's all for now. We'll see if these become regular occurrences.

3 Comments
4 Comments
Posted by Penelope

Just going to use this as a place to record my thoughts on games as I play them.

First of all, this games presentation is stunning! The music! The art! The animation! The writing! I'm blow away!

Especially by the writing/translation. Maybe it's because I've been playing "Secret of Mana" for the first time as well, and that games dialogue is about as stilted as it gets. Fire Emblem though... hats off to whatever soul translated this. This person obviously understands the art behind good translations: that you can't translate things literally or word for word.

That may seem painfully obvious to most of you out there- but take it from me, poor translations are the norm. Ever play a game with English dubbing and know that it's obviously wasn't originally written in English? Ever read dialogue in an old RPG and went "...huh?"

That's because languages are very fickle concepts. It's not all just vocabulary and grammar. Languages touch on the very core of our cultural norms and how we use words to evoke character traits and emotions.

Boring Japanese/English/Translation digression follows.

Take for example the Japanese phrase: 懐かしいです。(Read: Natsukashii desu)

Now, the literal translation for this would be "It's nostalgic". Japanese is a tricky language however. This sentence is incredibly vague and contextual. Now it is probably meant to evoke a certain emotion, sensation or character trait about the person saying it. This could be entirely lost by a literal translation.

Let's explore, shall we?

Now because Japanese tends to be a kind of vague language, an old surly warrior looking down on a battlefield and a blushing bride-to-be holding a childhood teddy bear could both say this phrase and have it fit perfectly. Every sentence is very contextual. English doesn't quite work that way though. Having both of those people simply say "It's nostalgic" sounds stilted and gives no insight into their character.

So here is where the work of a good translator and writer begins.

What is the importance of the phrase to each character? Why did the original writer use this choice of words? Essentially, what is the writer trying to convey with the original words and phrasing?

In my example, the dialogue is showing that the warrior is presumably recalling past battles and glory.

Now, I can promise this is not a literal translation of the original Japanese, but doesn't it convey Sain's character and the idea perfectly?

Perhaps his line could be translated to: "Ah, this takes me back," or "Just like the good 'ol days." Now both of these are a far cry from the literal translation yet convey the intended message much clearer. Languages are not about words. They are about communicating ideas, concepts and emotions. If you let yourself get tied down with words, your translation is going to come out unnatural, stilted and awkward.

This is an almost impossible thing to be good at if you are not a native speaker of the language who has been steeped in the culture's reference points since birth.

It is possible though, and whoever is responsible for translating Fire Emblem for the GBA definitely gets it. Kudos to you sir or madam. I fully intend on looking you up when the end credits roll.

Back to the game now.

Considering I loved me some advance wars it's really not a surprise that I'm enjoying Fire Emblem so much so far. The tactics gameplay is right up my alley, but the characters are all so much better defined here than in advance wars. Love the terror of not wanting a party member to die- forever. This encourages the perfectionist in me. I'm going to be aiming to clear the game without losing a soul. I presume it can be done, but we'll see.

Going to have to look up some OC Remixes of some of these tunes. They are already way to catchy. That's all for now. We'll see if these become regular occurrences.

Posted by Video_Game_King

Yea, Fire Emblem on the GBA is pretty awesome. It's not the best, though. Unfortunately, that one was never fully translated (although it's pretty close), so this is just as awesome. And as long as we're talking about awesome Fire Emblem stuff, Tear Ring Saga.

Posted by Penelope

@Video_Game_King said:

Yea, Fire Emblem on the GBA is pretty awesome. It's not the best, though. Unfortunately, that one was never fully translated (although it's pretty close), so this is just as awesome. And as long as we're talking about awesome Fire Emblem stuff, Tear Ring Saga.

Not familiar with Tear Ring Saga, although now I wish I was.

Posted by Video_Game_King

Oddly enough, I don't think I've met a single Fire Emblem fan who knows what the game is beyond "that one game that really rips off Fire Emblem." It's a shame, too, because it's a really good (and frigging weird, at least by Fire Emblem standards (how about multiplayer that doesn't suck....before Shadow Dragon was a thing)) game. And while I'm on the subject, I wish people would look at the sequel as more than "the sequel, which has hex or some crap." It's more like "the sequel with hex crap, but it's still a pretty blatant Fire Emblem knock-off."