Posted on November 18 2017 by Rod Lloyd
Discussion about the lore and story of the Zelda series is one of the most important elements of our community, as nearly every detail of every game has sparked analysis, debate, and theories. Generally, we fans take the plot, dialogue, and details of each title at face value, accepting what is presented to us in our respective region’s version of that title. This practice doesn’t lead to many problems, but every so often, we find certain inconsistencies among the different translations and localizations of a game. How much do these inconsistencies and differences matter to the overall lore of the series? That’s what we aim to find out.
There will always be minor changes made to a game’s script when localized from region to region, as a pure one-to-one translation of any work of fiction is impossible to achieve. The subtle nuances of one language won’t be reflected in another, but a localization team — especially a good one — can attempt to preserve the primary meaning of a work and present it in such a way such that those in a new region can understand. We’ve see this in the Zelda series from the beginning, as the original Japanese scripts are localized for English speakers. But as commonplace and necessary as this localization process is, we’ve noticed a few issues regarding the conveyance of lore and backstory within the Zelda series.
Breath of the Wild has provided a few recent examples, especially as fans try to determine the game’s placement in the official timeline. One particular moment of translation dissonance comes during the final battle with Calamity Ganon. In the English version, Princess Zelda exclaims that Ganon has “given up on reincarnation and assumed his pure enraged form,” leading many theorists to perceive this dialogue as proof of a certain timeline placement or a layer of Ganon’s character. However, the original Japanese text has been more directly translated as: “This form was born from his obsessive refusal to give up on revival…” The two statements seem to convey two entirely different things, meaning that a player can draw drastically different conclusions depending on the version they’re playing.
This is just one example of localization affecting our understanding of Zelda‘s story and characters, as localizers frequently embellish dialogue and in-game text to fit the target audience. But how much of this should we consider when we discuss, debate, and make conclusions about Zelda lore? Should we always consider the original Japanese text above that of all other versions? Is it okay for the subject of lore to be different from region to region? Does localization matter at all when we discuss our ideas and theories?
Let us know what you think in the comments below, and join the Daily Debate!