Changed in Translation; Four Nintendo Games Radically Changed in Localisation
Many times when a game is being localised, various things are changed. The script is rewritten to make it understandable for a native audience (like with Fawful’s speech patterns in every Mario and Luigi game in history), bugs are fixed, unacceptable things are removed to avoid raising the age rating and quite a few other such aspects are altered.
Usually these don’t affect how the game plays or how the game’s concept works. But sometimes we get games that are massively changed in localisation, where huge chunks of the core design are radically altered and things edited to provide a very different experience to people in different countries. And that’s what this list is about, games which were radically changed in localisation. First though, a note:
No, I’m not listing the obvious games here. Everyone who knows anything about video games knows that Super Mario Bros 2 was technically a sprite edit of a Japanese game called Doki Doki Panic, and a significant other percentage know that Tetris Attack, Pokemon Puzzle League and numerous other games were actually attempts to rebrand Panel de Pon for a Western audience. But those are too obvious for this list.
So without further adeiu, here’s the list of Nintendo games that were radically changed during localisation.
1. Wario Blast become a crossover
If you were playing games back when the Game Boy was around, you may know of an obscure crossover game called Wario Blast Featuring Bomberman. Put simply, it was a Bomberman game where Wario was a playable character.
Above: Nintendo’s most bizarre and unknown crossover.
But did you know it’s not a crossover in Japan and the crossover stuff was added when it was released elsewhere? Yes, in Japan it was merely called Bomberman GB and didn’t feature Wario in any way, and the translation that added in the crossover elements actually changed quite a few major parts of the game in the process.
For one thing, there was originally a story sequence at the start of the game (that plays if you wait a few seconds on the title screen). This was removed entirely in Wario Blast.
There were also various sprite changes, even to the point the game’s border when played on the Super Game Boy changed. It really was one of the biggest changes made to a Nintendo game when localising it, to the point you could almost say it was like the Game Boy’s equivalent of Doki Doki Panic and its rebranding into Super Mario Bros 2.
2. Luigi’s Mansion had an overhauled Hidden Mansion
In the US and Japanese versions, the Hidden Mansion was a bit of a joke as a bonus for beating the game, with the only real differences being that the rooms were a tiny bit darker and a few minor other things were edited. In the European game though it was a whole different story.
No, now it was basically Luigi’s Mansion Master Quest. The whole mansion had a mirrored layout, the bosses had new attacks and strategies and many more difficult enemies were found in every room.
Above: Luigi even rides on the Poltergust as he takes down Boolossus!
But oh wait there’s more. Now you HAD to beat the Hidden Mansion for an A grade, making the whole thing no longer optional (they raised the requirements so there wasn’t enough money in the normal mansion to let you qualify). That must have been annoying for anyone trying to use a strategy guide, since almost all of those were written by someone who’s played either the US or Japanese version where the Hidden Mansion wasn’t as significantly changed.
For being the only Nintendo game to add a Master Quest mode in only a couple of regions, Luigi’s Mansion takes the second spot on the list.
3. Mario and Luigi was increased in difficulty
Generally, video game difficulty is one of those that things that’s quite commonly changed when a game is translated and released in different regions. Some titles like Mega Man 2 make it lower by adding a normal mode, some make it extremely difficult and sort of gimmicky like the aforementioned Hidden Mansion from the PAL version of Luigi’s Mansion.
But the Mario and Luigi series is something else entirely. Not only are the Japanese versions of the games very different, but the sheer amount of things that were changed to make the US versions more difficult is almost astounding. Here’s some differences in the difficulty level between each region’s versions of Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga and Mario and Luigi Partners in Time…
Things Changed in the Japanese Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga:
They actually give a hint in the intro to tell you when you can move, with a small D Pad icon popping up when Toad is controllable:
As well as instructions on how to choose what stat you want to upgrade upon level up. Did Nintendo really think their Japanese players were this darn stupid they needed to know how to move a cursor down a list of options?
And most interestingly, they added heart blocks to various places. What did these do? Heal Mario and Luigi entirely for free, with the blocks being usable an unlimited amount of times.
The stat changes were most interesting of all though. The gear was generally more effective in the Japanese version (with most stats being at least 2 points higher), but everything was ridiculously expensive to compensate. For example, just an ordinary pair of jeans in the Japanese game cost over TWO THOUSAND coins, where the equivalent cost in the US and Europe was just 200.
This was then completely flipped around in Partners in Time, where most items were considerably cheaper in the Japanese version. Guess AlphaDream realised players didn’t want to have to grind for hours on end to buy basic necessities.
Finally though, the bosses are much more reasonable in the Japanese version, to the point they have literally half the HP. Here are some comparisons:
[table id=13 /]
There are minor exceptions to this (like the Japanese version giving bosses automatic counter attacks that happen regardless of turn order and one or two bosses being harder), but generally the Japanese versions were way, way easier and less time consuming than the English ones.
Makes you feel kind of cheated, doesn’t it? All those hours spent on that final boss, and there people in Japan were being able to beat it in minutes thanks to a much lower amount of health!
4. We actually got the Pokemon Gen 1 remakes/sequels
Now this entry on the list is slightly confusing. Remember how the first two Pokemon games in Japan were called Pokemon Red and Green? Well in actual fact, we technically didn’t get those titles when we got Pokemon Red and Blue.
No, what we actually got was a strange merge of Pokemon Red and Green with their third version Pokemon Blue. Pokemon Blue (the Japanese one) was notable because it fixed various glitches, updated the graphics and changed quite a few things in game like traded Pokemon and levels and whatever else.
Above: Japanese Mew sprite and English Mew sprite.
Above: The first three are from Red and Green, last from Red and Blue. God these sprites looked weird.
It also explains some of those old urban legends about Pokegods and stuff, the text was somewhat screwed up. Or to be accurate, we had the script of Pokemon Blue but the in game trades from Pokemon Red and Green. That Raichu that went and evolved? It was only a Raichu in Red and Green, in Blue you were trading a Kadabra for a Graveller (which does evolve once you trade it).
Above: This sentence must have confused kids for years.
Basically, Pokemon Blue provided the engine, graphics and script and Pokemon Red and Green provided the list of Pokemon you could encounter and the version exclusives there were, causing all those weird differences and ‘mistakes’.
This was also the case with Pokemon Stadium. This time, we actually got the game known in Japan as Pokemon Stadium 2, since the original one was a really, really lacking game with no mini games, only about half the Pokemon avilable and a severe lack of features. Nintendo simply thought it was pointless to release such a basic game when a much better sequel was readily available and skipped it altogether.
Above: The pointless and lazily designed Pokemon Stadium game we never got.
Honestly, they were right. Releasing a Pokemon Stadium game where only half the Pokemon in the series could actually be used to battle? Releasing it without even a level 100 Prime Cup or many options whatsoever? That’s almost insulting. In fact, it was probably one of the laziest and most uninspired Nintendo titles in history, a lazy attempt to cash in on a craze knowing full well a proper game would be coming just months later. Nintendo of America and Nintendo of Europe made the right decision by not localising it.
So yes, the Pokemon games we got were rather different from the ones available in Japan. So much so the localisations might as well have been new games.
Well, that’s the full list, with four games that were radically changed during localisation in ways that few people would have suspected. Guess Super Mario Bros 2 and Tetris Attack weren’t the only Nintendo games they retooled entirely when they were localising them…