Playing Final Fantasy X… in Italian! – Part 1

Recently, I changed my PS3’s display language to Italian, just for practice, as I rarely get opportunities to use the language anymore. When I loaded my copy of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster, I discovered that the game’s text had changed to Italian as well! The dubbing was the same as in the English version, though. I decided to take advantage of this is as a learning experience. Since I’m playing this game for the umpteenth time, I know the script and the events of the game almost verbatim (I exaggerate, but I know the game very well). So far, I’m almost halfway through the game (just started the Thunder Plains, for those of you who are familiar with the game).

I’ve taken great care to note translations of text and character lines, comparing them with the original text (in English), as much as I can remember, and when there are cutscenes, the English dialogue helps me contextualize the words used in the text. I’m not sure whether the Italian text has been translated from English or from the original Japanese. Despite my experiences with Italian, many lines in the game are surprisingly concise, which is not what I expect it to do. Here, I’m going to note some interesting things I’ve found about the game in Italian. (I think it goes without saying, but SPOILERS AHEAD if you’re planning on playing the game; I’m trying as best as I can to not reveal too much about the story.)

  1. Much of the narration, as well as character’s lines in real time, are written in a somewhat literary manner, making extensive use of the passato remoto, a simple (as opposed to compound) form of the past tense, also known as the preterite. 

The use of this tense is to be expected in narration, as many of the events up until a certain point are told in retrospect, as a story, to the player. However, I was struck more by its use in the lines of characters in conversation, rather than through narration. For those of you unfamiliar with the Italian language, the passato remoto is an archaic tense, whose use is restricted almost entirely to literary and legal language. Some parts of Southern Italy use it as well. In modern Italian, the passato prossimo, also known as the present perfect, takes the passato remoto’s place. Currently, I’m guessing that the translators were going for an older style of speech in between modern times and pre-Industrial revolution, where the passato remoto is still in use, but the language is changing. The setting of the game is 1000 years after a highly mechanized and industrialized civilization is wiped out by a supernatural force, setting back the world’s people in technological advances, as they fear it will bring them destruction again. It might make sense that they would speak an older form of Italian, simply to reflect the setback. Then again, this is all speculation, as if it were me aiming for an older style of speaking, I might have changed the third person pronouns as well. Italian’s current (or rather most common) third person pronouns are lui and lei. The older forms, egli and ella are largely reserved to formal and literary contexts. In the game, these pronouns are not used, which would be odd, considering the use of the passato remoto, which is also formal and literary in usage.

(A side note on grammar/syntax: If you talk to some of the elderly NPCs (non-playable characters) in one of the rooms in Guadosalam, their Italian text is changed to reflect what is called the “old language of the Guado”, which simply changes the syntax of their sentences to something like OVS, putting adjectives before verbs and subjects at the end of sentences.)

2. The translations of various in-game terms for aspects of the universe can be odd or decidedly ordinary.

Examples include the following words: fayth, Sin, maester, pyreflies, sending and the Farplane. Let me explain a couple of things first about the universe. In the game, the world is plagued by a supernatural force called Sin, which, according to the priesthood, is the embodiment of people’s vanity, and is their punishment for using machines to wage war, destroying many things and killing many people in the process. The people depend on gifted individuals, summoners, to protect them from Sin’s wrath. These summoners embark on pilgrimages throughout the world to train themselves to receive what is called the Final Summoning, which allows them to defeat Sin, banishing it for two years at a time. The Final Summoning, as well as the lesser summonings that these summoners can perform, are enabled by spirits that reside in the temples of the land, called the fayth. The summoners pray to the fayth for their power and the ability to defeat Sin.

Now, in the game, the word fayth is an intentional “misspelling” of the word, and in the Italian version, it is called l’intercessore, or an “intercessor”. An intercessor is a person that prays on the behalf of others, or communicates with the Divine, as a mediator, to grant something to other people. In a way, this is what the fayth do, though it is the summoner who receive power from the fayth to combat Sin, not the other way around. Either way, this word has religious connotations, which fits into the context of the game, though I might argue it’s not entirely parallel in meaning.

Next up is the word Sin itself, which is left untranslated. The word “sin” is peccato in Italian, though the game is not using the word literally, and to be honest, I don’t really mind it.

Then we have the word, “maester”, which is one of four religious authorities who lead the people, and act in more or less governor-like capacity. The word chosen to translate it into Italian is maestro, which, truthfully, has a completely different meaning in Italian. A maestro is usually a teacher or other person who instructs in some way, such as conductor of an orchestra. I’m not sure the word is appropriate, as it lacks the religious connotations that, “maester” has, at least for how it is used in the game. Now, there’s not much you can do, considering that it’s not a real word in English, and they’ve done the best they can.

The next three words are related, so I’m going to do them in one paragraph. First is pyreflies, which are luminescent wisps that float around dead organisms, embodying their souls, sort of. They are called lunioli in the Italian text (unless I’ve misread the game text), which leads me to assume associations with the moon, which is not really what is going on with them. The pyreflies appear when someone or something dies, and they act on people’s memories and feelings to produce images of the dead. Left alone long enough, the spirits of the dead manifested as the pyreflies grow resentful of and angry at the living, their hatred turning them into monsters called fiends (mostri in the Italian text). In order to prevent this (it’s physically required as opposed to a superstition), a ritual called the sending is performed to grant them peace, laying their souls to rest. This ceremony’s Italian name is trapassato, which comes from the verb trapassare, one of whose meanings is, “to pass away”, or more formally, “to depart”. It carries the sentiment of the original word very well. My only qualm is that the verb is used transitively in the same way, though the actual word’s only transitive meaning is, “to pierce” or “to perforate”, which, to the native speaker unfamiliar with the game, and/or unable to understand English, would be exceedingly strange. Now, the sending sends the souls of the departed to a place called the Farplane, which is basically the hereafter or the afterlife, and is dubbed l’Oltremondo in the Italian text, which is literally “the world beyond”, which fits perfectly, in my opinion.

That’s all for this post, and I will be sure to write Part 2 of this as I get farther in the game, and I’m definitely going to be using my Final Fantasy games in other languages to learn more. I encourage you gamers out there to do so as well. I realize this was kind of long read, but I hope you found it interesting! Don’t forget to share this post!

The Plight of Localization in Video Games

Localization is a term that many JRPG fans are all too familiar with. Perhaps to the point of irritation. I count myself among the less intense fans of JRPGs, as the only series I actually follow actively is the Final Fantasy series. Among the more popular franchises are the Tales series, the Final Fantasy series, the Star Ocean series, and the Kingdom Hearts series. The more committed members of the fandoms are often critical of the English localizations of these games. And they rightly should be. Japanese is notorious for its very nuanced language and difficulty of translation to English, with its undertones to pronouns, non-distinguishing of present and future, and non-translatable words.

In the translation of various titles for English releases of these games, many meanings are inevitably lost. Some not so inevitably, such as in the infamous case of, “This guy are sick,” in Final Fantasy VII. When localizing, translators and directors both try their hardest to transfer as much of the meanings in the original Japanese version to the English version as possible. Many gamers who have played the original version and then the English version often complain about discrepancies. For example, in Final Fantasy X, Yuna’s final words to Tidus before he disappears are “I love you,” in the English version. However, in the Japanese version, she says, “Thank you.” These two sentiments are very different, and while it is definitely a fact that there are romantic feelings between the characters in the game anyway, what does this mean? Does this imply that there is a slightly, if not very, different relationship in the original story? My point here is that localization makes for a complicated case when trying to translate not only the words but also the story itself.

Another example is Final Fantasy VI, where the character Setzer says, “The Empire’s made me a rich man.” I haven’t played the game, and I’m paraphrasing from the article by Kotaku (linked here). Apparently, this was a mistranslation, evidenced in the improved GBA port, as the idiom translated actually meant the complete opposite in context: “The Empire’s been bad for business.” As the name of the article suggests, this one line changes the character’s motivations and place in the story completely.

Other difficulties lie in the voice acting. Japanese has a pitch accent, meaning that it does not inflect the pronunciation of words to imply tone, sarcasm, etc. At least, not the way English does. While a person speaking in English who is speaking fast, harshly, and loudly is easily identified as angry, this may not be the case in Japanese. This conflict between the two languages creates an interesting predicament: how are English voice actors supposed to play their characters correctly? While voice actors are told what a character is like and the character’s feelings about certain things in the story, it remains a daunting task to effectively reproduce the same effect as in the original Japanese version.

This was a little bit of a shorter piece, but I was really looking to write one about foreign language in relation to localization. Hope you found this interesting, and that you share this with your friends! Feel free to leave some comments as well!