Final Fantasy XII Zodiac Age: An Over-localized Experience?

Ahhh… I’ve been meaning to talk about this ages ago but, I’ve been procrastinating (a lot!). There are so many things that I would like to write and share with as many people as possible, however, that has not happened. Nevertheless, I was quite surprise that I am getting views on my blog! And here I thought nobody would give a damn. Anyway, without further a due, let’s talk Final Fantasy.


Was Final Fantasy XII Zodiac Age Over-localized?

Now, there has been a mixed reaction among fans of JRPG ever since we were blessed by the magnificent presence of Japanese audio in JRPG games. Fans are divided between the NEED to localize, or whether if the dialogue or scripts should maintain its original format (as in preserving the honorifics that are often used when speaking Japanese). There are fans who are okay with the overall translations of JRPG games saying that the localization helps them to relate and understand the game better (despite translations being off at times). While, those who know Japanese, even a little are not very happy as some of the intended meanings of what the games are/were trying to deliver to its audiences dissipates (we will see some examples in the next section). There have been continuous debates among fans whether if localization should continue or if a different approach should be taken to ensure that the original intention of the story can be safely delivered to the audiences. Me? You asked. I think personally that localization should be kept to a minimum. Because, in Final Fantasy XII, I found many discrepancies between what was said, and what was translated. This actually changed my perception of the said game entirely.

What were the differences?

First, lets talk Japanese! If you know a little Japanese you are probably familiar with honorifics or the level of politeness when talking to different people in Japan. There are 4 levels all together namely:

  1. タメ語 (tamego) – Casual form
  2. 丁寧語 (teineigo) – Polite form
  3. 謙譲語 (kenjyougo) – Humble form
  4. 尊敬語 (sonkeigo) – Respect form              

Let’s simplify and show you examples of how to say ‘you’ in 3 of forms and I in one of the forms:

  1. You – お前 (omae) – Casual form
  2. You – あなた (anata) – Polite Form
  3. I – 私 (watashi) – Kenjyougo (used when speaking about oneself)
  4. You – name+様 (sama) – Sonkeigo

Note that, there are more than just one of each of these words. For instance, きみ (kimi) or calling to someone with just a name without any honorifics (Tom, Takahiro) is consider to be casual and is used frequently when speaking among friends. Note that for both casual and polite form the words, omae and anata are rarely used. Because, Japanese often prefer to be called by their names. While in casual form, honorifics can be dropped from the names, but, when speaking in polite form the extension -san must be added. The reason being is because you are speaking with someone who are not close to you. The humble form is mostly used when referring to oneself. For example:


(Watashi wa kaichou no jimusho ni mairimasu.)

I will go to your office Mr. Chairman (company).

And when you are addressing someone whose position is higher than you such as the president or a king, you use the respect form. Especially to royalties you need to add more than just a -sama. If you are addressing a princess for example, you need to add the word hime (princess) along with the -sama when addressing the princess. Thus, it would sound something like this: さくら姫様 (Sakura himesama). When speaking to anyone whose position is higher than you or one that deserves respect, it is downright disrespectful to use any other forms besides Kenjyougo (when speaking of oneself) and Sonkeigo. So, what happened in Final Fantasy XII?

Ashe and Vaan

Don't Interrupt Me Vaan.png

One of the most ambiguous and sought after are the answers to what sort of relationship does Vaan and Ashe has throughout the game. Does Ashe hates Vaan? Are they friends? Why did Ashe sees Rasler in Vaan? What sort of connection does the two have?

It is very difficult to pick up the nuances when some of the translations do not portray the intentions the characters intended to convey. A good example is from the scene at Pharos when the crew was about to confront Cid (picture above). While Ashe ponders whether to destroy the nethicite or not, Vaan suddenly interrupts Ashe as she is talking. Yes, interrupting someone when they are talking is sort of rude, but what makes it interesting is how Ashe responded to Vaan. The English translation went “Don’t interrupt me Vaan.” Note that the sentence is articulated softly, however, “interrupt” is a very strong word. In Japanese the line is as follows:


(Mata “omae” ka?)

“You” again?

The “you” here is implying to the fact that Vaan still uses the casual form of “you” when addressing Ashe despite her being the heir to the Dalmascan throne. Again, this was uttered softly (not angrily). If you listen and watch closely, with how the scene is animated, Ashe’s articulation of the sentence, her expression and etc, you may notice that there is an acceptance, which could be insinuated that after all the time they’ve spent/been together, Ashe finally accepted Vaan – for pretty much who he is. I mean, we have seen from the beginning how Ashe disgruntles every single time when a conversation is held between the two. For instance, when the two first met in the sewer (Garamsythe Waterway) and when the crew arrived at Mt. Bur-Omisace, Ashe was not fond of how she was being addressed (by Vaan).  The English dub often makes Ashe sounds rude or pretentious. However, it is very different when it comes to the Japanese dub. She is still dissatisfied with how Vaan casually addresses her, but she was never rude but was in fact scolding him for it or is repeatedly annoyed every time she is addressed in such a manner. Weird thing is, Vaan calls Penelo – Penelo, Fran – Fran and others with their given name… but only to Ashe, Vaan addresses differently.

Another would be the moment where Penelo was kidnapped and (I swear to God) she said “Vaan…” in the Japanese dub before the scene ends. The English translation went “Where are you?”

Panelo rescueTo me this is clearly alarming as many of the development especially characters’ development happened behind closed eyes. And is the main reason FFXII narrative was a bit of a mess. Some characters never even talk to each other! If you could play again, or if you are playing the game at the moment, observe as close as you can and you’d notice that Panelo and Ashe, never actually once talk to each other. Don’t get me wrong, the premise and the politics in this game is really good, and I myself thoroughly enjoyed the hell out of it. But, the characters did not appeal that much to me as I learned nearly nothing about them even after playing the game more than 5 times.

Note that, there are more weirdly translated Japanese to English phrases. But, they are not that bad, just they were made too fancy. Like difficult structure and vocabularies. The Japanese version however, uses simpler Japanese and nothing too fancy.

So what should we do? How do we solve this over-localization issue?

There are many ways I think where this issue could be resolved. I know that it is difficult given the big culture differences between the west and the east, but, there must be a way to convey the nuances as accurate as we can. I made a post about my discontent with FFXII localization pointing out the inconsistencies between the Japanese dub and the English translation. Some agreed… the other half said there are no other choices. It is just that difficult to accurately translate Japanese to English (to which I agree). One user pointed out an interesting idea which made a lot of sense. He/she said that the localization was made based on how many syllables there are in a sentence. Then again… when Penelo said “Vaan…” – in the Japanese dub – which is 1 syllable and the English translation went “Where are you?” which is 3 syllables, I am starting to doubt that… that is the case.

The only way I think could be the best solution to this overly fancy, over-localization of Japanese video games, is to include translation notes like what we see done in some Anime(s). It might me a bit of a pain in the ass to some people because they would want the screens to not be filled with notes as much as possible, nevertheless, I think it is the best solution to retain the original nuances and intention of the said narrative. An option to turn off the translation notes can also be included in the settings.

This is a personal thing. But, I strongly think that it is a waste for people to not know the true meaning of any given narrative due to its localization. And this would help people understand the characters better, especially in a game like Final Fantasy XII where not much is to know about the characters.

P/S Oddly enough, Final Fantasy XV localization was better.

Let me know what you think! Especially with regards to any localization problems you have encountered before! Till next time!


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