on translations: blame yourself or god

after the tutorial battle at Orbonne Monastery, a narrative sequence plays out in which Ramza’s old buddy Delita kidnaps Princess Ovelia.

in the original, superior PS1 translation, where the dialog plays as part of an in-engine cutscene, Delita says this to Ovelia’s currently failing-at-her-job bodyguard Agrias:

“Tough… don’t blame us. Blame yourself or God.”

this is the greatest line in video game history and also, to my understanding, a pretty direct and apt translation of the original Japanese, which has the same direct curtness (悪いな・・・。恨むなら自分か神様にしてくれ。).

the PlayStation Portable re-release included some nice features (widescreen support, for one thing) but also a brand new translation that sucks. in it, this line is delivered in a CGI cutscene, where Delita is still inside the monastery and talking to… an already-unconscious Ovelia, I guess:

“Tis your birth and faith that wrong you, not I.”

much has been made over the years of War of the Lions’ weird attempt at Shakespeare; I want to mostly set that aspect aside except to say it wildly overplays FFT’s “realistic-ish medieval setting” trappings and turns them stage-y in a way that was pretty clearly not intended by the original script

but set the unnecessarily archaic wording aside and you still have weird problems with this line. Delita saying this here and not while giving Agrias side-eye means he’s essentially muttering it to himself. In the original, the coldness and directness is also performative — a key aspect to understanding Delita’s whole deal as a character throughout the story.

anyway the original line is just an especially cute way to say “hey, not my problem you suck.” The new line is entirely different (especially since it’s preceded by Delita muttering “forgive me”) — it’s I suppose meant to be an early sign of Delita’s affection or at least sympathy towards Ovelia, delivered awkwardly at a too-early point in the story for it to register.

seriously though can we just talk about how cool as heck the original line is? it has such powerful “walk backwards into hell” energy. a lot of the original PS1 script, clearly written by maybe one poorly-written translator with little time and absolutely no context for each indvidual line, musters this energy, probably because when there’s not much coherence there’s also no affectation, and so people just say the damn thing:

yes, the translation often garbles meaning and fucks up proper nouns all over the place (the Order of the Northern Sky, 北天 in Japanese, is just transliterated as the meaningless though kind of cool sounding “Hokuten”), but it retains a lot of the more direct power that’s key to a story like this, told with this kind of visual aesthetic. the characters feel like real people, warts and confusing phrasing at all, which makes their various arcs and tragedies all that much more potent when it counts.