The interest behind this project arose out of Nintendo’s decision to change their initial position on the subject of dual language options in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Following the debut of the final trailer for the game at the Nintendo Switch presentation in January of 2017, which featured Japanese voice acting with English subtitles, many fans had hoped to be able to experience the game in Japanese while still playing with the text and subtitles of their native languages. Consequently, many were disappointed when producer Eiji Aonuma announced that the game would not include a dual language feature. After receiving this negative feedback, Nintendo eventually released an update allowing players the option to choose the voice acting language they preferred.
Having completed the game by this point in time, I was intrigued by the possible ramifications of this change. I had already watched a number of cutscenes in multiple languages, and I had noted several instances in which translations were quite divergent from one another. Focusing on Japanese and English, I saw that Nintendo of America’s product development division, Nintendo Treehouse—known for its occasionally controversial localization practices—had taken quite a few liberties in translating the game. With players now able to mix various languages together, an inevitable outcome is that there are times when the characters’ speech is not reflected by the subtitles given for it. In the interest of exploring the extent of these differences, I began transcribing and translating the Japanese and English voice acting, and the results of those efforts are displayed here.
Notes on Translation
In order to stay as “true” to the Japanese version as possible, the translations offered here are, on the whole, on the conservative side. I and my consultants aim for a translation that is as simple, straightforward, and accurate as possible, while attempting to maintain the flow of speech. Still, there are times when even this cannot be done, and in those cases, I have had to make accommodations, the most common of which is non-sequential translation. Since I chose a line-by-line format to capture each line of text as it appears, the translations are not always in order, and so I have employed markers to guide the reader.
In the end, it is impossible for any translation to be an exact match of the text it seeks to translate, and such is the case here. Japanese and English are very different languages, with disparate phonological and morphosyntactic structures, as well as cultural histories. Thus, many nuances and subtle details are lost in translation, and so any reader should acknowledge that these are merely approximations.
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