Strange Video Game Translations: Street Fighter 2

So there I am reading ハイスコアガール (High Score Girl), the romantic comedy story of a video gamer (Haruo) in the early 1990s with the main theme of the story being Street Fighter 2.

Video Game Twisted Translations Street Fighter 2a

I am more of a nostalgic gamer (I don’t really get the chance to play many new games), but love reminiscing about the games I grew up with. So I knew the original arcade game Street Fighter 2 quite well. That is until one scene in the manga displaying the amazing skill of Haruo’s rival, a 12 year old girl who is a Street Fighter 2 prodigy. She get’s all the way up to Vega on one 50-yen coin, only using the jab punch button with Dhalsim.

Wait, Vega? If they were going to show how awesome she is, why would they stop at Vega? It would’ve made a bigger impact if she made it till the final boss M.Bison. But then I turn the page, and there is M. Bison, except his name is Vega.


Have my important childhood memories been clouded somehow? Did I mistake the last boss name of one of my favorite video games of all time? Let me look up the Japanese version of the game.

Street Fighter 2
Vega is the last boss? If that’s true, then who is the second to last boss (the fence crawling guy with the mask and claw)?

Street Fighet 2 Balrog

Then, that only leaves one name left . . .

Street Fighter 2 M. Bison

All the names are shuffled. Why change the names of the bosses in translation? Two reasons apparently:

1. Vega sounded non-threatening.

2. M. Bison stood for Mike Bison. Quickly, look up at the picture above of the Japanese M. Bison.

Who might this be . . . 1990s . . .  What rhymes with Bison?

Mike Tyson

As what I’m sure was to avoid any wrath by Mike Tyson and his manager, the name shuffle was enacted.

While I’m sure you are fully aware of the concept of video game localization (translating a game and adjusting the language to the culture of the market that it is being sold in), I couldn’t think of a more relevant series topic for JALUP.

Learning Japanese + Video Games + Making Fun Of Translations = Win?

Changing names isn’t that sinful I suppose. Though I don’t like to think about Mike Tyson while I’m recalling my childhood.

But Ryu, who I didn’t find out until I studied Japanese isn’t pronounced Rye-you, had a mystery line translated that also left gamers confused.

Street Fighter 2 You must defeat sheng long

And since there was no character or reference in the game to Sheng Long besides this, this must’ve be a secret character that gamers should spend months/years trying to unlock?

Except this was the original:

Street Fighter 2 Japanese Ryu

しょうりゅうけん を やぶらなぬかぎり おまえ に かちめ は ない

Or to add some kanji to that to not look so unreadable:

(Using the translation’s original wording): You must defeat my Shouryuken to stand a chance.

昇龍拳 (Shouryuken) was Ryu’s signature move, the rising dragon punch.

So the error was simple. Someone translated 昇龍拳 as Sheng Long.

Now there isn’t much text in an arcade fighting game from the 1990s. Besides the inbetween fight message screens, the only place you would really find much text was in the character profiles. But looking at the Western version of the game, the profiles were fairly simple.

Guile Profile

Information that no player would ever care about. But then I got a chance to see the Japanese version.

Guile Profile Japanese

Half the profile is cut off in the Western version. The Japanese version tries to be funny and add a little back story behind the characters including things like “Likes,” Dislikes,” and something extra about the character.

嫌いなもの: 日本でリュウに食わされた納豆
Dislikes: Natto that I was forced to eat by Ryu while in Japan.

And how about one more.

E. Honda Profile

Likes: Baths, Chanko nabe (large Japanese stew often eaten by Sumo wrestlers to add/keep weight), and Tiramisu.

Note, this is funny because there is a bit of a stigma attached to Japanese men who eat sweets (more so 20 years ago then now).

✩Japanese Sumo Wrestler.

Literally the above translates to “Japanese Sumo Wrestler,” but it is not the real Japanese word for Japanese Sumo Wrestler which is usually 力士 (Rikishi). Why the change? Because it looks stylish maybe?

Any other Street Fighter 2 localization or translation issues that surprised you when you found out?

Part 1234

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


Strange Video Game Translations: Street Fighter 2 — 22 Comments

  1. When reading the original Japanese for Final Fantasy VII, I caught Cloud using the phrase “to win a girl’s heart” (I think 物にする?) in reference to Sephiroth. IN SEPHIROTH’S PRESENCE. To make it better, this was in a story he was telling to his friends about all the stuff that happens at Nibelheim, meaning Cloud could have left that detail out.

  2. I have to admit, it was really funny to read.懐かし過ぎる。 I don’t know if you notice, but the legs twisting attack 竜巻旋風脚 is almost inaudible in the game,unless your force your ears; I always heard Ryu/Ken saying ”tektekturugen”.
    And now audible,quite clear.

    I vote for a segment of texts in these line. Maybe a extension for this one.

  3. That’s really interesting! I’m curious about that the Sheng Long translation of Shouryuken. Is that a Chinese reading of the kanji? But the screenshot is in hiragana only so I suppose they must have translated from another source that used kanji?

    • Wikipedia confirms the reading part: “the words “shō ryū” (昇龍 rising dragon) from Shōryūken (昇龍拳), Ryu’s flying uppercut, is “shēng lóng” in Chinese pinyin.”

      It’s likely that the original script used kanji and it was converted to hiragana and katakana at some later point. (Either they wanted to save ROM space or they wanted it to readable by a wide (young) audience.)

  4. I can tell you all about game localisation!
    More often than not, the translator doesn’t get a chance to actually see the game and is left with a list of strings from the game, often in no particular order, that he somehow has to make sense out of.
    Sure, he’s allowed to ask for clarification, and then it all comes down to whether the developer is willing to help or not.

    The following is probably not far from what actually happened:
    Translator: Is 昇龍拳 a name (Chinese?), or the name of a move maybe?
    Developer: Yes.

    This is now, so I can’t imagine how it was back then. Probably worse.

    There’s the same kind of story with the Varia Suit from Metroid, which was originally バリアスーツ in Japanese, or Barrier Suit. Got mistranslated once, and it stuck :)

    • Very interesting. So I guess it’s not really a “blame the translators.”

      Do you work in the localization industry? I hope you can also chime in on the next video game translation post, as this is all fairly new to me.

      • It’s not always the translator’s fault, no. It can be of course, but more often than not the developer has a part of responsibility too.
        You can’t expect someone to translate something right if you don’t give them some context :)

        I do work in game localisation, yes. Things like those happen almost everyday!

    • How does it become the developers responsibility that a translation is bad? O.o The developer is not a translator (or I guess most developers aren’t), so if you make the developer responsible I’d expect a bad translation… Just as when you make the developer responsible for doing graphics or something else that is not developing.

      • Not the translation itself, but developers can be responsible in many other ways:

        -Poor communication with the translation team (ex: giving them a massive excel sheet of strings with no greater context, no access to playable builds of the game, or being unavailable to answer translator questions)
        -Failure to account for translation needs during development (ex: Not enough time or space given for proper translation [some languages take up more space], lack of support for localized number displays, etc)

        Of course we’ve come a long way since the stuff pictured here, but there are still a lot of places where programmers, designers, etc can be more conscious of localization needs to make the translation process better.

        • Ah I see your point here… That can be said for all work that is dependent on other work. If whatever you depend on is not properly done, then you might not be able to do your work to the best of your capabilities.

  5. I don’t know if you did go any further with this comparison between the english/japanese texts from SF2…. but I can tell somethings that were screwed up:
    1: Almost all winning quotes were removed and a new, generic one was written (two, if we count the console exclusive ones). Originally, each character had 5 or so winning quotes in the jap version. The character stories also suffered changes. In the jap version, Chun-Li’s father was only missing, in the western, he was murdered. In SF2 Champion Edition, Guile’s story give us some info on how Nash/Charlie was killed, in the western version, both were ambushed in Cambodia and Nash/Charlie was killed. Also, CE tells us some details about Vega/Bison’s origin. Something that the western audience would never know until the english version of the “Eternal Challenge” book;
    2: The endings also suffered MAJOR meaning changes. Like in Guile’s were he asks Vega/Bison if he remembered him and Nash/Charlie from Cambodia (the Cambodia part was made up in the western version);
    3: Super SF2 added more winning quotes (Vega/Bison had completely new ones) and some where removed. The western version had the same one from SF2 – WW;
    4: Cammy’s ending was changed. The japanese version mentions that she worked for Shadaloo and that Vega/Bison slipped her in the British Empire. The western version…. they were lovers!!!!
    5: In SFZero 1, Vega/Bison’s ending mentions that he and Rose both have the same power, and that, with her defeat, Vega/Bison became the sole user of Psycho Power. The western ending says that Rose was a fool to challenge Vega/Bison and that he replayed the the battle over and over in his mind.

    Those are only a few differences between the jap and engl versions of the SF series…. there’s a LOT of things that were butchered in the western version….

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