Strange Video Game Translations: Metroid — 6 Comments

  1. I seem to recall reading that the title メトロイド came from the earliest concepts of a game set underground — as in メトロ train system — and with a robotic player character — (アンド)ロイド — presumably the jellyfish like enemies ended up called メトロイド just because nobody really understood the pun.

    I don’t think I ever beat the first game properly either although I think I managed to get through a ROM version through liberal use of save states once. I don’t think it was ever really tough but the fact that every time you load the game you only start out with only a single block of health filled meant lots of time grinding for health orbs before you could do anything. I guess that’s what it takes to revive peace in The Space.

  2. The katakana craze in 8-bit video games was ultimately a product of several technical limitations. The two most important were memory limitations and screen resolution. Although later improvements would somewhat alleviate the memory issues the readability of hiragana and kanji at 8-bit resolutions generally made katakana the best choice. This was especially important on hardware like the NES and Sega MasterSystem which were tile-based and thus had optimal sizes for the characters.

    There’s another important reason that Metroid, and Zelda as well, were much different in Japan. They were actually early releases for the Famicom Disk System. Since they were released on floppy they had a lot more space for storage, some extra RAM in the disk system hardware itself, the ability to save to the disk, and extra music hardware.

    Any fan of these early NES games that original came from the FDS should definitely check out the music clips posted on YouTube. You’ll notice the music in later releases of the series generally follow the FDS versions more closely than the remasters made for the NES releases.

    Also, if you are ever in Akihabara make sure you visit Super Potato where all of this stuff is still for sale. It’s fun to browse around and see the old box artwork and the systems themselves.

    The use of English in older video games is amusing and seems to have disappeared as gaming went more mainstream. Since videogaming was the realm of studious, and very single, students they probably could get away with a lot more back then. This trend of English in Metroid continued in Super Metroid as parts of the store were voiced in English and then subtitled back into Japanese.

    • Great info!

      I can understand kanji, but I wonder why katakana requires less memory than hiragana. The characters are sightly less complex I guess?

      • If you assume that they only have space for either katakana or hiragana but not both then the decision to use katakana was probably some sort of art or stylistic decision. I seem to remember there being a bias for fantasy games to use hiragana and space games to use katakana, but ultimately the decision between the two was up to the designers.

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