happy accidents in porting/localization creating the best version of a game?

semi-inspired by brandon‘s thread about games that have two distinct, good soundtracks (often because of ports, localization, or both), i’ve been wondering: what are some examples of quirks in localization and/or ports leading to a notable outlier version of a game? perhaps even the best version, in your opinion?

the tidiest example i can think of is actually a musical one. the beach boys' 1970 album <sunflower> is now widely considered one of their best records, but what's less remembered is the fact that its european and australian pressings had the group's contemporaneous single "cottonfields" tacked on as track 1, because it had become a minor hit in those markets. i love that album and happen to think this oddball alternate release is its best iteration (even if it wasn't the group's original intent).

the best videogame example i can think of is a pretty obvious one: the american sega CD version of <snatcher>. as the story goes, the game was originally released in 1988 on the msx and pc-8801, but was pretty rudimentary in its presentation and actually had to end on a cliff-hanger because they didn't have time to finish it. konami would complete the third act and add voice-acting for the japanese 1990 pc engine version, though arguably the sega CD's american dub is the superior performance of those characters (how often can you say that!), the re-rendered soundtrack sounds much better, and it has the inadvertent benefit of de-creeping various aspects of the storyline and presentation (no gratuitous pornography when you kill a certain female snatcher; one of the would-be love interests of the game is made to be 18 instead of 16; etc). later ports to sega saturn and the playstation would botch the presentation completely - so it winds up being the rare game that was completely developed within japan largely for the japanese market, but a years-late port for the american market ultimately became the definitive version of the game.

so...does anybody have any lesser-known, or more curiously reasoned choices? it seems like a fun topic, but few examples come to mind for me.

oh, and not to shut anyone out, but in the interest of honing this topic‘s specificity a little bit: <earthbound> is a good example of what i’m not exactly talking about. it‘s an anachronistically good localization for an SNES game in 1995, sure, but i wouldn’t call that a ‘happy accident’ or ‘inadvertently superior’ version per se - it‘s just surprisingly adept for its time. (though if anyone’s played both <earthbound> and <mother 2> and has some peculiar rationale for why the former is better, i'd be all ears!)

Hmm, I think the word “accidents” may lead some folks astray here because none of the things above were accidental, they were the result of various circumstance, so I‘m trying to see what you’re really getting at - maybe it‘s a port or new version that didn’t intend to replace or become definitive but wound up becoming so anyway? It's a tough line though - I often bring this up but battle arena toshinden URA is a sequel to the saturn toshinden remix, rather than directly being Toshinden 2, and I think URA is better than Toshinden 2 in terms of vibe. But is that accidental or circumstantial?

Many argue that the Gamecube port of Resident Evil is the best version of the game - but is that an accident? Surely each time someone ports a game they want that new version to be as good as possible. As for Snatcher, I'm sure they wanted to make the voice acting as good as they could, so while Kojima may not have intended for it to surpass the japanese version, surely everyone involved in making that happen wanted it to be the case, no?

So I'm wondering if there's a little more drilling down on this topic we can do!

This is the only accident I know of, and it sure makes me happy!


I don’t think it can really be called accidental, but I wonder if Western audiences realize just how much better the Sega games of the PS3 generation were in English. That localization team was on fire. Just to clarify, we are not in « Earthbound did a surprisingly good job transcribing a foreign writer’s intent » territory. These are adaptations that elevate games way higher than the original versions.

Playing Valkyria Chronicles with the Japanese dub and English subtitles is an experience that I recommend to anyone involved in the localization business and/or with a passing understanding of Japanese. The original script is stupefyingly stupid and full of anime tropes, let alone quasi-insulting for how poorly it reflects on important issues such as ethnic cleansing (due to sheer ignorance, not malice, on the writer’s part). Yet the English translation somehow salvages many scenes and character interactions, while not betraying the original story.

Yakuza 4 is another good example. It’s a great game either way, but the English script is way better and smarter than the original dialogue in many subtle ways, while skirting around the issues of localizing a very local script and dialogue – not just local to Japan but ^hyper-local to the context of Shinjuku and complex issues such as Chinese immigration within modern Japanese society. This game set the bar for how Yakuza’s characters would « talk » in English through out the rest of the series and I don’t think the American audience realizes just how much of the series’ identity and charm owes to the localization team of the PS3 era.

I am eager to highlight these examples because translation is usually like refereeing in sports: you know it’s doing a good job when it’s not being mentioned at all, and it almost exclusively gets into the spotlight when it does something wrong (like Ys VIII or Persona 5). But these are rare reverse examples of games that stealthily got better through translation.

I was just playing yakuza 4 and made a little video of a TERRIBLE sequence that I haven‘t uploaded yet, and may not. but it’s a situation where kids are spraypainting anti japan stuff because japan deported their dads. and our protagonist is like don‘t be mad at japan, it’s actually nobody's fault that this is happening. instead, you (who are now orphaned!) should just work harder and integrate into japanese society to be accepted.

So I wonder if this PS4 remaster I'm playing is somehow worse than the original? because it has some awful (and blatantly ignorant) takes re: immigration and foreigners in japan.

I can’t speak for the localization of the Remaster as I have not touched it but there are some additional contents so someone must have at least done a new pass on the script. From a quick search, it seems for example that Tanimura has a different nickname in both versions? Not a big fan of translations using Japanese hierarchic suffixes, personally.

In any case, I would assume that the scene you describe, which I guess is from Tanimura’s chapter, was present as such in the original Japanese script. (Unless you are implying that the translation misunderstood the scene?)

I am not sure how much a good translation can save that kind of scene – at least without totally betraying the character’s portrayal – but it would indeed be interesting to compare if the two versions approached the translation differently.

There are many examples in Final Fantasy VIII where the the dialogue is funnier in translation. A couple get me every time. In the Tomb of the Unknown King, when the Minotaur appears, if you have Quistis in the party, her line in Japanese is 「・・・・・えらく小さいわね」(“…extremely small”). The translators rendered it as “…surprisingly small” in English which IMO lands so well with the preceding ellipsis, like she's taken at first aback and then says out loud what everyone else is thinking

The other is a guy in Fisherman's Horizon whom the Japanese text names "middle-aged man." It's the same in English until he mentions that he has 256 cats. In the very next text box, the English text changes his name to "middle-aged psycho." His name is unchanged in Japanese. It occurs to me that "psycho" might be considered ableist but I still really laud the creativity of the English translators on that one. Not that anyone needs any excuse to chill in F.H. but if you happen to have a save with FH accessible, go check that out

Similar to above posts these are both obviously intentional

Yakuza 4 Remastered’s translation is indeed completely different! Huh!

On the other hand, it does seem that the new translation sanitizes some possibly problematic terms that would still fly in 2011 (namely calling an okama a "tranny" is the unambiguous example given here), although I am not sure the characters depicted in the series would realistically be the most hip and socially conscious about this kind of issue and proper etiquette, even more so in Japan... What I don’t know is whether the term was originally used in context through character dialogue or via the extra-diegetic text description.

@“chazumaru”#p37296 that scene is totally possible to rewrite to say something like - it sucks that your dads got sent away, but these are complicated systemic problems. I understand that this is the only way you can express your frustration, but don't do it on the walls of people in your own immigrant community, do it where other people can see it.

But this is a nationalist franchise so it's unlikely they'd do that! (also the graffiti was really dumb stuff like "japan took my dad" which is like... who's that graffiti even for). And yes, the translation for this sequence is basically "straight."

Anyway I just found it odd that you chose Yakuza 4 because its treatment of immigrant communities is maybe a little better than the original, but not by much. It's still pretty bad about it! Tanimura can "somehow speak all asian languages" (lol) and when a filipina shows up he's just like "oh hey what's up" and she's like "wow, someone who speaks my language" and he says "judging by your name I guess you're from the Philippines" and it's like uhhh were you not just magically speaking Tagolog, or what happened there? I dunno, it's pretty ignorant-feeling to me overall!

@“exodus”#p37302 That’s right. At least from memory of playing it a decade ago, several dubious Tanimura scenes were indeed less cringey in the (original) text translation than in the original dialogues. It would be interesting to compare both translations.

I certainly didn’t intend to defend that the translation made the Tanimura chapter less problematic. It remains a very naive and uninformed view of the issue it (bravely? foolishly?) attempts to tackle. But that kind of 「well-meaning social commentary that goes way above its own head and somehow misses the point」 is a staple of the series, frankly.

The Sega CD Snatcher being the definitive version of the game makes sense, as there are a number of Japanese video games where the English dub is treated as the definitive version. Generally, these are games with some connection to American entertainment - Kingdom Hearts, Metal Gear Solid, Devil May Cry, etc. (I really wouldn't be surprised if Silent Hill is also like this.)

Anyway, the only example of a happy translation accident that comes to mind right now is the English name for the enemies in *Nier*. The game is heavily steeped in (and interrogative of) JRPG convention, so in the Japanese version, they're called mamono, a generic Japanese word for demons, and they're led by the Maou, IE the Demon King. This works well to convey the protagonists' view of the enemies as fundamentally nonhuman, and therefore acceptable targets of violence, but the English version carries this a bit further by translating mamono and Maou as Shades and Shadowlord. This brings a Jungian quality to bear on the story that, although not present in the original text, works really well with many of the larger plot developments.

PSX version of Race Drivin is called “race drivin a go go” which automatically makes it the best.


Also had a very bonkers story mode


@“exodus”#p37278 true, i definitely struggled with the wording…i think the phrase ‘or odd twists of fate’ was in my subject line before i decided to cut back. i don‘t mean just pure ’accidents‘ in the literal sense, more like strange circumstances leading to alternate versions of games being exceptional (or even ’superior‘) in ways the creators didn’t intend, and/or the game-buying public probably wouldn't expect.

the <snatcher> example is instructive here in that, while you are probably right in your assumption that everyone involved in the sega CD version wanted it to be as great as it could be, it is definitely strange that a game with so many other versions/ports before *and* after the one american release would wind up so glaringly inferior to it...particularly when it's a japanese developer and all the other versions are for its home market (where it was infinitely more successful than the american version ever was, even if still modestly so). can't imagine that that's what anyone involved would've expected, especially when it was perfectly reasonable to assume later versions for the saturn and playstation would've learned from and built upon the improvements for the sega CD port. (and further re: 'happy accident,' i don't think kojima and co would've dropped some of the more lecherous aspects of the pc engine version if american market dictates didn't force their hand – this the guy who would insist on allowing the player to fondle all the women in <policenauts> a year or two later.)

and yeah, i'm less interested in "smart and assertive localization leads to better version" (a la some of the otherwise great examples in this thread, or metal gear solid 2 (i think it was 2?) being improved by the translator adding all kinds of depth and foresight to kojima's script in a couple key scenes). moreso like licensing issues forcing a game to be released with a totally different (and surprisingly better-suited) soundtrack at the last minute in X or Y market, or at least something like the boneheaded narrow-mindedness of a certain market at a certain point in time leading to alterations that somehow improve the game (again, like mainstream america's general squeamishness about sex reducing the crass nudity in <snatcher>, or say @"chazumaru"#146 's example in the double-soundtrack thread about the japanese gran turismo soundtrack getting replaced by a soundtrack of generic circa y2k alt-rock *if* there were an interesting argument for that better suiting the overall game experience, etc etc).

tl;dr: i'm pretty convinced this is an interesting category of thing, and want to know more about it, but will concede that my framing of it isn't quite right...perhaps something like "strange circumstances in porting/localization leading to exceptional versions of games"...??? feels maybe too broad now but idk

@“coughsoda”#p37272 I prefer PC Engine version of Snatcher. Personally, in-game changes and additions in SCD version just looks and sounds like something different than something better. I don‘t care much for director’s cut in general so additional scenes like the one in intro, for example, feels superfluous. That scene is in the manual in comic form so feels redundant and hurts pacing of intro I think. You can‘t even call it director’s cu…. excuse me… “Delector's Plus” (-…-) since it's not done by Kojima.

What's really missing from SCD version is all of the extra game materials. PCE version comes with full color manual and better layout, except they crammed 3 pages of comic on to 2 pages.

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SCD manual is luxuriously bigger so has edge there. But artworks are muddy black and white version of color art with pretty basic layout. Comic is flipped but some pages are not flipped so character placement is inconsistent ha!

PCE version comes with addition thick compendium booklet with tons of world building info. Plus foil stickers!

But! I can't consider PCE version complete without Cyberpunk Adventure SNATCHER CD・ROMantic Pilot Disk.

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It might seems like just a demo disk but actually packed with lots of supplemental content. It has game demo, that compendium in digital form, character bios with voice actor hellos, music sampler with MG Mk II serving as music player, and long Kojima-ass in-engine trailer.

Full spoilers!

But I gotta say the most badass cyberpunky one for me is MSX2 version. That Sound Cartridge!


Manual is not colored but has nice clean art, great layout, and tons of supplemental info. Super nice! Comic is black and white but it's manga shaded, not black and white version of color art. I think they look more pure than PCE version.

Game is not complete but looks and sounds fantastic to me, harder edged, killer mood. Subsequent updates look progressively softer.


The PAL version of Data East‘s Mega Drive platformer (High Seas) Havoc is missing the first stage entirely—that stage is extremely reminiscent of Green Hill Zone and did nothing to help the game’s (entirely fair) perception as a Sonic clone, so removing it was probably the right call.

The Australian version in particular was made even better by its starkly different box art:

@“KennyL”#p37438 thanks for the beautiful images and the unique perspective! definitely gonna check all these out

@“gsk”#p37444 this is the exact type of thing i'm after, thanks! do we know if it removed because of PAL limitations or was it just a strange one-off decision they made because they could?

EDIT: wow that box art choice really was an outlier. bizarre