Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Game Design: Localizing Pokemon Names

Pokemon, much like Phoenix Wright, has so many double meanings that translation to get the idea across can be difficult.

 Take, for example, Farfetch'd.  Farfetch'd (in English)  refers to something being "Far fetched"  which, according to Webster's, means " not likely to be true or to occur"  The Japanese version means (Literally) "a duck comes bearing green onions'" which is a reference back to a Japanese proverb which means both "Something surprising but convenient" and also means something along the lines of something which is good now, but you traded it for something else which would be better long term. (You trade either Spearow of Pidgey for Fearow.  Both are weak now but evolve into powerful flying later) 

Other examples are Ampharos:
Which refers both to an Amp (A measure of electricity, perfect for an electric sheep) and the Pharos lighthouse in Alexandria.  (and remember where you find an Ampharos in the game?  Yep, at a lighthouse.)

and Empoleon:
Which manages to refer to Emperor Penguins, The North Pole, and Napoleon at the same time. 

Okay, okay, some of them are rather basic (Gears, anyone?)  and others are... guesswork.  (Such as Lairon, Iron maybe, but where did the La come from?)  but there are over 500 pokemon and any amount of digging will turn up a high amount of references, clever translation, and more depth than you would think.  My hat is off to the Localization team.  They make it work. 

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