For years now, Square Enix has published the Call of Duty games in Japan. Square Enix honcho Yoichi Wada is apparently a big fan of the series—and Western games. His goal is apparently to make Japanese gamers more open to playing foreign titles. That’s admirable. It would be more admirable if the company didn’t keep screwing up the games.
A few years back, Japanese gamers were very upset over spotty localization for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The line “Remember, no Russian” (AKA, Don’t speak the Russian language) was written as “Kill ’em, the Russians” in Japanese.
Now it’s Black Ops II‘s turn. The Japanese language version features jarring and nonsensical localization.
This image is supposed to say “Eliminate Enemy Players” in Japanese, but the way it’s written seems somewhat odd (敵プレイヤーをせん滅しろ). Instead of writing “elimination” as 殲滅 (senmetsu), it’s written with “sen” in hiragana script: せん滅. As jarring as it might seem to a few Japanese players, the word can be written that way. And is. So to be fair, this isn’t actually a mistake. The rest of the multiplayer localization, however, is.
Take the multiplayer welcome screen, which seems like should say “Welcome to Multiplayer” in Japanese (マルチプレイヘようこそ or “Multiplayer e Youkoso”), but it actually says “マルチプレイヤーへよ……..ｑ”. It’s unclear what “……..ｑ” refers to. It’s unclear what much of the localization refers to.
For example, there’s this image. It wants to say “Hacking” in Japanese, but they cannot even fit the Japanese word for ハッキング on the screen. It cuts out at the corners, making the “gu” character (グ) look like the character for “ku” (ク). And “hacking” (ハッキング) in Japanese isn’t even a verb by itself; it’s a noun!
Take this image. On the screen of the above handheld device, it reads “kensaku chuu” (検索中), which means “looking something up.” Like, in a dictionary. Pretty sure the latest Call of Dutymultiplayer doesn’t have you look up words or things online while playing. (If it does, that’sawesome!) Rather, the Japanese tansakuchuu (探索中) or maybe “saachichuu” (サーチ中) would be better.
Then, there are the descriptions of the different multiplayer matches and equipment, which many Japanese players are finding to be confusing.
The truly odd thing is that most of these words should be in English. Japanese people know basic English and all study it at school. Many Japanese products—especially cars and electronics—have simple English in them. So writing “hacking” or “searching” in Japanese doesn’t actually make much sense. Players would understand what they mean.
Online in Japan, people are complaining about these mistakes and bitching at the publisher. Some of the bad localizations are even becoming memes! A modern day “All your base are belong to us”, if you will.
The Black Ops II Japanese localization seems like it was done by individuals who didn’t know the context of what they were localizing and didn’t have the opportunity to get the necessary context. Localization is more than looking things up in dictionaries. So is Call of Duty.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II is on sale today in Japan.