English Localization Of Square Enix’s ‘Live A Live’ Found To Be Riddled With Poor Translation And Censorship
Live A Live's English localization has come under fire, being yet another Square Enix title to be accused of censorship and poor translation.
Live A Live’s English localization has come under fire, as yet another Square Enix title is being accused of censorship and poor translation.
Originally released in 1994, the SNES JRPG takes place across multiple eras, each with their own twists on gameplay. From the ancient past to the far-flung future, from feudal Japan to the wild west, a mysterious threat seems to transcend time and space. The game didn’t have an official western launch until its 2022 remake, with English gameplay of the SNES original coming from fan-translated emulators.
Twitter profile @iuntue, an account dedicated to cataloging inaccurate translations and censorship in localization of Japanese games, shared their thoughts on Live A Live Remake. As with several prior Square Enix titles, liberties appear to have been taken, typically avoiding content that could be deemed sexist or offensive. This is despite a study this year proving sexualized content doesn’t cause misogyny or body image issues.
It should be noted that while Square Enix both develops and publishes Live A Live in Japan, the game’s worldwide release was published by Nintendo. Even so, thanks to Square Enix’ own ethics department and aforementioned recent history, one must wonder which of the pair dictated these changes.
Starting with the Imperial China chapter, Earthen Heart Shifu (Xin Shan Quan Master in fan translations) playfully teases bandit Lei Kugo over her temper. It could be argued he is either evoking the trope of a much older man either making flirtatious comments or testing her resolve to keep her temper; a flaw Lei eventually overcomes in the story as she becomes Shifu’s student.
In the English version however, Shifu doesn’t outright tell her to keep her calm. Instead he reassures her that he won’t forget her name, praises it, and cautions her to avoid the arrogance that led to him so easily halting her attempted mugging.
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Earthen Heart Shifu: All right, all right, no need to get so angry. You’re letting your pretty face go to waste.
Earthen Heart Shifu: You may rest assured that I will not [forget your name]. It is a good, strong name, worthy of pride. But pride will lead you astray if you let it. As it did not so long ago.
Moving to the Wild West, the Mariachi band appears to have lost their Mexican accents at first. @iuntue highlights how one band member greets you with “A-amigo!” in Japanese, but “G-greetings, my friend!” in English.
However, the English version does feature the band members speaking and singing in Mexican, with their words translated into English in brackets. They also use Spanish words when addressing the player in English, such as vaquero and pistolero, and dubbed lines spoken with a Mexican accent.
One also inquires, “Tequila! Yes, tequila! That’s what you need, yes?” which could be assumed to be a stereotypical Mexican drink. As such, if there was an attempt to downplay Mexican stereotypes, the only change made would be ditching the Spanish/Mexican word for friend.
A later scene also sees an outlaw harassing Sundown for sitting in his spot, has his advances rejected by Annie, and then hurls a child into Sundown — who remained still up until that point. Pretending to make amends, the outlaw mockingly offers to buy Sundown a glass of milk, alluding to his perceived delicate nature.
As Sundown rejects the milk, the outlaw mocks Sundown in the same manner in English and Japanese. Sundown can then either remain silent or respond. In Japanese his response is curt, arguably fitting someone slow to anger, or wanting to avoid trouble and about to be pushed too far. In English it’s more of a quip, and almost looking for trouble.
Outlaw: Or do you like it when the milk doesn’t come from mama’s titty? (Machine Translation: DeepL)
Sundown: Get lost.
Outlaw: Lemme guess: it’s not that you hate milk, but that you can’t stomach it ‘less it’s fresh from your mother’s tits!
Sundown: Your mother’s, maybe.
Players also have the option to swipe clothes from Annie’s wardrobe. In the original 1994 version — at least, based on the English fan translation — players can find Annie’s Nighty. In the 2022 English version, this is Annie’s Diary.
She still acts with disgust over the player obtaining it, and showing it to her has Annie responding “Hey! This ain’t no library! You’re on thin ice, you two!” However, as it was a nighty, players are able to equip the diary to the torso armor slot.
It could be argued that the censored version still works, as tucking a book under your shirt or jacket so it’s just in front of your heart is a trope that would fit in the wild west setting. Even so, it can’t hide the fact it offers very little defense, much like a sheer nightgown. This is also not the only time a piece of “inappropriate” gear was renamed.
In the original 1994 release, during the Near Future chapter, Watanabe can help the player obtain Taeko’s Panties, but not before several failed attempts including his own boxers. In the localized version of the 2022 remake his initial offer is Watanabe’s pocket lint (originally Watanabe’s Boxers). In other instances outside the home, Watanabe’s Boxers is changed to Watanabe’s Badge.
The reason for this change is because Akira is attempting to steal Taeko’s pocket money. Players are given Taeko’s Pouch (Taeko’s Jeans), Taeko’s Picture (Takeko’s Stockings), Taeko’s furious fist (Taeko’s Punch, with a notably softer sounding tap when Akira uses it on Watanabe), and finally Taeko’s Secret Stash (Taeko’s Panties).
@Iuntue notes that this change is also reflected in the Japanese version, at least with the underwear being changed to money; specifically, Taeko’s Secret Savings — “ヘソクリ” via machine translation on DeepL. Again, these items may be equipped to certain armor slots despite their new titles.
Another point of contention among fans was the fact that, as detailed by Twitter user @KingOfPrinnies, this change makes the scene slightly out of character for Akira.
“Now that I’ve hit the Near Future chapter in Live A Live, I think I’ve found my 2nd issue with the official translation,” the user began (his first issue mentioned later in this article). “The original let’s Akira have Watanabe try to steal Taeko’s underwear, but that’s been changed to have him steal money. Which, morally somehow seems worse.”
“Like, stealing the underwear of the woman who raised you since you became an orphan has some implications if you think about it, but like, now you’re stealing the money she’s been saving up. Like, dude, maybe that money was for THE ORPHANAGE YOU LIVE IN,” @KingofPrinnies reasons. “D—k move.”
One more scene in the near future has Lawless, a cool and collected biker who Akira looks up to, offering slightly different dialogue. As he pilots a mecha with his dying breath, he reveals the truth about his past, and how he was responsible for something terrible in Akira’s life.
His girlfriend Taeko interrupts, saying he’s in no condition to keep piloting the mecha and needs to rest @iuntue shows how in both languages Lawless answers about doing the right thing to make amends, but in Japanese was censored, likely to prevent accusations of misogyny.
Lawless: It’s not a woman’s place to but in… When a man is setting things… Strai…ght…
Lawless: Sometimes you’ve gotta own up to your mistakes… Consequences be damned. Am I… Am I right…?
@iuntue also notes that even the fan-translation wasn’t accurate, as they went with “Women always get in the way… Right?”
One final line comes from the Pre-History chapter, which is almost entirely devoid of text. While it’s amusing to think English localizers may have bungled a chapter with only one word of dialogue, there are menus, equipment, and skills found in this chapter.
“At the end of Prehistory,” @GeneKanichen explains, “Pogo f—ks the girl and creates spoken language by saying LOOOOOOOVE!!! (Ai in Japanese).” The scene is fairly suggestive, as Pogo is seen walking into a cave with a girl, and despite being comic relief ties into Live A Live’s themes of humanity, love, hatred, and keeping hope for better things. “The new game leaves it as AIIIIIIIIEEEE.”
@LunarArchivist shares the fan-translation and official 2022 English versions side by side, much to their disgust. “Jesus Christ.”
Note: Spoilers for Live A Live from here.
In the game’s final chapter, @iuntue justifies that “The localization kinda explains ‘Aieee!’ if you pick Pogo at the end.” While Pogo screams “Aieee!” again, Oersted understands this as him attempting to say “love” in Japanese. In English, he merely takes the cave-man’s wild caterwauling as being passionate, and reminding him of love.
Oersted: A… Ai…ka… (Love)
Oersted: Such passion. Nay. ‘Tis love.
What do you think of Live A Live’s localization? Let us know on social media and in the comments below.