One day I will dive deeper into this game, as I’m woefully unfamiliar with it, but in the meantime here are some ramblings and fun facts based on a brief foray into the Japanese and English scripts of each version.
To start with: Did you know that the Japanese script has been tweaked with each remake/remaster of the game?
At the point I’ve gotten to right now (which is admittedly not far at all), these tweaks are largely only to things like punctuation usage and whether or not a word uses kanji vs. hiragana. For example, the PSP version seems to like to remove all the little ッs and ellipses that were prevalent in the PS1 script.
|J PS1||J PSP|
Meanwhile, Reborn does away with ellipses entirely: either deleting them or replacing them with dashes (like Kingdom Hearts).
|J PS1||J PSP||J Reborn|
Beyond this minutiae, though, there are occasional instances of lines being changed a little more substantially. That being said, I have yet to see any lines where the intent is actually changed.
|J PS1||J PSP/Reborn|
Moving on to the English… As might’ve been predicted, the PS1 translation…isn’t the best. The dialogue is serviceable, but not stellar. So far it does at minimum seem to mostly convey what’s being said in the Japanese, but there are exceptions. Most notably Kachua claiming that they’re “still recovering from the last war,” when the intent of the Japanese is more that they’ve finally attained peace, which is why Vice takes issue with the statement, because it cannot truly be called peace if they’re still being oppressed.
|J PS1||E PS1|
| the last war.|
Are you trying to
start another one?
「What do you mean
are being treated
| Gargastan is|
trying to wipe us
The system text is also incredibly rough, featuring such amazing English as:
When you want to make an order to the character…
If you want to know the meaning of commands…
And when trying to move a character:
Set the designation of the character.
(The word they want is “destination” if it wasn’t obvious.)
Just as predictably, the fantastic PSP translation by Joseph Reeder, Alexander O. Smith, and Laurel Justice smooths out all these issues with vastly superior dialogue and natural-sounding system text. (Note that the Reborn translation appears to be the same as PSP with minor tweaks here and there.)
We need only revisit the “recovering from the last war” line to see the clear improvements:
|J Psp/reborn||e psp/reborn|
The turmoil of the last war has only just settled,
and you’d start another?
Are we Walister so free of turmoil now, Catiua?
We are less than vermin in their eyes…
insects to be crushed underfoot.
Not only does this more accurately portray the intent of Catiua’s line (“but we’re finally at peace”), it also matches the JP’s use of 虫ケラ (mushikera; worm/insect, insignificant person), compared with E PS1’s “shit”. All with much better writing (which I grant is subjective to an extent, but still.)
E PS1 does at least have one thing going for it, though: it inexplicably manages to credit the translation staff in the opening movie, whereas E PSP and Reborn do not, which honestly feels like a crime. (To be fair, Reborn opts for displaying all the voice actors instead, which is legit. And to my knowledge the translation team is still credited at the end, which is more than can be said for many other games.)
In any case, if you’re ever looking to to study what sets an okay translation apart from a great one, it seems like Tactics Ogre is definitely worth a look (as well as Final Fantasy Tactics, I might add).