Translating games is hard work. For one, there are usually lots of cultural references that are difficult to find in another language – remember Ace Attorney’s awkward localizations back then? But word games are more important than culture, and word games are usually not translated at all. The hallmark of a great translator is the ability to speak in two languages.
In a long Twitter thread, game developer Amandine Coget discussed the French translation of Hadespointing out mistakes made during localization and excellent / terrible use of the French language when it comes to jokes.
“Dash” becomes “Élan”, which it does, but that’s also the word for “moose”, which leads to some funny phrases– Amandine Drive (@LiaSae) January 12, 2021
The French localization allows for a fantastic play on words, such as the use of “Granate de Puissance”, which can mean both “Power Grenade” and the English equivalent of “Pom (Egranate) of Power”.
Skelly, Zagreus’ target doll, is translated as “Thados” or “tas d’os”, which means “pile of bones”. The skull-based enemies have many pun names, such as “Crânalgame” which is a bunch of skulls combining the words for “skull” and “amalgam / mess”.
However, French is notoriously bad for ungendered pronouns, meaning that all enemies are masculine and gender, and chaos – which is referred to with their pronouns in the English version because chaos is an unknowable entity – is discussed with awkwardness by others -phrased sentences trying to avoid the use of pronouns.
Finally, write around pronouns using:
– “entitled” (followed by female forms);
– “Son” as a possessive pronoun that is not gender-specific according to the owner;
– “divinité” (also followed by a feminine form). pic.twitter.com/qfWLsXkzPH– Amandine Drive (@LiaSae) January 12, 2021
A major criticism that Coget seems to have more than others is the use of the polite, formal “vous” versus the casual “tu” when addressing others, especially when mixed with casual phrases like “genre”, the equivalent of the English “like” “Do you know that?
It turns out that Zagreus addresses all Olympians with the formal “Vous”, and all (except Athena occasionally) addresses him with the more informal “Tu”, implying a certain relationship between them, seen in the Zagreus as under their station becomes . However, when talking to himself – which Zag often does – he still uses the more formal phrasing, and when talking to Hades he apparently cannot make up his mind whether to be polite or use a lot of slang.
Interestingly, Dusa uses “vous” when addressing the prince to show how she respects (and perhaps fears) him, but Zag calls her the same, which makes their relationship extremely formal … at least initially.
Hypnos – the sleepy namesake of Hades’ halls – gets a lot creepier in the French version, with translations that reverse its original phrase, “Maybe if you weren’t like that” delicious, they’d leave you alone “phrase (if she’s killed by a Numbskull) in” craquant, “a word that means both” crispy “and” sweet. “It’s a play on words, but one that comes across as a lot sloppier than the original.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, you translated Charon. French murmurs, it seems, are different from English ones.
For those of you interested in languages and localization, you can read the full tweet thread here. A big thank you to Amandine Coget’s insightful thoughts and translations. Have you played any games with really good localizations? Chat with us about your favorite translated word games in the comments below!