American vs Japanese Game Titles: Here Are Your Choices

I had game titles on my mind last week, mainly because of the piece I was working on about franchises with messed up naming conventions for their sequels. But it also got me thinking about some of the most famous and/or interesting title changes that games have gone through when traveling from Japan to North America, so I thought I’d ask everyone which titles they preferred. I was hoping that there wouldn’t be a landslide one way or another, and fortunately there wasn’t. Some were very close, actually.

Now, I don’t typically talk about the demographics of my polls, but in this case, I thought it would be important to point out for the purposes of full disclosure that 67% of the responses came from the U.S., while only 2% came from Japan. The only regions that were represented by more than 2% were Canada and the U.K. at 7% and 3% respectively. But before you assume that might mean an obvious preference towards American titles, keep in mind that a lot of American gamers have a strong affinity for Japanese pop culture as well as liking things to be “authentic,” so it wasn’t necessarily going to be a slam dunk for American titles. Remember the U.S. gamers who were calling the dead girl from Final Fantasy VII “Aerith” from the very beginning because they knew that was her original name in the Japanese version? Or the gamers who have lived and gamed in the U.S. their entire lives and yet still call our Super Mario Bros. 2 “Super Mario USA” and our Lost Levels “Super Mario Bros. 2” (and we’ll get to them later)? We gamers like to show off and be “authentic,” so if anything, I was worried that the strong American turnout would lead to bias for the Japanese titles.

But enough of my rambling…let’s let the results speak for themselves.

Mega Man vs Rockman

Winner: Mega Man, 70%

Although a lot of people pointed out that the name change from Rockman to Mega Man completely ruins the “Rock and Roll” pun with his sister Roll–still awkwardly called that even in the U.S. versions–it seems that most people think Mega Man is a better name for the character overall. Familiarity probably played a part here, as those of us who have been with the series since the beginning have known it as Mega Man for approaching 30 years. As an interesting bit of trivia, while the also musically-named MM character “Blues” was renamed “Proto Man,” for the U.S., the non-musical Japanese pairing of Forte and Gospel were renamed as Bass and Treble when they came to the U.S. Consistency? What’s that?

Resident Evil vs Biohazard

Winner: Resident Evil, 53%

A near-even split on this one. Biohazard certainly has the “cooler”-sounding name, but it is also a tad bit generic. It’s like titling a game something nondescript like “Danger.” Resident Evil is at least more unique and has a bit of personality. The American title, interestingly enough, feels more like a call back to its spiritual predecessor Sweet Home which was a Japan-only Famicom game. And perhaps more importantly, without the initials “RE” we would’ve never been able to have so much fun calling the original game’s GameCube upgrade “REmake.”

Castlevania vs Devil’s Castle Dracula

Winner: Castlevania, 87%

This is another one that can be partially chalked up to just being used to called it Castlevania for three decades, but there’s also the matter of brevity. Devil’s Castle Dracula is long and a bit awkward, and it gets even worse when you start factoring in the installments with equally long subtitles–Devil’s Castle Dracula: Circle of the Moon is entirely too wordy of a title for a single game. Clearly Japan isn’t entirely comfortable with the game’s mouthful of a title, either, as the series actually switched to being called Castlevania for a time over there too before switching back to Devil’s Castle Dracula again.

Bust-A-Move vs Puzzle Bobble

Winner: Puzzle Bobble, 67%

90’s hipness gone terribly awry. Calling a Bubble Bobble-themed puzzle game Puzzle Bobble seems like a no-brainer. And it isn’t as though Bubble Bobble was unfamiliar to American gamers – it was a popular game that was ported to many systems in America. Between that pre-existing knowledge and seeing those iconic characters, I seriously doubt anybody would’ve looked at the game and thought, “What the hell is a puzzle bobble?” Again, I have to chalk this one up to the feeling in America in the 90’s that everything be cool and urban and edgy, and this lead to a cutesy puzzle game about popping bobbles to be named Bust-A-Move. This would end up causing issues later with the rhythm game Bust-A-Move, which was forced to change its name to Bust-A-Groove in America to avoid confusion with the puzzle game.

EarhthBound vs Mother

Winner: EarthBound, 72%

The first “Mother” game was only released in Japan, so when it was decided to bring its sequel here, calling it “Mother 2” would’ve just confused people. So they decided to call it something else entirely. Unfortunately, the game wasn’t a huge commercial or critical success upon its release, so it wouldn’t have mattered much whether the name was confusing or not. When Nintendo finally did bring Mother to the Wii U Virtual Console, it retroactively changed its title to “Earthbound Beginnings.” Should we ever get a port of third installment – and now that we’ve gotten two of the three, we damn well should – it’ll be interesting to see what the American name ends up being.

Streets of Rage vs Bare Knuckle

Winner: Streets of Rage, 69%

Okay, this one surprised me. Not necessarily that Streets of Rage would win, but that it would win by such a sizable margin. As far as which name is cooler or which one better-fits the series, it’s basically a toss up. I’m not even entirely sure which one I prefer, to be honest. So I’d probably go with Streets of Rage just because that’s what I’ve always known it as, and I suspect that’s the reason why most of you went that way as well. Although I will say that we missed out on some cool subtitles – in Japan, part 2 was subtitled “The Requiem of the Deadly Battle,” and part 3 was “Iron Fist Scriptures.” We just got plain old “Streets of Rage 2” and “Streets of Rage 3.”

Ninja Gaiden vs Legend of the Ninja Dragon Sword

Winner: Ninja Gaiden, 85%

This one is definitely another case of short and sweet vs long and convoluted. For those that don’t know, “gaiden” translates to tale or side-story, so the title is simply “ninja story.” What else do you really need to know? Not unlike what happened with Castlevania, Japan adopted the American title of the series beginning with Team Ninja’s Xbox reboot, only they’ve wisely stuck with it ever since. Too bad that didn’t also stick with keeping the Ninja Gaiden games good, but that’s just my editorial side note. The fact that your ability to make the women’s boobs jiggle by shaking the PS3 controller was the focal point of the Japanese commercials for that game says a lot about the tawdry direction the once-respectable franchise has gone in.

Fatal Frame vs Zero

Winner: Fatal Frame, 83%

To be honest, I don’t know enough about the Fatal Frame series to know why it was originally called “Zero,” but I do know that the game focuses on taking pictures of ghosts and to that end, Fatal Frame is a pretty cool name for a horror game involving cameras. Like with Streets of Rage, the Japanese games do have better subtitles – our “The Tormented” was Japan’s “Voice of the Tattoo” – but for me, it’s a small price to pay for having the much more interesting overall title. For a country that is so renown for its complex horror fiction, they sure like to keep the names of things simple: BiohazardZeroThe RingThe Killer, etc. Although having a long, complex title like, “I Know What You Did Last Summer” definitely isn’t indicative of depth (or quality).

WarioWare vs Made in Wario

Winner: WarioWare, 70%

Maybe something was lost in the translation, but “Made in Wario” sounds too much like something Wario has expelled from his backside. Although, given the character’s history of flatulent humor, maybe that was exactly what Nintendo was going for. If it was intended to be a reference to bodily functions, it definitely sets the Japanese title of WarioWare: Snapped  – “Projecting Made in Wario” – in a really gross light. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about “Made in Me,” the Japanese title of WarioWare D.I.Y…

Finally, I asked the following bonus question:

“How do you generally refer to the Japanese and North American direct follow-ups to Super Mario Bros., respectively?”

63% said “Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels / Super Mario Bros. 2
37% said “Super Mario Bros. 2 / Super Mario USA

So luckily, only 37% of Chi-Scroller readers are overly-purist show-offs…which, of course, I mean in the nicest way possible!