Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ogopogo Lives

In playing the Nintendo DS remake of Final Fantasy IV and essentially reliving a game I first played through in 1993 — only now in considerably more visual detail with a few bells and whistles thrown in — I came across an optional, penultimate boss that I’d nearly forgotten about: Ogopogo.

image courtesy of the ryu room

Little did I realize at the time that Ogopogo got his name when the people in charge of translating the original Super Nintendo version decided to throw a reference in to a Nessie-like sea serpent that supposedly lives in British Columbia. Unless I’m mistaken, Squaresoft’s American office would have been located in Washington at the time and therefore would have been a relatively short driving distance from Lake Okanagan. It seems likely enough that the translators would have heard the long-lived legend of this lake-dwelling cryptid and decided to dub the boss in its honor rather than using its awkward Japanese name, “Tidaliathan.” According to Wikipedia, Squaresoft even sent out a company newsletter for a period, and the name of it was the Ogopogo Examiner.

(Sidenote: Actually, I was a little surprised that the American version of the name stuck into this latest remake. In the years since the game was initially released, there’s been talk about what a lousy translation it got. I agree. Even I noted that the text was less than stellar, and I was just a kid when I first read it. There’s a line spoken angrily by one character in the game, “You spoony bard!” And it’s mean in all seriousness. It has become a catchphrase among Final Fantasy dorks and can also be used as a sort of shorthand for the phenomenon of grammatically fine translations that still sound nothing like anything a contemporary English speaker would ever say. Later iterations of the game have cleaned up the sloppiness somewhat, but some of the liberties the initial translators have survived, either as tributes or as a result of them becoming popular with American gamers.)

When my family visited that very year I played through Final Fantasy IV, my little mind was blown away, however briefly, when we encountered a statue celebrating Ogopogo. He looked a lot nicer in statue form than he did in the video game, what with him killing me on many failed attempts to steal his treasure.

image courtesy of this guys blog

I’m still not clear how to pronounce the creature’s name — flat, with no emphasis, “Oh-go-po-go”? or with the accent on the second syllable, “Oh-GOP-oh-go”? — but seeing him again was a nice way to remember something I’d nearly forgotten.

Oh, and I totally killed him. That was nice too.

The intersection of video games and all things verbal, previously:

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