Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mother Time

Procrastination rewarded: I recently discovered a seemingly unimportant change between the English and Japanese versions of the video game Chrono Trigger that I find rather baffling. The game opens with the hero, Crono — that is, not Chrono or even Krono but Crono, sans an “H” — being awakened by his mother. As with every other character in the game, her every line begins with her name and a colon, screenplay style, to identify her as the one talking. In the U.S. version, she’s simply Mom. According to this site, however, the Japanese version assigns her a proper name, just as every other character in the game gets: Jina, which I suppose could have been rendered in English as Gina.

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This minor character having a proper name helps to reinforce parallels between Chrono Trigger and it’s sequel, Chrono Cross. Both open with the main character waking up and being greeted by their respective mother. But unlike her counterpart in the American translation of Chrono Trigger, the mother in Chrono Cross has a name: Marge.

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I wonder what impulse prompted whoever translated the first game for English-speaking audiences to simply call the mother Mom. Did they think American players wouldn’t get who this strange woman traipsing into a young man’s bedroom would be? Did they think we couldn’t wrap our heads around the notion of a mother having a name other than Mom? It’s an odd choice that presumably was made for some reason. Otherwise why make it?

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