Undertale's Japanese Localization is Full of Hidden Gems For Eagle-eyed Fans

Undertale's Japanese Localization is Full of Hidden Gems For Eagle-eyed Fans

Undertale played around a lot with its Japanese localization.

Undertale released for the first time on consoles earlier this year when it came out on the PlayStation 4. With the new console version came a new Japanese localization for Undertale. While I personally didn't play the Japanese language version, the team at 8-4 went to great lengths to localize every aspect of the original English version of Understale, even including neat little meta jokes with the Japanese font and syntax for two Undertale characters: Papyrus and Sans.

While I won't give too much away for those of you who haven't played Undertale yet, Papyrus and Sans are two skeleton brothers the players encounter during the course of the game. One of the jokes regarding their characters is that the font used for their respective dialogue boxes are the same as the fonts for which they derive their names from, Papyrus and Comic Sans.

There's not really an equivalent for the papyrus and comic sans font in Japanese, but a Twitter user named @LordMune pointed out that to work around this 8-4 decided to use stylistic equivalents for the Japanese fonts. That meant that Papyrus ended up with a top-bottom, left-to-right font that looks vaguely handwritten, while Sans received a font that's apparently the Japanese equivalent of comics sans (manga sans?).

It's a neat little effect that creates a neat contrast to their respective western counterparts, especially since Papyrus is meant to evoke an ancient form of script while comic sans is essentially the meme of fonts.

The thread unearths several other little tricks 8-4 included in the Japanese localization (some mentioned by 8-4 staff members themselves) including the primary use of katakana as an homage to old-school JRPGs (whose pixel constraints prevented the use of more complicated Kanji characters), and the need for high resolution fonts due to the tricky nature of rendering Japanese fonts.

It should be noted that the Japanese version of Undertale is one of the most talked-about localizations this year (h/t Kotaku). Fans have poured over a good chunk of the game's localization, even down to the pronouns used by Sans in the Japanese version which is apparently super-nuanced and not easily recognizable to western gamers.

Basically, good localization is more than just good translations and extends way beyond into even just the simple choice of fonts.

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Matt Kim

News Editor

Matt Kim is a former freelance writer who's covered video games and digital media. He likes video games as spectacle and is easily distracted by bright lights or clever bits of dialogue. He also once wrote about personal finance, but that's neither here nor there.

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