Tuesday 7 May 2013


In case you couldn’t tell, that was the voice of a twinkling little unignorable fairy.  The kind that tries to point you in the right direction and makes sure you don’t miss anything important.  The kind you want to smash into little fairy pieces just to see what would happen.  I can tell you exactly what would happen.

First, you have to select the right tool.  You might choose the hammer, but that’s big and clumsy and a bit annoying to control sometimes.  Instead you might go for the grappling hook because of its speed and range, even if it can be a bit unforgiving on accuracy.  Yeah, good old Grapply would be better.  Then you could mush the little fairy bitch against the wall in a gaudy golden splatter!

After unlocking the achievement for mushing a fairy against a wall, you’re going to want to run up pretty quickly and sniff that wonderful fairy dust so it goes straight up into the deepest regions of your nasal orifice, where the nice fat blood vessels are, while it’s still fresh and warm.  However, you won’t be satisfied with just one sniff of fairy dust, will you, you ADDICT.  Fortunately, you have two more ready to use in Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass!

Phantom Hourglass (夢幻の砂時計) is the first game I’ve ever played to completion in two languages.  It’s a romping good game and I garnered much gratification in both the English and Japanese versions.  I last played Phantom Hourglass in about 2008, so there’s not much I can comment on with any certainty about characters or their personalities and if they are greatly different or not.  I can’t remember much about those sort of details in the English version.  The game mechanics, however, are identical as far as I can remember, but there was one glaring omission in the English edition.

To really understand what I’m about to tell you, you’ll need a sprinkling of prior knowledge of the Japanese writing system.  In short, Japanese has two phonetic scripts, called hiragana and katakana, that can be used, among numberous other ways, to show us how to pronounce the kanji, the so-called Chinese characters – those seemingly impossible to comprehend bundles of squiggles and dots that represent a range of things including real-world objects, feelings, concepts and whatnot.

While I love the DS and its touchy and untouchy faces, it has to be admitted that the resolution can be found a little wanting.  For reading an alphabet, or the relatively simply arranged hiragana and katakana, it’s sufficient, but for the often complex kanji, a player could be left wondering just which one that little black box of condensed pixels is supposed to represent. 

The developers could have sacrificed one of the screens in order to make the writing bigger and legible, but that would mean that the way the other screen was used would have to have been changed.  As it is in the game, the bottom screen is half text (and small text, at that) half camera shots of action or characters speaking, and the top screen is devoted to a map.  If you wanted to have nice, large, legible text, what would you do?

It doesn’t matter what you’d do because there’s a feature, apparently only relevant to Japanese, that has been developed to make up for the shortcomings mentioned previously.  In the Japanese version, you can touch any kanji that appears in speech with the stylus and a tiny little window will pop up telling you how to read it in hiragana or katakana!  You don’t sound too impressed, but to someone learning Japanese, this is a fantastic little addition that is absent in the English version.  It really speeds up reading and looking up words in a dictionary becomes a simple process.  If only there was a way to use the lovely dictionary that comes with a Japanese DSiLL and play a game at the same time…

I don’t know if this feature has been included in any other games, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it has or even if it’s not original to this Zelda game.  Some games have the kanji reading above the kanji in tiny little characters (called furigana, or occasionally yomigana) other games don’t have any kanji at all.  If you’ve ever played or seen any old Japanese NES games, they are generally devoid of kanji displayed as text, I’m assuming because the resolution at the time just couldn’t handle it.  Just don’t start poking your telly, or you really will be accused of being a caveperson.

Personally, I thought this was an interesting, and probably very rare, example of localization working to remove a feature of a game for the simple fact that it is utterly useless in any other language.

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