GW2 Professions P2 will be up later, but I feel compelled to rant for a moment.
I consumed Final Fantasy products voraciously in my youth. I’ve mentioned this before. I don’t think I was alone. It is mind boggling looking back, after the fact, and seeing some of the things the series did. One thing that blows my mind happened with Final Fantasy VIII.
What in the ever living Fira is a Firaga? Blizzaga? Thundara?!
This bothered me, even back then.
In the first Final Fantasy, we had magic spells like FIRE, ICE and LIT. They had stronger versions, like FIR2, ICE2 and LIT2. So on and so forth. I think you see the pattern. It wasn’t perfect. (What the hell is an ARUB? Oh, that protects you from RUB. WTF is RUB?!) There was a 4 letter limit, carried over from the fact that Japanese can convey an entire syllable in a single character. So the translation team did the best they could with what they had.
By Final Fantasy VII, we had mostly ironed out the troubles. We had Fire 2, Ice 2 and Bolt 2. Short, concise, recognizable and sufficiently descriptive.
This changed in Final Fantasy VIII. Fire 2 became Fira. Fire 3 became Firaga. Ice and Bolt were further mangled. Ice 3 becomes Blizzaga. Bolt 2 becomes Thundara.
I could briefly make the point that Thunder is a poor choice for a lightning spell. Thunder is the sound of lightning. Not many people die of thunder. You’d have to be pretty rickety in the heart for that. But let’s not nitpick.
Except for, you know, that other nitpicking I was doing.
There is speculation as to the reason for the change. Of those I’ve heard, the one that seems to hold some degree of weight is that FF8 introduced a system by which you had to gather spells as a resource. It was a horrible, ungainly beast of a system, but that’s not on trial here. It remains that you could have, at any given moment, a certain remaining stock of a spell. This presents the problem of presenting to the player that they have 2 of Fire 3, for example. Whether this is actually the problem, we may never know. Personally, I would’ve used roman numerals. (Fire III x5, for example.)
My main problem with it is it isn’t intuitive. It’s a blockade between player and game that serves no meaningful purpose. The purpose of a user interface is to quickly and effectively trade information with the player. (Admittedly, RPGs have been notoriously bad at this through out history. Raise your hand if you knew what a +10 Vitality meant to your character in FF7.) Yet, fans of the series seem to defend this convention fervently. This forum archive captures what I mean perfectly. The first third of the thread is people proclaiming how much more they like this naming convention, after which it breaks down into total confusion.
I guess it fits with what I said in my Final Fantasy Mystic Quest review. People like to get lost in their RPG, and fun isn’t necessarily a prerequisite to that condition.
So, where does -ara and -aga come from?
I once heard that -ra means “second” and -ga means “third” in Japanese. If you look at the Japanese games, sure enough, there it is. Most of the spells are 4 characters, and if you look for ones that look similar, you’ll find many that share the first three characters in common. Where they differ in the fourth character, many have either a ra () or ga (). Seems legit.
My initial reaction was mild rage. I paid for a translated version of the game. You can’t just be leaving parts of it Japanese.
But, wait. This sushi smells a bit fishy. I looked at the spells that seemed to produce ice. The first, “romanized” (converted to Roman letters, or romaji; hey, I’ve studied some Japanese before), was “bu-ri-za-do” (). Burizado? A quick dictionary search informs me that that is Japanese for “blizzard”. It sounds kind of like blizzard too. A lot of Japanese words are like that. I’m amused and continue.
This turns out to be gibberish. But, wasn’t “-ra” supposed to be “second”? Well, by this point, my weak-ass Japanese studies are starting to filter back into my head. I remember that Japanese does have a system for something kind of like this. It is, to put it in professional terms, complex as balls. Even if it does mean that, by some quirk of the language, they just chopped off “-do” to make it fit. It doesn’t even mean blizzard anymore. It would be like if the English version was “blitwo”. ”Bu-ri-za-ga” proves equally nonsensical.
Let’s try the other spells.
I find faia (the ‘u’ sound is often quick to abandon its post in Japanese; frustratingly, romanized versions of words are very inconsistent in expressing this) in the dictionary–among many other words–for fire. Interesting that, again, it is the one that sounds the closest to the English “fire”. The higher versions are predictably “faira” and “faiga”, which are still gibberish, because the last syllable is still lost in the change.
sa-n-do– sa-n-da– ()
The last syllable () basically just means the last syllable before it has a long sound (it usually has a curly tail to distinguish it from a dash, but my only font lacks such frivolousness).
Sando and sandoo don’t seem to come up on their own in the dictionary. However, I did find “sandobado”, which means “thunderbird”. So, sando is used because it is, again, the phonetic partner to the English “thunder”. Interesting.
Rebuttal Addendum #1 (Sep-13-2012): A friend much smarter than I shot me a mail today informing me I got my katakana wrong. The third symbol is “da” not “do”. Looking back at my dictionary, it even says “Sandabado” for “thunderbird”. So, yup, I was just all sorts of wrong on that one. There are also apparently dictionaries that do list “sanda” as “thunder”. Sure, I don’t see why not. I need a better dictionary.
One more, because this one really caught my attention.
This one is only three syllables and casts Cure. Kearu… Cure… Yup, they did it again. And kearu is, as best I can find, not a Japanese word. It is, literally, the English word “cure” force-fed into the language using a linguistic mallet. Because this one only has three syllables, the updated spells don’t eliminate anything: kearura and kearuga. But since the root word is gibberish, these are just gibberish+. Gibberishra, if you will.
Rebuttal Addendum #2 (Sep-13-2012): In further Japanese education happy fun time, I was informed that “kea” translates to “care”. Now if we can just learn the meaning behind the -ra and -ga hacking off of syllables, we’ve got this thing nailed! Maybe find out what that -ru there is all about, while we’re at it.
Let this be a lesson, children of gaming. Wise man once say: Seek knowledge and you may find it. Be wrong on the internet and knowledge will hunt you down.
So, you’re telling me…
Yes. Long before deciding to troll all of North America with Final Fantasy VIII, they were trolling their own country from the very beginning of the series. I used to whine, because I couldn’t remember which was stronger between blizzara and blizzaga. I had it easy. There had to be Japanese people screaming, [wtf is a kearu?!]
Still not convinced? There’s a spell in Final Fantasy 7 called “Full Cure”.
What did the Japanese get?
So, to all of you who told me you liked the newer naming convention, because it was closer to the spirit of the original Japanese names: you may be more correct than you know.
Bonus points to those of you who caught the Final Fantasy XI auto-translator reference.