The Writing in Pokemon Black and White is Terrible
by, 27th January 2012 at 11:37 AM (290 Views)
It's plain! It's dull! It's uninspired!
I felt myself feeling an emotion I've never felt before when playing through a run through of a pokemon game for the first time: boredom. It was strange. These two games had great scenarios, pokemon designs that I liked and very solid gameplay. Then I realised why. It was the localisation. These translations may have been accurate to the japanese version, but they were also incredibly dry; devoid of emotion and subtlety.
More often than not you will find characters stating their emotions.
"My pokemon and I are happy" - Skyla
Who does this in real life? It completely takes me out of the game because it isn't sincere at all. In addition to this the way the translators have gone with the choice of wording in their sentences is incredibly bizarre.
"Wow. I'm dumbstruck! I know a lot of words, but right now I can't figure out how to say this. Perhaps, if the feeling I'm having now is put into words, it will be trapped there. So let me say this... My feeling is you're a great Trainer!" - Shauntal
Excuse me? "My feeling is you're a great trainer"? That's the most unnatural sounding sentence ever. My feeling is that this was poorly written. Who actually talks like that? And your character is supposed to be a writer! Why are you using such stilted English? Also, examine the sentence "Perhaps, if the feeling I'm having now is put into words, it will be trapped there." What the hell does that even mean!?
Now, it shouldn't surprise anyone if they weren't already aware of the fact that the Black and White translator is not the same as the translator that worked on the previous games from Red and blue to Diamond and Pearl. If we compare Shauntal's previous loss quote to say, another elite four ghost user we can see a very large difference.
"There's a definite bond between you and your Pokémon, too. I didn't recognize it, so it's only natural that I lost. Yup, I'd like to see how far your bond will carry you. Go ahead, move to the next room." -Phoebe
The delivery is relatively nuanced. Phoebe was thinking big of herself and defeating her knocked her down a few pegs. She graciously accepts defeat and recognises where she went wrong. Compared to Shauntal's quote which basically amounts to "That was surprising, I lost. Well, gee I guess you're a really great trainer!" it seems hollow by comparison. If I were to massacre Phoebe's quote into the Black and White style I would write something like: "You're a trainer who also has a bond with your pokemon. I lost because I didn't understand this. I'll be watching to see your progress as a trainer with your pokemon. Go ahead and move onto the next room." Notice how my example makes the character generic?
This type of wonky, third-rate-anime localisation is prevalent throughout the entire game and it really detracted from my enjoyment of the game. The writing in the pokemon games always had flair and a liveliness to them. Black and White tries to suck it all out and make it as clinical as possible. Characters say bland unnaturally worded sentences emotionally devoid of personality.
"Am I being overpowered?! This is nothing! I will overpower you!" - Alder
Have the writers of the pokemon anime gotten their hands on the games? Because that is the only reason I could see the dialogue going downhill so quickly. The character's names are also weird, another trademark that the anime has fancied for awhile. This is just an observation but if you look at the list of Elite Four members up until Black and White you'll see that each group has four relatively normal names with one that has a slightly weirder name. (Lorelei, Koga, Glacia, Cynthia are the weird ones) I only say Cynthia because it's hard to believe a character in her twenties is named Cynthia. That is until we reach Black and White where we have three characters with weird names: Alder, Grimsley and Shauntal. This is a pattern that shows up throughout the Black and White games. It tries too hard to be exotic and just comes off as lame.
"Some problems you can't solve even if you think about them your whole life. Some problems have different answers depending on the person. Still, the reason I can't keep my curiosity down is this: I want to figure out the truth, but I also have a desire for adventure!" - Lenora
Why does having a desire for adventure conflict with wanting to figure out the truth? I have a feeling that that "but" was supposed to be an "and".
There are countless more examples of dialogue in these games that I take issue with but posting them all would be too much and I think I got my point across. I don't know if it's because I've grown older but the localisation makes this game so lame. It's soulless for me. To fix this I would suggest they hire a good writer to help the translator(s). I believe that it is better to show than tell and that less is more. The writing is stilted and the vocabulary is the same for all of the characters in Black and White. Maybe it's because I'm older and am more critical of things or maybe the localisation really is this bad.
If you disagree for some reason please feel free to state why.
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