Clyde Mandelin is best known for his fan translation of Mother 3 and maintains the website Legends of Localisation, where he looks at games’ original scripts and how they changed in the localisation process. He applied his expertise to examine how localisers got rid of some body shaming in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.
In a study of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Mandelin notes that the original game had some problems when talking about the Zora Queen. In the story, she grows to a large size after a thief steal a gem that helps her control and focus her power. The original script handled it poorly, with negative comments about her beauty and figure tossed into the mix.
“But I actually kinda like her even looking like that, zora,” one character says. It’s an offhand comment mired in notions of ‘traditional’ beauty, suggesting it’s odd or out of the ordinary that the Zora Queen might be found attractive in her curse state.
In the English localisation, the line is changed to the more neutral “We’ve got to get it back in her pool before all is lost!”
Once Link returns the gem and the Zora Queen returns to her original form. Mandelin translates one of Zora’s response as “What a relief, zora…The queen has regained her beauty, zora…” Throughout the script, reference is made to restoring the Zora Queen’s beauty instead of helping her manage her magic. One Zora explicitly pines for their “slim queen.”The localisation removes all reference to the Queen’s weight.
Video games have a real problem when discussing characters whose body types fall outside of certain beauty standards. Weight is often used in games to signal duplicity, such as Deadly Premonition‘s Forrest Kaysen or Prey‘s Alex Yu.
In other cases, such as Overwatch‘s Roadhog, weight is framed as something laughable. Even a game like Wolfenstein 2, which does show concern for the abuse of the overweight Nazi-defectee Sigrun, can’t help but make her the butt of jokes from time to time.
The localisation of A Link Between Worlds doesn’t change the story’s implications – the Zora Queen is still “rescued” and transforms back into a more conventionally “beautiful” form – but it is nice to see script changes that cut the original version’s more judgemental tone.
It’s imperfect but definitely an improvement that’s a good reminder that localisation doesn’t always have to be faithful to the original text.