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Endings that were different for the same game in Japan

Altering a video game's content for release in different parts of the world is a complex process known as localization. Beyond the obvious translation necessary to properly localize a game, there are also thorny cultural factors to consider. In the end, the final product released in the U.S. can differ quite a bit from the one in Japan or Europe. So that means some story and gameplay elements — including the all-important ending — can sometimes be exclusive to one region. How do curious gamers find out what they're missing?

Fortunately, professional translator Clyde Mandelin is on the job, with regular reports on his excellent Legends of Localization website. There are also other great resources like the user-generated The Cutting Room Floor wiki, which seeks to catalog regional differences in hundreds of games. Here are some of the weirder examples of game endings being different in Japan than they are in the States.

And of course, be warned: there are spoilers ahead.

Ganon's gameplan

The most universally beloved game in at least a decade ends on a slightly different note in Japan. In the English version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Ganon's final transformation into "Dark Beast Ganon" is a sign he's putting an end to his little reincarnation magic trick. English Zelda says he's "given up on reincarnation and assumed his pure, enraged form."

According to Mandelin, the line in the Japanese version of the game implies the opposite: Ganon's never gonna stop morphing into increasingly lethal beasts. Japanese Zelda says Dark Beast Ganon "was born from [Ganon's] obsessive refusal to give up on revival." So is Ganon done reincarnating, or what?

It's hard to say. As Mandelin points out, Ganon refusing to "give up on revival" has gotten him this far, but it doesn't necessarily mean he'll revive again after Link stomps his final form in battle. The English version says he's "given up on reincarnation," which sounds final, but English Zelda confusingly leaves open the possibility for Ganon to return, saying "Ganon is gone for now" after the fight. Japanese Zelda, however, just says "the threat of calamity is gone/has passed," according to Mandelin, which just muddies the water even more. 

Regardless, it's a safe bet gamers will face off against Ganon in one form or another in the highly anticipated next installment, considering Breath of the Wild is one of the the driving forces pushing the stratospheric sales of the Switch, and every Zelda needs its Ganon.

Mega sacrifice

Early Mega Man games weren't exactly known for their intricate plots, and the oddball Game Boy title Mega Man V is certainly no exception. But as Mandelin observes, the Japanese version of the game, Rockman World 5, at least has the flourish to give the game's final boss a quality character arc.

Sunstar is an ancient robot dispatched by the evil Dr. Wily at the end of the game to finally put a stop to the meddling Mega Man. In the English ending, after Mega Man bests Sunstar in battle, he offers to take him to the benevolent Dr. Light for repairs. Sunstar then suddenly warns Mega Man that his damaged fusion reactor is going critical, so he has no choice but to escape before he's destroyed, along with rest of the fortress of evil robots. Mega Man books it, and the place explodes into a ball of white light.

In the Japanese version, Sunstar is known as Sungod, and his demise is a bit more fleshed-out. Our hero tries to convince him to flee and help him create a world where robots and humans can live "in harmony," and Sungod totally buys it. He tells "Rockman" (as Mega Man is known in Japan) that he wants to make that harmonious world a reality, in a genuinely sweet little speech: "I want my final act to be a helpful one, as the kind of robot you speak of."

 Sungod tips Rockman off that a "powerful bomb" was planted inside his body and he must flee the fortress before it explodes. Sungod sees the destruction of the fortress as a big step forward for robot-human relations and chooses to see his doomed mission to destroy Rockman as ultimately a grand sacrifice for that same cause. A relatively minor difference, sure, but it gives gamers a momentary insight into Sunstar/Sungod's character — a rare thing in older games — before he's vaporized in the vacuum of space.

Sisterly love

In the Japanese version of Irish assassin Anna Williams' ending to the 3D fighting classic Tekken 3, three anonymous dudes harass Anna and her sister Nina into watching them flex their muscles poolside. One guy even grabs Nina's wrist, forcing her to stand and watch the show. Nina notices that Anna is enjoying the attention — and ignoring the abuse — so she shames her by yanking off her bikini top. Not cool.

In the far less racy Western ending, the dude doesn't even grab Nina, and Anna's bikini top is left in place. Anna just enjoys the attention, Nina looks bewildered, then the credits roll. Shaming the character you just used to conquer the game in the Japanese ending is an odd choice, but then again, there is precedence: In both versions of Tekken 2, Anna's story ends with Nina taking a picture of her sister coming out of the shower, presumably for use in some disturbing future blackmail.

Mega contrast

There's a significant regional change in the Super Nintendo/Famicom entry Mega Man 7 that is also related to character development just prior to the epic collapse of one of Dr. Wily's impossibly vast and evil facilities.

"Rockman" is suitably stoic after the final showdown in Rockman 7, with an extended ellipsis ("……") in his dialogue box after the dastardly Dr. Wily tells him that dumb ol' robots can't harm humans. These humble dots are supposed to suggest speechlessness, broadly; in context, you can safely assume Rockman is feeling a heady mix of rage and pride.

In the U.S., gamers were treated to something far less subtle, and embarrassingly American: "I am more than a robot!! Die Wily!!" In both versions, of course, our hero escapes the absurdly huge, inevitably self-destructing castle and wins the day. In the U.S., he just does it with four times the exclamation points.

The thirsty comedy of Zero Wing

The "ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US" game is even stranger in Japan, with 32 secret endings unavailable stateside. The first three endings for Zero Wing are fairly conventional, but once you beat the side-scrolling space shooter for the fourth time, the subsequent closing scenes start getting odd. According to Mandelin, the alien cyborg villain, CATS, starts talking to you in "very unusual" Japanese, switching wildly between a "very effeminate" tone, a childlike tone, and just a normal '80s Japanese guy tone. Okay.

Many of his messages are just silly Japanese pop culture references that sound particularly odd in English. Here's a taste: "A cow or a horse would look oh-so-delicious if it exploded. Hmm, what to do…" 

Or how about this head-scratcher, which is apparently a reference to a cough medicine commercial and an ancient proverb: "Lulu lives for 10,000 years! Oh, I can't stand it! Don't let your cold get you down! SHE! HER! HER!"

It's no wonder the developers scrapped this insanity when putting together the Western port. It would have required a complete English comedic overhaul, and the "ALL YOUR BASE" team clearly wasn't up to the task.

Kid Nostrils

The ending to the famously difficult NES/Famicom cult classic Kid Icarus varies depending on several factors, in both the U.S. and Japanese versions. In the U.S. release, the young angel protagonist Pit earns one of three measly jobs depending on how well the player performed: farmer, guard, or guard captain. If he scores really high, he becomes a full grown angel man. The best possible ending finds Pit as a full grown angel man who also wins the heart of Palutena, the Goddess of Light.

It's a much harsher scene in Japan. There's no Palutena ending at all, plus there's the added possibility of receiving an even worse ending than "child farmer for life": Pit is transformed into a "Specknose," a thoroughly disgusting nose-shaped creature encountered earlier in the adventure.

Billy's bad breakup

There are several regional gameplay differences between The Adventures of Bayou Billy and its Japanese incarnation, Mad City. But the Japanese version also had an innovative alternate ending you couldn't access in the U.S. — just one of several quirky features Konami developed for the title, including a mix of controller and light gun gameplay and a Japan-only trivia mini-game.

To trigger this ending, you have to make Billy avoid his girlfriend Annabelle after beating the final boss by simply moving him away from her using the D-pad, instead of instinctively moving to her and to the right, as you have been the entire game. She notices the cold shoulder and proceeds to break up with Billy, even though he just finished rescuing her from the clutches of an insanely high-powered crime boss. It's a cruel, clever, and hilarious potential twist that proves Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear fame was far from the only envelope-pushing game designer in Konami's early days.

Dream and friends

In the U.S., there's a heartfelt message from Uncle Scrooge to his nephews at the end of the Capcom's classic platformer DuckTales, worth repeating here in full: "Right lads! I couldn't have done it without you. I really am the richest duck in the world."

The Japanese version, on the other hand, uses one line of text from an early prototype (the only line in English in the game) that leaves Scrooge's real feelings about his kin an intoxicating mystery: "DREAM AND FRIENDS." Cryptic!

As odd it looks to Western gamers, this message was likely sufficient in Japan, as Mandelin notes in his excellent exploration of the localization of the original Super Mario Bros. Most Japanese gamers knew enough English to understand the general vibe a phrase like "DREAM AND FRIENDS" puts out, and since the rest of the game's ending text is in Japanese, that one stray English phrase wasn't really cheating them, story-wise.

Western Soul

The end to the underrated Super Nintendo/Famicom action RPG Soul Blazer, known as the way cooler-sounding Soul Blader in Japan, features the nameless hero's love interest Lisa in an emotional-but-stiff cutscene. In the Japanese version, Lisa looks like a typical large-eyed anime character and her hands are clasped in prayer as she stands in a 16-bit meadow. In the U.S. and Europe, her eyes are smaller, but her face remains otherwise unaltered. 

The oddest part about the transformation is that it makes her look a lot like actress Laura Dern. No, seriously.

In addition, Lisa's praying hands were removed, since, at the time, Nintendo steered clear of all-things-religious in the West, which is why (for just one oft-cited example) Link meets an at-most agnostic "sage" instead of a proper priest in A Link to the Past.

Canine carnage

Ostensibly aimed at children, the obscure stinker Dog's Life allows players a dog's eye view of the world — or at least a dog's eye view of the world as it was murkily rendered on the PlayStation 2. The U.S. ending is really, really dark. The game's cartoonish villain is processed into cat food. Ouch.

But it gets worse: a dog's noxious fart is the murder weapon. Jake, the pooch protagonist, literally farts cat food company owner Miss Peaches into her own machinery, grinding her into Meow Mix. It's not a graphic scene, but in Japan the horror is dialed down so that the offscreen carnage is only implied, as the video above disorientingly demonstrates.