Feature: When it Comes to Games, What's in a Name?
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Quite a lot, if you're fussy like us
The latest major 3DS release to hit Europe is Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros., except in our review we took to calling it by its North American name, just plain-old Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. It arrives Stateside around a month after Europe, but the shorter title seems like a better fit; that "Bros." feels unnecessary, as anyone who reads Mario & Luigi in a title but isn't sure if they're brothers is, frankly, short on basic gaming knowledge.
Now, of course, the decision to add that extra word was probably taken based on sound marketing data, and quite possibly an attempt to tie this game — in the minds of consumers — with all of those Super Mario Bros. games that are all the rage, particularly those with "New" thrown in at the start. That series of modern Mario platformers is another one that causes deep-rooted angst around the web, as how can a DS game from 2006 still be called "New"? Because Nintendo said so, that's why.
But still, regional name differences are often more drastic or interesting than the latest Mario & Luigi example, so below are some games or franchises that, despite the content being the same, are known differently depending on where you live.
Star Fox becomes Starwing, and then Europe Gets Lylat Wars...
Star Fox was an ideal name for the Super NES title, as it's a fox that flies around like something out of Star Wars; it just worked. But when it came to Europe there was another game of the same name, with related trademark issues bringing the region Starwing instead — not as catchy, but at least it made sense. By the time Star Fox 64 came around we didn't see that classic Bits number added to Starwing, but instead received Lylat Wars, which would have successfully thrown away any thought at branding it as a sequel / reboot to those not in the know. Yet by the time Star Fox Adventures came around on GameCube, the name stuck worldwide.
So Europe went from Starwing, to Lylat Wars, and then finally saw the name Star Fox on the GameCube. So what to do with Star Fox 64 3D in Europe? Lylat Wars 3D? We like to imagine a management meeting where someone at Nintendo of Europe said "screw it, let's just call it Star Fox 64 3D and pretend that trademark mess never happened". And you know what? That was a good call.
Have you played Contra, er I mean Gryzor, or is it Probotector?
A lot of people like the run and gun fun of Contra; it's classic Konami action that is still a blast today. We'd bet most Europeans call it Contra, too, but it was released on the NES in PAL regions as Probotector, which sounds cool but is a bit of a stretch. Or maybe Europeans preferred the arcade original of the game, Gryzor? Oh to be in North America, where it's just called Contra regardless of format.
Everyone could get confused for the sequel, however. The arcade was very sensibly called Super Contra, but somebody decided that was too many letters for an NES game and called it Super C in North America. Lengthy game names clearly weren't a concern for the European arm of Konami, which gave it the snappy title of Probotector II: Return of the Evil Forces.
Would Rockman have become as iconic as Mega Man?
We should start this little entry by saying that we have nothing against the Rockman name used in Japan for Capcom's iconic franchise; it's typical video game naming. Yet with so many games out there with the Mega Man name, and with a loyal following of devoted — and recently spurned — fans, it's one of those "what if" questions.
Would an NES series called Rockman have taken off in the West based on gameplay alone, or is branding and a catchy name important when establishing iconic characters? You can give us your view in the mini poll below.
Would Mega Man have become such an iconic franchise if called Rockman in the West? (292 votes)
Absolutely, the name wouldn't have made a difference
Hm, I'm not sure
Please login to vote in this poll.
Resident Evil is way better than Biohazard
We've perhaps been controversial with that heading, but we can't help it. The Resident Evil franchise, despite a choppy record of success commercially and in terms of critical reception, is nevertheless a brand that's spawned a lot of releases, movies and more. It's an important series for Capcom — even if it's struggling to hit the heights right now — and is perhaps helped by its iconic name, not to mention the infamous deep voice that announces each title in as menacing a tone as possible.
It's a title that just about makes sense, too, with the storylines ultimately revolving around infections and evil groups / companies infecting the population or creating bio-weapons. The evil is within, literally, for those that are turned. As for Biohazard — the Japanese name for the series — it's technically correct, but could simply mean a sewage spill that needs to be mopped up by Health and Safety officials; not quite as glamorous or exciting.
Super Mario Bros. 2, two very different games
This is possibly the best known example of name discrepancies, which is also nice and topical with the Western version arriving on the 3DS Virtual Console in the most recent North American Nintendo Download update. In Japan, this was a very typical sequel, utilising the same graphics engine and many of the original's mechanics, but with levels that were undoubtedly a lot tougher. So tough, in fact, that the popular version of the tale has Nintendo deciding that it was too difficult for Western audiences.
What came West was a re-purposed version of Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, which for some was just fine; it was quite a departure from its predecessor but, nevertheless, a hugely entertaining game. That version was released in Japan as Super Mario USA, while the Japanese sequel eventually saw the light of day as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels; in the end, everyone won.
StreetPass games sound cooler in North America?
Today finally brought StreetPass DLC to North America — street parties will take place, and we'll call it StreetPass Day for years to come. OK, maybe not, but at least both sides of the Atlantic now have access to the same extra games. Yet something has changed; it's the names of course, with the EU versions followed by the NA equivalents, below.
EU Vs NA
StreetPass Squad vs Mii Force
StreetPass Garden vs Flower Town
StreetPass Battle vs Warrior's Way
StreetPass Mansion vs Monster Manor
We can't help but think that North America has the edge here, but you can have your say in the mini poll below.
Which StreetPass DLC names are better, Europe's or North America's? (302 votes)
Europe's all the way
The North American names are obviously better
I'm not sure
Please login to vote in this poll.
So those are just a few examples, while there are numerous others — Legend of the Mystical Ninja / Goemon, that Final Fantasy series numbering — that have confused gamers over the years. Of course the answers are just a google search away nowadays, but here's hoping for more naming discrepancies for us to chew over in the future. Tell us about your memorable examples in the comments below.