It’s common knowledge that Pac-Man was once known as PUCKMAN. It made sense, of course, as the titular character resembles a hockey puck, but the ‘U’ and ‘K’ had to go as some no-good kids were getting creative with a certain rhyming word. There is also some suggestion that PUCKMAN or PUKKMAN was named because a of a Japanese sound for eating “puka-puka”, so it might be with some serendipity that we got to the hockey puck connection.
It is, however, an area of interest for olds school gamers, as not only do some game’s names change over time, but they also change from country to country. Of course, some of it is not only in official titles, but part of linguistic colloquialisms too.
Possibly, the best place to start is with – and, again this is pretty common knowledge – a certain Jumpman, who made his debut in Donkey Kong in 1981. This moustachioed plumber got the name Mario in 1982’s Donkey Kong Jnr, an appearance where the Italian showed his versatility by playing the bad guy for the first and last time.
Brits do it differently
Moving into the mid-90s, kids all over the UK would head to arcades and play Puzzle Bobble, and their American pen pals would respond with “What the heck is Puzzle Bobble?”. The answer, of course, is Bust a Move, a simple but fascinating game created by Taito.
Cleary the special relationship between the UK and USA has also broke down over the game of checkers, which is known as draughts if Queen Elizabeth II appears on your coins. Also, say Tic Tac Toe to a British person, and they will think you are talking about a small minty candy and a human digit: Xs and Os or noughts and crosses, and they will catch your drift. Cluedo also loses a “D” and an “O” when it is played in the United States as Clue.
Going into the area of slang and colloquialisms can be fascinating: Slot machines, for example, can be anything from one-armed bandits, fruit machines, fruities in the UK nowadays, pokies in New Zealand, puggies in Scotland, machines á sous (literally, small coin machines) in France, and so on.
“Ninjas” were too hot to handle
Getting back to video gaming, when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arrived in the UK (as a cartoon programme), the BBC felt ‘Ninja’ sounded a bit violent, so they became the ‘Hero’ Turtles instead. That filtered through to the video game releases in the UK, certainly in the NES versions of the very early 1990s.
Bully, the PS2 game by Rockstar Games was also seen as having too much in the way of violent undertones, so became Canis Canem Editin the UK. Having Latin names for your video games is great – it means dog eats dog – but is it really the way to go for marketing?
The whole soccer and football debate is well known, so it’s no surprise that the word football was omitted from ‘soccer’ games like Mario Smash Football and Mario Strikers Charged Football once they went stateside. Dr Kawashima was also used in the title of the UK version of Brain Age. So, the likes of Brain Age: Concentration Training was known to the Brits as Dr. Kawashima’s Devilish Brain Training: Can You Stay Focused? Rolls right off the tongue.
There are countless examples in gaming, some for boring marketing reasons, other seemingly for no reason at all. Strangest, seemingly unrelated change? SEGA’s 1994 game, “Beyond Oasis”, with Prince Ali as protagonist, became “The Story of Thor: A Successor of The Light” in Europe and Japan.