Many things get lost in translation. There are subtle elements of each language that another language may not be able to communicate. Capturing these nuances requires skill and linguistic grace. Unless you're giving a character in a video game a forcible sex change. Then it's just a matter of swapping around the pronouns, and hoping nobody notices.
By Dan Seitz
10. Birdo, Super Mario Bros. 2
Birdo is a pretty unique case. In Japan, her name is Catherine, and lately games have been indicating that she's...uh...cuddly with Yoshi, although only Mario can ride Yoshi.
That's the smell of your childhood burning.
Anyway, Birdo first appeared in Super Mario Bros. 2, spitting eggs. The manual basically said "He's a guy who thinks he's a chick," which is fine, but then Nintendo edited that out, and they've been going back and forth on her (his?) gender ever since. Nintendo attempted to settle the issue for good with Captain Rainbow...wherein Birdo claims to be a woman, and that Nick, the main character, is her boyfriend...but has a male voice. Ultimately, you prove to the sheriff who arrested Birdo for walking into the women's room that Birdo's got the lady bits by bringing him her vibrator.
Yeah, thanks, Nintendo. That settles everything...and brings an unsettling adult edge to just about every Mario game ever.
9. Caina, Wild Arms 2
Caina is the second in command of Vinsfeld, leader of the terrorist organization Odessa, and a powerful character in his own right. He has a large magical key, summons the demons that start the game, and is generally a badass. The game also implies he had a bit of a crush on Vinsfeld, which is directly responsible for him losing his penis over the Pacific and landing in the U.S. as a woman.
We're not really sure just why everybody in the games industry thinks even the hint of a gay relationship is such a big deal to gamers. It's not like there aren't plenty of openly gay gamers. Most gamers are old enough to have actually met a gay person and realized that they won't magically start liking musicals and buttsex. Sure, fundamentalist killjoys may latch onto it, but they're all playing Bible knockoff games anyway. And the hints the game drops on the issue are so subtle, it took a while for people to even notice.
None of which stopped Sony from giving Caina a sex change.
8. Fox, Bloody Roar
Source: Hudson Soft
Fox's gender is one of those rare cases where it's all too much for Europe. Europe, of all places. They have the French, which makes the case of Fox's gender just baffling and weird.
In the U.S.? A guy. In Japan? A guy. In Europe? A very masculine woman. Granted, Fox in the game is probably one of the few metrosexuals in fighting game history. Well, okay, one of the first. Tekken has a lot of guys who we guarantee you moisturize.
But still, we can find no reason for the gender change, yet there it is.
7. Harpuia, Mega Man Zero
Harpuia is actually a case of retroactive continuity. When Mega Man Zero originally came out, you had a character who looked pretty feminine (well, by Mega Man standards) and was voiced by a woman. So, female, right? Capcom USA, presented with this opinion by the fans, basically shrugged, said what the hell, and rolled with it.
Unfortunately, the later games, you know, the ones released by Capcom, the ones that already existed and that Capcom was going to translate, explained that Harpuia was male. It's a bit of a plot point. Yeah, good work checking your own games, guys.
6. Spinni, from Kirby
Kirby, featuring a rare character who can both suffer from and inflict diabetes, is about as genderless a series as you can get. First of all, nobody wants to imagine that except for one or two very scary and lonely people on DeviantArt. Secondly, it's a kid's game. They're genderless little puffballs.
And it's true of Spinni, too. Spinni is just a yellow mouse-throwing shuriken, which means either you're playing a video game or somebody just slipped you some amazing drugs. But for some reason, Spinni is female in Japan and male everywhere else. Go figure. Maybe they thought Americans wouldn't accept a female yellow mouse ninja? Was the yellow mouse ninja having female parts just taking it a little too far into the weird for American consumers, according to their market research? We'll never know.
5. Gracie, Sahara and Blanca, Animal Crossing: City Folk
Source: Nintendo EAD
Speaking of a children's game starring characters whose genders are essentially irrelevant, see if you can figure out why anybody cared or would even notice these three Animal Crossing characters were originally male.
Okay, Gracie we'll give them because otherwise it'd be a screaming queen stereotype, but the rest? Who cares?
4. Serenade.EXE, Mega Man Battle Network 3
Serenade might be the first executable file with a gender in the first place (although we're pretty sure Excel is a dude), but that's a different list. And we can understand the gender confusion because those are some absolutely amazing parachute pants.
Serenade is a secret boss, and depending on whom you ask, Serenade's a he, a she, or a kind of perfect being that doesn't actually have a gender. We're going with a he, because we're pretty sure that the character was designed after MC Hammer.
3. Cupid, Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter
And we come almost full circle with Cupid in Dragon Quarter. Cupid is one of the Regents, a powerful magic user, he has an invincible monster, and in the Japanese version, he's gay and in a relationship with the leader of the Regents.
Granted, this is six-of-one, half-a-dozen of the other, since Cupid is kind of...girly. So it was either show off Japan's incredibly mature and advanced sensibilities when it comes to homosexuals, or change the character's gender.
Well, at least he wasn't a transvestite to boot.
2. Yuan, Shenmue II
Source: Sega AM2
One thing you've probably noticed on this list, a lot, is that the Japanese really like throwing transvestites into their games. In fact, Japan has a long history of transvestites in their culture, stretching back to its earliest history and transvestite performers are highly respected artists in Japan. Here, the most highly respected transvestite performer is RuPaul, so they have to change things a little bit.
Hence, Yuan, the sidekick and "cuddly little love thing" of key character Dou Niu, is voiced by a male actor in Japan and a female actor in every other localization, pretty much ruining the character nuance.
Hey, we'll take it over switching it out for a Western-style transvestite. If we wanted that, we'd just start watching America's Next Top Model.
1. Poison, Final Fight
There is one thing that never sits well in America, and that's punching women in video games. Unfortunately, the Japanese don't seem to have the same objections, as they literally have games where all you do is run around and beat up women (we're not kidding). So when it came time to bring Final Fight to American shores, they had a problem with Poison, a female character.
This is a problem that could've been fixed just by swapping out the sprite with a male character, which is what they actually did in the SNES version. But no, no, it was much easier to say that instead of beating up a woman, you were beating up a transvestite. Because that's so much better and in no way, shape, or form creepy!
It hasn't hurt her popularity either. Although she's only been in a few games and not even as a playable character most of the time, she's made a big bunch of top 10 lists and everybody still thinks she's hot. Birdo can only look on in jealousy.