Imagine you wake up one morning. You’re excited about a new entry in your favorite game series. So excited that you go to look up and learn anything you can about the game. You head to your computer. Turn it on. Bring up one of your favorite sites. There it is, but things are all wrong. Let’s say it’s Super Mario Bros. , but suddenly Mario is called Mark. It would be a big deal and 100% wrong.
That’s what people in Hong Kong are going through. Pokemon Sun and Moon are getting simplified and traditional Chinese translations, which will be available in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. This means there’ll be Mandarin renaming of characters in Hong Kong, a region that’s been getting the Pokemon games for a while and is accustomed to certain monikers. Instead of sticking with the different translations, things are being unified. And so, Pikachu has gone from 比卡超, Beikachu, to 皮卡丘, Pikaqiu. People are mad. So mad that, on May 30, they protested in front of the Japanese Consulate in hopes of getting the Cantonese names back for Hong Kong.
And know what? They’re absolutely right. This is wrong. Or, at the very least, inconsiderate. Hong Kong has been getting Pokemon games since September 18, 2010, when Pokemon Black and White were released. People in the country have been familiar with Pikachu for years longer than that, as Super Smash Bros. Brawl arrived on January 30, 2008 and PokePark Wii: Pikachu’s Adventure was out on February 2010. They know Pikachu as Beikachu. Now isn’t the time to abruptly alter things after years of establishing a character.
A whole country of people are being ignored. For people who don’t speak the language, someone could go, “Chinese? Yeah, one version’s the same as the other.” Except it isn’t. Cantonese and Mandarin are different, and someone could know one and not the other. This would result in issues playing the game. Beikachu, the alteration of an iconic figure, is a symbol of something bigger going wrong. Nintendo is disrespecting a country it’s been providing games for years, all because Pokemon Sun and Moon will be the first entries released in mainland China.
It happened without warning. Perhaps that’s the most unfortunate part. Nintendo knew it was going to make this move. It could have consulted with people. Putting together a survey is easy enough. They could have sent it out to people who sign up for newsletters or placed it on the official Pokemon website, letting people buying and playing the games decide. But it didn’t. People’s voices were taken away.
I know this Pikachu controversy may sound silly to us. We’re not directly involved. But think of how you feel and what you would do, if you woke up and Pikachu’s name was suddenly something like Peekatyou. You’d be mad, right? That’s how people in Hong Kong are feeling now, and rightfully so. We should support them in their endeavors.