Resident Evil: Revelations 2 was, for me, the surprise hit of 2015. Despite carrying the Revelations subtitle, it did not have very much in common with the first game - this subset of Resident Evil games seems to be an attempt to create entries in the series using a smaller budget, allowing Capcom to experiment with new mechanics that may seem out of place in the newer, action packed titles.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of Revelations 2 was its absolutely absurd dialogue, particularly from the character of Moira Burton, who carried the honor of gracing us with the term "moist barrel of f**ks," which certainly doesn't sound like something any normal human being would say.
The #ResidentEvil series is known for its cheesy dialogue, and it seems like Capcom became totally self aware of that fact in this entry, writing ridiculous lines for the characters on purpose and frequently calling back to the "classic" bad dialogue of the original games. It's worth mentioning that Barry Burton, one of the supporting cast members in the first Resident Evil game, was the source of a good portion of the game's infamously stilted dialogue, giving us such well known lines as "I have THIS!" and "You were almost a Jill sandwich!"
Barry returns as a protagonist in Revelations 2, and the writers are aware of his awkward infamy, frequently writing lines for his character that sound similarly ridiculous to the way he spoke in his first appearance.
Revelations 2 was released as a five part episodic game, and each episode was treated as an episode of a television series, complete with recaps and previews. I played each episode through twice as it released; once in English, and once in Japanese. I wanted to see whether or not the colorful dialogue was a localization choice or not, and, if not, what the original Japanese dialogue was like.
Before I began, I did some research as to what language the script was written in first. Asking around on the NeoGAF forums, resident Resident Evil expert News Bot of Project Umbrella came to the rescue, claiming that:
"The Japanese script is the default canon in this series. It's usually written first but it was the opposite for REV2. Despite coming later, the Japanese script is still the 'canon' one."
With this in mind, I delved into the two scripts, trying to keep an open mind as I did so.
The results of my investigation showed similar scripts with very marked differences. While the English script took its ham and cheese and ran with it, the Japanese version took itself more seriously, much more like the original Resident Evil titles. Here are the results of the notes I took while playing through the first few scenarios. Keep in mind it's not a line by line comparison, but rather a synopsis of the general differences between the two scripts.
Episode 1 - Claire
The dialogue has no intentional ham or cheese at all. It takes itself very seriously, and is presented as such. Moira is essentially a different character. She talks like a punk teenager, but not an overtly profane kind of punk teenager. No swearing. More stuff like "Aw, man" or "Come on". Here's a couple of paraphrased examples:
English: "What in the moist barrel of f**ks-"
Japanese: *Distressed* "What is this place?"
English: "F**king technology!"
Japanese: "Ugh, this is the worst."
English: "F**king Barry! All he ever does is push back-"
Japanese: "Barry is the worst. He's always-"
Most of the F bombs are replaced with "saiyaku" (lit: disaster) which is essentially slang for "the worst", or "this is the worst." The one line where she complains about Barry "granny swearing" is nonexistent, as far as I can tell. Overall, she's nowhere near as vulgar. Claire is mostly the same, but sounds much more mature and motherly in Japanese, which is reflected mostly in her manner of speech, but also in her voice itself.
The "Terr" doesn't have to end with "orist" line promoting TerraSave on television was definitely not in the Japanese dialogue. Instead, it was something along the lines of "you can always count on us." Something you might hear in a real ad. No agency would EVER let the English one pass through, especially in these troubled times.
That said, I absolutely loved Barry's English VA and dialogue on my first playthrough, and I felt that Natalia's was great, too, so I went into Barry's episode wondering how it would hold up to the high standard set for it in English.
Episode 1 - Barry
It ended up being largely the same script with very few minor differences. The characters' personalities are conveyed the same way, as well. Overall, there was much less of a change coming from Claire's scenario. The "master of unlocking" callback to Resident Evil is obviously missing, replaced with a generic "now we can get through" type of line. In fact, this is a noticeable difference that carried itself throughout all of Barry's campaign - all of the intentional callbacks were absent.
Two noticeable instances that stuck out to me:
Barry: What a pretty name.
Natalia: What's your name?
Barry: My name's Barry.
Barry: That's right, don't wear it out.
Barry: That's a nice name.
Natalia: What's your name?
Barry: My name's Barry.
Barry: Nice name, isn't it?
The Japanese delivery came off as a bit snarkier than his more parental English dialogue.
Another one that only makes sense if you've heard Japanese Moira:
Barry: Well, that was the really long way around...
Barry: That was a long way around. How terrible.
The "how terrible" he uses is the same "saiyaku" catchphrase Moira uses throughout her segment. The way it was translated conveys the sarcasm in his Japanese statement very well, but it was interesting to see that little nod to his daughter. I guess they didn't want sweet old Barry swearing up a storm in the English version, causing them to leave the subtle similarity to his daughter out of his dialogue.
Another minor difference is that when Barry mentions Uroboros, Natalia doesn't muddle the name in the Japanese version. She sounds confused, but pronounces it correctly. In the English script, she very clearly mispronounces it in a stereotypically childish way.
Now, I was chronicling these notes on NeoGAF as I played through the various scenarios (you can find them buried in this thread if you look hard enough). One user, username Forneus, claimed at this point in my playthrough that
"[The] English dialogue seems like it has more personality. Moira sounds like a real person in English. Japanese version sounds stilted from those lines."
I had this to say in return:
"It may seem that way from looking at a script, but she is just as filled with personality in the Japanese version. There were a couple of instances where she seemed to show more emotion than the English Moira (like when you see the bodies hanging from hooks - she sounded genuinely disturbed here as opposed to moderately uncomfortable). You have to play it to see what I mean.
The main difference is in the lack of profanity. What they swap it with makes her seem not necessarily like a generic character, but more like... I dunno, a female version of Bill or Ted from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, but less dumb. That's probably a poor analogy, but she is very "teenager" in the Japanese script."
Moira's voice itself is much closer to her English counterpart than Claire's, however. Claire's Japanese voice was much more soothing, and sounded older. I'm not sure if I liked it better or worse. It's a unique take on her character.
Episode 2 - Claire
One thing I noticed is that Pedro was (surprise) portrayed differently. He didn't say "balls" (obviously, as that's not really a thing in Japanese) or swear, but rather had lines like "Oh man" or "This is bad." One line that stood out to me as noticeably different was the following, which occurs when the group is trapped inside of a house:
Pedro: "Gabe abandoned us! What are we gonna do?"
Pedro: "Gabe still isn't here? Do you think he ran away!?"
He seemed more hesitant to jump to the conclusion that Gabe abandoned them in Japanese, which changes his personality a bit.
Here was another example of how Moira is portrayed differently:
Moira: "Chill the f**k out!"
Moira: "Calm down! Don't give up yet!"
In English, she sounded frustrated and condescending, while in Japanese she sounded frustrated, but then tried to calm Pedro down in a positive way.
The most stand-out change in the script came from Gabe.
Gabe: *Defiantly* "We're not a bunch of lab rats!"
Gabe: *Exasperated* "I feel like the main character in a Kafka story."
Kind of a random change to make. I get that it was meant to be a callback to a line from Code Veronica, but the entire meaning of his original line was lost in the process. Note that the Kafka reference is thematically consistent with the various other nods to Kafka throughout the game.
Overall, Gabe is mostly the same, Claire is the same, Moira is very different, Pedro is kinda different.
At this point, News Bot asked:
"Have you looked at Claire's absurd dialogue upon meeting Natalia? It's completely out of character. Maternal character with lots of experience with children suddenly forgets how to interact with children."
This was in reference to a scene in which Claire loses her cool while speaking to Natalia, which could be seen as a break in character from her usual composed, motherly demeanor. My response:
"I just finished Claire's scenario, and that segment was the same in Japanese. So her out of character behavior is the fault of the script writers, not the translation. She didn't sound as forceful in Japanese, and showed more concern than demand. That part in particular reminded me more of somebody's mom asking them tons of questions before they leave the house. "Do you have a coat? Do you have gloves? Where are you going? When will you be back? When-" etc. Nagging mom stuff. But, that also applies to how her Japanese voice actress portrays her as a whole."
Episode 2 - Barry
Again, the differences in Barry's scenario were minimal. In fact, I noticed almost no difference at all other than one line spoken by the monster stalking you:
Monster: "You are false..."
Monster: "I will not forgive you."
Other than that, it was exactly the same, almost word for word. Even the line that I noticed was changed ended up being a paltry difference at best, and it makes sense that the writers would take small liberties while changing it, as a literal translation would end up sounding stilted in this case.
Episode 3 - Claire
Playing through this episode in Japanese had the least amount of notable differences in any Claire scenario yet. I couldn't think of a single line worth noting. Besides Moira not swearing, of course.
A Change in Tone
I stopped comparing the two scripts here, as the differences in dialogue became less and less apparent with each episode, and by that point I had the general gist of the difference in tone between the two scripts. It was certainly interesting to see how the Japanese script took itself more seriously, as the English dialogue in this franchise has since become well known for being over the top.
Personally, I feel like the English cheese has its place, and I don't mind it so much in a game like Resident Evil, but if I had to choose, the Japanese script is the more preferable of the two. It feels authentic and natural, like it's going for a genuine horror vibe, and it doesn't feel contrived like you might expect.
I actually got a much greater classic Resident Evil vibe from the Japanese script, even though the original games had cheese in their translations, too. This is probably because the original games were all taking themselves seriously, and this translation goes all out and is pretty unapologetic in the "creative" liberties that it takes. But it's not like they're worlds apart, either, aside from Moira's personality shift.
Perhaps I'll give the second half a game another run through, some day, and take more notes on the differences that the script shows between the two languages. As it stands, I feel like the notes I took give us a pretty good idea of what both scripts are like.