[The script text referenced throughout is from the Chrono Trigger Retranslation Project via the Chrono Compendium, completed in script form on March 30, 2007. This fan translation, thanks to KWhazit, creates "a clearer portrayal of Chrono Trigger as intended by its Japanese creators," that forgoes, "Nintendo of America's censorship standards," and overrides the video game's inability to hold all of the original text when translated to English. Please note that blue text is used to highlight specific Japanese characters and differentiate the North American Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) localization script.]
At first glance, Chrono Trigger does not appear to conjure up situations involving the thematic elements of alcoholic consumption. From the viewpoint of young children playing the North American localization of the video game, drinking “soda pop,” “soup,” and “cider” in cafes is considered amusing and not suggestive of any other sort of behavior. Though, it became quite apparent to children of greater maturity that such equivalents were covering up the act of alcoholic consumption that were previously uncensored in the original Japanese release.

Although Japanese underage drinking law — which prohibited anyone under the age of 20 to consume any alcoholic beverages came into effect in 1922, “enforcement is lax and drinking is curbed more by social custom and religion than by law.”1 With an even lower morale among the younger generation, and beer and saké being sold out of vending machines the law is easily sidestepped.1 In comparison to Japan, the United States in particular has witnessed its fair share of alcohol-related legislation the most drastic of these being the short-lived 18th amendment that prohibited the manufacture, sale, and trade of alcohol from 1920 to 1933. Stigma is especially prevalent as well, in part, due to historical taboo as well as the current religious atmosphere, in which, a recent poll gathered that eighty-three percent of Americans consider themselves Christians.2 Different sects of Christianity, in particular, currently debate between three ideologies concerning the treatment and use of alcohol  moderationism, abstentionism, and prohibitionism, respectively.3 As such, it is probable that views on exposing minors to alcohol consumption in the media are more relaxed in Japan, ultimately allowing for the introduction of such themes into video games. In Chrono Trigger’s instance, Japanese drinking culture was articulated as the consumption of various non-alcoholic liquids for the purpose of social engagements and celebration. Discussed below are various examples of this censorship and how they ultimately impacted the North American localization of Chrono Trigger.

As soon as Crono wakes up and leaves his house on the day of the Millennial Fair, the opportunity of being exposed to various examples of “alcoholic beverages” is available to the player. At the fair, a mini-game known in the North American localization as the “soda guzzling” contest is accessible, the occasional pub is reestablished as a “cafe,” and further along in the Medieval Era, a man named Toma talks with you and asks for money to buy a drink:
トマ「あんたもヨソ者かい? 俺は探検家のトマってんだ。 いっぱいおごってくれるんならいいネタをやるぜ。 どーだい?

Toma: You're not from here either? I'm Toma the explorer. If you treat me to a drink, I'll give you some good info. How 'bout it?

TOMA: Are you a stranger here, too? I'm Toma, the explorer. If you're buying, I'll tell you a story. How about it?

If you choose “Sure,” Toma replies with:
おやじ、!! トマ「こいつはすまねえな。

Barkeep, get me some saké!! Thanks for that.

Cider please! Thanks!

「酒」saké, is a wine made by fermenting rice, a Japanese cultural staple. However, in the Japanese language, the word can refer to any alcoholic drink. Regardless of censorship, this cultural artifact is not as widely known in the West, and so, in the subsequent Nintendo DS re-release of Chrono Trigger (which included a more accurate translation) the more vague, yet accurate term “drink,” instead of “saké,” is utilized (see NDS Alcohol). However, the loss of this cultural entity, in the form of the word “drink,” reflects the consequences of censorship that may occur during localization yet again, the following lines alter “saké” into the child-friendly “lemonade”:

Taban: Aah, the saké's great when you drink at a festival!

TABAN: Yum! Lemonade sure tastes great outdoors!

Not only is the drinking of traditional saké (fermented rice wine) a cultural pastime and household staple, but this drink has deep roots in the religious customs practiced by the Japanese. In particular, Shintoism calls for the practice of libation a ritualized pouring of a liquid as an offering, either intended for a god or a spirit, and in some cases in memory of loved ones who have died. This drink is called 「神酒」 Miki, and literally translates to “The Liquor of the Gods.” A unique scene in Chrono Trigger involves a ceremonial deed very much like this Shinto religious practice of libation. In Chora’s Village, Crono comes across Toma once more, who asks him to take and keep something of his:

Got Toma's Saké!

Got 1 Toma’s Pop!
トマ「もし俺が死んだら、俺の墓にこのをかけてくれよ。 ……、ケッ、エンギでもねェや。

Toma: If I die, pour this saké on my grave....keh, it's like I'm jinxing myself.

TOMA: If I don't return, come to my grave and pour this on my headstone. Gee, isn't this morbid?

By traveling to the future and following his commands, Toma’s ghost will appear from his grave, offering help for the journey to come before finally floating away above the clouds. In a sense, this ceremonial gesture brings Toma’s soul to rest but without the Japanese cultural context of Shintoism and libation, the scene may appear nonsensical. Likewise, contextual clues for drunkenness may appear confusing without proper treatment, and so, any instance of impaired speech (with slurs evidenced by the 「ー」 long vowel mark) or onomatopoeia in the form of hiccups and burps were adjusted accordingly. For example, during Ayla’s party in the Prehistoric Era, Marle asks Crono to join her in a dance:

Marle: I'm gunna dansh too! Thishs the best! Crono, you dansh too!

Marle: I want to dance, too! This is great! C'mon Crono. Let's dance!

As expected, Marle’s alcohol consumption was concealed during translation, along with the heart icons suggestive of flirtatious behavior. Another example of this occurs in Sandrino village where Crono witnesses a man drinking his sorrows away (the English script forgoes the hiccup sound):
みんな死んじまうんだよ……。 ……ってなワケだで俺はこうして酒に逃げてるのさ。 ヒック!

Everyone'll die......and that's why I'm escaping into alcohol like this. *hic*!

We'll all perish! That's why I'm living it up now!

Further examination of these trends reveals to us that, although Chrono Trigger as a whole is not dependent upon alcoholic themes, it still gave Japanese players upon hearing and seeing the social gatherings and ceremonial ties to saké added cultural context and feelings of kinship. Regardless of censorship, these Shinto principles and attitudes are impossible to fully translate during the localization process. As such, the North American release articulated these Japanese cultural characteristics in a child-friendly manner, replacing oriental drinks with “soda pop” and “cider,” bars with “cafes,” and impaired speech with a corrected English equivalent ultimately removing the unique cultural artifacts imbued within the original script.

Works Cited:

[1] Crampton, Thomas. "In Asia, Alcohol Laws Are Unevenly Enforced." The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 12 July 2001. Web. 28 July 2015.

[2] Langer, Gary. "Poll: Most Americans Say They're Christian." ABC News. ABC News Network, 18 July 2015. Web. 06 Aug. 2015.

[3] Bacchiocchi, Samuele. The Bible And Alcohol: Moderation Or Abstinence? Part 1. Berrien Springs: Samuele Bacchiocchi, 12 Aug. 1999. PDF.

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