Friday, November 5, 2010

The Japanese Version of Police Quest 2

Back in the late 80s, Ken Williams, president of Sierra Online, made a trip to Japan to license some of their PC games for North American release. He brought back the likes of Zeliard, Sorcerian, Silpheed, and Thexder. Around the same time, a handful of the companies adventure titles were ported to Japanese PCs, including King's Quest V, Space Quest IV, Quest for Glory I (the original version, not the remake), and Police Quest II. King's Quest and Space Quest suffered the most because they needed to be downgraded from 256 VGA graphics to the 16-color (but higher resolution) Japanese PC display. However, other than the technical issues and the translations, most of these games were identical to their American counterparts.

Except Police Quest II:

Yup, in the usual fear that the realistic-ish graphics of the original version would be off putting to Japanese games, this port redraws the characters in a manga style. Sonny Bond, previously a milquetoast clean cut blond guy, now has ridiculous green hair.

There aren't many close-ups, but you can plainly see the larger, rounder eyes in most of the characters too. These are especially amusing in the mugshot profiles you find in the computer and are used for copy protection. Jesse Bains, the villain, now has blue hair!

The character sprites have been slightly altered, but not by much. You can see Sonny has a few extra pixels of hair.

My favorite one is that the sterotypical hardass police sergeant now has a purple afro for some reason.

I love how they even turned the pin-up girl poster into an anime chick.

I'm at a loss to explain this one. If you start randomly firing your pistol, you'll get this newspaper showing Sonny gone crazy. Except they didn't redraw Sonny the same way in the Japanese version, they just gave him extra kooky eyes and a Joker grin.

Incidentally, you can see it to understand instructions in English. You can also play the game entirely in English, with subtitled Japanese text displayed beneath it. The higher resolution makes it possible to show crisp Japanese characters but doesn't affect the rest of the game at all. This version I found only displays 8 colors, but apparently there are some versions which show the full 16 colors too.

These sort of changes are not entirely unprecendented. The Japanese release of Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders made the character's eyes slightly larger in an attempt to manga-fy them, although it's a pretty minor change compared to these redesigns. (They also got a full 256 color version that was, strangely enough, never released anywhere else.) Still, it's strange that this is the one they picked to give a redesign. It is unquestionably the grittest of the titles that Sierra localized and maybe needed a lighter tone, but perhaps brighter anime-style designs would've worked better in the adventure-RPG hybrid Quest for Glory.

At any rate, thanks to OmerMor in the SCUMMVM forums for stumbling upon these. There's this video on Youtube, too.


  1. this article put a warm smile on my face. :D

  2. I had no idea the graphics in the Japanese version of Police Quest II were changed. Interesting. :)

  3. That picture of the sergeant would get you banned on most message boards.

  4. Sarge is the best part, going from
    "DAMMIT MacGufferson, you chased that perp right through the mayor's plate glass window parade!"

  5. Does the sergeant have a quasi-Terminator eye?

    I would be sure to check in with him as often as possible if that was the case.

  6. Sonny looks like Donald Trump in the Japanese version :)