The creation of a video game can be long and arduous, especiall designing the characters themselves,. Not every protagonist can be a brooding, gravelly voiced slap-head! But the hardest thing to come up with is simply what the character will be called.
Here’s a smidgen of well known video game characters that started this world with completely different names…
As an English person, I’ve never met a single girl called “Cammy” (nor a married one come to think of it, *badum... tisch*). What does it even mean?
Is it short for Camellia or something?
But it seems even this name was a last minute change from Capcom, as digging into the arcade version of Super Street Fighter II’s code, it appears they originally intended Cammy to be called “Sarah”.
From an unknown Street Fighter name-change, to a famous, but now largely forgotten, one.
The Japanese version of Street Fighter II has the bosses named as; Balrog (the Spanish stabby man), Vega (the red dictator), and M.Bison (the boxer). However, with the Western release, Capcom USA renamed Balrog to Vega, Vega to M.Bison, and M.Bison to Balrog (you still with me here?)
Why? Well, multiple reasons. Capcom USA didn’t want so associate the boxing character in their wholesome family friendly fighting game with the actual in real life boxer, Mike Tyson, who was serving a lengthy prison sentence at the time. So they slapped the M.Bison agnomen on the guy dressed as a Nazi (Is that ironic, or Poetic? I dunno...).
The other boss, Sagat, kept his name, as the cycloptic baldylocks had already been established in the Street Fighter universe as the final boss of Street Fighter 1. However, the reason Capcom USA rotated the names in that specific order was because they considered “Vega” to be a rather weak name for a final boss, feeling “Bison” was far more apt for a strong character.
All this work just to avoid resemblance to the feisty lughole nommer (despite the fact, it’s quite clearly supposed to be him).
It’s also rumoured that Capcom USA were also worried that Nintendo still had the game rights to Mike Tyson with the NES title Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, but the license had long since expired by then.
This is quite possibly THE most famous example of a character’s name change, and I’m only including this here in lieu of “you forgot…” messages. However, for those who don’t know, Namco’s classic labyrinthine ghost hunter, Pac-Man, was originally named Puck-Man in Japan and a few very early US arcades.
However, Namco quickly renamed their gluttonous globe to something more acceptable when they noticed kids were defacing arcade cabinets, changing the “P” in Puck-Man to an “F”, to spell… well... I’ll leave that to your imagination!
Pac-Man’s rude word change is also the same reason English combatant Falcon had to be renamed in Capcom’s seminal “will you PLEASE re-release this game” isometric Dreamcast brawler Power Stone.
What was his name in the original Japanese release? Fokker.
This change is quite the head scratcher as “Honda” is a perfectly normal surname in Japan, but the boxer from the arcade and NES version of Punch-Out!! was renamed “Piston Hondo” (changing the “A” to an “O”), for the Nintendo Wii sequel. At a guess it was because of the possible association with the Japanese car manufacturer of the same name.
This theory is also weighted by the fact Doc Louis (your character Little Mac’s manager) quotes the lines "This sucka needs an oil change!” and “This sucka is overheating baby! Let's send him to the scrapyard!”between rounds.
Piston Honda isn’t even the first boxer to be renamed in Punch-Out!! either. Soda Popinski was originally called Vodka Drunkinski in the arcade original, and was obviously changed because of Nintendo’s opposition to alcohol, as well as being rather offensive to Russians.
It’s bizarre no one has really questioned why Rock Man was renamed Mega Man in the West, especially as Capcom went to great lengths naming all the other characters after musical terms; Rock’s girlfriend being called Roll (as in Rock n’ Roll), his dog was called Rush, his item dropping bird pal was named Beat, and his never seen goldfish, Quaver.
All kept their original names in Western releases.
In fact, two of Mega Man’s nemeses, Bass and Treble, were changed INTO musical references for the Western release (they were Forte and Gospel in Japan). So, why was just Mega Man changed?
And everyone’s favourite non-copyright infringing Astro Boy clone was sealed in our brains forever more.
Coincidentally, the legendary Bitmap Brother’s future-sports title Speedball was also renamed to Klashball in the US for the exact same reason. Well, until they realised how silly Klashball sounds.
Mortal Kombat’s resident pointy hat-ed deity of lightning was always called Raiden in arcade itterations of Mortal Kombat, however, when the brutal beat ‘em up was released on home systems, his name suddenly changed to “Rayden”.
I know it’s not much of a name change, but to answer the question “Why?”, the home port licensees Acclaim were worried of a possible law suit over the shoot ‘em up series Raiden, which they even spread to merchandise licensees.
So, all fearful of being sued, they simply changed one letter of Raiden’s name just to be on the safe side. Despite the fact Mortal Kombatco-creator, Ed Boon despising the change and insisted there would never be any litigation (which he was completely correct about).
But it never was.
Okay, delving into the obscure with this one, but The Hidden’s 1994 Commodore Amiga platformer, Donk!: The Samurai Duck, first appeared in Amiga magazine cover demo disks as… um, Dong. Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything I can add to this to be honest!
With Street Fighter II’s mass popularity in the early ‘90s, every publisher and their mother were vying for a slice of this favoured fighting pie.
Konami’s answer was Martial Champion, a rather forgettable Arcade/PC Engine CD attempt, with ugly looking characters with equally terrible names, such as the Egyptian female combatant, Chaos.
However, without the contextual pronunciation of “Nefertiti”, her name looks like it should be pronounced as “Titty”, and giving the token female character a slang description for breasts was quite the embarrassment for Konami’s US division during testing, so they quickly did a Capcom and simply swapped Titi’s name with the Chinese vampire character, Chaos.
Sadly, the farting, urinating gorilla in Primal Rage wasn’t named after her.
The crocodilic speedster from Diddy Kong Racing, and one of the few survivors of the “oh, no Microsoft owns all the characters now” Nintendo DS port, Krunch was originally named Krash for quite some time during development, and appeared under that appellation in several press previews.
Now, you’re probably thinking it was changed because of Crash Bandicoot, which was released a year before…
This Krash would again appear three years later in Donkey Kong 64, so this proves there were no copyright/trademark issues with Naughty Dog’s character; Rare just wanted to differentiate that they were separate characters.
Could it be some meta humour by the developers?
Despite going under the name Dr. Robotnik for the first decade of the Sonic franchise in the West, the hedgehog’s greatest nemesis has always been named Eggman in Japan.
However, Sega of America weren’t too keen on naming a major character after an embryo, and went through a long list of alternate denominations…
Mister Badwrench, Mr. Bad Year, Fatty Lobotnik (seriously) and Dr. Badvibes were all considered for the villian’s sobriquet, before finally settling on Doctor Ivo Robotnik, as Ivo phonetically sounds similar to “evil”, and coincidentally, spelled backwards (Ovi) is the singular Latin word for Egg.