Since Ico was released back in 2001, fans have been trying to uncover more of its world, story, and characters in anyway they can. Most recently, a total of 77 unused subtitle cards have revealed a bunch of deleted scenes from the game.
These cards were extracted by einstein95, a member of The Cutting Room Floor wiki, and then translated by GlitterBerri in a lengthy article to reveal previously removed parts of the game. As Glitterberri says, “these cuts eliminate vast swaths of exposition from the narrative, removing backstory, character development, and several major conflicts.”
Before getting started, it’s worth noting that these scenes add quite a bit of character development to Yorda in particular that will change your perception of her as gleaned from playing the game and experiencing its mysterious, wordless qualities. So if you prefer to keep that idea of her in your head then you may want to avoid reading about these deleted scenes – that is what director Fumito Ueda and the rest of the team wanted after all.
The first thing to note is that there are several languages inside Ico that are spoken by its various characters. The one spoken by Ico – the horned boy – and his village is unknown but gets translated in the Japanese and western versions of the game so we can understand it. Yorda – the ghostly girl – and her mother speak another language called “Runic.”
According to GlitterBerri, Runic is “produced by writing Japanese words in the English alphabet, omitting several letters (mostly the vowels), reversing the spelling of each word, and pronouncing the result.” Unfortunately, in the western versions of the game, the Runic subtitles have been removed entirely. However, they are present in the Japanese version, hence they can be translated. Runic looks like this:
These subtitles were used in order to further get across the idea that Ico and Yorda do not speak in the same tongue. However, it’s revealed in GlitterBerri’s translations of the unused cards (of a deleted scene) that over the course of their adventure together they do start to be able to understand each other. Below is the scene called “The Queen Punishes Ico” as translated by GlitterBerri in which this information is revealed – it comes after the Queen has punished Ico to get at Yorda in yet another deleted scene (that we’ll get over in a minute):
Yorda: Stop! Are you alright?
Ico: Y, yes…
Yorda: I’m sorry… It’s my fault that this happened to you.
Ico: Where is she?!
Yorda: She’s not here… She vanished. Everything’s alright now.
Ico: You understood what I said just now, didn’t you?
Ico: In any case, we have to hurry…
This reveal that they begin to understand one another’s language may explain why in the New Game Plus, only in the Japanese version of Ico, that Yorda and her mother, the Queen, have English subtitles instead of Runic. While Japanese players may not be able to read these subtitles there’s a possibility they’ll recognize some of the words, and it’s also possible to translate them so they can understand them all.
As said, before this deleted scene is another one in which the Queen decides to punish Ico. The scene is dubbed “Yorda’s Rebellion” due to her disobeying her mother’s wishes. Here’s how it goes as provided by GlitterBerri’s translation:
Queen: I have had enough of waiting. Yorda, please try to understand. I do not wish to hurt you. You have always been at the forefront of my thoughts, and yet… You say you intend to leave me and run off to who-knows-where? You cannot live outside these walls.
Yorda: I know that…
Queen: Then why aren’t you here by my side?
Yorda: I’m not coming back. You’ve got it all wrong, Mother. I’m going to live the way I want to. Even if I have to pay for it with my life. It’s far better than surviving on the sacrifices of an innocent people.
Queen: What are you saying, Yorda? You have always been so obedient… Do you still not understand?
Yorda: That’s right. I’m not going to back down.
Queen: Is it the horned boy who has caused you to change so?
Yorda: He has nothing to do with this!
Queen: In any case, I shall have to issue him a little punishment. It will also serve to put his people in their place.
(The Queen presumably issues the punishment here somehow, no doubt from afar with her magic.)
Queen: Ohoho. Are those horns of yours mere ornament? There, the wicked one is gone. Now, let’s go home, Yorda.
There’s also another unused card between “Yorda’s Rebellion” and the one after it in which Ico and Yorda talk during which Ico says “Whew. Looks like she’s still breathing. I’ll let her rest for now.” It implies that something has happened to Yorda as well, perhaps as part of the Queen’s punishment, or maybe as a result from getting away from her clutches once again.
GlitterBerri has translated the rest of the cards according to the Runic subtitles, which sometimes provide more of an insight than the English translations do, so if you’re interested it’s worth going over the whole article. You can also support GlitterBerri on Patreon so she can keep doing investigations like this into various games.