Before we begin, I want to state for the record that this piece is going to include a lot of information regarding modern RPG games. While I did say that the focus of this site is about old games, this particular discussion is about censorship that is still very much alive to this day, and it would be impossible to illustrate my points without them.
Read on after the break!
In my last two articles, I talked about censorship of violence and religion in RPG gaming. Ultimately, I feel that neither of which are inherently necessary, and that rating companies are creating more censorship than is necessary by not having a globally uniform code relating to content.
My final topic for discussion is the most commonly used form of censorship, and from everything I have read online, is among the most controversial. It’s been happening for decades, and continues to happen to this day.
The censorship of nudity, suggestive and/or sexual content comes in many different forms. From the covering up of naked sprite designs, to the removal or alteration of content based on its localization for a western audience.
I know I have been bringing up Final Fantasy a lot here, but it is a prime example of every form of censorship I have talked about so far. Final Fantasy VI was among the bigger culprits by modifying the designs of several monster sprites to either hide frontal nudity, or to cover up more revealing images. The esper Siren was also covered up to hide her rear end. Final Fantasy IV would cover up their bikini-clad dancers to be in a more one-piece dancing outfit.
While I do not agree with it, It is understandable to cover up nudity. When games were more typically aimed at children, it made sense, but to cover someone up that is in a revealing yet properly covered outfit seems a little much.
There’s a whole other discussion that can be made here about objectification of women, but frankly, there are far more educated people than I who can tackle that subject. I think what irks me about this is not only the fact that some skin was hidden, but that what was hidden was from pixelated sprites in a game that ran on 16-bit graphics. I may be alone in this, but not once did I ever take a Super NES game and look closely enough at the sprites to try to check out the sweet curves of a half-naked sprite that takes up one sixty-fourth of my screen. It just seems ludicrous for a localization team to go to such unnecessary extremes for censorship.
With the evolution of graphics and storytelling, so too has the evolution of censorship. In the past two years, Nintendo has released several games to include censorship in its localization. The first example comes from Xenoblade Chronicles X. At the start of the game, players are able to create their character with a large amount of customization options. Its localization removed the ability to modify the bust size of a female avatar. While this is a relatively minor mechanic to remove, again it limits character creation on a physical level, and is unnecessary at best. Yes, characters can be dressed in tank tops and swimwear, but they remain properly covered, and thus was a waste of resources.
Fire Emblem Fates also received some content removal in the form of a mini-game that allowed the “petting” of those in your army. This particular removal is something I’m on the fence about. I don’t agree with the removal of this content, but personally, it’s one I would not have used all that much if it wasn’t required of me to do so in game. I played another game with a similar feature for the PS Vita called Monster Monpiece. This game featured a petting typing mini-game that was mandatory to improve your units. This included poking, pinching, and rubbing the screen on different parts of a character’s body. I did find this rather awkward to do in a game, especially when there’s no specific story mechanic related to romancing another character. Even if that were the case, I doubt that a romantic scenario would have me touching a person every five minutes.
Most recently, the release of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE has been laced with criticism and backlash over its localization. In particular, the complete overhaul of the second chapter of the game was modified, both visually and vocally.
For those that don’t know, this game focuses heavily on Japanese idol culture. In the second chapter, the story focuses on gravure modelling, which depicts models in nightwear, lingerie and swimwear. The localization transformed this entire chapter into standard magazine modelling by changing all the gravure images into fully clothed modelling images. To add to the alteration, the Japanese voice actors were brought back in to re voice their lines for the localization to eliminate the “suggestive” story concept.
The core story concept was unchanged. Tsubasa needed to gain confidence in herself and in her ability to be a model. That said, there are plenty of reasons why this did not need to be censored. Again, I could go on a rant about the objectification of the human body, but I don’t think that is my biggest issue here. Gravure modelling is more often than not, suggestive yet tasteful. Yes, some images can be a bit more risque to a western audience, but I don’t think any major violations were made in the original version of the game to warrant such censorship.
As I said before, this game is also supposed to depict Idol culture in Japan, and Gravure photoshoots are a huge part of that. To modify the story in this manner is to take away from the full experience that was originally meant for portrayal.
Now, if it wasn’t for the internet, I would not have suspected anything to have been wrong with this chapter. It actually wasn’t until after I played through this part of the game that I learned just how much had changed. Did it negatively affect my game experience? I have to say no. Still, it’s a shame that there is such an issue for western localization that we have to eliminate a cultural experience just because it shows “a little too much skin” for that audience.
When it comes to censorship of a sexual nature, I can blame a lot of people. I can blame the developers for not sticking true to their original story and fighting for it. I could blame the Localization teams for wanting to keep the ESRB rating low enough to make it more accessible. I can even blame western society for their prudish views on the human body. I don’t think there is any one entity to point my finger at. Each of these entities have their flaws and are causing localization practices to be held back. The fact here is that we live in the digital age. Hiding the fact that you have censored or modified a game for content is impossible compared to how it was thirty years ago. The internet makes things more transparent, and will add more and more outrage and backlash. The way I see it, it’s just not worth it anymore.