When censorship ruins a creator’s message

Anyone familiar with Australia’s rating should already be aware that censorship exists for any medium whether it be books, movies or even video games. The rating system exists as a recommendation for what the audience should be. However, despite having ratings for each medium censorship can occur. It can go from simple words to being bleeped out to content being removed.

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In February 19th of this year the English version of a game called “Fire Emblem Fates” released on the 3DS. It’s a tactical role-playing game that received a T rating in the ESRB and a C rating in the CERO (Both the US/JP equivalent of M rating in Australia). Despite this however, there were multiple changes made to the game before the English version was released. US, European and Australian versions of the game had it’s content altered. The localization team, “Nintendo Treehouse” was behind the translation and localization. Not only did they alter existing content within the game, but they took out gameplay elements as well.

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The removed gameplay feature

The removed gameplay feature was a petting mini-game, similar to Pokemon X & Y’s Pokemon Amie feature. Instead of petting Pokemon like in X & Y, you pet characters in your team. While quite strange at first, within Japan this kind of feature is very well within the norm. It doesn’t go anything beyond a simple pat on the head. However this feature was linked to other gameplay elements in the game such as the bonding system. Even then, when it came to the confession scenes within the game, they were greatly shortened and butchered compared to their Japanese counterparts. Which brings up another point.

It goes without saying but a great localization is meant to allow a foreign audience to experience something the same way the original audience did. If a Japanese developer intended to make a serious, tear-jerking scene, then the English translation should convey the same thing. It shouldn’t be done like this:

Not only does Treehouse outright remove content from the game, they butcher it to hell and back. Some may argue this is passable if the game was more gameplay-focused. Sad to say, the game heavily focuses on not only it’s story but the interactions between the huge cast of characters as well. In a game where the story is character driven, getting the characters to convey their personality not only through actions but through words, it’s essential to get them perfect.

It’s scary to see this kind of censorship within video games, especially since these kinds of things were prevalent in the 80’s to 90’s. It was understandable back then. The internet wasn’t around, people weren’t aware of certain nuances of foreign games. People may say “It’s so the game reaches a wider audience”. That would be a fair point, had the original Japanese game not have a C rating in Japan. The game was made with a teenage to adult audience in mind so why remove and change content?

With all of this in consideration, these questions come to mind. Who has been thought to be at risk? Why and for what purpose? The fans of the series aren’t going to like these changes. The game was made with a teen/adult audience in mind so at it’s core, the game won’t necessarily appeal to children.

A lot of people tend to associate censorship with gore, violence and sexual content. It’s perfectly understandable why censorship exists. However in a case like Fire Emblem Fates, it’s unacceptable. The absolute core aspects of the game are there in the localized version. However, everything else is different. It’s changed to the point where characters have different personalities, certain nuances and interactions between characters are long gone. People tend to forget that changing a few words here can change everything, let alone taking out gameplay elements.

Reference list:

  1. Apolon, Choy, D., Asarch, S. and Serrano, Z. (2016) The censorship of fire emblem fates Isn’t Nintendo’s fault. Available at: http://www.idigitaltimes.com/fire-emblem-fates-changes-censorship-americas-fault-not-nintendos-508356 (Accessed: 20 September 2016).
  2. Pokémon-Amie – Bulbapedia, the community-driven Pokémon encyclopedia (2016) Available at: http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon-Amie (Accessed: 20 September 2016).
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