Internet of Things: Australia ain’t going nowhere

To summarize quite briefly, the “Internet of Things” is the idea of any technical device connecting to the internet, absolutely anything. This can not only include smartphones and computers, but GPS or even an airplane. Generally, if it has both an on and off switch than it can be considered a part of the IoT.

Supposedly according to Gartner, there will be over 6.4 billion “Things” will be in use this year, which is a 30 per cent increase compared to last year. Quite astonishing really. With that said, can Australia contribute a large amount to that number? Australia currently is ranked 60th in the world rankings of internet speed. Falling behind even the likes of third world country Romania. Sadly even with NBN it’s doubtful that will be of any help to the Internet of Things. Reception of it is pretty terrible for quite an alarming number of people.

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Region-lock: Fire Emblem if and Fire Emblem Fates

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Japanese box art of Fire Emblem if White Night Kingdom and Black Knight Kingdom.

Fire Emblem Fates (AKA Fire Emblem if in Japan) is a strategy role playing game made for the 3DS. There are two versions of the game which give vastly different experiences from each other. Fire Emblem Birthright (AKA Fire Emblem if White Night Kingdom in Japan) and Fire Emblem Conquest (AKA Fire Emblem if Black Night Kingdom in Japan). 

There are four regional versions of Fire Emblem Fates:

  • Japan
  • US
  • Europe/PAL
  • South Korea

The ratings for each version of Fire Emblem Fates are as follows:

  • Japan/CERO C (Age 15+)
  • US/ESRB T (Age 13+)
  • Europe/PEGI 12 (Age 12+)
  • South Korea/GRAC 12 (Age 12+)

The release dates for each version are:

  • Japan: June 25th 2015
  • US: February 19th 2016
  • Europe/PAL: May 21st 2016
  • South Korea: September 8th 2016

The US and European versions of Fire Emblem Fates share the exact same translation as each other. The English translation of the game was done by Nintendo Treehouse who are in charge of English, French and Spanish localisations for Nintendo games. The only difference between these two versions is the region code. This makes them only playable on their respective region. The English (US/Europe) versions of the game have multiple differences from their Japanese counterpart. Interestingly enough, the South Korean version of the game, both Birthright and Conquest were put into the same cartridge. It should be noted that the game was originally made in Japan by Intelligent Systems, a second party developer for Nintendo.

Major differences:

Removal of petting mini-game:

The main difference between the Japanese and English versions of Fire Emblem Fates is the removal of the petting system. In the Japanese version, there’s a feature where the player is able to pet one of the playable characters through the use of the touch screen. This feature allowed players to strengthen the bond between the player character’s avatar (Generally known as either Corrin or Kamui) and other playable characters.

As seen in the video above, the petting feature is similar to Pokemon’s amie feature. The only remnants of this feature that are left are when you marry a character. Once the player character’s avatar and another character reach an S rank relationship in the English version, the player is able to wake up their significant other by tapping their face via the touch screen or blowing into the 3DS mic.

Nintendo or Nintendo Treehouse have yet to release an official statement as to why they removed this feature from the game. However fans speculate that it could’ve been seen as somewhat strange to a foreign audience. In Japan, head patting is very normal between teenagers. It can be a simple sign of fondness towards a person. Generally it’s common between Senpai/先輩 (Upper class student) and Kouhai/後輩 (Lower class student)

Interactions between characters:

While the core gameplay of Fire Emblem Fates remains consistent between all versions, interactions between multiple characters have changed between the Japanese and English version. To put this into perspective, Fire Emblem is a series that has a huge cast of characters. Fire Emblem Fates has the largest playable roster in the series with roughly 70 playable characters. All of which can interact with each other and even get into relationships with each other. Aside from the main and side story quests in the game, a large majority of characterization is done through conversations between characters in the down time between battles. Safe to say, it plays a major part in the game. The following video is a conversation between Saizou and Belka, left is the English version and on the right is the Japanese version (With a translation):

Not every conversation between characters is altered to this degree but there is enough to give a different experience when playing either the Japanese or English version. Here is another example:

With the way translation of the conversations has been done, it in turn changes the personality and characteristics of characters. One significant example of this is the interaction between the Corrin/Kamui and Soleil. To give a brief explanation, here’s an image of Soleil and her profile:

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Profile of Soleil from Fire Emblem if 4koma Comic & Character Guide Book (Translation and scan provided by Kantopia)

To keep the post succinct, I’ll only take key points in the conversation between Corrin/Kamui and Soleil to explain the controversy.

Soleil loves cute girls to the point where if she sees one or gets near one on the battlefield, she will faint. To aid Soleil with her issue, Corrin/Kamui puts a magic powder in Soleil’s drink without her knowing or consent. This magic powder allowed Soleil to see Corrin/Kamui as a female. The original Japanese text reads:

「実は、ある魔法の粉を手に入れてね…悪いけど、それをさっき、君の飲み物の中に入れさせてもらった。その粉を飲んだ者は…なんと、自分以外の人の性別が逆に見えるんだ!」

The English translation is:

“I managed to get my hands on a kind of magic powder… I’m really sorry, but a little while ago, I poured some of it into your drink. The person who drinks that powder… somehow becomes able to see other people as the gender opposite what they actually are!”

Meanwhile in the English version of the game, the conversation went into a completely different route. Below is a snippet of the conversation in the English version of the game.

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If you would like to read the entire conversation in the Japanese version, the transcript (translated into English) for it is here. Also if you would like to read the transcript for the English version it is here.

That about does it for major differences between the Japanese and English versions of Fire Emblem Fates.

 

Region-Lock: Nier Replicant & Nier Gestalt

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Japanese box art for Nier Replicant

Nier is an action role playing game developed by Cavia games (Who have since disbanded and were absorbed into AQ Interactive). Released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2010. In Japan, there are two versions of the game, Nier Replicant and Nier Gestalt. Europe/Australia and the US received Nier Gestalt under the name “Nier”. Replicant was a PS3 exclusive in Japan, while Gestalt was Xbox 360 exclusive. However in the international release of Gestalt, it was made available for both PS3 and Xbox 360.

The ratings for each version are as follows:

Nier Replicant:

Japan: CERO D (Age 17+)

Nier Gestalt:

  • Japan: CERO D (Age 17+)
  • Europe: PEGI 18 (Age 18+)
  • US: ESRB M (Age 17+)

Now, what are the differences between both versions? Well, to put it quite simply:

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In the Replicant version, the main protagonist is a young and slim man who is Yonah’s brother. In the Gestalt version, the main protagonist is an older and bulkier looking man. In an interview with inside-games.jp, developers Yosuke Saito and Yoko Taro commented on why they made two different protagonists saying: Full interview transcript here (Japanese)

Taro: 「最初は青年のバージョン(後にレプリカントになるもの)だけを作っていたのですが、途中から齊藤さんから海外市場も考えたいという話がありました。そこで、スクウェア・エニックスさんのロサンゼルススタジオで議論をしたところ、線の細い青年キャラは有り得ないという話になりました。そこで北米向けにマッチョな主人公を用意することにしたんです。」

Taro: The teenage version (The one that later became Replicant) was the only one that was being made but, there was a story from Saito that made me think about the overseas market. From there, there was a debate in the Square Enix localization studio, saying that there was no way we could have a slim young man. Therefore we made a decision to make a macho-like protagonist for the international version.

Saito:「ただ、新規IPで売らなくてはいけないという思いも強く、何が何でも青年をやりたいという横尾さんを説得して、日本版は青年をそのまま残すという道を作りながら、2バージョンの開発に進んでいきました。それに、必ずしも海外は全て同じ趣向という事もなくて、例えばフランスで日本の文化に理解を示すような層からは「レプリカント」を発売してくれという声も聞いています。ともかく、開発の途中からグローバルで開発している人たちを交えて話が出来たのは収穫でした。」

Saito: “With a new IP we had strong feelings that it had no choice but to sell, Yoko settled with a young teenage protagonist which he wanted to do. With this in mind we kept the teenage protagonist in the Japanese version while developing the two versions. Of course, not everyone shares the same tastes, for example in France, they understand multiple layers of Japanese culture and we’ve heard lots of people requesting for the Replicant version. Anyway, from the middle of development there was a bit of talk regarding the global release.

As you can see, the main reason for this huge change was to appeal to different markets. Despite the game being developed in Japan, the developers wanted global appeal. Many fans have said that they would be fine with the protagonist of Replicant and that they shouldn’t have made the two versions. However, people need to realize that Japan is a very different audience from the west.

Here’s a comparison:

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Kratos, God of War III

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Dante, Devil May Cry 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The God of War series is developed by SCE: Santa Monica studio, an American developer while the Devil May Cry series is developed by Capcom a Japanese developer. Both games are of the 3D action genre. Similarities can even be seen with the protagonist of Nier Gestalt and Kratos as well (Yoko Taro has stated that Gestalt’s protagonist was inspired by Kratos as well).

Now, with difference in protagonists, does the plot stay the same? Yes, it does. For the most part, the core story is there in both versions. However, the mentality of Brother Nier and Father Nier are completely different, which is a given but this gives an interesting perspective on two completely different characters.

There’s a quest in the game where both Nier encounters two children without their mother in a dangerous area. The children ask Nier to find their mother, a very straightforward quest. The quest itself plays out the same in both games however, the mentality of Father and Brother Nier are vastly different.

Father Nier, the jaded adult he is, already has an idea of what happened and he thinks she’s most likely dead. Still, he goes along with the children’s request because he sees them as vulnerable. Think of when a child asks their father to look under the bed for monsters despite the father already knowing there will be no monsters he still plays along. It’s similar to this. To briefly summarize, he’s realistic.

Brother Nier has a different mentality. It should be noted that Nier was made as a deconstruction of the JRPG genre and Brother Nier is a spitting image of a typical JRPG protagonist both in appearance and personality. Instead of being realistic like Father Nier, he goes in with optimism, saying how he will definitely find the children’s mother. As Brother Nier delves deeper into the area, chances grow slim but he still refuses to take no as an answer.

One interesting thing to note about both versions of the game is Kaine. Kaine is a woman who is portrayed to be a very rude woman, constantly swearing and using foul language. The Replicant version uses Japanese voices while Gestalt uses English (in both JP and ENG versions of Gestalt). Kaine’s is constantly bleeped out and even the subtitle text is censored in Replicant. However in Gestalt there are no censors whatsoever.

Clip of Replicant where Kaine is censored:

Clip of Gestalt where Kaine isn’t censored (Clip starts at 8:42):

There was a reason this was done. Japanese itself doesn’t have words like “Fuck” or “Shit”. They have rude ways to refer to people but no outright swears like other languages. Yoko Taro really wanted to drive home how rude and vulgar Kaine is, so the censorship was added in Replicant to emphasize this part of her character.

Even though the core story and game is still intact even in the international version, these minor differences all add up to give a different experience in each version. The change in protagonists give different chemistry between characters which can make replaying the game exciting if you’ve already played the Gestalt version.

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Japanese box art of Nier Gestalt.

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Box art of the international version of Nier.

Cyber attacks

The internet is a wonderful place for learning new things and interacting with many different people. However, as much fun as it can be, it can be the total opposite. Cyber attacks are very much a real threat sadly.

One such example of how bad (And actually screwed up) some cases can get is LulzSec. LulzSec is a hacking group that was formed in one of Anonymous’ private online chat rooms. There was a case where LulzSec hacked multiple companies servers. There, they obtained private information of employees and created chaos by doing so. Supposedly their main reason for doing so was just to show holes in the company’s security system. Regardless of their intention, their actions were uncalled for and outright wrong.

Surprisingly enough, the LulzSec members only knew each other by their online handle and didn’t know their real identities.

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Region-Lock: Dragon Quest VIII

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (Also known as Dragon Quest VIII: The Sky, the Ocean, the Earth, and the Cursed Princess in Japan) is a Turn-Based RPG released for the PS2, Android/iOS and 3DS. There are 3 versions of Dragon Quest VIII which are Japanese, European and North American.

Release dates for each version are as follows:

  • Japan PS2/Smartphone/3DS: Nov 27, 2004/Dec 13, 2013/Aug 27, 2015
  • North America PS2/Smartphone/3DS: Nov 15, 2005/May 28, 2014/TBA 2017
  • Europe PS2/Smartphone/3DS: Apr 13, 2006/May 28, 2014/TBA 2017

The Rating for each version are as follows:

  • Japan: CERO All Ages
  • North America: ESRB T (Age 12+)
  • Europe: PEGI 12 (Age 12+)

The Dragon Quest series is often referred to one of the godfathers of the JRPG genre as it is one of the first games within the genre. While the series isn’t as much of a titan in the west as it is in Japan, William Cassidy of Gamespy claims that “the common wisdom is that if you ask someone from Japan to draw ‘Slime,’ he’ll draw the onion-like shape of the weak enemies from the game.” that alone is a testament to it’s popularity in Japan.

With that said however, Dragon Quest 8 was the first game of the series to be released in Europe. Changes between the English and Japanese versions of Dragon Quest games, while minor, are quite common in the series, this is no different. But, instead of minor changes such as editing a few icons, more major changes were made this time around.

The most significant of these changes would be the appearance of the menu.

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Screenshot of the battle menu in the English (North American/European) version

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Screenshot of the battle menu in the Japanese version

As you can see the overall menu has been overhauled for the English versions of the game. The Japanese version’s aesthetic is consistent with the previous games in the series while the English version has more details and color.

Not only the menu was changed but the entire soundtrack as well. Instead of using the same in-studio recordings as the Japanese version did, the international versions of the game received orchestrated versions of the entire soundtrack. Take a listen of the battle theme present in the Japanese version:

And here is the orchestrated version made exclusively for international versions of the game.

Both versions of the game have voiced cutscenes and while the Japanese voices are amazing, the English voices are high quality too. While it is quite cheesy and campy, I feel that it fits the colorful world of Dragon Quest.

Despite all these changes, No effort was made to censor the game in any way like previous games. All dialogue remains the same as the Japanese version, just translated into English of course. Square Enix have yet to release a but it is most likely it is the first game releasing in Europe. The gameplay itself is the tried and true formula of old RPGs from the 80s. Considering this released in the early 2000’s, the change in menu design and soundtrack was to add more flare to the game which would appeal more to newcomers of the series.

This in no way is a bad localization, in fact it’s a very well done localization. The changes made can either add or take away to the experience depending on your preference. Do you prefer the classic look and aesthetic of the first 3D Dragon Quest? Or do you prefer the face lift they gave to the menu and soundtrack in the International versions?

Region-Lock: Nintendo

Editing things in games to fit a specific target market’s tastes is normal practice and it isn’t wrong by default. It’s standard practice within not just the video game industry but the film and book industry as well. Nintendo is no stranger to changing games for other countries. However, this practice was quite common in the 90’s to late 2005. It wasn’t until the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii that developers started translating games as they were and in rare cases added more to the international version. Although many can argue that the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii era still had many Japanese-exclusive games.

With the release of the PS4, Xbox One and Wii U, localization teams stopped giving games specific changes for different regions. Heck, PS4 and Xbox One dropped region-locking all together so even if they did make changes, it was still possible to experience and see what another version was like. This wasn’t the case with the Nintendo Wii U/3DS. The Wii U/3DS still has it’s region-lock feature still intact. In fact, quite a few of games on the consoles received a bit of backlash because of it. Quite a few of the Wii U’s library was censored which took away features from games. This is quite different from cases like Dragon Quest VIII or Nier. Yes, those games were edited for their international release, however, they didn’t take away from the game. Some notable games that were hit by this censorship was:

  • Xenoblade Chronicles X
  • Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
  • Fire Emblem Fates
  • Bravely Second
  • Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

With the exception of Bravely Second and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, all games’ localization was handled by Nintendo Treehouse, a localization team at Nintendo. I’ll go over some changes made in said games briefly.

Xenoblade Chronicles X:

  • Breast slider removed from female character customization
  • Robot names changed from “Dolls” to Skells
  • BLADE acronym changed from “Beyond the Logos Artificial Destiny Emancipator” to “Builders of the Legacy After the Destruction of Earth”
  • Some costumes were edited to show less skin
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Example of some costume differences between Japanese and North American version

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water:

Fire Emblem Fates:

  • Removal of petting feature
  • Multiple names were changed from the Japanese version
  • Many conversations between characters have been altered
  • For an in-depth look at what changed click here for my article on it

Bravely Second:

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

In summary, the following image summarizes the topic well:

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The point of this post is to say that it’s okay to leave games as they are. Yes, it’s important for a game to have worldwide appeal. However, a lot of these changes are just outright questionable. It wouldn’t be the case if most of them were done well. The Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE localization, there is no consistency to it. One second a boss’ chest is covered with smoke yet when the battle starts the chest is uncensored.

There’s also the point of that quite a lot of these games are aimed at older teenagers and adults. Majority of these games aren’t made for children to play. Many people argue that Nintendo is aiming for a wider audience that includes children. That’s perfectly fine, yet when it came to Bayonetta 2, Nintendo let Platinum games have free reign with Bayonetta 2. So much to the point where when Platinum sent design concepts to Nintendo, Nintendo suggested the Link costume show more cleavage. Nintendo even partnered up with Playboy to promote Bayonetta 2.

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Playboy model Pamela Horton cosplaying as Bayonetta 2

With efforts like these to retain the image of Bayonetta 2, why did Nintendo edit games such as Fatal Frame and Fire Emblem Fates? It’s alright to edit games for a different audience. Some changes made for the games on Nintendo consoles are minor and some quite major, but the lack of effort put into the edits such as Tokyo Mirage Sessions makes it seem like they edited it just for the sake of editing. Nintendo has it’s fair share of child friendly games so why can’t they leave games made for older audiences alone?

Hacktivism

Anonymous is a hacktivist group that claims it is a group that is “an Internet gathering” with “a very loose and decentralized command structure that operates on ideas rather than directives”. Anonymous aren’t necessarily heroes but people claim they aren’t the villains either.

All their acts tend to fight censorship, promote freedom of speech and fight government control. For example, Anonymous established a movement called “Operation Darknet”which specifically is campaigning against child pornography. The group hacked a website called “Lolita City” and released 1589 usernames from the site itself. Anonymous also stated that”We will make a stand once again with the destruction of freedom hosting, Lolita City, and any other website geared towards the trading of content with rape/pedophilia,” – Anonymous

Paul Asadoorian summarizes Anonymous quite well “Anonymous is like a jewelry thief that drives through a window, steal jewels, and rather than keep them, waves them around and tosses them out to a crowd,” said Paul Asadoorian, an independent security consultant. “They’re very noisy, low-grade crimes.”.

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