Stuck in the Middle

A close examination over the opposing outrage narratives concerning Fire Emblem.

There’s quite a lot of discussion on the internet in the past few days concerning the censorship of video games, pressure from so-called “Social Justice Warriors,” and pressure from so-called “GamerGaters.” The crux of this discussion appears to center around the latest installment of the Fire Emblem series, Fire Emblem: Fates, although there has been other recent controversies concerning games like Dead or Alive Extreme 3 and Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water.

Concerning Fire Emblem: Fates, a subquest involving a character named Soleil, who seems to be a female of a bisexual orientation (1 of 3 possible for humans, at least before Tumblr existed), could be romanced by an avatar character of the player’s design. The context of this romance appears to be that Soleil seems to get weak-kneed around cute girls of her type, which lessens her effectiveness in war and impedes her quest to become “smooth,” in her (fan translated at this point) words. The player character concocts a magic potion that makes the imbiber see people in opposite genders (1 of 2, at least before… oh, I already did that joke…) causing Soleil to see people in the opposite gender that they are. This medicine is supplied to Soleil in clandestine means, which to say, her drink was spiked. Hilarious hijinks ensue. This is obviously squarely in 90’s sitcom territory, or something out of the romantic comedy manga Ranma 1/2. The outcome is comical, and at the end the misadventure allows the player avatar to get closer to Soleil and say that she finds interacting with the player character “fun,” regardless of the unawareness of her medication. Who could possibly object?

Soleil
The face that launched a thousand tweets.

Of course, reducing the events to two sentences and removing context is what the Outrage Merchants on the internet are wont to do on any occasion, so this support conversation event was reinterpreted as “gay conversion therapy via mickey-slipping.” Cue tweets condemning Nintendo for being super conservative and possibly donating to Donald Trump’s political campaign. Make Video Games Great Again, indeed.

Genderfluid-Link
Clearly Nintendo of America is full of moralistic right-wing bible-thumpers with rigid beliefs about sexuality.

Nintendo apparently heard and read these complaints and (if rumors are true) rewrote this scenario for Western release, allegedly citing LGBT sensitivities and differing cultures. They also (again, rumor where the only source is Kotaku) removed a “skinship” or “petting” minigame, similar to Pokémon Amie from the 3DS editions of Pokémon in function, for the spouses of the player’s avatar character. Cue tweets condemning Nintendo for being an “SJW”-infected butcher shop and possibly donating to Black Lives Matter and Bernie Sanders. Feel The Bern, indeed.

NinBooty
Clearly Nintendo of America is full of rabid feminists stamping out any sort of perceived sexual objectification.

Here you can see Nintendo’s dilemma when it comes to localizing material from a culture more liberal about sexuality than America. Not sexuality as in orientation, but sexuality as in actual sexuality. In Japan, bare bosoms and secret views of feminine underwear, as well as the sexual organs of boy toddlers and infants are available even in such children’s fare as Dragon Ball or Crayon Shin-Chan, popular Japanese anime. However, America is much more conservative in its animation choices for children. Even “progressive” cartoons in America, like Steven Universe, only imply alternate sexualities in their characters, with no sexual content to be seen whatsoever. This culture clash can be seen when certain features either get cut or replaced when localized. For example, a swimsuit costume in Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water was removed and replaced with Samus and Zelda themed costumes due to the age of the characters and certain laws in Europe about the depiction and so-called “objectification” of minors. Dead or Alive Dimensions, a 3DS fighting game from a series known for having an emphasis on attractive girls and women, had a model viewer outright removed for the same reason. This also affected the Western release of Bravely Default, where the teenage characters in the games fell victim to the same European Laws, again concerning costumes that were toned down for sexuality. As you can see, sometimes laws in Europe dictate western localization, even for American games.

Of course, with the hyper-analysis that is ubiquitous in today’s snap-judgment Twitter world, it’s easy to infer nefarious intent in these localization decisions. Accusations of “SJW” influence and liberal agenda on one side, accusations of misogyny, racism, sexism, colonialism on the other. The true answer, of course, is much more nuanced than that. And to explain, we’re going to take a small trip in history.

It’s no secret that Nintendo of America has instituted censorship policies in the past for NES games and SNES games, loosening their policies from then on. There hasn’t been much in the way of recent stories, or even rumors of Nintendo deliberately censoring a third party game in order to be licensed for their consoles. The censorship policy for the NES is typically explained by the necessity for video games to stay out of the eye of the “Silent Majority” religious types in America. Knowing that history, from stories from my parents about book-banning in the 70’s and the historical religious fervor against things like Dungeons & Dragons and comic books thanks to writings by Rona Jaffe, Jack Chick, and Frederic Wertham, respectively, it’s easy to see why a controversy-averse Nintendo would want to avoid this negative publicity.

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Video games, especially consoles, were in a fragile state after the crash of 1983, and they just climbed out of muck of destruction. Localization policies that favored editing controversial content were necessary to keep video games as far out of the media eye as much as possible, except in regards to sales numbers. The Silent Majority and Religious Right wielded immense power in the 80’s and were constantly protesting movies, even ones explicitly for adults, such as The Last Temptation of Christ and Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. Video games, already seen as toys for children despite the entire family-oriented marketing for the NES (this included shooting games for father and son), were simply not seen as artistic endeavors. They were viewed in the same way as board games and pinball machines, as disposable entertainment. Console games, already weak, might not have survived a massive protest from religious figures under the guise of the protection of children and with the backing of opportunistic politicians. Content editing was a defensive measure against such protests and political targeting, which led to the toning down of religious content, violence, and sexuality, until they could build a consumer base that could resist such protests. One should notice that these policies were loosened around the end of the SNES, and since then Nintendo has never been in the news much for editing the content of their licensed third party partners, as the old Religious Right’s protesting power waned in the 90’s and 00’s.

However, both they and we did not expect to still have an ideological protest group today that will target video games that displease them. The mostly dwell on Twitter and possibly write for various Vox Media and Gawker properties, either creating controversy for ideological purposes or pageviews for their websites, which increases revenue for them. If something does not sit well with them, they will pen one of their articles in a negative light, colloquially referred to as a “hitpiece,” condemning the content creator for being one of the aforementioned “-isms,” possibly repeating the current year in an attempt to make their target and dissenters primitive, and subtly threatening the content creator with increased negative invective and possibly lowered review scores if said offensive material is not altered or removed. While there have been several instances of review scores being lowered for ideological reasons, of particular note is the recent case of the 7.5 score awarded to Bayonetta 2 by Polygon.

The exemplary quality of Bayonetta 2 can’t be easily challenged. Its reviews, from both professionals and users, are exceptional, with lows being 9’s and high being 10’s. Except for Polygon, who gave the game a 7.5, a decent score no doubt, but clearly an outlier. The content of the review says the game is an excellent action game, praising graphics, framerate, controls, challenge, design, everything. So, why the relatively low score? According to Polygon writer Arthur Gies, the game was simply way too sexually objectifying for Bayonetta, citing repeated examples of “gratuitous ass-shots,” “revealing clothing,” and something he refers to as “under-butt cleavage.” One would be remiss to wonder if this review came from a video game magazine or a Chick tract. Such demerits for something so arbitrary!

However, it was soon discovered that Arthur Gies had an account on the softcore porn site SuicideGirls, including a collection of his favorite girls, even a few he financially supported with tips for their sexually explicit photos. This puts the reviewer and his review in something of a quandary. If he is fine with sexually explicit content in his entertainment as is evidenced by his porn account, then he is intellectually dishonest for pushing an ideology he clearly doesn’t believe. If he is morally opposed to the depiction of females in entertainment in a sexual way, supporting a porn site and having a collection of his favorite erotic photos throws his moral authority into the trash. Either way, his view on Bayonetta 2 is hypocritical. Keep hypocrisy in your mind, because I’ll come back to it later.

 

Regardless of the hypocrisy of Arthur Gies’s Bayonetta 2 review, the score is still a stain on the game’s MetaCritic average, a scale still used, for good or ill, by the medium-information video game consumer for making game purchases. If such an influential press outlet can drive a game’s score down for such an arbitrary reason, and considering the evidence that a lot of influential game sites have reviewers of similar views, and seem to capriciously dock or not dock points from video games that violate their ideology, it can make a chilling effect on art-products, not to mention the day-to-day meme-throwing and haranguing directed at the company on Twitter and other game-related blogs, whether reviews or editorials. Nintendo, an already conservative company (in an apolitical sense) and incredibly controversy averse, will do whatever to ensure that their games are received by the press and public without incident. It’s an admirable goal. I too would want my works judged on merit and not praised or panned based on ideology or mood. Saturday Night Live had an amusing and poignant faux-commercial named “Asian American Doll” that shows the struggle of trying to make an ethnic, inclusive girl’s doll with an Asian theme without touching any of the third rails of Racism, Sexism, or Colonialism. No stereotypical names, no stereotypical talents, nothing that could offend. The result is a boring, bland product. It should be noted that the girls in the skit still found something to be troubling in that the Asian doll comes with a cute puppy and a chef’s hat, two focus-grouped accessories normally bereft of any prejudice, that still give off the impression that Asian American Doll wants to eat the dog. Oops. A similar thing happened to Nintendo, who got embroiled in a controversy despite making all of the necessary steps to avoid it.

Asian-American-Doll1
“Last Christmas we released a Native American doll named Flying Eagle, and we haven’t heard the end of it!”

Tomodachi Life is a game that could not be more inoffensive if it tried. A game where you insert Mii characters of your own creation, either yourself or others, and they simply interact in a Sims-ish way. They have weird experiences, buy accessories, fart around, have crazy dreams, build relationships, get married, etc. It’s Animal Crossing, really. Nothing could be more pure. However, there existed a rumor on the internet that a bug caused same-sex marriage to be possible in the game, and that Nintendo patched it out of the localized release. The truth was that it was never possible to do so. The patch fixed an unrelated issue, and any images “confirming” same sex marriage were simply people making two Miis look like members of the same sex (because all features are gender-neutral in Mii Creation.) But it was too late. Nintendo had a controversy on their hands. Accusations of homophobia flew across twitter. The games press piled on. Points deducted from reviews. Promises of boycotts and condemnation of Japanese developers. All from a quirky little game about Miis. They promised to consider other sexualities in the future, and that was that. Please remember this too, as I’ll come back to this.

 

So now we have a controversy-averse company that got knocked for something noncontroversial over a gross misunderstanding spread on twitter without verification. Nintendo, regardless of region, now thinks that controversy and negative media attention can come from anywhere. We have a mandate to include homosexual and bisexual characters, and a games press corps licking their chops for any mistake. Nintendo is in a vulnerable position, marketwise, and any mistake might cause lowered profits and sales. Time to look real long and hard at what you’re bringing over. Thus, the “gay conversion” subquest had to be modified and the “petting” minigame had to go. Already reeling from a previous homosexual relationship scandal (God this sounds like a tabloid), they simply could not risk another in such a short time. Nothing that could be taken out of context and twisted could remain. The petting minigame, the “objectification” of women, so to speak, had to go. Doesn’t matter if the feature is unisex. Too risky. “Made from a place of fear,” indeed. Other theories include the hesitation to ask English voice actresses to do the vocals (how should I say… moaning? Purring?) required to complete the petting minigame. But it’s obviously the censorious “place of fear” that dominates the field.

Something not considered is that the minigame was cut for overall game quality concerns.

Now that it looks likely that the subquest and minigame are cut, we have a large controversy, and two groups to discuss it. We have the Outrage Merchants, the so-called “Social Justice Warriors,” the shadow instigators of the “place of fear” and Gamergate, who claim to be a loose coalition of culture protestors against corruption and collusion in the video game industry, the press in particular.

As an aside, if you asked me where I stand in between these two sides and I could not remain neutral, I’d say my sympathies lie closer to Gamergate. The Video Game Press is certainly in a sorry state, and their scandal-prone sensationalism is doing them and their field no favors. Most of the manufactured scandals discussed in this article were either invented by them or magnified by their influence. Nintendo’s decisions in regards to editing their games have a lot to do with the zeitgeist of the consumer and media, both general and enthusiast, or the malaise of the same. And much of that malaise comes from constant and endless nitpicking of social issues and the prevalence of male characters and the design of female characters and whether female characters make sexual noises when they are struck (???) and the “overuse” of tropes made by reporters, faux-academics, and social media gadflies alike, before they even write anything on their websites proper. The message is clear. Cross us and be prepared for editorial Armageddon. This is, in my opinion, a greater threat to the industry than “harassing tweets.”

However, now I’d like to remind you of hypocrisy. There are definitely hypocrites on both sides of this debate. And they are mostly of the same stripe. The loud non-customer. On one hand, we have a side that approves of the removal of these materials because of the positive social message it would give. They approve of the changes, but all too often they will make their intent known that they are not and most likely were not ever interested in the game or its entire series and have no plans to purchase the game even with the edits. This can give the frustrating situation of a finicky near-customer who scoffs at anything you make, even something made to or altered for their tastes. On the other side, you have people that feel the game is a butchered mess now, with a lifetime of Nintendo of America localization “gaffes” and “mistakes” and the sharing of 4Kids logos, comparisons to Bowdler, and particular ire for NOA Treehouse manager Alison Rapp, who almost certainly isn’t responsible for the edits, but has a few views in common with the aforementioned malaise-makers. Some critics, though, have decided to revive Nintendo’s old game edits and censorship policies of the 80’s to say that Nintendo of America was always like this, despite the large gulf of time in between large-scale content edits and content-editing policies. Some of them seem to have it out for the Big N, and they will loudly proclaim that they were never interested in anything Nintendo-related, taking an opportunity where Nintendo is having a negative controversy and piling on. They also proclaim they are not going to buy Fire Emblem: Fates, although I suspect, like the other side of shouting, they never were going to in the first place. Again, defiant, loud non-customers.

The hypocrisy in the former example is the act of not rewarding an entity that gives in to their demands. These edits were certainly going to be unpopular with those anticipating these features, and they should reward Nintendo’s willingness to edit their own software in order to reach customers who may be put off by these features. But to still rebuff the game leaves Nintendo holding the ball with a loud group, however small, of angry fans. It’s bad form to demand change and then not reinforce the change with needed support. The hypocrisy of the latter example can be best summed up in a quote from Comedian Bill Maher on the subject of the Olive Garden Restaurant chain: “Someone has to figure out a way for me to boycott a restaurant I would never eat at in the first place.” Some come into the censorship discussion with a savings account of banked grievances stretching as far back as the removal of crosses or some such in an NES Castlevania game to as obscure as an obtuse Japanese idiom edited out of an RPG on the GBA. They also had no intention of buying Fire Emblem: Fates, but complain as if they did. They try to enhance their position on censorship by claiming the status of jilted fans. There are even a few who normally bemoan the incursion of anime “weeaboo” influence into Fire Emblem, and then turn around and claim censorship when the most “weeaboo” feature, the one they would complain and castigate the developer and fans the most about, is cut, that being a waifu petting minigame, the most weeaboo thing anybody can think of.

On the subject of censorship, I’ve seen claims from those of the GamerGate persuasion that ANY change to a game’s script from the original language’s text amounts to placing a black bar over the original author’s mouth and shuffling him off to a Ministry of Truth prison cell next to Winston Smith. This is, of course, ridiculous as script edition and changes are always necessary to convey the true meaning or a close facsimile in another language. It’s hardly fitting to simply run the game through Google Translate and be done with it. The text must be translated and localized so that the same feeling and meaning can be conveyed, and failing that a reasonable substitute. A good example of this is Fawful from the Mario and Luigi RPG series. Oh, sorry I mean Gerakobits. You know the way F… Gerakobits talks, right? “I have fury,” “mustard of doom,” that sort of broken English, right? Well he doesn’t talk like that in the original Japanese version. In fact his only quirk is adding the Japanese syllable “ru” at the end on everything he says. Not so funny, is it? I actually talked with Bill Trinen (or was it Thom Leonard?) long ago at E3 2003 specifically about this character and why he talks that way in the English language version. His response was that there was a note next to the dialogue on the translated script for Fawful simply saying “This guy talks weird. Make him funny.” And so the character of Fawful changed from a simple weird henchmen to the Engrish-spewing classic character we know today.

What
Untouchable Sacred Japanese Text descended from Kami-sama himself.
FawfulMSS
Base English Garbage scraped from under a Taco Bell toilet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to see oneself going up to Nintendo of America and browbeating their localization choices for every single changed line, or from changing Pokémon names from lame Japanese puns that don’t make sense in English to lame English puns to do make sense in English and accusing them of artistic censorship. With no permission for interpretation, wiggle room, or freedom to discern meaning by translators, the true meaning of any text will be lost completely due to rote, machine-esque translations.

The recommendation.

The usual result.

Recently the focus of the criticism of localization has been the employment of popular internet jokes, or “memes” I believe the kids say. Apparently this is artistic hackery of the worst sort and it’s only from the new crop of Nintendo localizers that do this and older, NES-era to Wii-era Nintendo of America certainly didn’t, right? They followed the Japanese script, text, dialogue, and names to the letter, didn’t they?

One only needs to jaunt on over to the very reputable website Legends of Localization to see an assortment of localization changes to select NES and SNES games. There you’ll find that those churlish scumbags at Nintendo of America changed 90% of the character names in Super Mario Bros. They may as well have shit on Shigeru Miyamoto’s face. What’s a “goomba,” anyway? Were they referencing the recently released mafia film Once Upon a Time in America, or do they just like randomly referencing mafia terminology? Quit memeing! Please tell me that they left The Legend of Zelda alone, right? No, they even cut content from that game, in addition to changing the text! In the Japanese Famicom version, you could defeat the enemy Pols Voice by using a microphone on the second Famicom controller, but those assholes at NOA didn’t put the microphone on any NES controller. An entire mode of gameplay, gone. Cut out while laughing maniacally and drinking the blood of innocents. And don’t even get me started on the hackjob that was Super Mario Bros. 2. When they got done with it, it barely resembled the Japanese Famicom version. It was so bad that Nintendo’s Japanese branch released the game in Japan as Super Mario USA, which then proceeded to intermarry with Japanese people and slowly erase their culture.

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Of course I’m being facetious. These games are beloved classics, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an American Super Mario fan referring to a Koopa Troopa as a Noko Noko. To require strict adherence to the original script in naming and narrative delivery would create a gatekeeping checkpoint which would require intricate knowledge of the Japanese language and Japanese customs to enjoy games made from Japan. Somehow, going “full weeb” doesn’t seem like the path to mainstream success in America. Plus, there are plenty of examples of Nintendo of America adding small jokes to small, out-of-the-way dialogue in text-heavy games going back to the NES. The Western version of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door had a parrot that would say random, parroty gibberish, which would sometimes include “Shine Get! Shine Get!” For those too young to remember, this was a funny little translation quirk in the early Japanese version of Super Mario Sunshine that stayed in the E3 2002 build of the game. Before those butchers at Nintendo of America dragged their diseased, censorious genitals over the artistic vision of Miyamoto to have this sacred English text translated into simply “Shine!” in the final game, the phrase became something of a joke on the internet. Now… what is a joke on the internet again? Something passed around forums, perhaps being Photoshopped into other images? What is that called, again? Oh right, a meme!

Shineget
A reference to an internet joke in a video game. Clearly something to be submitted as evidence to the Hague.

Hypocrisy again rears its ugly head as most of the people who would condemn Nintendo’s rampant “meme-ing” do so on Twitter, while they share memes themselves between each other like they’re trading baseballs cards. Some are artists that insert memes into their own work and then have the temerity to call out someone else who does the same. What they don’t realize is that while they do this, they also have a hand in creating the very internet culture that influences what they hate. Who remembers Homestar Runner? Well Nintendo of America remembered it in 2004 during their localization of the GBA version of Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls when they took a nameless NPC in a bonus dungeon that would say something like “Trespassers not allowed” and changed it to “Trespassers will be burninated.” That’s a direct reference to the popular Homestar Runner character Trogdor. What charlatans! They might as well have broken into the original Japanese artist’s home and broken his fingers! Their rampant joke-telling doesn’t stop there. In NOA’s localization of Final Fantasy V for the GBA, they had the absolute temerity to replace one of the boss character Gilgamesh’s classic lines into something referencing the catchphrase of Team Rocket from the Pokémon anime. Even worse, they changed the description of a move from the Gladiator Job Class that said something about making a critical hit, to a reference to Sony’s E3 2006 show about flipping enemies and attacking their weak points for massive damage. LOL, right? But that’s the thing, we did LOL, or that is, laugh out loud, at the time. Because it was a funny joke at the time, even if it is a groaner now. There are some that would hold the text of these games as if they were sacred dialogue from the gods that simply was not to be touched. As my buddy Bill said in our usual Skype chats, “These games aren’t Shakespeare.”

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You know, that Shakespeare dude was something of an odd fellow. I doubt that he, at the time, thought he was writing plays that would be studied in theatre and literature to the end of time. He mostly thought he was just writing entertainment. Interesting to note that Shakespeare himself altered the content of his plays routinely, in order gauge audience reaction and adapt to it. Further, consider that the majority of his plays concern countries not his own, like Italy, Greece, and Denmark. He was, in fact, the great localizer of his day, bringing the histories and stories of other lands to England without the approval of the original authors or historical figures, sloppily translating their texts into English, and then adding in jokes to keep the groundlings happy. I’m sure the Elizabethan Twitterverse was completely afire with vitriol for the Immortal Bard. He even added characters to histories in an attempt curry favor to those in power, either in fact or in deed. The character Banquo was added in to Macbeth because this character was ancestor of the current Tudor monarch, Elizabeth I. This addition adds nearly zero to the plot of Macbeth and is only there so the Tudors in the balcony seats could trade knowing glances with each other. For the guy we think of when we talk about untouchable, sacred English literature in the Western canon, he was a bit of a “censor” himself.

To be completely honest, pretty much everything you will read, watch, or play will have been “censored” at some point. Movie scripts will be edited versions of original screenplays that have been altered by directors for the sake of the film. Novels will have many previous drafts, some unread because they will be discarded by the author after publication acceptance. Video games will have several concepts, characters, and text abandoned from alpha to beta to final (Just ask Molyneaux). In the absolute definition of the word, all of these events are censorship. Particularly irksome are the movie directors editing the screenplays they often didn’t write. I mean they aren’t even the original artists! I hope none of you like the film version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson took his +1 Machete of Art Destruction and took it to several characters and events from the novels. Even in the half-day long epic that is the extended version, there’s still no Tom Bombadil, no Scouring of the Shire, nor details of the White Tree in Minas Tirith. They all lay on the floor, bloodied and crying, as Peter Jackson flashes a toothy grin as proof of the pride he has of his own evil. How could people have made these films successes? I just don’t know.

But the worst censorship in history concerns Agatha Christie’s seminal mystery book An Then There Were None, a long and tragic series of murders that ends in the psychotic suicide of the main heroine. However, And Then There Were None isn’t the original title of the book. The original title was Ten Little Indians and changed due to social pressure. But even weirder, Ten Little Indians wasn’t even the original title of the book to begin with! The real original was Ten Little Ni**ers. Oh, well I can see why that was changed, but it’s still censorship! Even worse than all of this, there existed stage plays and teleplays of And Then There Were None which altered the ending of the novel! They changed the tragic suicide of the heroine into a sappy Hollywood ending where she and another male character, previously a murder victim, save the day and get married and have children and live happily ever after! What vapid, censorious butchery! And worst of all, all of these edits, all of them, are the result of one single person. That person is… Agatha Christie.

“What?!” Yes, Agatha Christie. She altered the title of her book in order to keep sales up in the global market, especially America. She also wrote the stageplays of her own work, providing happy endings to her tragic mysteries. But, “why?” you might ask. Money. She, like Nintendo, realizes that the “art market” is still a market. It’s art, sure, but it’s also business, and she’d rather make more money changing the title a little and altering the content a little than stand on artistic principle and suffer the inevitable protest, negative media, and lost sales.

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There is, of course, the accusation of self-censorship for Fire Emblem: Fates. It’s not like NOA is completely separate from the main headquarters in Japan. I’m certain every edition and localization decision is discussed thoroughly with the original creators, much like the update teleconferences between Retro and Nintendo for their Metroid Prime series. The image of NOA localizers taking rusty, bloody hatchets to original works and having the original creators in the room look on helplessly sobbing and crying is, unfortunately, a myth formed from young, disappointed minds. There is always the discussion of what would garner the most sales in each individual market, and this of course includes the original development team. See, they have a vested interest in seeing the game sell as well. Nobody wants to be starving artists. They tend to starve! The idea of NOA censoring games over the will of the original creators at Nintendo Co. Ltd., is of course, a fantasy.

The other issue, cut content, is unfortunately nothing new for Western localizations. Just before the release of Pokémon Platinum, a new regulation in Europe meant that any game that had simulated gambling in it would instantly shoot the PEGI rating to a 12+. To avoid this, the European version of Pokémon Platinum simply cut all the slot machines and had the player simply collect coins off the ground. A quick and dirty fix to a sudden government regulation. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures had an entire third of its content cut for its European and American release. Tetra’s Trackers was a treasure hunt game where the character Tetra would read off a person’s name and give a directions or make commentary on progress. This was a lot easier in a discrete syllable-based language like Japanese and much harder in English. The game also did not test well at E3. So, naturally, the game was cut from Western release. If there was an uproar similar to the current one about Fire Emblem: Fates, nobody seems to remember or care. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures is considered an underrated entry into the Zelda series regardless of the removal of this content and almost all people agree that the lack of this mode didn’t hurt the gameplay, regardless of the reason for its edition.

Tetra;s Trackers
For some reason I don’t remember there being a censorship outrage over this.

As for myself, I do think that Fire Emblem: Fates was censored, but not in the way everybody is currently chattering on the internet about. I believe it was censored all the way back in early 2014 when the Tomodachi Life same-sex marriage scandal happened. Nintendo at that point, pledged be more inclusive in response to threats and abuse from people repeatedly calling them homophobes. Right when that happened, people were unsure how this would be reflected in future games, but it seems that an editorial mandate had appeared to insert a few LGBT characters in the next game that features character nuptials. That next game that did is Fire Emblem: Fates. This may not seem like censorship, but censorship isn’t always subtraction. It can also be addition. Consider the Special Editions of the Original Star Wars trilogy. Don’t tell me you prefer the original, pared-down, content-cut, censored version of George Lucas’s true vision of his own creation?

With that addition, here comes a subquest that sports a plotline that has gender and orientation fluidity via magic powder. This would be aforementioned “gay conversion” subquest, which of course had to be cut. A minigame allowing all player avatars character to show affection to their “waifus” or “husbandos” is created in the spirit of equality, but that same mob that pressured for LGBT content also pressured for the non-objectification of women, so that had to go too. It all stems from that one event.

For those angry at Nintendo’s localization choice, there’s not a lot that might soothe the indignation they feel. For some reason, Nintendo is not afforded the sympathy for altering their game and releasing it that Tecmo was given for not releasing their game (DOAX3) at all and blaming the pitchfork and torch bearing mob as they cancelled it. A small capitulation is somehow worse than a defiant, yet total capitulation. Seems a bit unfair to me.

There is no need to defend this outcome or offer apologia for it. It can only be explained, and to explain I will need to call on a similar event where the zeitgeist for artistic works was also a cynical and skeptical malaise. In 1497 Italy, a widespread condemnation of works of art by non-governmental, but incredibly influential authorities, that resulted in the mass destruction of several pieces of art, including paintings, books, tomes on magic, as well as items more directly related to vanity like cosmetics and mirrors, all thrown into large fires. The event is known as The Bonfire of the Vanities, led by a powerful Dominican priest named Girolamo Savonarola who led a large posse of followers that went around and collected so-called “immoral objects.” If you were an artist, you had two choices: Hand over your “offensive” art to be burned or defy them and they knocked you down and took it anyway. Many artists resisted in total defiance. Brave souls, indeed. Too bad nobody knows who they were because all their work was destroyed. According to history, albeit possibly apocryphal, a few artists, like Sandro Botticelli, actually gave a few of their pieces to be burned by the mob. Why they would do this isn’t known, and the story may be apocryphal, but I would suggest that they simply hid their greater works and the works that they loved, and offered a few of their unfinished or lesser works for lesser patrons to the mob to satiate them. Who knows? But I do know that Botticelli’s work survived the Bonfire, and some of it was exactly the sort of pagan material that the mob was searching for, like his most famous painting, The Birth of Venus. Botticelli, much like Nintendo in the 1980’s, chose to survive instead of attempt to bar the mob from his studio. He offered small concessions to placate them and they moved on. Because of this, most of Botticelli’s paintings survived, while some of his contemporaries, who stood on principle, had their works destroyed and their names forgotten.

The bonfire mob was not an unstoppable force that was the new, permanent law of the land. After Savonarola committed his artistic destruction, he earned the disdain of high church officials, including Pope Alexander VI. He was captured, excommunicated, and executed, and the destructive censorious mob was disbanded. All it took was a little patience and prudence on the part of artists to weather the mob until it subsided. Similarly, Nintendo is beset with an angry mob themselves (two, really,) and they feel it’s in their business’s best interest not to get on the bad side of this mob while it’s roving the internet and holding positions of media power. It may be disappointing to see them offer concessions to this mob in exchange for relief from having their business targeted and call them cowards, but if you aren’t a content creator yourself, or a run a large scale business, you can never know the feeling of being extorted like this, especially if you are not rewarded for resisting. If I had to choose between artists mulling artistic content decisions in a struggle to survive a moral panic, and an angry mob demanding concessions and making the zeitgeist that gives them the ability to demand, I’ll choose the artists every time. I won’t turn around and join the mob or form a mob of my own if the artist slightly acquiesces and help destroy their work, either in voice or in deed.

And that is what will happen if you blindly condemn Nintendo of America for this localization decision without even attempting to understand the reasons why it was made. You are removing the context in which they made this decision, accusing them of all sorts of crimes against humanity, virtue-signaling your disgust by loudly proclaiming your non-customer status, openly scheming ways to pirate the game with intent to share it, depriving the developers of livelihood, and even attempting to get employees like Alison Rapp fired for her political views, regardless of what they are. Are you sure you’re not the Outrage Merchants here? Is this not an “SJW” mob? Imagine, after Botticelli placated the Savonarola mob, another group of moralistic parabolani showed up, furious that he dealt with or even talked to the mob, and demanded he turn over all of his paintings to be “saved” for crimes against artistic freedom. Would he think they were any different? No. He would think this was another mob there to harass him, another enemy to avoid. And make no mistake, most of the time, the mob is the enemy regardless of their political beliefs.

angry_mob1
You better not have anything sexist, racist, colonialist, or “problematic” in there, or else!
angry_mob2
You better not have made any edition, revision, translation, or change whatsoever, or else!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nintendo of America did not create the malaise that’s currently targeting foreign games with more liberal ideas of sexuality. They didn’t create the gaggle of outrage merchants that overanalyze every line and character detail in search of some slight to a social issue, real or imagined, to rage about. They didn’t want to be attacked by opportunistic politicians, both left and right, and their general media enablers who pen know-nothing editorials about how video games are satanic in the 80’s, brain-rotting in the 90’s, violent in the 00’s, and racist/sexist in the 10’s. It’s not their fault that the atmosphere is stifling nor is it truly their responsibility to ensure that the video game market and consumer base is ideologically receptive to foreign games. That’s up to us, the consumer, to demand the games press and outrage warriors buzz off, and if they do not, to take up the mantle of press ourselves (if you have the aptitude) and become the opinion-makers and experts to create the ideological security that engenders free expression. We have to want more liberal games and in large enough numbers to drown out the Bonfire mob, rewarding the company financially when they make them. Until we do that, Nintendo and companies like them are stuck in the middle between two groups of hypocritical non-consumers, each with conflicting demands, and having to judge which group is the smaller of the two that they will definitely have to piss off to survive.

Stuck-in-the-Middle

“…and my soul aches
To know, when two authorities are up,
Neither supreme, how soon confusion
May enter ‘twixt the gap of both and take
the one by the other.” –
Coriolanus Act III, Scene I
William Shakespeare

42 thoughts on “Stuck in the Middle”

  1. Man, that’s uh…much longer than usual. I’m not through the whole thing yet, but I think this could use some brevity.

    Look, people can argue about culture this and that all day, but at some point you have to have some basic sensibility. I don’t think it’s hard to draw the line at crap like a pre-teen in a thong. It’s not just the borderline pedophilia that comes out of Japan; even their “mature” sexuality is often very awkward. I don’t know what kind of person can watch the rain scene from MGSV and not feel embarrassed. It’s just weird and tasteless.

    Fire Emblem has become a parody of itself – piss easy and focusing more on its shitty dating simulation than actual strategy, and Nintendo deserves to get dinged for at least that much. I can’t believe “pet the waifu” is what killed Adavanced Wars. It’s so disappointing and disgusting. I still can’t figure out what the fuck they were thinking with Other M. What’s so hard about following the damn game formula that has worked for two decades? How do you screw everything up and piss everyone off that bad? I just can’t fathom how shit like that gets green lighted much less through play testing.

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    1. The reason it’s so long is because this is a complex issue with many facets. It simply cannot be broken down into digestible, 140-character posts with a selfie attached. I would be remiss to point out that, while you criticize current Fire Emblem games for being “dumbed down,” you at the same time desire my editorial to be shorter and brief.

      As for Metroid: Other M and Advance Wars…. I’m not sure what they have to do with this issue or my article as Other M was not altered for local markets and neither was Advance Wars. So… Not sure what to say?

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      1. I disagree. There’s nothing complex about this. You’re flat-out wrong in equating the “dumbed down” challenge of Fire Emblem (Go play FE5 and see for yourself) with the suggestion that your writing should be more concise, which is actually the mark of a skilled writer, not a dumb one. The more efficiently you can get your point across, the more people will understand and actually bother to read what you have to say. Several comments even make note of the length of your piece. That should be your first clue that there is some valid criticism here.

        Second, it shouldn’t be hard to figure out the relevance of Other M (differences in culture, “sexist” portrayal, etc). The on difference is that it WASN’T censored, and we all know how well those elements were recieved in the west. It’s a good case for those in favor of censoring (or as we used to call it, localizing) games.

        I’m just butt hurt about Advance Wars. FE liked it, but only when the weird dating sim stuff started, which has quickly gone out of control to the point of inspiring this very article. There actually was some interesting censorship in AW as well, in the sense that AW 1 and 2 weren’t even released for years (due to its scheduled release around the 9/11 terrorist attack), and DoR had a similar delay. The first AW released on 9/10/01. If it had been scheduled a week later, an entire franchise may have been lost to censorship. That’s pretty relevant.

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      2. There’s a lot complex about this. I think your complaint of dumbing down a video game and your request to dumb down my editorial go hand in hand. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on that point.

        Several comments make note of the length, yes. It’s a long article. Uh… And? I don’t what to say. So I’m not sure how I can take your advice on article length. Since you haven’t pointed out any editions you would like to see made, I’m not sure what cut you would make, and it seems your advice is simply a platitude about being concise. OK? But it is a complex issue, which, in my opinion necessitates a complex article, exploring a lot of topics and examples. In other words, The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted.

        I’m still not sure what Other M has to do with anything my article discusses. The game was not altered in between regions, and there was no content that was even remotely plausible to be altered so… Not relevant? Sorry. I know you may have an axe to grind against that game, but it’s just not germane to the topic of localization and content edition. You gotta sell me on that one, because I’m not seeing it. (You might have to go in-depth and provide examples.)

        Your example about Advance Wars isn’t a censorship or localization issue either. A long delay until a controversy blows over is not content edition, and this delay you are talking about happened in Japan only, and I’m not sure there were any content related issues.. Even if the game were to be cancelled, that isn’t in any way relevant to content edition or localization or censorship.

        I’m happy to discuss these issues, but only if they are germane to the topic and have clear reasoning behind them. Rambling about Metroid and Advance Wars isn’t that, I’m afraid.

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      3. For starters, stop talking about platitudes and things germane. Conveying your point should take priority over flaunting your vocabulary. If you’re looking for a fancy word, may I suggest “pretentious”? I’m not your editor, and I’m not rewriting your article for you for free. I’m also not going to waste any more time arguing with you.

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    2. If this post is “long,” you don’t know this site. Attempting to relate a variety of subjects across history will draw from numerous and potentially unfamiliar examples. Detailing and framing these references towards the context of the subject is the least we can and SHOULD do.

      Main point near the top, vast examples in the middle (which may/not include multiple distinct arguments, but extended support of the original argument), and review score at the bottom. You should know this by now.

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      1. You should understand that Grubdog is the only reason you have the readers that you do. I’ve been reading this site for a few years now, and not only has he been the primary contributor by a HUGE margin, but he is also the most entertaining writer, and the only one who does not lash out at the readers. The thin skin doesn’t really play well with people who not only read your content, but share it. To be honest, I don’t even remember the last article you wrote. Who are you to butt in and tell me what I should expect from a well written article?

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      2. As game players/fans, we’re peers, so it’s not unreasonable to question how one another interprets the contents. I thought it was apparent/appropriate the bulk of the article was characterizing a problem/position, and only at the very end concluding the future/solution will not be simple or easy. All too often in the media the content revolves around immediate reaction/conclusion with rare attempts to comprehensively look at the subject. That’s what, I guessed, lead to the nature and style of the post.

        Yet your first comment is saying you DIDN’T finish the reading then briefly proposed a fix for the topic issue? Seeing this familiar jump-the-gun-early behavior is what rubbed me the wrong way.

        Ty and us go way back. It’s not clear why he made the effort to troll.

        Yes, Grub’s the best. I hope he becomes Nintendo World Champion.

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  2. At first, I thought, “This is going to be a good read.”
    Then I thought, “This is a good read.”
    Then, “This is a very good read.”
    Then simply, “This is an amazing read.”

    Not only did the topics have sources, but they were good sources – understandable – and most of all: Highly relevant. Nowadays, I always expect a topic to be supported by things only somewhat related to the point they were trying to make (I guess I’ve gotten used to today’s majority journalism).

    I’ll admit, I don’t always stand by the artist in arguments over censorship (I argue with them over meaning vs intention, weight vs value, and understanding vs knowing in art, as well as how marketing is as important as their work : “Your work is meant for others. If it was only for you, then you shouldn’t let anyone else see it.”), but I do see the value, and respect the weight, of the original work. Married to an artist-type (not an artist in profession), I definitely wouldn’t want anyone altering or censoring her most beloved works. (Then again, she rarely ever shares those works to those outside of her life.) And I cringe with her when censorship removes /preferred/ arguments over morality (Generally-speaking, society agrees that there is a below-age-of-consent, so works of art depicting under age sex being censored removes a generally-agreed-upon (seen as: majority-ruled) moral argument from the viewers… I’m fine with that, and she is as well, for two different reasons. However, when an art is censored by removing one still-debated moral argument from the viewers… this upsets us, for two differing reasons. She and I are still irked that the newest YuGiOh game on PS4/Vita/etc (outside of it being a lazy cash-in) removes Bandit Keith’s cross necklace, yet still keeps the ankh in other things).
    Nowadays I tend to avoid political battles, as I (slowly) realized that they don’t really do anything other than run in circles. It’s not like I don’t have an opinion over what’s happening in the games industry these days, but if I were to say anything, I’d be marked as “one of them”.

    If I argue over the over-sexualization of women in media (Bayonetta not included… If the character /is/ sexual, then nothing wrong with them gloriifying it. If, however, the character has no reason to be sexualized, there really shouldn’t be a need for no-chest armor or gigantic racks on top of unsupporting hips and back… Looking at you, modern day female armor and Dragon’s Crown Sorceress. Princess Solange from Code of Princess is arguable, since her “lack of armor” is a recurring joke in the game), then I’m seen as an SJW.
    I’m not against over-sexualization if that’s how the creator prefers their character, but we can’t pretend there isn’t an obvious market many are forced to make it for (going back to Dragon’s Crown, the original design (made before the sexualization-craze in Japan) vs the current design (made in the thick of it) – this isn’t only common in video games now, but also anime standards)… Even if marketing is important to me, I don’t sell out the dignity of others. Sometimes (actually, many times), the customer is wrong. And while I wouldn’t condone in cancelling or barring the game from reaching stores, I certainly would not be against censorship on this part. The market outside of Japan thrives on more than sexualization in order to survive (meanwhile, IN Japan, if it isn’t girls-only-cute-stories, harem, or T&A Today & Always – it can’t survive… Consider “Is It Wrong To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon?”… a solid series, if it weren’t for the forced T&A and forced harem aspect), so censorship should be considered for moral AND marketing reasons.

    But am I an SJW? Hardly.

    If a media isn’t inclusive… “Ignoring” non-Caucasian, gender-fluid, handicap, non-Christian religious, non-upper-class, non-1st World, odd-framed, odd-minded, and politically-opposing individuals… I don’t mind at all. I came from a 3rd World, I’m obviously non-Caucasian (skin and eyes), I didn’t fit the typical gener roles, to call me a Christian is a stretch, I grew up in the streets, I was the runt of the family physically /and/ mentally (if someone cared to check on me, they would’ve categorized me under a mental illness – and I know for a fact my body isn’t considered healthy despite it running just fine), and I avoid politics. Despite that, I never once cared that all I watched and read about were filled with white people. Because white people made it. And they write and direct what they know. In fact, at any point they added a character of another gender-interest and race, they were only so in stereotypes and awfully bad ones at that. Because they didn’t know them. Simple as that.
    … Seeing other races and gender-odds fill in roles that white, gender-usual people had… is uncomfortable. Not because it’s wrong – but because it was done wrong. Often, these races and genders aren’t acting as they should or normally would. They’re forced into a role that wasn’t natural for them. Because, guess what? Unless you were born and raised in a predominantly white community: You’re different! You got different things, because you had a different history, a different way of life, a different viewpoint of living, ate different foods, and interacted with people in completely different ways!
    I don’t want someone from Thailand acting like an American-raised Thai! I want them acting and thinking like a Thai. And for that, I’d /prefer/ a Thai person to write about it (any race can write about them, as long as they /know/ them). And I don’t WANT a Thai person to be forced into the position: I want one to EARN it. If one earns it but they’re shunned because of racism: GOOD – THEY DON’T HAVE TO WORK UNDER RACIST PEOPLE.
    You don’t like how a company does it? Make your own! Other companies making it tough for ya’? Work harder, or make an entirely new industry! Is it hard? Hell yes! It’s SUPPOSED to be hard!
    (Btw, I’m not Thai – but I was using it as an example)

    Forced inclusion, affirmitive-action… it ruins works. It ruins everything, in all honesty.
    And if it’s just not there at all? Who cares? Why does a game HAVE to include me? It doesn’t. I’m still its audience REGARDLESS of that. Would I like it if my kind was in a game? If they do it right, if someone honestly wants to do it, and most of all: If it was GOOD. Don’t just shove it in just to sell it to me – make it GOOD to sell it to me.
    Wouldn’t this then be hypocritical to say if, let’s say, a game or show geared towards pleasing young men has gratuitous T&A and I prefer it if it had much less of that? That’s the problem though, it ISN’T GEARED TOWARDS pleasing young men, it’s geared to GAIN the interest of young men. In the ever-failing market known as the Japanese Game Industry, even the anime and manga industry, it’s hard to sell anything at all without T&A… Just one quick look at Medabots Girls Mission is enough to show that. Not only that, but it further encourages a demographic that’s more harmful to the product than it is beneficial for it. Take into account that the Western version of this is “Gratuitous Guns And Explosions” – where unless something is simple-minded and action-oriented, the product won’t be marketed as well – hence, more creators should make more simple-minded, action-oriented things in order to keep up. Even if it means butchering their creations.

    This then shows that there needs to be a balance between creator and audience.
    Well, it’s not as simple as that… as producer sits between the creator and audience.
    One creates the idea, one mass-produces and sells it, and one buys it.
    And there needs to be a balance between all three in order for a market to stay healthy.

    Mind you, the producer was supposed to keep the market balanced, but… we all know how that turned out.

    I’m certainly not an SJW. But neither am I GamerGate.
    Strangely enough, I agree with both. But not with one exclusively.

    This is essentially the same as Republican and Democrat.
    To believe you’re one or the other, and you must think in only one way or the other, is foolish and stupid.
    Then again, most politics is just stupid.

    … That said, I really enjoyed this article. Thank you for putting the argument into solid words.

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  3. Hm. Weird. I posted something, but it’s not even showing up as a “being moderated”…
    Maybe because it was a huge post.

    Anyways, main point was: Glad you put this argument into solid words. Another great piece.

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  4. You know this editorial was going to be a lot longer, because I was going to talk about other unseen and not-discussed forms of “censorship” like market-based censorship or film localizations. But I guess I could mention them in the comments.

    I wonder where movies like “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” fit into the censorship discussion, as it was based on The Odyssey, by Homer, yet it was set in America and had depression-era hobo songs as its musical accompaniment. It was, essentially, a localized story. The Coen Brothers even cut a events from the original Odyssey, the bastards! Yet it became a critical and commercial success! Didn’t they care?!

    Market-based censorship is simply as it sounds. If you want to survive in an art-product market, you can’t rock the boat too much as it pertains to what’s currently on the market. The previous comment complaining of a company “not following a successful formula” is precisely this sort of stifling atmosphere. Imagine the art-products like novels and movies that got cancelled at the outset simply because an agent, a journalist, a fan, or a marketing suit told the artist that it wouldn’t sell, and that the work that person put in will simply have to be discarded. Imagine having to adhere to a prescribed formula instead of creating freely, simply for marketability. Sounds pretty harsh to me.

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  5. Geez, Deguello, I guess you’ve had some pent up wordage since the last article you wrote!

    Can’t really add too much to what’s already here, just that I agree with a majority of what you’ve said. I believe most gamers, like us, lie somewhere in the middle of this madness, gawking at the insanity coming out of both sides. I think everyone would be a whole lot happier if they actually PLAYED the video games they claim to be defending.

    Also, they need to learn the difference between localization and censorship. Read a BOOK.

    Great work man. Hope it won’t be another four years to see another article. 🙂

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  6. Non-consumer is unfortunately an accurate way to describe these people. If everyone complaining about Fire Emblem bought CodeName STEAM instead, they might actually be happy. If everyone signing petitions actually supported a good cause, SOMETHING MIGHT ACTUALLY HAPPEN. But nope, we’re “Stuck in the Middle” which is the perfect title for this article. Be better consumers, damn it.

    Videogames are meant to be fun and the Fire Emblem petting game just looks hilarious to me. I would probably have a bit of fun with it and never touch it again. The word “censorship” also seems misused, when Nintendo themselves are the ones changing the game they made. As somebody who follows the speedrun community, every game in every region is different and constantly being worked on to fix bugs and make the game a smoother experience. Looking at things as a gamer, I feel I can’t even talk to these people at all. It’s a completely different world in the gaming community where gameplay is trivial, and I want nothing to do with it.

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    1. I get your point about non-consumers. I also think it’s important to consider that sometimes fans of a series get pushed into that zone as a game changes and they lose interest. At least, I’ve felt that way more and more as the industry has changed. I used to want to play EVERYTHING. Now, there are entire platforms I have no interest in. Certainly, many of the voices are non-consumers, but I believe there is an untapped player demographic forming which also contributes.

      I don’t get what you meant about speed runs though?

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      1. I can’t think of any Nintendo series that have changed like that though? I’m not interested in 95% of modern games either, but that’s almost a new genre at this point (cinematic action? haha). Even if I’m not a huge fan of the series, Fire Emblem as a series still has phenomenal gameplay / music / art and Intelligent Systems do a briilliant job. Advance Wars is dead because not enough people bought it. CodeName STEAM won’t get a sequel because not enough people bought it.

        About speedrunning, it’s just how people play the Japanese / French / Italian / US / etc. version of any game because of all the minor differences making a different language faster for each game. It shows how different they are, often they’ll have entire lines of dialogue or events removed, and that’s why we play “this” version. Almost every game has stuff changed and nobody makes a huge deal about it. I was just putting that perspective out there.

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      2. It’s true that AW sales were never phenomenal, but neither was FE’s, even after three characters and fifteen years worth of promotion through Smash Bros. FE only became popular with Awakening, when it got a huge marketing push, neutered difficulty, and the waifu stuff. I don’t see why AW couldn’t sell similarly if it had the same push since the core design is nearly the same. At least STEAM is its own thing and had a good marketing push (though nowhere near what Awakening got). It had a chance, and I still think it would have done better if they were just a little smarter with the timing and presentation. Clearly, cross promoting with FE guest characters wasn’t what people needed to take the plunge.

        Ah, I see what you mean about speedrunning now. I thought that most of the time, they opt for the Japanese release either because it has unique bugs as the first release, or because kanji is so compact, reducing the number of text boxes that have to be scrolled through.

        Also screw cinematic action haha. Guess we’ll have to see what the next console has in store.

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    2. Silly Grubdog, gameplay became secondary to video games the instant they were declared “art” by the community back in the 2000’s. Who cares if a game controls like a broken shopping cart when it has An Important Story.

      Non-consumers are the same people who keep demanding a new F-Zero be released. What they fail to understand is WHY F-Zero hasn’t seen a new release in over a decade… these same types of people who demanded these “core” games ignored the games upon release… at least until they showed up in a clearance bin, well after release. Same could be said for Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. Demand and rage overflowed when a U.S. release wasn’t immediately announced after its reveal and there were calls for the head of the heretic Reggie on a stick. This is the game we’ve been waiting for! We want this game! We will all buy it! Then, the game was announced for the US market and there was much rejoicing! And when the game released… it bombed. The “core” audience once again ignored it, despite pleading and demanding it, relegating it to the bargain bins at Best Buys across the nation along with copies of Nights: Journey of Dreams and whatever shit Ubisoft crapped onto the Wii. I’m sure if the evil overlords of NoA had allowed Disaster: Day of Crisis onto American shores, the result would’ve been the same.

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      1. One slight positive here is how well FAST Racing Neo has sold, over 50,000 is pretty huge for a digital Indie game. It could be more than that, but that’s how many people are on the leaderboards. Shin’en also said they were happy with the sales. F-Zero GP Legend meanwhile, sits on the eShop rotting for $9. Such a great game I bet most F-Zero fans haven’t played. I was hoping they’d bring Climax over but it’s probably not worth the “risk” now. Oh well.

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      2. I confess, I didn’t pick up S&P2 until it was $20 on Amazon, but I wasn’t one of the people calling for it to be released in the US. I actually didn’t know shit about it – I was just looking up good Wii games, found it, and loved it up until that atrocious final level. I’m sure the people who really wanted the game bought it on release, but Nintendo can’t expect people in general to just magically know that it’s a good game or even what genre it is. They really slack on marketing most of their games, and all of the niche ones.

        Grubdog mentioned the GBA F-Zero on VC. The what? Half the people I know with a WiiU haven’t even booted up the VC, much less checked the GBA section for any F-Zero games they never heard of. I’m sure the outstanding Mega Man Zero titles and even fairly well known GBA titles like Aria of Sorrow are rotting in a similar fashion.

        Even Nintendo’s DLC practices are getting pretty stupid. The vast majority of Smash Bros content is Mii costumes that you can’t even use online (the most popular mode). Nothing available for Splatoon or 3D World? Huh???

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  7. I actually think the petting mini game was removed not for objectification of women, but just the surreal, off-putting out of place nature of it. Stroking a partner’s face to orgasm isn’t really a thing in western cultures. The hearts and the kissing the screen… it’s, yeah it’s not how we express affection, sexual or otherwise.

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  8. A great read. Very fair and balanced. Regarding Fire Emblem, I am disappointed the features had to be cut out, but I wasn’t entirely surprised. But you’ve given me food for thought – I understand why it had to be done.

    I still plan to buy it. I’m just waiting for the opportunity to preorder it in Europe. When are they going to fucking give us the release date already!?

    That Tomodachi Life incident was awful. You had the BBC of all places running the headline “NINTENDO SAYS ‘NO’ TO GAY GAME CHARACTERS” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-27321200), and in hindsight, it’s not hard to see that affect Nintendo with their localisation efforts down the line. Completely misrepresented, but Nintendo would definitely not want to be seen as a homophobic company.

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  9. You’re trying to talk sense with people who want to be outraged and will completely invent boogie-men in order to partake in said outrage.

    One thing I’ve learned over the years, especially from the internet, is that it doesn’t matter how many shades of gray there really are. Most folks can only grasp the two at the far ends: Black or White. I’m not above calling the vast majority of people out there stupid because… well, they are.

    Everything is gray. There is no black. There is no white. Try explaining that to most folks though and you’ll be looked at like some sort of alien. I know. I’ve had it happen so many times before and been driven from forums in the past for refusing to join this side or that knowing full well that both were wrong in their own way.

    But make it an issue that actually effects them rather than someone or something else and all of a sudden a cornucopia of gray shades will leap from their lips.

    The selfishness and self-entitled self-obsession of today is enough to make almost anyone willing to write off humanity as a failed experiment ready to be dumped in the trash to make room for a more deserving species. If this is what “intelligence” leads to then we may very well be the only “intelligent” life in the universe. No other species would be stupid enough to evolve itself into such a corner. At least I would hope not.

    Great article though.

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  10. I think this is a very well-written article. I also think it’s good that it is so, so, so long. Complex issues demand complex analysis. My dissertation was 99 pages and fellow academics frequently laugh at me for writing something so “short.” But that’s a whole other debate.

    Point is, I think this is a really great piece and I’m glad someone at least tried to tackle something so complex with an equal measure of effort.

    I also think it’s good that, at least as I read it, this piece seems to allow for multiple perspectives. I always say that the path to progress doesn’t require you to surrender your view, but it does require you to understand and cooperate with people of opposing views. Because unless you plan to kill those people, they aren’t going away and they most likely aren’t changing their mind. But no one plans to kill people they disagree with… right? haha…. preposterous. heh heh. Oh god, I just realized people on the internet actually think they should be allowed to kill people they disagree with!! ugh. Our culture has so, so much work to do….

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  11. i literally had to stop and applause after every paragraph. fantastic write up and its my sentiments exactly when it comes to all this outrage over “censorship” with nintendo.

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  12. This article was such an amazing read, yet I STILL can’t figure out why people would actually waste so much of their time quarreling over stuff that’s so insignificant. I feel like this is just another reason for Nintendo to speed up their localization process. When you release the Japanese version of a game like this so far ahead of the Western ones and give these Internet wackos so much time to nitpick, spoil, and locate every little thing about your game, their glasses will be all but jaded when it comes time for the Western release. I feel like if Nintendo could keep the releases closer together, it’d give the twisted demon that is the Internet less time to boil the pot of controversy. I mean sure, there’d still be loads of outcry and whining and shady journalism, but at least your game would already be on the market before it could kick into high gear. And one more thing I’d like to note is that Fire Emblem Awakening actually had similar changes to Fates in its localization. But the Internet didn’t blow its stack back then because the Fire Emblem simply wasn’t popular enough to be worth starting massive controversy over. Just goes to show that the more mainstream something gets, the harder it becomes enjoy it in peace.

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  13. Great job throwing some context into this whole thing. History is always beautiful when it comes to searching for answers.

    My mind hasn’t been changed on this whole fiasco though. It’s probably because I’ve spent so many years around Japanese stuff that I can’t even fathom why petting would be taken out, something completely optional and a feature. This does make me wonder though, do you think Nintendo (probably NoA, maybe NoE) are doing nothing more than weathering a storm or trying to meet everyone halfway? I’m sure you’ve heard “If you run after two hares, you won’t catch either” before, and I’m a bit worried about localizations from their end after everything that has happened the last couple of months (Everything in regards to Devil’s Third, Xenoblade Chronicles X had “actual” costume censorship, or “costume localizations,” Fatal Frame was digital only in NA and I’ll put away my costume complaints for those since you touched on it). To me, it feels like the very market that WOULD (and should) be buying these video games would be the market that would be people who want the game to be as faithful as possible or just wouldn’t care about dudes running in fundoshi armor, or would even enjoy it. Not only that, but other publishers seem to be much less “guilty” when it comes to localizing games. Bamco, XSeed, Atlus…the Japanese games that come out of them never get brought up at all, whether by the virtue of their localizations being as pure as as can be, or because no one cares. Heck, Atlus recently admitted to censorship in Dungeon Travelers 2, but they told the world and worked out a fair solution to all that.

    I’m aware Nintendo can do what Nintendo thinks is the best to capture their desired market for games, but as someone who wanted to give a shot to all these games, their decisions on how these games were handled range from “Why?” to “Do you hate us?” Europe got Fatal Frame physically. Oh, it’s niche, so digital makes sense? Why not have a short physical print then? They did it to a comical point with Devil’s Third after all! Maybe it was part of the contract? But then why was Devil’s Third so hush hush at last year’s E3? If they HAD to release a certain amount of physical copies of the game anyway, why didn’t they just say “Here, look” and call it a day? As you can see, most of my complaints and suspicions are born from Nintendo’s silence and even if they MUST be silent, it’s frustrating to deal with it because I’m left to conjecture. If we take out the notion that NoA is being subverted by super spooky SJWs, I’m just utterly baffled by how they constantly upset people who want Japanese games.

    As for the localizations, “liberal” and “silly” localized writing in Xenoblade Chronicles X and Fates seem to be another problem judging from early screenshots.I understand the need to be “localize happy” and I’ve let it slide before and even applauded it. Kid Icarus Uprising redefined entertainment and who knows what was HEARTLESSLY BUTCHERED from the original JP script. Phoenix Wright is another winner that comes to mind. What I’ve been reading in Xenoblade X just seems very loose sometimes and it’s occasionally jarring reading serious dialogue to “super dupity” dialogue in the same sequence. Awakening gave me those strange vibes every now and again as well.

    I think something that may have happened was that Treehouse/8-4/NoA/whoever got used to localizing in such a way that everything feels all too similar. I definitely don’t remember reading Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn’s script and feeling anything negative (Save the supports, of course.). I can’t help but feel like when I read outrageously silly lines in Xenoblade Chronicles X that I’m reading a line that was supposed to be in Splatoon or something. Of course, if I wanted to be rational about all this, I would need to not only read through all the Japanese text of these games that I claim to “read the same,” but I would need to arrive at the conclusion that the “tones” of all these games were different enough to warrant the claim that the localization has gone ham and the original writers were all, in fact, distinct and different enough. Of course, that’s a whole lot of effort and I don’t want to invest in that.

    As a consumer, my complaints exist because their localizations and decisions regarding localized games have been awful recently, and occasionally lousy in general for years. Remember the Rainfall games? All NoA had to do was just take the EU versions of the games and release them and they couldn’t even do that. I am glad they eventually pawned off Last Story and Pandora’s Tower to XSeed, but when a whole branch doesn’t seem to entertain the idea that people want games and will buy these games, it feels self-destructive and as someone who doesn’t want Nintendo to do that, of course I’m going to be upset at them. Sure the casual crowd won’t be there for those games, but fans and people who want to try something new will. Are they REALLY not going to give you enough money to warrant localizations? Especially in comparison to a series like Ys or Senran Kagura? In fact, wasn’t the whole point of grabbing Monolith Soft was so that Nintendo had more diversity in their game output portfolio? So, at Nintendo HQ, Nintendo grabs a studio that is unlike them and when they create an RPG unlike any other, release it to EU and JP with much praise, potential NA buyers kicked and screamed for that game to be released because of silence on NoA’s end. What? To say NoA is pure evil is wrong, but I would be daring enough to say that their quality has objectively gone down.

    I can’t thank you enough for writing this, and as someone who has lurked this place for a while now, I’m glad you guys try. Rereading this, I think I’m just posting my thoughts and venting on all this because we may have reached a boiling point for many people, and the world seems to be splitting more and more in regards to what the basic foundations of how we do things are. Remember when everyone who played games would never agree with Jack Thomspon? I do. We don’t have that cohesion here.

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    1. Thanks for the great comment. I just have one issue, as someone who’s played 100+ hours of Xenoblade Chronicles X. The dialogue is a huge strength of the game. They did a great job and the “sillyness” is not something new to Xenoblade or introduced by the localization, it’s in the very foundation of the script. Just look at Tatsu’s character design, all the “skits” with Tatsu and Lin. This is how the game is designed in Japan, you can not have a game be 100% serious for 400 straight hours. The people living on Mira are fighting for their existence and you go a little crazy in a process like that, some don’t. There is such a huge variety of characters, you can not judge the game with a few lines. This is an entire world and city with hundreds of people of mixed races. The writing throughout the game captures their nature and it’s just very high quality. The fact they’ve managed to make it so entertaining and coherent with a world this BIG is a huge accomplishment. Not every character talks like a memelord, but the racist girl who does not trust the Manon? Yeah, she’s a bit careless with words too. The bully who quit BLADE? Yep, talks like a dickhead. Lin? She’s THIRTEEN years old and fixes mechs, she is allowed to have character flaws. The personality of the game is very strong. I’m completely addicted right now as I spread affinity around my team.

      Xenoblade taking so long to get to NA was definitely strange. However, they are full guns blazing on the franchise, now with a 3DS version and a sequel. I think it’s safe to say they realised its potential. To drag on that issue is pointless negativity.

      Another thing I have noticed is they don’t want a series like Fatal Frame to stay as niche as it is. Why should it? Sell 4,000 copies to loyal fans, and call it a day? It’s not sustainable for any developer, and the fact Fatal Frame 5 exists is a miracle in the first place. The very structure of that game enabled the free demo on the eShop and I’ve seen a lot of new people play the series. It might not have become a million seller, but the free demo was unprecedented advertising for a series that has sat there and done nothing. It would not surprise me if it was already the highest selling game in the series. The fact that they are trying to make these games more successful is something that should be applauded, or else they would not survive. This is them DOING THEIR JOB as a publisher. They’ve also been tasked with doing the jobs of OTHER publishers like Square-Enix with Dragon Quest and Bravely Default. To suggest any laziness or downgrade is just not logical with all the work they are doing in plain sight, let alone the stuff behind the scenes we don’t know. The bottom line is they are releasing great products and that’s something we should all agree on. I haven’t played the new Fire Emblem but Xenoblade Chronicles X is absolutely amazing.

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      1. I have to point something out in regards to NoA pawning Last Story and Pandora’s Tower off to X-Seed and this being a bad thing; here’s the irony, people asked for this originally and when they came out X-Seed’s reputation sky-rocketed. Which at the time they deserved for their work. Now with being a Marvelous Entertainment puppet, they seem more intent on release shit on Vita, PS3 and PS4 which has proven to be a death ground for most low-budget Japanese developers.

        Also, it’s thanks to idiot gamers and the gaming press in general Nintendo of America didn’t have any confidence in releasing Xenoblade on Wii originally because it was a terrible system which nobody bought games on. Hmm, why isn’t anybody mentioning that with the PS4 and Xbone when it’s a factual problem?

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  14. To top off this whole thing, it turns out the mini-game in Fire Emblem was NOT even removed. It all goes back to a Kotaku writer having the wrong info. Or perhaps they had the right info, and ignored it. This is the real problem that should be in the spotlight.

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    1. More accurately, the mini-game only applies to the spouse you marry in-game and only under specific conditions (during a bonding period). You can’t rub everyone’s faces when you invite them to your room. Just wanted to clarify that.

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  15. As far as I can tell, when people complain about recent Nintendo games being “meme-y” despite containing no memes whatsoever, what they’re really complaining about is that the dialogue is written in a modern American English dialect. “What’s up?” is not a meme. It’s a thing Americans say.

    I can sort of see how people might find it offputting in a fantasy setting like Fire Emblem, especially since the localizations of the earlier games in the series had characters speaking in a more formal tone. Personally, I found the localizations of the earlier Fire Emblems painfully boring and forgettable.

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    1. FE: Awakening had a lot more recent anime influence in its Japanese version, which was certainly evident in the art style compared to older games. They really threw everything they could at that game to make it a memorable sendoff for the series if it failed, and when it succeeded, they knew they had a new hook for Fire Emblem. Additionally, the game was localized by 8-4 and saw the same localization style that people are protesting in in the new game. Of course they tried to do everything as close to Awakening, the proven success, as much as possible.

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  16. So is there actual official confirmation that Square Enix was the one that ordered the Tomahawk class change from Bravely Second? Just curious.

    Also laughable, the ‘worry’ NoA Treehouse is doing the Mother 3 Localization which is only rumored from questionable sources. Funny they get outraged over that when the fan translator changed the script too, but that doesn’t count. Oh, another funny thing, Mom Bot’s tweet to Nintendo’s official JPN Twitter about her ‘translations’ got 100k retweets, which is 200k less then the actual sales.

    Funny how optional side shit is outrage inducing but the actual game itself is fine.

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