Monday, 2 November 2015

Nintendo hasn't forgotten about censorship

Veteran gamers or even younger gamers with knowledge of the 'good old days' will be well aware of how games with violent or controversial content were often altered or censored on Nintendo's consoles. The colour of the blood in Mortal Kombat for the SNES is perhaps the most famous alteration but in their quest to host popular titles while simultaneously not damaging their family-friendly brand, Nintendo made or insisted on changes to many titles. In this desensitised and more accepting age, we could be forgiven for confining the topic of censorship to those 'good old days' (what was really so good though?) but the fact is, it's still happening and on a Nintendo console no less.

If you read my October purchases post yesterday then you will remember that I was happy to get my Limited Edition copy of Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water for the Wii-U but I was surprised to discover (through a random forum post) that the Western version has been censored by Nintendo. For those not familiar with Tecmo's Project Zero series, it's a survival horror game (known as Fatal Frame in Japan) where the player has takes control of a female protagonist(s) in a haunted locale armed with only a special camera to snap and defeat ghostly enemies. The series has always been pretty low-key next to the likes of Resident Evil and Silent Hill but those in the know will confirm that the PZ games are some of the scariest experiences a gamer can have on their console. These being Japanese games however, it should come as no surprise that the developers sometimes allow the player to change the leading lady's attire.

Word is that Team Ninja of Dead or Alive fame have helped out this time so it should come as no surprise that some of the alternative outfits included swimsuits and lingerie. Nintendo have stepped in for us fragile and easily-corrupted Westerners by removing this filthy content. Won't somebody think of the children after all. Some pics of exactly what was removed (cover your eyes if pretty girls in skimpies offend you):

Personally, I don't see anything so outrageous about these outfits but then again, I've never been against harmless titillation in videogames as long as it doesn't really cross a line. As the 2DTV rendition of Arnold Schwarzenegger used to say all the time: "just a bit of harmless fun". BUT...will the loss of these two (admittedly unnecessary) costumes spoil the experience of Maiden of Black Water? I haven't started my copy of the game yet but I would certainly say "no". Yes it would have been jolly nice to have not had the option taken away from us but at the end of the day, the game is about horror and not bikinis so all that has really been lost are a few cheeky bonuses that don't impact on the actual gameplay and shouldn't be a deciding factor for whether somebody wants to play this game or not anyway. It isn't all doom and gloom for the disappointed however because Nintendo swapped the costumes rather than straight-up deleting them:

Okay is there we question the logic of removing swimwear and replacing with a skin-tight Zero Suit Samus bodysuit? Actually, don't ask. At least Nintendo gaveth after they tooketh. I can't be alone in liking the look of the ZSS outfit. Oh and Tecmo also borrowed Ayane from DoA as well as the traditional jiggly boobs physics that the pervs at Team Ninja HQ have made a name for.

Don't ever change Team Ninja.
Ultimately, I think the real issue is just the actual act of the censorship and not the content itself. Is it right for Nintendo to still be censoring software in this day and age? More importantly, would we have even received the game at all if gamers had kicked up too much of a stink? US gamers were only offered the digital download whereas us Europeans had a quick crack at a quickly sold-out Limited Edition with no standard print available. Clearly Nintendo were on the very verge of not bothering given a) the small install base of the Wii-U and b) the guaranteed lack of commercial success of a niche title like this on a very niche platform. It's a true miracle that a LE run was even considered for Europe let alone manufactured. With this in mind, I would much rather have the game with a few edits than not all. We all remember the letdown of Fatal Frame IV remaining a Japanese Wii exclusive after all.

Looking at it a another way, games are often talked about as an artform and whether that is true or not (another debate entirely!), what definitely is true is that a videogame is the result of a developer or development team's creative work. Is it right to censor this? Personally I would say "no" on this one. I completely agree that any form of media should have it's content clearly labelled up so that interested consumers or mindful parents can make a decision on whether said product is suitable for them but simple censorship just reeks of corporations telling us what is good for us or what we should be permitted to see and I enjoy this in the videogame industry as much as I do in the movie industry which is to say that I don't. We apparently live in a free society and while there are already a myriad of reasons for why this isn't strictly true, censorship only raises more question marks.

But it isn't just Nintendo at it. The forthcoming Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 will be 'toned down' for Western audiences when it hits the PS4 early next year. Thankfully, dedicated pervs can take advantage of the region-free Blu Ray drive in their Playstation 4 and import the Japanese release for the 'original' experience. Nevertheless, it is another sobering reminder that censorship in games hasn't been put out to pasture and that it is best to check before purchasing the Western release of a videogame.

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