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NOA's Censorship and Localization Changes [roundtable]
 
It's something that's gotten a few people really worked up over the past few years--various Nintendo games getting altered in some way when they come to the US. Here's a brief list, but I might've missed some:

Fire Emblem: Awakening -- Tharja's swimsuit bottom covered by curtain

Super Smash Bros. for 3DS
-- Tharja trophy removed

Fatal Frame 5 -- Underwear/bikini outfits removed, including in a story sequence (replaced with Nintendo character outfits as unlockables)

Xenoblade Chronicles X
-- "Boob slider" removed, underage character outfit altered

Fire Emblem: Fates -- "Petting" minigame mostly removed except certain situations when married, purchasable "bikini" outfits removed

Bravely Second
-- Native American style outfit changed to cowboy/cowgirl, some outfits covered up, art book pages modified to remove blood or scantily clad girls, bad endings for certain choice-driven sidequests removed (it's a little unclear if this is NOA or not, but they're publishing the game in the West so it might be)

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
-- Covering revealing clothing


I thought it might be good to talk about the latest Nintendo controversy and see what you guys think. Is the localization team not doing their job well by altering content? Are the games better off without the extra sexuality? Is the principle more important than that? And is today's censorship any more or less acceptable than NOA's censorship in the 80s to mid-90s? Let's hear what you guys think! (and add to the list if I missed any recent examples)

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03/05/16, 20:28
 
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Not 100% related but related to localization a bit, apparently in Zootopia the newscasters are different depending on where you are seeing the movie? That's interesting.


03/07/16, 06:34
@Zero

Hah! That's a funny easter egg. I've been wanting to see this.

Thank goodness the tanuki's lower half is hidden behind the desk.
03/07/16, 06:38   Edit:  03/07/16, 06:38
@Zero

I wonder how New Zealand feels about being represented by a Koala. Seeing as they don't have Koalas.


...The sooner we invade and make them our 7th state, the happier everyone will be.
03/07/16, 06:53
Well they gave us a moose which is fine for Canada I guess, but the US should have gotten a bald eagle and he would be wailing on a double-necked guitar while praising Jesus and shooting guns and flipping the bird (no pun intended) at everyone in every other country.
03/07/16, 06:56   Edit:  03/07/16, 06:57
Zero said:
@tudsworth You know I was just saying that it's unclear how well Japanese games would have taken off in the West if they DIDN'T localize them for Western audiences the way that they did. I do agree that it has become a bit less necessary over time, but at the same time a lot of Japanese developers have bridged that gap by just actively trying to appeal to the West from the start, so their games would require less localization to make them palatable to Western audiences.
Yep, I forgot to mention that in my wall of text, but it has reminded me of something else - a larger number of Japanese devs and publishers now consider localisation a "core" expense of development, something worked on alongside the original game's development alongside the full development team. They are likely having discussions with their partners in western subsidiaries long, long before anybody has even seen the game to ensure as little as possible gets cut. This inevitably leads to certain things getting vetoed from all region versions of the game, as happened with the infamous "butt slap" recently, but that's the reality of the ideal for a lot of people - to get the same (or at least a similar) experience to the Japanese audience. As such, I see regressions into the "old ways" of completely gutting and re-writing a translation where it's clearly not necessary to do so as being actively against a market situation that has only became a reality after 20+ years of effort, essentially undermining the efforts of a lot of very talented people over a long period of time.

If anything, I should be glad that my personal problems are only with one or two games. It's easy to see it as a few specific people going against the current trend in the rest of the localisation industry, and serves as proof that we're generally going in the right direction.

@kriswright@Zero@TriforceBun While not 100% related to the topic of discussion, I find GamerGate-type-people latching on to things I've personally cared about for a while quite disheartening. We've needed a serious discussion about the conduct of certain games journalists for a long, long time. It's now nearly impossible to have that sort of talk without having a scarlet letter attached to your name, which makes those who -do- wish to call such things out understandably apprehensive to do so.

Similarly, it's now nearly impossible to point out ACTUAL problems with a Localisation, such as Bravely Second removing branching sub-quest storylines because the localisers (Square-Enix Europe, I think) personally felt it'd be unfair to punish users for their choices; or changing an entire Support conversation in Fire Emblem Fates to 7 dialogue boxes of "..." (while keeping all the others intact, despite the subsequent conversations actually calling back to the original C rank conversation) without such complaints being filtered out as GamerGate nonsense. Heck, it's easy for journalists to not report on such things by dismissing it as "GG being GG"; thereby perpetuating the irrationality on both "sides" of an Internet argument that has been raging for nearly two years(!) now

I feel the overwhelming need to leave the house now that I've had a serious think about all of that.
03/07/16, 14:59
TriforceBun said:

@Guillaume

Yeah, I touched on that in my earlier post though about localizing humor, cultural references, etc. The point is, what does covering a pop idol's cleavage in a T-Rated game have to do with localizing for the US?
What makes you so sure that was the localization staff's doing or decision?

And if it WAS their decision, wouldn't a potentially higher ESRB rating make it a valid, understandable, localization choice?
03/07/16, 17:10   Edit:  03/07/16, 17:17
@Guillaume Or like... not pissing off parents who bought the game for their kids and then found out it had overly sexualized teenagers in it, something way more taboo in our culture than in Japanese culture (apparently)?

I feel like the real argument behind a lot of this would be (if not co-opted by a certain group for their own purposes) along the lines of "Should Nintendo of America continue to promote a family-friendly image, and if so, how far should they go to do so?" Obviously a lot of gamers think NO, and have been hoping and begging for Nintendo to get more "mature" for years now. But I think most of us here understand why family-friendly is important to Nintendo? Even if we don't understand every single decision they make to meet that mark?

Because that is going to be their driving force behind a lot of these decisions. Maintaining a safe image as a company, so that parents know and trust that they can buy a game that looks safe for kids and not run into any surprise objectionable content. The same reason Disney would be hesitant to have overly sexualized teenagers in their movies.

How that works into decisions surrounding Fatal Frame, Xenoblade, and other less kid-oriented products has always been an interesting question to me. Like, obviously no parent should buy Fatal Frame thinking it is ok for kids. So why would Nintendo care what is in it? I'm not 100% sure what their reasoning is there, but I'd imagine just avoiding bad publicity *in general* is behind it. Nintendo doesn't want to be the company in the news for overly sexualized teens in ANY of their games, kid-friendly or not, because that could turn some parents away from continuing to view them as the safe option for their kids.

None of this means I have to like any of their decisions, but I do sort of understand them from a business standpoint. And let's all be real for a moment, Nintendo is a business. Artists who work for Nintendo have to work under Nintendo's business constraints. Even Miyamoto himself had to fight a hard battle with marketing to be allowed to do Yoshi's Island in his own style. I doubt the average Nintendo artist can just do whatever they please. What we're seeing, in Japan or in the West, are business-developed products not free art.
03/07/16, 18:49   Edit:  03/07/16, 19:01
@Guillaume

It might not be the localization team specifically, but I don't think that really changes the conversation as long as someone from NOA is doing it. Unless you're implying the Japanese team suggested these changes prior to bringing the games over, I guess.

I don't think extra cleavage is enough to turn a T-rated game (or the Japanese equivalent) into an M over here.

@Zero

That's fair, but it's also why we have ESRB systems. T-Rated 1st-party games aren't really anything new and we've already seen sexuality, blood and swearing in Nintendo's own titles. Fatal Frame in particular is like suuuuper niche and hard to get (mostly for being digital only and really huge in terms of memory). I definitely agree about keeping Mario (and personally, I'd say Zelda) family-friendly, but for something like F-Zero and Xenoblade...I mean, do most kids even know those are specifically "Nintendo?" Possibly because of Smash Bros, but it seems a little overly cautious.
03/07/16, 19:00
@TriforceBun Nintendo is never going to let the ESRB decide how they present themselves to the market though, they're going to want to be in control of their own image. A parent buying a T-rated game from Nintendo and finding objectionable content in it isn't going to blame the ESRB, they're going to blame Nintendo.

I don't know if this is about what kids know so much as about what parents think. Keep in mind that for a long time Nintendo strongly controlled 3rd party content on their machines as well. It didn't matter who was making the game back then, Nintendo perceived it as influencing the Nintendo brand, and they didn't want, for instance, blood in Mortal Kombat on their platforms for fear of what it would do to their family-friendly image. They have eased up on that a lot over the years (though I think they still have a few vague rules?), but it's clear that they are still highly concerned about keeping their brand family-friendly in ways many other publishers are not.

Still though, kids know a lot, and yeah, stuff like Smash makes it even more clear that these are all Nintendo IPs. And if Nintendo is worried about bad press from news stories and such, those would probably make it clear who produced the game.
03/07/16, 19:08   Edit:  03/07/16, 19:10
@Zero

Do parents still complain about objectionable content in Nintendo games? I haven't really heard of an example of that in kind of a while. It seems that the bulk of complaints nowadays come from single 20-ish year olds.

The Smash Bros example seems inconsistent. If Nintendo was really worried about that perception, you'd think they'd avoid linking their first-party games directly with Bayonetta, of all franchises...
03/07/16, 19:27   Edit:  03/07/16, 19:27
@TriforceBun Depends which parents, "parents" is not a big unified group. You'll always have parents complaining about something, god knows my mom did. But also these decisions are made in part to avoid giving parents something to complain about, and Nintendo tends to err on the conservative side there, so there probably isn't much in most of their games that parents would complain about. I really, really think this is a focused decision. They had so many opportunities to go "mature" like all of the other developers and tap into those markets, and they rarely did.

As for Bayonetta in Smash, yeah that was an odd decision to me. But it's also paid DLC that is not part of the core game, so the average Smash playing kid will never see it. ALSO didn't they actually tone down the sexiness of her moves and add more clothes to her for the Smash model or something like that? If so that is a very clear case of worrying about remaining "family-friendly", they will show the character off more sexually in her own game, but once she comes into the family-friendly Smash... she's toned down for mass consumption.
03/07/16, 19:33   Edit:  03/07/16, 19:35
@TriforceBun It does change the part of the conversation that started with this question: "Is the localization team not doing their job well by altering content?"

I admit I got hung up on that because as a translator, I do get a knee-jerk reaction when I see people who have no idea about the realities of the business making statements of that sort.
03/07/16, 19:37
@Zero I don't think anybody really complained about Bayonetta being toned-down for Smash, though, because the changes were all done rather respectfully, and in a way that didn't majorly sacrifice those aspects of her character. She's toned-down to be as family-friendly as possible, but she's still flirtatious, stylish to a fault, and a witch who attacks her foes with magical hair that also happens to be her clothing. It probably helps, mind you, that her original character designer was consulted and brought on-board to ensure every last change was still true to the character she (Bayonetta was designed by a woman, fun fact!) had created.

I get your point, that Nintendo probably does need to tone down certain things to keep them "in line" with the brand they've built for themselves over the years, mind you, and that's why I personally don't find such changes to be particularly bothersome or worth losing much sleep over.
03/07/16, 19:56
@tudsworth Probably no one complained about it because there is no Japanese version where she wasn't toned down to compare it to?

Still though, toning down is toning down, and bringing the character designer on board is great but she probably wasn't presented with much of a choice here. What do we think would have happened if she was against the toning down? I don't understand why people think artists have infinite choice when working on AAA games.

I'm just playing devil's advocate though, because to me "censorship" or not this was obviously the right move for bringing Bayonetta into the Smash franchise. They're not going to have her get nude or anything.
03/07/16, 21:20
03/08/16, 00:40
@Zero Oh yeah, I think we agree on that - sometimes these changes, the "censorship" as some would put it, are necessary when a product would otherwise be a hard sell (or outright unsellable) in the west. I think you know, though, that I'm not trying to push the OH NO ALL CHANGES TO THINGS ARE BAD point, I just found your example poor because the changes were given the original creator's blessing, if not outright suggested by her.

That said, I think even if she personally didn't approve, the fanbase, the people likely to get reactionary, have absolutely nothing to compare it to, as is the case for a lot of the things people -do- get upset about; or had already reserved themselves to the inevitability of the character needing some changes to "fit in" to the general all-ages ethos of Smash, and were therefore unlikely to care.

@Brick
Amusingly, the "related product" referral on that page for myself is a "sexy" body pillow of Tharja, a character who... to put it politely, probably doesn't need further sexualisation. Probably not the most appropriate recommendation given the general content of the article, but hey, algorithms can't always get it right.
03/08/16, 02:12
@tudsworth

Weird I get the same thing.
03/08/16, 03:37
@Brick
I'm getting the same item from my phone, which makes me think the author deliberately chose it.

... either that, or whoever manages that boxout has a wicked sense of humour.
03/08/16, 03:48
So apparently part of this (keep in mind this is someone's attempt at a "direct translation", not an actual direct translation, which is impossible...)


Was changed to this...




And this is a HUGE DEAL? I really don't get it. Looks like a pretty standard localization that respects the intent of the text to me.
03/08/16, 18:05   Edit:  03/08/16, 18:07
@Zero

Everything's a huge deal on the internet. Haven't you learned that by now?
03/08/16, 18:08
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