Millions of gamers around the world are passionate about, and posses an immense love for Nintendo, but that hasn’t stopped more than a few people from taking issue with with Nintendo’s history of editing some of its content when it brings it to the rest of the world. Many would agree the company has loosened up on certain matters, like the complete ban of references to religion that led to the removal of red crosses from the hospitals in EarthBound, but Nintendo still seems to have an issue when it comes to showing skin. This led to several character models being changed in Bravely Default, and now Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is feeling the impact of the policy.
Here’s the question, though: is it just a part of the editing that occurs during the localization or actual censorship?
In the Japanese version of the latest Fatal Frame, players could unlock alternate costumes for the female characters that looked like something you’d find in an intimate apparel store– lacy lingerie topped with cat or bunny ears depending on the character. Western gamers, on the other hand, will have the opportunity to unlock Princess Zelda and Zero Suit Samus costumes instead. While plenty of folks no doubt appreciate the nods to some of Nintendo’s most iconic characters, others are decrying the removal of the sexier outfits as censorship. (Though let’s be honest, the Zero Suit Samus costume isn’t exactly what one would call overly conservative.)
It could be said that yes, Nintendo is, in fact, alternating the original vision of the creators in order to match what it some sort of difference on morality it perceives between Japanese and Western audiences. While that may be true, localization is a key aspect of every game that is sold outside of its original market, because without it, something that might be super specific to one culture can be replaced with something more universal. For example, direct translations of puns almost never work, and references to certain cultural touchstones could go right over the heads of people not born into that culture and thus alienate many customers.
Whether we like it or not, there is an appreciable difference between the manner in which Japanese and Western cultures view sexuality and nudity. And while the costumes in Maiden of Black Water were perfectly fine by the standards of a country with few qualms about the public consumption and sale of pornographic manga isn’t a significant issue, one could see how the reaction in a country where violent media is more acceptable than sexual content might differ. Then again, there is the question of audience.
The fact that Nintendo of America is limiting Maiden of Black Water’s release to the eShop shows the company perfectly understands it is a rather niche title; the franchise never found the fan base of the likes of Resident Evil and its brand of horror is more distinctly Japanese. Had Nintendo released the game untouched from the original Japanese content, it’s very well possible, if not likely, that nobody who might take issue with the matter would notice. Maybe you could complain about the ridiculous outfits disrupt the atmosphere of the game, but the same could also be said for the bright blue and glowing lights of the Zero Suit.
Something could also be said about the depiction of female sexuality as a trophy to earned by the gamer, but that’s a whole other can of worms best left untouched on today’s Internet.
Regardless of where you stand on this issue, there is an interesting conversation to be had on the subject. Personally, I think the original costumes are a little distasteful and, considering the photographic themes of the game, overly voyeuristic while the new costumes are a more interesting Easter egg for Nintendo fans. However, if nothing had been changed, I wouldn’t think any less of the game and dismiss the outfits as a silly little extra I probably wouldn’t have even taken the time to unlock. What are your two cents on the matter?