For weeks we’ve been pushing PR reps at SEGA/Atlus for more details regarding the localization of Tokyo Mirage Sessions: #FE, and finally at least some answers came last week… in the form of a statement made to Game Informer.
God. Damn. It.
To be fair, Game Informer inquired with representatives at Nintendo, not SEGA/Atlus, so it’s possible that Nintendo expressly wanted to handle this matter. Here is the statement as published by Game Informer:
“Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE was localized by Atlus in a way that is consistent with the localization work they do on games they publish,” reads a statement from Nintendo of America. “It was a priority to ensure the game feels familiar and appeals to longtime Atlus fans. Any changes made to the in-game content were due to varying requirements and regulations in the many different territories Nintendo distributes its products.”
This came as a huge sigh of relief to many fans following a rash of censored games on Nintendo platforms including Fatal Frame, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and the PR disaster that was the Fire Emblem Fates localization, which removed an entire gameplay mechanic, deleted hundreds of lines of dialogue, and what dialogue remained was criticized for being poorly written and rife with meme jokes.
But for those concerned about video game censorship during the localization process, how relieved should we be? Nintendo is the undisputed king of video game censors, a title that extends back to the days of Mortal Kombat sweat, so the farther they are from the localization process for Tokyo Mirage Sessions, the better. However, the language of Nintendo’s statement is still very questionable.
Let’s take another look at the statement, shall we?
“Any changes made to the in-game content were due to varying requirements and regulations in the many different territories Nintendo distributes its products.”
That is essentially a confirmation that some changes are in fact being made. But what do “requirements and regulations” entail? Certainly there are very few things that would be straight-up banned in the US, as when it comes to video game content, the US Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that video games qualify for free speech protection. So what regulations is Nintendo referring to?
This sadly gives more credibility to a recent leak from 4 Chan, which correctly predicted that the game’s title would be changed from Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem to Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, that the western version of the game would retain the Japanese voice acting, and that Atlus would be localizing the game… under supervision from Nintendo. Does this mean that Nintendo will still be enforcing at least some of its own standards on Tokyo Mirage Sessions?
From what we’ve seen so far, that certainly appears to be the case. Keen-eyed viewers of a recent Nintendo Direct in March noticed in the trailer for Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE that Tsubasa Oribe’s outift appears to be censored in the western version of the game to hide her cleavage. Other costume changes have been reported since, including Kiria’s costume being altered to show less skin as well.
This type of censorship is all too familiar for those who play games on Nintendo platforms. Outfit changes such as those in the aforementioned Fatal Frame, Bravely Default and especially in Bravely Second are par for the course. While it would be understandable to question whether these changes were being made to satisfy the Electronic Software Ratings Board (ESRB), for instance, to preserve a “Teen” rating, there isn’t much evidence to suggest that is the case. Considering that character designs for other risque characters like Ivy in Soul Calibur, Felicia in Darkstalkers, and I-No from Guilty Gear still manage to squeak into Teen rated games, the changes made to the far less risque designs in Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE must be coming from somewhere else, and if there is indeed a “requirement” or that must be satisfied, the common denominator is Nintendo.
That brings me to the central questions that remain after all of this:
What changes are still yet to be revealed in Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE?
Do gamers deserve to know what changes are being made ahead of time?
If the original 4 Chan leak is to be trusted, we can expect that characters’ ages will be changed to 18 and that western audiences will not be getting the “Hot Springs” DLC. While it stands to reason (hopefully) that the localized language will remain relatively consistent with the Japanese original considering that Atlus is opting to retain the original Japanese voices, there may yet be more content edited that we don’t yet know about, even beyond other character outfits.
As I mentioned above, we’ve reached out to SEGA/Atlus in early March to get specific answers on what fans can expect, but nearly a month and a half later, we’ve received no response. Not even a “no comment,” which is unusual. In any case, I’m having a hard time trying to decide whether gamers do in fact “deserve” an answer to questions like these before a game’s release. Do we simply deserve to know in the spirit of full disclosure?
As much as I want to say “yes”, I can’t quite put myself in that place. It’s one thing if a game is a remake or re-release of a long-time classic like the Final Fantasy VII Remake, (which, be warned, looks like it’s going to be censored as well), but if a western audience has no prior affections for a game, as is the case with Tokyo Mirage Sessions, what do we have a right to know? If a game has specific features removed, that should probably be admitted upfront. In addition, if prior marketing trailers or images drastically differ from the final product (i.e. Aliens: Colonial Marines), that should probably be addressed as well. However, with these censorship and localization issues, should every difference be revealed? Every costume, every piece of dialogue, every graphical tweek?
Unfortunately, I think there are perfectly reasonable people who would answer both “yes” and “of course not” to that question, and I honestly don’t know what the solution is. If there wasn’t such a massive trust deficit between gamers, game developers, gaming journalists and this new wave of 21st Century moralists, a solution of something in between would probably be acceptable to even the most disenchanted gamer.
In the absence of that, there is still a very sensible way to move forward from my own perspective. If there are censorship concerns surrounding a game being localized, don’t pre-order it, don’t “hype” yourself over it, certainly don’t trust most game journalism outlets to give a serious rundown of the changes, and, at the end of the day, you don’t have to buy it.
We here at SEGA Nerds will do our best to keep you informed as new information regarding Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE emerges. I should also mention that the opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of anyone else at SEGA Nerds other than myself. Blah, blah, blah. All that stuff. Seriously though, how should game companies best serve their fans when localizing products? How much disclosure is enough? please let us know in the comments what you think about this issue. Maybe you’ve got a better idea than I do, which wouldn’t be surprising.
In any case, we’ll all find out how much has been censored out of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE when the game releases on June 24th.