Nintendo going for global standards

You probably heard already that the Switch port of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is using the assets from the Western Wii U release. A what now? A cross over game between Nintendo and Atlus, initially planned to use Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei, but ended up more like Fire Emblem characters in a modern setting with Atlus’ usual shtick throw in there with plot and game play. The Japanese original had your normal idol clothing, whereas the Western versions put more clothes on just to cover more skin. Sometimes it’s just coloring character’s skin in the colour, sometimes slightly editing the clothing to take more area, sometimes just not bothering at all. At least in one sequence they just throw some black fire to cover tits and call it a day.

Censored Gaming has more of these comparisons, this just happens to have the flaming bosom. It looks terrible, tacky and very clear

Let’s not forget that there’s a scene where the character has been completely redesigned to have more clothing, because bikinis are too much for some. That’s not exactly the main point for this post, though I guess collectors will probably ask higher price for the Wii U original’s Japanese version as the true, uncensored, as-intended version of the game, but rather what act this has lead Nintendo into. Fans aren’t exactly pleased about this. Why would Nintendo use the Western censored version as the basis for Switch port? Probably because it happens to be the latest code version, and you don’t need to make any further changes again. Nintendo of Japan is offering refunds to the customers who want it. It might be that Nintendo wants to avoid any misunderstandings, as they used Wii U screenshots showing the Japanese original instead from the Switch port. That’s all good and nice, but what shines through from this post of theirs is the spot where global standards gets mentioned.

Nintendo is not under any threat of being forced to work under global standards. If there’s something people should learn from the whole Blizzard-China fiasco is that no company has global standards per se. Each market has its own standard, there’s just that overall company umbrella they work under. Nintendo saying that they want to hit global standards with this particular version of Tokyo Mirage Sessions#FE probably means less than intended, yet we always have to remember things like this, or the linked article in the previous post, are meant to cater the consumer. Things are always presented with an angle, and here the whole censorship angle is presented as using global standards Nintendo wants to move towards. At worst, it means Nintendo takes after Sony in how they’ll implement character design limitations and what kind of content is acceptable. Considering Nintendo picked up Bayonetta to be their ‘adults’ franchise, despite being produced and owned by Platinum, with some other pushes as being the more adult and sensible platform with all the freedoms it offers to the developers and consumers, there is reason to worry.

When a company cites global standards like this, it usually means they will install self-censorship. Sometimes it comes from outside, that an outside force nudges them into a direction either because they argue a case for their favour or outright lobby it. Other times it’s just activists saying Thing X is evil and despite being a minority are heard, because companies somehow have stopped looking at the data and listen to the loudest voice, even if it comes from an ant in a beehive. Considering the gaming media is writing for the developers nowadays rather to their actual market, the consumers, pushing an angle has become relatively easy. I can’t even say if concentrating on data would be the best option in regards of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, seeing it has very little appeal outside Japan, people who are very much into bog-standard generic anime style and some Fire Emblem fans. Some still disagree that anime look isn’t a high selling point in the West, but a look at Dark Souls should tell a different story. It would not have sold as much as it did, or become a pop-cultural phenomena, if it didn’t look like European dark fantasy. While PC gaming might put emphasize on technical quality of graphics, the console and arcade side of things have always put emphasize on the design of the visuals. A game that looks graphically worse, but has great visual design, lasts much longer. That is also culturally tied, as the US markets might consider something like 3D GTA games top notch in terms of visuals, but in Japan they’d be considered drab.

Whether or not Nintendo will enforce their global standards to their second and third party developers will remain to be seen. Thus far there has been no real signs of this, and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is the first, and so far the only title, to have been clearly hit by these global standards. Then again, Super Smash Bros. For Console X and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate both saw some censorship similar to the aforementioned. Again, Censored Gaming got you covered for the changes made. These changes made for Smash Ultimate tells us that if the game needed changing in Japan to get the lowest CERO age rating, then censorship has been tightening its noose around the globe ever so slightly. If Nintendo starts playing it safe and employs the strictest rules ratings have, then they don’t need to go the extra length to drop money into changing the models and updating them in. It’s money and time wasted, and all resources could be used to make more products, or less paid time for the employer. It’s a hassle all developers would like to avoid, and this is probably why Nintendo opted on using the Western version of TMS#FE as the basis; it’s the latest version of the game with all the changes already made. They don’t really need to go back and change any of the changes per se.

As a side note on this, developers often don’t want to port changes made to another version of a game, if they can help it. 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog had a demo on Xbox 360 that is smoother and overall better playing game than its final release, because the main development platform was on PS3, and the small staff never ported the improvements back to the main code. Sonic Retro has an article on the differences compared to the released game. For Nintendo, having a readily made version of the game with all the necessary bits and bops for censorship is a no-brainer. No need to work two versions, or a version that would use different models depending on the region.

There’s the whole issue about the creator/s original intent being sidestepped here, but as you’ve probably well put a notion on things already, the art that games supposedly are is at best a marketing term and something that can be completely ignored when it comes to censorship and making money.

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