There has been a bit of a backlash against Square Enix when it was discovered that the Japanese content from the upcoming Nintendo 3DS game, “Bravely Default,” had been altered for European releases (and, likely, for release in North America). Some of the changes include those in costumes (seen above), increasing the age of some of the characters from 15 to 18 and changing dialogue to utilize fewer sexual innuendos.
The issue of censorship is a hot-button topic when it comes to video games. When it comes to altering the creator’s initial vision, fans are prone to a call to arms, even in perceived cases of censorship with no conclusive evidence that notable change will even occur. However, for Square Enix to alter their Japanese RPG content for European and North American audiences, differences in cultural acceptance and financial benefit come first.
I’m not going to sit here and bemoan Bravely Default’s Japanese developers for sexualizing 15 year old Chibi-style characters. The age of consent in Japan varies from 13 to 18, depending on local prefecture laws per region. It is arguable that the East’s take on making youthfulness of fictional characters attractive less problematic than the way underage singers and actors (in this case, portrayed high school students) are sexually marketed here in North America.
Regardless, combining Chibi-style art of making child characters even more childlike with lingerie-esque clothing of this nature is where Square Enix knows to draw the line with Bravely Default. It doesn’t matter whether the age they impose for the playable cast is 15 or as 1,000 year-old magical entities; culturally, Westerners are not used to it to that extreme in animated characters.
It’s not the first time that Square Enix has imposed their own localization changes to their games. One of my favorite Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy VI, is infamous for its changes to localization. References to alcohol, religion, curse words and sexual playfulness had been changed to meet Nintendo of America’s standards. Even the sprites had been altered for North American audiences. Despite these changes, Final Fantasy VI went on to be a critical and financially-successful game, as well as one of the best RPG’s on the platform.
That said, what does come as a baffling decision is to alter the sexual innuendos of the characters in Bravely Default’s dialogue. While the reassurance is that nothing changed will alter the story, what characters say and how they act is an integral role in all stories. Now that the cast is covered up a bit more tastefully and are of legal adult age here in North America, why should the sexual innuendos be removed? It changes the dynamic of the cast in a measurable way.
It will not be these changes that will affect the overall reception of Bravely Default in North America. Silicon Studio’s RPG should rely on its ability to carry a plot and develop great gameplay in order to please fans. While censorship is not often used for the benefit of art, changes in localization are a sign of adapting to differing gaming markets and what is acceptable within them. What’s good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander.