It’s no secret that Japan strives to be different from the West when it comes to entertainment, and this difference is clearly expressed in the video games the country exports. However, games released in Japan are often radically different from the Western version, and not just in terms of language.
It’s an old phenomenon, dating back to the Nintendo Entertainment System, with games such as Top Secret: Resurrection of Hitler being renamed to Bionic Commando for its release in the West, and having all references to Nazis removed and replaced with innocuous versions, such as Hitler being renamed Master-D. A less egregious example would be the renaming of the spell “Holy” in the original Final Fantasy to “Pearl”, as Squaresoft wanted to avoid religious connotations, something they would repeat in their later Final Fantasy games, specifically IV and VI.
Many of these self-censorship cases also involve the removal of blood, tobacco, drugs, alcohol and foul language in order to retain a lower age rating in the West, a phenomenon also seen in anime and movies imported from Japan.
More recently, Japanese game developers such as Game Freak, makers of the celebrated Pokémon series of video games, have removed references and mini games related to gambling in their remakes of earlier generation games. Renowned publisher Nintendo has also recently removed a head-patting mini game from their localisation of the strategy role playing game Fire Emblem Fates, which releases for the 3DS on 19 February this year.
Game publisher Square Enix has also made some changes to the upcoming localisation of the second Bravely Default game, Bravely Second: End Layer, with the replacement of a Native- American inspired costume with a cowboy-style outfit.
These changes have caused much controversy on the Internet, with some fan sites being outraged that their version of the game will be watered down compared to the original, while others are relieved that the games are seeing a Western release at all. These controversies are not helped by mistranslated statements by the companies, or early looks at scenes in-game which have their true meaning lost in translation, and rapidly misinterpreted.