Gamers in the west have learned over time that some games coming out of Japan don’t always make it over completely intact. There are plenty of examples of this that makes it less surprising when a publisher reveals that their game suffered minor changes during localization. In the past year, Steam has been cracking down on imagery depicting younger characters in any situation that could be considered sexual. Similarly, Sony has been putting their foot down completely on many options or modes in games that may be considered overly sexualized. This turn of events has left western gamers not only confused but also a bit surprised.
Recently, publisher Spike Chunsoft announced that some imagery in their upcoming dungeon crawler RPG Zanki Zero: Last Beginning will undergo changes by the request of the platform holders. It’s important to note that the game’s localization announcement originally was revealed at the last year’s GDC, GDC 2018. Many times these submissions and approval requests are sent to platform holders long after localization announcements have been made, which is often why these localization alteration announcements are made so close to the game’s launch.
In order to get a better understanding of the process, during GDC 2019, we sat down with Spike Chunsoft marketing and PR representative Ari Advincula who addressed making the choice to change the game in order to launch in the west by saying, “In terms of any content changes, it’s actually never a choice. On the development team side, having to make certain changes in the game was tough, because the team had to go back and edit things. And then, on our side [publishing], there are all these submission processes that have to go through. So, it’s all time consuming, overall, and it’s tough in that sense. It’s also tough because there’s obviously a very strong negative reaction that happens.” She continued by adding, “At the end of the day, we always put the community first, and I think it’s always important to listen to what fans say. At the same time, we can’t release a game if we don’t do it [make changes], sometimes, so it’s a matter of having a game or no game. After everyone’s put so much hard work into the game, of course, we want to release it, so we need to do what we can to make that release happen.”
In this regard, there will definitely be western gamers who suggest that having no game released is better than it being censored, but more often than not, these people don’t have any money invested into the project. While altering a game before release sucks, which we totally agree it does, blaming the publisher doesn’t seem like the best avenue for fans who wish to see these niche titles in the west. Sure, there’s going to be a divide, but putting all the blame on the one who is trying to get these niche games to the fans doesn’t seem to be constructive.
The scenes in question depict young child-like characters in their underwear while either laying in a bed or showing their panties during a CG scene. The scenes themselves are kept pretty tame outside of the imagery and the characters do undergo multiple stages of life throughout the game so encountering a character while they are young is not unheard of in this game because it’s one of the mechanics. However, it’s tough to explain the whole, “Well her mind is actually 60 years old, but she looks ten” to a rating board or platform holder in the west and I couldn’t imagine what that conversation must have been like.
When choosing games to localize in the west Ari states, “I don’t think we ever think of what restrictions we can expect or anything like that. The only restriction that comes to mind is what restrictions the console itself can allow me to do. There’s never the thought of ‘oh, so this is going to stop us from making this game, so we need to make sure not to include it.'”
Zanki Zero: Last Beginning is a dungeon crawler RPG with a unique feature that has characters in the game reliving their lives over and over while suffering from some disturbing deaths as they try to find a way off the island. Furthermore, the whole game is hosted by two sadistic mascot characters, Mirai and Sho Terashima, as they deal out missions and guidance to the characters.
The game also features survival elements that have the player gather materials and upgrade their camp. During missions, characters will age at a rapid rate that can also be helpful in dungeons when trying to reach a certain spot or something that only an adult can do. Throughout the game, players will understand these characters and their purpose as they fight for survival. True, a few of the game’s CGs have been changed to conform to western standards, but putting the blame solely on the publisher doesn’t fix the problem as it wasn’t a choice.
Knowing what the game has to offer in terms of gameplay and a unique story, we are excited to get our hands on Zanki Zero: Last Beginning when it launches on PlayStation 4 and PC on April 9.
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