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Monday, February 29, 2016

Fire Emblem Fates Ain't Censored, but Localised

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - There's no conspiracy at play.

There are a lot of people out there singing the praises for Fire Emblem Fates. I'm not one of them, but it's the fastest-selling Fire Emblem game ever in the United States: Over 300,000 copies in its launch weekend. But that Forbes writer I just linked to then states that even though it's selling so much, there is “controversy” over its “draconian” “censorship” by Nintendo of America and its Treehouse localising division.

Ugh. I already wrote about this in November. Nintendo of America cannot, by definition, “censor” what Nintendo in Japan produces when bringing it over to America. They can only localise. There's a nice chart in that article, too.

But it looks like people need me to run through Fire Emblem Fates specifically. Fine. I'll do it, especially since someone actually e-mailed me to talk about this over a month ago. (I didn't, because I thought an article about localisation would have the best information only after Fire Emblem Fates was actually released.) 

Before I start, I want to point out that the main force causing ruckus over this is #gamergate. Remember them? They're about ethics in videogame journalism, or so they say. I have absolutely no idea what ethics in videogame journalism has to do with Nintendo's localisation decisions. Someone please explain this to me.

Anyway, let's get started.. 

Alleged Censorships

People believe that there is a conspiracy at Nintendo of America to “censor” the games that come over (something to do with social justice?), and they have something against the Japanese artists. Let me tell you: Those folks in Japan don't give a damn what Nintendo of America does if it makes sense to do it to get the game to sell. They would rather the game sell — and it clearly is selling — than for the game to be a literal translation from Japanese to English. If you've ever read anything written by people working in the localisation field, you'd know this. If the guys in Japan were so offended or whatever, they would probably do something about it internally. When companies like Nintendo localise a game, they actually do talk with the guys over in Japan as they're doing it so they can understand contextual things and intent. It's in their job descriptions.

Similarly, conspirators have identified the names of specific Treehouse employees to direct their ire to, suggesting they are using their personal ideologies to guide their localisation decisions. Anyone who knows how companies work, especially a company like Nintendo, would know that no single employee would be able to unilaterally make major changes like that. There is always a review process of some kind.

The people waging this war against Nintendo are opportunists who would like nothing more than to see Nintendo suffer. They're also equivalent to those out-of-state ranchers who occupied the federal building in Oregon. No one in Oregon really wanted them there, even those sympathetic to the cause of the feds having so much land.

Here are the top three instances of “censorship” that people allege:

Lack of Dual Audio

Apparently, one cause of complaint is that if you have an American version of Fire Emblem Fates, you can only hear the audio in English. The replacement of the Japanese language for the English language is considered censorship by these people. Let's just remind ourselves:

The game was developed in Japan, where people communicate in Japanese. The Japanese version only had Japanese audio.

Fire Emblem Fates was then localised to North America, where people communicate in English. This American version now only has English audio.

According to the naysayers, this act of changing Japanese to English is somehow cutting content. This is literally the first job of the localisers, though: Get the game in the language your audience knows. People in America don't even know Japanese. Why the hell would you want to keep Japanese in the game? And why are these complainers not attacking the Japanese developers for not including English? Going from one language to one language is keeping the same amount of content.

Fire Emblem Path of Radiance menu selection after title screen
There are no language options in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance.
Extras are for extra content like the music player, not options.

There are many thousands of games from Japan that had Japanese removed when the games came over to America. Why is this lack of dual audio an issue just with Fire Emblem Fates? It wasn't an issue with Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn or Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. No one begged to have Ike smack-talking people in Japanese then. Hell, it wasn't even a problem in Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, and that featured Marth. That's the same guy that apparently doesn't even know English and only talks in Japanese, if Super Smash Bros. is to be believed. Speaking of which, Super Smash Bros. Melee DID have dual audio: Between Japanese and English. This was noticeably removed in Brawl and onwards and no one cared. The probable reason people are bringing it up is that Fire Emblem: Awakening (the localised version ONLY) does have dual audio. I don't know why, or what infinitesimal fraction of people took advantage of it. No one in a year is even going to remember that this was an issue, and if they do, they'll look back and laugh.

The Europeans have to localise differently and incorporate many languages into it, such as German, French, Spanish, and Italian in addition to English. They don't keep Japanese, though. They localise differently because their region is very different than North America. It goes to show this: Localisation is region-dependent, because its purpose is to have the game sell in that region. It's not censorship.

No Petting Other Characters' Faces (“Skinship”)

The Japanese apparently thought it was a good idea to have this mode in My Castle — the in-game area your units hang out in in-between the actual turn-based strategy RPG parts — where your avatar (aka Corrin) gets to pet the face (and whatever else he/she can reach on the touch screen) of whatever character they/you want in this sensual scene. This is the same game with hot tub scenes where your characters all have bathing suit character models.

Fire Emblem Fates Beach Brawl Camilla swimsuit Beruka worried English version
It also features DLC named Beach Brawl, where this screenshot comes from.
Screenshot from Omegaevolution's YouTube video.

Oh, but don't worry, there's an in-game strategy RPG justification for those models existing, too! There's a certain class of weaponry that strips victims of their clothing when they get hit/lose! It's basically Sexy Poker and Fire Emblem put together. (Alternatively, Akiba's Trip.) As for the justification... well, it's not really in-game strategy RPG justification, since it's only a visual effect with no gameplay ramifications.

(Note: The original embedded Miiverse post here was deleted by the poster... and they apparently deleted their whole account. Here's an unsuited replacement.)

Fire Emblem Fates General with no armor man skin 3DS boxers
Apparently, a Fire Emblem Fates General wearing no armour.

(KoopaTV staffer Vortexica thought the clothing-removal was a glitch when I told him about it. I let him know it's not by sourcing a GameFAQs topic, and then he claimed he's not surprised. He later wondered, based on what he read, if all Fire Emblem fans are perverts.)

The scary part about this is that I kind of came up with that idea for Intelligent Systems to use back in 2009 (Fire Emblem: Awakening came out in 2012, for reference). Except, it was as a joke to make fun of game reviewers negatively rating Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn for awful reasons.

Prediction Fire Emblem turn into waifu trash strip minigames
 Source is an NSider2 post, so click with caution.

That post is filled with inside jokes that the Fire Emblem community at the time of 2009 would get, but here's the relevant excerpt:
“You pick a Mii you have made (male or female) and get to work in minigames with characters of the opposite gender. The difficulty mode you select (from easiest to hardest, Gamespotcritic-Easy, Othercritic-Easy, Very-Easy, Easy, Normal, Hard, Maniac, so players of all skills can play through the game!) and the time it takes to go through the game decides wot kind of reward you get and how deep you can get takin' off their clothes, just like in Sexy Poker (up to a certain point, no nudity). Gamespotcritic-Easy gets people like Meg and Othercritic-Easy gets people like Vaida and Tanith, but if you work up the ranks you can get Micaiah, Mist, Ayra, Mia, Nephenee, Ishtar, Sigrun, Sonia and even Anna the tutorial girl, who is the main lord for the rogue sect.” [Emphasis added]
While the Avatar is technically not a Mii, the point of a customisable user-made character still happened. People are complaining that the petting, which is a sort of minigame akin to Pokémon X and Pokémon Y's Amie (which is a cesspool of erotic bestiality fantasies) feature, was removed. The goal is to get the characters to like you, and ultimately they drop their clothes and marry you or something.

Over in Japan, it didn't have to be your mutual love interest you could pet. You could pet anyone, which leads me to conclude that Corrin is a child molester. Even the developers in Japan thought it was weird, and what they made was a compromise. (Some of the Japan guys wanted the cursor to be a hand, and you could touch ANYWHERE.)

Why did North America remove this? Well, apparently in Japan this is kind of normal. Meanwhile, in America, attempting to kiss your own daughter is considered bad behaviour that should be ridiculed by the public. What's your reaction when you watch this video of Ted Cruz?

I'd like to point out that there are versions of that video that don't point out that girl is Ted Cruz's daughter, and some people who watch those actually believe it's a random girl and they go out and say Ted Cruz is a paedophile.

Why is it not okay for Ted Cruz to attempt to kiss his daughter in America but it's okay in America for this Corrin character to stroke random people in his/her affiliated groups? (Admittingly, according to the Super Smash Bros. For Wii U trailer, Corrin is everyone's big brother/big sister, so it may not be random.) And how is it okay for Corrin to touch people when, ten years earlier, American consumers were upset over Nintendo's DS “Touching is Good” marketing campaign?

What ended up happening with the localised version is that you can do petting relationships ONLY with the person your Avatar is MARRIED to, and the feature's in-game support benefits still exist with everyone else, just without the minigame. There's no real important content being lost, and I think dispelling the notion that Corrin is a non-consensual pervert (at best) is well worth it. There is no developer message being lost, and what the localisers did is actually what some of the developers wanted to begin with.

Gay Conversion Therapy Reference

In Fire Emblem Fates, there is this female character named Soleil. She swoons when she sees cute females, and it's presented as a problem because there are all sorts of cute ladies around on the battlefield. At least, in this world. (This is why Don't Ask, Don't Tell was a thing.)

In the Japanese version, male Corrin wants to help her out by putting a magical drug into Soleil's drink so she sees guys as girls. Corrin didn't ask Soleil for consent — he just slipped it in without telling anyone. Soleil then became attracted to Corrin, and Soleil got excited at what she thought was a female Corrin. Here's a widely-cited translation of this support conversation, quoting Corrin:

“I managed to get my hands on a kind of magic powder… I’m really sorry, but a little while ago, I poured some of it into your drink. The person who drinks that powder… somehow becomes able to see other people as the gender opposite what they actually are!”
This was confused with two things in America: One, the idea of spiking people's drinks to take advantage of them. Two, the concept of gay conversion therapy, which tries to get homosexuals to become heterosexuals. This is a controversial kind of therapy in America, with some municipalities banning it entirely. Apparently, it's demeaning to homosexuals and their rights or something. The point is, people don't like it, and if Corrin was seen as practicing it, he'd be seen as a horrible person.

So what to do with the localisation? Replace it with a blindfold.

Fire Emblem Fates Soleil Avatar Corrin B support gay conversion therapy localization blindfold
It's CONSENSUAL blindfolding, too.
Screenshot from YouTuber Mrperson0.

I think that's a very reasonable way to get the original writers' message across with all of the intentions. Did the Japanese intend to make Corrin out to be a gay-converting date-raper? I doubt it. He just wants to help Soleil out with her issue. That message is communicated with this localisation.

Some people think using a blindfold instead of “I got some magic powder out of my ass that's never referenced or elaborated on anywhere else” is censorship and BAD, but this was probably the intended message from the designers. It makes a lot more sense, too.

Still, Questionable Localisation Decisions Abound

With all of this said, while it's clear that Nintendo of America made appropriate localisation decisions and did not act under the force of censorship, is the localisation of Fire Emblem Fates perfect? That's a subjective thing, as localisation usually is. However, there are a lot of instances in Fire Emblem Fates where the localisers could've expressed better judgment.

One is the attempt to use memes, or to make memetic moments. This is not the way to make your game have a continuing lasting impression among the players. It's a way to generate a lot of excitement and stories in the short-term, but I believe the Fire Emblem series has traditionally been about creating long-term, deep experiences for players to mentally dwell in. While Fire Emblem Fates is far from the first Fire Emblem game to have issues or mistakes in its localisation, it's among the first to take the short-term thinking mentality and have issues on purpose.

One cited example is this conversation between two assassins that was replaced with ellipses. Fire Emblem likes having assassins be silent (see: Jaffar in Fire Emblem 7) but this is a bit excessive:

There is this article written by one of the anti-Treehouse conspiracy theorists that also complains about the voice-acting (which is hit-or-miss — like voice-acting usually is) and personality changes to characters. If you didn't know any better, you'd never know about if a character's personality is different depending on your region. Most people don't follow this kind of development stuff. I don't really care or put emphasis on that, but I do care if whatever dialogue that is written is bad, memetic for the sake of it, or just erroneous.

Fire Emblem Fates Charlotte please excuse me milady male Corrin support localization error
That's male Corrin on the left. Not a lady.

So yeah, there's valid reasons to complain about the localisation. Go ahead and complain in the comments section below and I'll be amused to hear it — I don't have any good faith in this game to start with, so I'm a sympathetic ear. Just have your comments be valid, please.

Ludwig won't delete your comments or anything if you misuse the word “censorship”, since KoopaTV itself does not censor things. He'll just be unhappy. KoopaTV is regularly censored by other organisations that detest it, including its own website host and other content hosts, so Ludwig is very familiar with what true censorship looks like. Koopa Kingdom doesn't censor its citizens, because they love the Royal Koopa Family and would never say anything bad about it!

Ludwig doesn't localise his non-American English for his primarily American audience, and if you have a problem with that, you could've said so in the Feedback Form.
So what happens when a game is “censored” in its original Japanese form, too?


  1. It's a good thing I never became a FE fangirl even though I did enjoy fE7 and 8 to an extent. I would not be able to stand the direction the series is going along with the obnoxious fandom. I already have one game series I use to like that I now despise due to the direction it took and I don't need another one.

    1. I don't know if the people behind #TorrentialDownpour (the hashtag where you can observe their smear campaign) are even part of the Fire Emblem fandom or just creeps/opportunists.

      They're all saying that whatever Nintendo of America did to Fates, it's NoA's fault they don't like the game. They all seem to like Intelligent Systems's original Japanese version, complete with perverted touching and swimsuits. And because of those things, for all I know.

      They believe Nintendo Treehouse is filled with these horrible people intentionally ruining games, and they're somehow taking advantage of/persuading their higher-ups to allow them to do this.

      In short, they're creating large opposition research files on select Nintendo employees and other affiliated people and publicly prosecuting them based on circumstantial evidence.

  2. "this was probably the intended message from the designers."

    This is one of the reasons I dislike when people are so anti-censorship they claim it has to be a 100% strict translation or it's "censored" and a great crime against the designer.

    I thought about it during the Xenoblade Chronicles X controversy with Lin. Some people argued that censoring Lin's armor was bad because it wasn't true to the original vision. I'm pretty sure the designer didn't have "uncomfortable sexualization of a minor" as part of his vision. If changing part of the game for a different culture prevents an audience reaction the designer DIDN'T want, isn't that staying truer to his vision than leaving it in?


      These guys seem to take a "if it's not a strict translation it's censorship" point of view.

      (KoopaTV's Twitter got bombarded with ANGER after I posted this article.)

      I agree with you that's staying truer to the developer's vision. What I don't like is when:

      1. People assume what the developer's vision is. (I mean, we just did that right now, but...)
      2. People see the localised version differing, and then cry censorship and there is a conspiracy out to screw the developer, I guess without the developer's permission (?) or input (?) or knowledge (?). (Those question marks are asking how any of those are even possible.)
      3. People believe that sticking to whatever they think this vision is is more important than getting the game to sell in a different part of the world.

      To some developers, I would say sticking to their vision IS more important. That's if you're like, SUDA 51.

      I strongly doubt Intelligent Systems cares that much.

      So they're fighting a war on behalf of Intelligent Systems that makes IS out to be dummies who are either completely ignorant of what's going on in America (aka they're totally incompetent) or they're somehow powerless against the localisation team.

  3. It's kinda funny seeing people complain about the "censorship" in this game. One guy made this video ranting about NoA removing the ability to pet people's faces until they're married. He was like, "Nintendo, you are based in a country that has TENTACLE PORN!" Lol, he complained about other things, but not neccesarily the dual language. Guy needs to be educated.

    1. I'd say give him this article, but he probably wouldn't change his mind.

  4. Probably not. Which is why I'm wondering the same thing as Vortexica, if almost all FE players are perverts. Though I do know some people who could care less about the skinship and more about gameplay. And I'd say good for them.

    1. Seeing how Fire Emblem was on the brink of extinction like Advance Wars and was saved thanks to Awakening and its Waifu Simulator retooling, perverts basically saved the franchise. I prefer Advance Wars to die with dignity though in comparison.

    2. (Hey, you can reply to my reply and keep it flowing.)

      I dunno — We can't just blame the player base here. Intelligent Systems started it with Awakening, I don't think any players suggested this waifu shipping stuff.

      ...I mean, unless they read my forum post from 2009 then yeah it's my fault.

    3. And whatever happened with "Vote with your wallet?"

    4. For the same reason that I argued against people saying we HAD to buy Code Name S.T.E.A.M. if we ever wanted a new Nintendo IP ever again...

      If you don't buy Awakening, what does that mean? Does it mean you don't like waifus? You don't like strategy RPGs? You don't like portable Fire Emblems? You think Chrom is a loser? There's a lot of reasons you can pull from that. Similarly, flipside for everyone who did buy Awakening.

      I think the primary message Intelligent Systems got was that people don't want hardcore turn-based strategy games with actual depth like Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, and they want this bastardised casual version of the genre instead. Plus waifus.

      So that's why my interpretation of positive sales numbers for Awakening and Fates is "we'll never get a hardcore console Fire Emblem game ever again."

    5. I once bought Pushmo, an Intellifent Systems game, thinking it will fund for a new Advance Wars game because I am funding Intelligent Systems. What I got was the Pushmo sequel, Crashmo which I did not buy. Okay it was not very intelligent of me to think purchasing Pushmo would lead to Advance Wars eventually but I really wanted a new AW and would try anything back in the day.

    6. ...Yeah, if you're gonna vote with your wallet, you really want your vote to be sending a clear signal.

      Which means a lot of the time, an unqualified vote means nothing and you need to get your message across another way. Angry cyber mob harassment campaigns is one highly visible and distinctive way, though not a sympathetic one.

  5. Awakening was better/10

    Still a good game, though. I think you'd like it better than Awakening, actually, since the game plays more like the classic games. Much better maps in this one.

    But yes, the 'censorship' issue is very overblown and pushed by people who don't know what they are talking about. I've actually played the game, and found a lot of the complaints, in time, to be completely baseless. For example, people were telling me that they removed swimsuits pre release... they didn't, and boy does Azura look good in one.

    Yes, they changed the dialogue. NO, that is not a bad thing. Very spot on observation with the lesbian conversion thing. It was textbook solution of keeping the original intent while adjusting it to a new audience.

    I have to stress, though, that I genuinely believe that the people whining about this aren't fans and haven't actually played the game.

    1. Awakening was better? Well that's not good.

      Awakening's maps were a big step down, so I'm wondering on what basis Awakening is better than Fates.

      ...oh boy.

      If it was a textbook localisation solution, then people shouldn't be complaining about it. I just know these folks only want translations and not localisations, which means they really don't know what they're talking about. You get nonsense if you do that.

      There are companies, like XSEED, that want to be as close to a faithful translation as you can get while having it make sense. That's respectable and admirable and I've expressed such and defended them from when social justice people were attacking XSEED, but XSEED's model shouldn't be expected by every localisation outfit.

      XSEED doesn't exactly care about maximising profit, or else they wouldn't pick the projects that they pick. These are very niche games, and hell, they're M-rated. Or at least Akiba's Trip was.

      Nintendo, on the other hand, IS trying to get the mass-market. And mass-market was the developer's original intent, or else they wouldn't overly casualise the Fire Emblem series.

      Of course they haven't played the game — they're boycotting it. lol


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