I don’t care much for the Dead or Alive: Xtreme series. I play games for escapism and enchantment. If I wanted to know what it would be like to waste my days being rejected by a number of attractive women, I would take part in Nanpa culture. However, if I wanted to buy gifts for virtual waifus while surruptiously taking photos of them lounging in almost non-existent swimwear, I could. For the past year a crack team of Japan’s best physicists have be researching life enhancing fields such as sweat glisten, tan lines, and of course breast jiggle. Their work is almost complete, Dead or Alive: Xtreme 3 will be released in Japan Februrary 2016 on both the PS4 and Vita. Life is much harder for those who live in the West. DOAX3 is not being localized.
In the old days someone “setting us up the bomb” was what passed as Western localization. Nowadays with the industry as large as it is, further considerations are taken into account. Localization no longer equals translation. Localizers try to help us to “understand” and “accept,” a process which in many cases is thought of as censorship. Bravely Default’s characters are no longer 16 but 18, a rippling buttock is cropped from Street Fighter V, and Blade and Soul had its female characters posed in a more “empowering” fashion. People often say this is pointless, but ask the localizers of Akiba’s Trip if they were glad they left the word “trap” in their big hit release.
Localization problems in gaming happen for various reasons. Sometimes it’s something as dumb and innocent as the belief that the titular Yokai in Yokai Watch will only have niche appeal. However, a lot of Western localization suffers from a “toning down” of Japanese fan service. Ages are raised, risqué lines removed, and the sexiest poses and costumes changed. This isn’t because the Japanese are all horny and Westerners as pure and virginal as unploughed snow, but a cultural difference. Japan is a group culture, the West an individual one.
Japan and Japanese people unite. They consider the whole when acting and so always do what is best for the group. This manifests in many ways; theft is almost non-existent, companies are thought of as families, and appropriation of Japanese culture (including Weeaboos) is seen as a compliment to their way of life. When Japanese people see something that they personally find distasteful, upsetting or downright wrong the most common strategy is simply to ignore and avoid. In the three years since I moved East, the West seems to have done anything but.
At the slightest provocation, Twitter is alight with rage. Hashtags trend, memes made and ripped apart, and petitions are signed. A year after its release there was a call to ban the sick filth that is Grand Theft Auto V mostly by people with only a tangential understanding of what the game involved. Bayonetta 2 was too sexy, Mario Kart 8 was too white, and Fire Emblem Fates was not gay enough. In a world of diffuse opinions you can’t please everyone, and everyone wants to be pleased.
The loss of DOAX3’s western localization is not huge in itself. It will be mostly translated into English for other Asian markets and be made available for purchase through import sites such as Play-Asia. This individual case is not what worries me, but I worry that the decision to pull DOAX3 from the West is a sign of very troubling times. Some of the best Japanese developers ,such as Hideo Kojima, Hideki Kamiya, Suda 51 and yes even Team Ninja, are brilliant because their most creative ideas are nurtured and encouraged. Never has the phrase “shine on you crazy diamonds” been more appropriate, and yet releasing a game in the West is becoming such an enormous ball ache that publishers are becoming anxious to bring over their latest releases.
I understand that being angry on the Internet can be a lot of fun. I sometimes do it myself. But next time something in a video game outrages you, whether it’s the inclusion or removal of a transphobic joke in Pillars of Eternity, the pronounced boobs on Dragon Crown’s sorceress, or the suggestion of making Mega Man a Mega lass, hold your tongue. That or save it for the chans.
What are your thoughts on the latest controversy?