Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, nicknamed Star Ocean 5, has come under fire today due to recent comments by the game’s creators.
In an interview on the Japanese website 4Gamer, three key members of Star Ocean developer Tri-Ace, character designer Akira Yasuda, director Hiroshi Ogawa, and producer Shuichi Kobayashi, discussed the development, design and overall goals for the latest entry in the Star Ocean series. However, one area in particular has been circulated around the internet, regarding a costume change for one of the playable characters, the 18 year old teenage character Miki.
In particular, a line by Kobayashi has riled up some in the gaming community due to a minor edit that will be affecting both the Japanese and Western release of Star Ocean. According to Kobayashi, “recently, there’s been a lot of flak from overseas countries saying that if you put teens in ‘sexual’ underwear it’s not good, so we increased the amount of clothing.”
Kobayashi is referring to Miki and her underwear, which in earlier screenshots was shown to be smaller and showed off her behind in more detail. The edit in this case refers to the panties Miki wears throughout the game, which Kobayashi and Yasuda note were enlarged to avoid editing the game later. This was done to even the Japanese release of Star Ocean, in part due to recent controversies happening in the west.
In the interview, Yasuda noted that there has been a trend in gaming “where if you put out a character that shows a lot of skin, later on you might have to make a lot of revisions.” Yasuda goes on to say that his goal for the character design of Star Ocean was to show eroticism without being overly sexualized, “‘although she’s erotic, there’s not a lot of skin showing’ is the feeling you get.“In fact, it got a rating of C by CERO.”
CERO is the Computer Entertainment Rating Organization, essentially the ESRB of Japan. A rating of C is essentially an equivalent to a T rating, which for Japan refers to 15 and older.
Yasuda mentions a second character as an example of this erotic design, the witch Fiore, who wears a skin-tight, harlequin-style outfit that, according to Yasuda “Fiore uses a lot of displayed crests on her skin to cast curses. That was part of her setting.”
The character design of Miki, despite the edit being only a minor change to her costume, is receiving massive backlash from both Western and Japanese sources. According to Japanese sources, fans are upset over the change, referring to the new look of Miki as wearing a”diaper” and criticizing Tri-Ace and the West over the edit. Western fans are likewise also upset, decrying this as another case of censorship.
In all honesty, this is not censorship, it’s the creators of the game self censuring their own work. It would make that excuse of the “integrity of the work” hard to argue as well, considering the attitudes by Yasuda more or less point to them not being afraid of overt sexuality in the older characters in the game like Fiore. Much like Xenoblade Chronicles X, it’s likely a case of the characters age that is the stumbling block here for western audiences, and like other companies, Tri-Ace is making a minor change to avoid a controversy.
Is it really censorship? When the creators themselves acknowledge the reason for the change is partially due to western perceptions on sexuality, but continue to have sexualized characters in their game regardless, I would say not at all; it’s just a smart business move to avoid some controversy down the line, even though it created some backlash now. But what do you think about this?