Update: This story has been updated at the end, adding more context. Chinese native speakers have discussed the points raised in the story and have suggested that there is more nuance to this situation than it initially appeared there was. Original story follows below.
Dialogue in the Chinese-language version of Paper Mario: The Origami King has apparently been censored compared to the Japanese and English versions. The specific scene is one in which Toad laments his lack of rights and declares that "Toad abuse" is happening.
How has Paper Mario: The Origami King been censored?
This news comes via Twitter user @ShawTim. In a series of tweets, ShawTim shows the Japanese-language version of Paper Mario: The Origami King, in which Toad is saying "Toad wants rights and freedom". In the Chinese version, Toad instead says he wants a "plain outlook and peaceful life". In another line of dialogue, the English-language version of the game features Toad saying "it's not fair! Toads have rights! This is Toad abuse!", which ShawTim says is "Toads want peaceful lives" in the Chinese version.
The newly released Paper Mario gets caught for censorship.— ShawTim (@ShawTim) July 24, 2020
In Japanese it says “Toad wants #HumanRights and #Freedom.”
In Chinese it censors to “Toad wants a plain outlook and peaceful life.”#PaperMario #censorship pic.twitter.com/7HkvFxByd7
This isn't the first time China has censored Western game releases. Back in 2019, China banned the appearance of blood in video games along with usage of the word "kill". Chinese conglomerate Tencent Games also removed PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds from sale in the country and replaced it with a "more patriotic" version called Game for Peace. Back in 2018, Ubisoft ran into trouble when it censored Rainbow Six Siege apparently to appease China's notoriously rigid censors.
Paper Mario: The Origami King's censorship also takes place against a backdrop of ongoing pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong. US president Donald Trump recently ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, while the UK has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, calling the new security law implemented by Beijing in Hong Kong a "serious violation" of China's international obligations.
We reached out to China gaming expert Daniel Ahmad for comment on this story. Ahmad clarified that the version of Paper Mario: The Origami King we see in ShawTim's tweet is "just the global/Asia version" with a Chinese-language localization. Ahmad elaborated, "That being said, there may be some edits made to the localisation in advance before it is submitted for approval in China. But so far this will have been an internal translation decision, not something mandated by China. (But again, could have been done with submitting for approval for release in China in mind)."
UPDATE: It has since emerged that the situation may be more nuanced than originally reported. Daniel Ahmad has addressed the altered Chinese dialogue in Paper Mario: The Origami King in a Twitter thread. Ahmad says that he "wouldn't call this censorship" because the translation still has connotations to protesting injustice in Chinese, and because the game has not yet been officially released in China. According to Ahmad, "this isn't something that was mandated by the Chinese government or regulators, and not mandated by Tencent either". Ahmad also points to a tweet by Twitter user Hammerdin, who says that the Chinese dialogue is a pun related to origami.
In addition to Ahmad's Twitter thread, ResetEra user Raftina says the Chinese dialogue actually isn't all that different to the original meaning. Raftina says the more natural-sounding English translation for the Chinese dialogue would be "Toads need to be clean! Toads need peace and quiet!". According to Raftina, these comments have cultural context; cleanliness is associated with economic means, and peace and quiet is associated with good governance. In this light, the dialogue does not appear to have been censored for the Chinese-language localization.
How do you feel about the differences in the Chinese-language version of Paper Mario: The Origami King? Let us know in the comments below!