Update:Nintendo of America has confirmed to Kotaku that the Pokemon Amie-style petting mini-games found in the Japanese version of Fire Emblem Fates will not be making the transition to the Western release. Below is the NoA representative statement on the matter.
"Yes, that is the case. You might have heard somewhat misinterpreted or exaggerated information about the Japanese original game, but even in the Japanese original version, we have not included any features which are considered inappropriate in Japan."
Some have surmised that this is an omission due to the cost of voice acting, with the petting mode having extensive voiced dialog. Still no clarification on the changes being made to Soliel's plotline though.
Original story: Nintendo of America has confirmed to Nintendo World Report that one of the controversial aspect of Fire Emblem Fates in Japan has been removed for the Western editions. There's no clarification on if the scene has been edited in some fashion, or removed completely.
"In the version of the game that ships in the U.S. and Europe, there is no expression which might be considered as gay conversion or drugging that occurs between characters." a Nintendo representative told Nintendo World Report.
Similar to Fire Emblem Awakenings, there is the option to pair yourself with a character when your Support level gets high enough. The conversation in question involves Soleil, who is actually not one of the gay character options in the game. (Niles and Syalla are both bi-sexual and can end up with either a male or female player character.) Soleil is a cool female warrior who has a weakness for cute girls, to the point that she ends up fainting around those that are her "type". The implication, though it's never outright stated, is that she's gay or bisexual. Soleil wants to be a "cool, strong woman" and believes her weakness will prevent that from happening.
A male player character eventually obtains a magic powder that he administers to Soleil by spiking her drink. The powder causes Soleil to see men as women and the idea is that Corrin (Kamui in the Japanese version) is going to help by slowly easing her into being around and interacting with women. After a few conversations, your player character approaches Soleil and proposes marriage. Soleil agrees, stating that she fell in love with Corrin after seeing him as a woman and now loves the male version as well.
The controversy stems from two facets of that overall story. The first is that the player character spiked Soleil's drink without her consent. The second is that to some, the situation reads like "gay conversion therapy", as noted in the Nintendo of America statement above. Despite some sentiments to the contrary, the in-game situation had detractors on both side of the pond, according to Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft. Some Japanese LGBT fans even started a small website drawing attention to the situation and other perceived issues with Fire Emblem Fates handling of gay representation.
Some have explained that reading of the in-game interactions is probably not was intended by Nintendo and Intelligent Systems. I'd agree with that and what we have here is rather some unfortunate implications that flew by Nintendo unseen. In many cases, localizers are trying to preserve the intent of the creator, not the exact contents of a title. Regardless, the changes and omissions are decried as censorship by many, despite the reasons behind those changes.
"The ideal localization walks a fine line," professional localizer Alex Smith told Kotaku in an article about localization and censorship. "It's subtle and intended to reproduce the game's experience as faithfully as possible in the new language. So, if not changing something in the English version of the game would result in a lesser or otherwise altered experience for the English-speaking gamer, that's grounds for 'localizing' whatever the problem is."
"Something intended to be simply humorous or risqué in a Japanese game might come across to an American gamer as creepy or worse, as pedophilia," added Smith. "Keeping the problematic content in there with the intent of preserving the creator's original vision is misguided, because the creator presumably didn't intend for the audience to feel uncomfortable or offended. The original vision is better served by making adjustments so the new audience appreciates the work on (as closely as possible) the same terms as the original audience."
In this case, I presume the intent was not there to make it seem like the player spiked another's drink without her consent or that the powder converted a previously gay character into a straight one. When Japanese and Western fans expressed their issues with the game's portrayals of LGBT characters, it probably took Nintendo aback. And while the Japanese release is out in the wild and can't be changed, the company is able to do something for the Western releases.
There's an ongoing discussion about changes and censorship, arguing whether content can be changed or edited. For some, there's a hardline and they want the original work with no changes whatsoever. This is a difficult idea to work with though, because localization will always change the original content. Simply the act of translation is a change and the more drastic ones tend to happen when games move across regions. Moving from East to West, sexual content is usually what's changed, while moving in the opposite direction tends to see violence and gore removed.
In the Kotaku story above, Smith noted that he changed a line from Yuna to Tidus in Final Fantasy X from "Arigatou", which would directly translate as "Thank you", to "I love you" because he felt that the "Thank you" didn't convey the same feelings in English. The FFX scriptwriter, Kazuhige Nojima, agreed with the change when Smith brought it up for his approval. That's how the localization process generally works; the localization team working hand-in-hand with the original creators.
There's a ton of small changes in the script and visual presentation of a game when it gets localized. Sometimes those changes are relatively huge and much easier to see, like the drastic change World of Warcraft undergoes in China before the game even hits the country's government approval organization. The United States, Japan, and Europe have entertainment rating organizations (ESRB, CERO, and PEGI respectively) that serve a similar function, with developers and publishers tailoring content to achieve certain ratings. (Many big retailers won't carry Adult rated titles, so companies want to avoid that distribution issue.) That can be taken as self-censorship, as can any other changes a developer makes during the development process.
Which is to say that censorship is not a black or white concept. Once you add the commercial aspect (including distribution) and translating a product over to different cultures, things become far more complicated than simply bringing an idea over whole cloth. Publishers, developers, and localizers want to minimize the changes made to bring over the work in as close to its original form as possible, but to say no changes can be made is to ignore the reality of the process. The best we can do is to have an ongoing discussion as to what constitutes good or poor content changes. That's difference depending on what work is being translated and the audience you expect to reach. The folks behind Senran Kagura and Fire Emblem Fates have different aims in mind.
In the case of Fire Emblem Fates, I can't really tell you if the changes are good or bad. The in-game situation reads all wrong to me, but I have no clue what the final Western version will look like. Until then, I'd say you should think of what Nintendo and Intelligent System really wanted to get across with the Soleil scenes and if that intent could be brought over to our shores with little issue. My mental version still required cuts here and there to work. Perhaps yours will be different.
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