In a few days, Nintendo will be releasing a localized version of the newest Project Zero title, renamed Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water. The game is the latest in Tecmo Koei's horror series, once again featuring a young woman trapped in a haunted location with only a special camera to protect her. The game comes a year after the Japanese version and North America is only getting a digital eShop release.
The game allows players to dress up the main characters in various costumes. In Japan, those costumes included lingerie and swimsuit options. For the Western releases, Nintendo decided to remove those particular outfits and replace them with costumes inspired by Samus Aran and Princess Zelda. Some fans of the original version have cried foul at the changes, calling them censorship.
For those fans, it's sort of a catch-22 though. The last primary title in the series, Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse for the Wii, was never released in the West. This game isn't getting a retail release in North America and it will have a limited physical release in Europe, probably because Nintendo doesn't believe the title's sales will justify the logistics of producing and shipping physical copies. If many Project Zero fans stand against the changes, then the sales of the game could be depressed, thus reinforcing Nintendo's view of the series. (That's not even getting into the idea of Nintendo being absolutely right when it comes to potential sales, even with those fans.)
All the costumes come at the expense of the tone the games themselves are trying to present, so they're meant for fans. You can argue with Zero Suit Samus is just a different kind of fanservice. Of course, certain players are going to do what you'd expect given skimpy outfits and a game where you're given a camera as your primary interaction with the world.
These changes always lead to a number of different questions. Do you count this as censorship? Nintendo co-developed the title, so the changes in the costumes could be seen merely as edits in the content depending on region. When a creator chooses to change or dispense with certain content, many call that self-censorship. When does a creator's right to change their own content become censorship?
There's also the acknowledgement of the fact that Fatal Frame/Project Zero is commercial art. I've written about this time and time again, but creators of commercial art are always making decisions and compromises in their work in order to serve certain markets. This includes changing things before, during, and after development in response to either fan feedback or the realities of specific markets.
The decision Nintendo made to remove the costumes is similar to the decision that led to the game getting a digital-only release. Nintendo looked at the market and made changes accordingly. Some changes probably also factored into the Japanese release in the first place, to avoid the dreaded Cero Z rating. Ratings in any entertainment media cause creators to change their product all the time.
The idea that a creator or product owner can't make changes to their content is untenable. The idea that they can't do so based on the market or feedback from consumers is equally flimsy. However, you have every right to be angry or unhappy about the final product.
If that's the case, make your voice heard to Nintendo in a civil manner. Not buying the game because you dislike the changes made isn't making your voice heard. That's a null as far as Nintendo is concerned. Whether you choose to buy or not buy Fatal Frame, if you have issues with something a developer or publisher is doing, you should let them know why you made the decision you did. That's your power as a consumer. That's the strength of your speech.
Likewise, you shouldn't pull out the pitchforks if someone makes their voice heard about things they dislike in stuff you love. If they feel a game system should be changed, a narrative should go in a different direction, or a character design should be tweaked, they have the right to express that. The creator can then decide what to do with that feedback.
I'm personally neutral on the changes. I don't think either version fits the tone of the game and I dislike the Zero Suit Samus, so their inclusion or lack thereof doesn't affect me either way. Do I believe a product owner editing content in this manner is a problem? Not really, since it happens in many tiny ways all the time in our industry. If you do feel strongly about it, rock on. Say something to Nintendo. Be a vocal consumer.
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