JPgamer: About the Bravo Bikini...

The rather good upcoming JRPG for 3DS Bravely Default has had a few changes for its Western release. But were Nintendo and Square Enix right to make those changes?

Article by Pete Davison, .

If you follow JRPGs, doubtless you'll already be familiar with the fact that the Western release of Bravely Default has had some adjustments from its Japanese counterpart.

For those unfamiliar, the main change is seen with a few character costumes that have been tweaked to be somewhat less revealing, but more subtle changes are seen in the in-game dialogue and lore: the main characters have all had their ages increased by three years, for example -- primarily, it seems, to ensure that none of them are underage by Western standards -- and some of the more suggestive, innuendo-laden exchanges between characters have been toned down a little, though not necessarily removed.

Left: Europe (and, presumably, North America); Right: Japan.

On the left, you'll see Edea's "Bravo Bikini" outfit has been modified to hide her cleavage at the top, and the bikini bottoms that she needs to pull up a bit have been replaced by a pair of hotpants. In the lower half of the image, you'll see Agnés' Lulu-style "outfit made of belts" has had the bits of bare skin visible between said belts filled in to make it look like a solid one-piece suit instead.

For the curious, in story terms, the first time we come across the "Bravo Bikini" is during a sequence where party member Agnés is trying to attract the attention of one of her friends who has gone into hiding and, due to complicated circumstances that I won't spoil for you right now, the only means of doing so is to enter a brainwashed matriarchal town's beauty competition -- but she believes she has nothing to wear that will make her stand out enough for her friend to notice her.

Earlier in the game, the party encounters a wise old man of the woods who is a dab hand with making dresses, but who is also something of, to put it delicately, a colossal pervert. Upon the party seeking his advice, said sage is quick to recommend his "ultimate creation" to Agnés, and in an off-screen sequence where Agnés tries it on, it's made out to be an incredibly skimpy garment that leaves nothing to the imagination. Fellow party member Edea, whom it later turns out seems to have taken something of a liking to the garment, eventually ends up using it and herself as "bait" to ensnare a local dandy who has been manipulating and kidnapping women for his own evil ends -- and that's the first time we actually see it on-screen as depicted above.

Ultimately, the actual way the costume is depicted is not especially relevant to the story -- it's still skimpy enough to warrant Agnés' hilariously flustered, shocked reaction when she first tries it on -- but it does bring up an interesting discussion that occasionally crops up when Japanese games are being localized for a Western audience.

Spot the difference?

This isn't the first time a 3DS game has been subject to small content changes like this, and it probably won't be the last. Perhaps the most notorious example in recent memory was Fire Emblem: Awakening, in which an event scene from the "Summer Scramble" DLC featuring the character Tharja was adjusted from the original Japanese version, seen on the left in the image above, to the version on the right. Some have pointed out that the "censored" version actually looks somewhat more obscene due to the fact that 1) you can't see she's wearing anything down below any more and 2) the "curtain" covering her backside could also be seen as the cloak of one of the other characters peeping in on her getting changed. That is, of course, a matter of opinion, but either way, it seems like something of a strange decision since the content is still there and it's obvious what it was, so why bother censoring it in the first place? It's like people who "bleep" their profanities with a single asterisk. F*ck that.

There are a few things that make me feel a little uncomfortable about the handling of this situation, though. Bravely Default clearly doesn't "need" to be a sexy game -- and personally, I certainly have no desire to get my ya-yas from Akihiko Yoshida's distinctive chibi characters who, as always, have no noses, barely-visible feet and perpetually stoned facial expressions -- but for whatever reason its creators decided that some of the outfits should be a little on the risqué side for both the male and female characters. But regardless of what we think of the outfits in question, shouldn't we respect the original character designs a little more rather than assuming Western gamers won't be able to cope with the sight of a bit of cleavage? After all, it's not as if Western games have any shortage of cleavage-flaunting female characters -- though that's arguably another matter equally worthy of separate discussion. And anyway, shouldn't this sort of thing be the choice of whoever is actually playing the game rather than a company acting as our omnipotent moral guardian without asking what the players think?

The other reason why this strikes me as a little strange is because of what hasn't been removed from Bravely Default's localization. While some of the innuendo has reportedly been toned down somewhat -- particularly when it comes to the aforementioned Sage of Yulyana -- there's still plenty of content in there which I wouldn't consider particularly appropriate for younger audiences. Around a similar time to the Bravo Bikini scene, for example, there's a sidequest in which you discover one of the game's villains capturing fairies, pulling their wings off and killing them because she finds it fun and likes to hear them scream. Not long afterwards, two pre-pubescent girls the party has been attempting to track down succumb to brainwashing, come to blows and end up killing each other while the party is dealing with the aforementioned fairy-abusing villainess, leading to a somewhat somber walk back to town afterwards. And this is far from an isolated incident; despite having the somewhat cheerful aesthetic of a PS1-era Final Fantasy game, Bravely Default very much has a dark side, and when that comes out to play, it doesn't pull any punches.

Although the characters are depicted in more realistic proportions on the box art and the game's opening cutscene, the main game makes use of chibi-style characters similar to those seen in Fire Emblem Awakening.

In other words, the adjustments made to the characters' costumes -- I hesitate to call it "censorship" because it's actually more just "localization" if we're being rational about this -- send somewhat mixed messages when taken alongside the content seen elsewhere in the game. As ever, it seems to boil down somewhat to the differing and inconsistent reactions we have towards both violent and sexual content here in the West. While the community as a whole seems collectively to have accepted that the stories told in games are often violent in nature -- conflict makes for a reliable narrative impetus, after all -- there are still a lot of people out there who are uncomfortable with content that is even a little bit sexual, particularly when, as in many Japanese games, the characters involved are (or at least have the appearance of being) young. At the same time, there's also a touch of the "games are for kids" mentality still at work, too -- particularly in games where, like Bravely Default, the characters' proportions make them look rather childish or cartoonish.

Ultimately, the changes made to Bravely Default don't affect the quality of the game -- if you're a fan of old-school Final Fantasy, you're probably going to want to pick this one up when it releases in February, regardless of how much skin the characters show -- but it's still worth taking note of and questioning the decisions made in the name of supposed decency. For me, it's not about whether or not I get to see characters in revealing costumes -- I can take or leave that -- it's about feeling trusted to make my own decisions about what content I choose to (or, for that matter, choose not to) engage with. And when something like this happens, it's hard not to feel like the companies involved are taking a bit of a "we know best, hush now" attitude.

On the other hand, of course, I'd rather we got a Western release of games like Bravely Default in a slightly sanitized form than not at all.

What's your take -- both on Bravely Default's specific changes, and more generally on the concept of content being adjusted in this way for Western release?

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Comments 23

  • Avatar for gigantor21 #1 gigantor21 4 years ago
    These changes are too small to bother me.
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #2 DiscordInc 4 years ago
    I've said it on another site, but as much as I dislike censorship I can't get mad at the change. I question the developers original intents more than anything.
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  • Avatar for Terpiscorei #3 Terpiscorei 4 years ago
    I find the early version of Edea's costume to be somewhat off-putting, but mostly I don't really care, either way. I'm happy to be getting the game, and if minor changes like this make it more likely that the sequel will be localized, I'm fine with it.

    I am curious as to the reasoning behind the change though; I'd guess it has a lot more to do with the characters' ages, both apparent and canonical. I wonder what will happen to Bayonetta 2 in its localization?
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #4 Kuni-Nino 4 years ago
    It's a little infuriating to me because I don't think most people are going to play this game, and the people who do, aren't the type that are going to be offended by a bunch of chibis showing a little skin. It feels like an overreaction; as if they don't trust their own audience. That part stings. You think the devs would trust that players would get the context.

    But..i understand localization. What's kocher in one culture is taboo in another. It is what it is.
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #5 DiscordInc 4 years ago
    @Terpiscorei Since Bayonetta's probably going to be an M I can see Nintendo taking a lighter touch on it.
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  • Avatar for MissDeviling #6 MissDeviling 4 years ago
    Perhaps the censorship was so they could fit under the T rating? I don't know if bikini-clad chibi girls would be considered M (probably not, but perhaps they wanted to be safe).

    In any case, I don't really mind censorship if it in turn improves my experience of the game. The original costumes are tasteless as fuck, no matter what age the girls are. I hate playing games with stuff like that.

    Edit: Not sure about the localization changes, though. I personally love a good innuendo, so not having the whole joke is a bit of a downer. Still, perhaps the localization team will give us something equally amusing, even if it's toned down.Edited January 2014 by MissDeviling
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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #7 Stealth20k 4 years ago
    The changes dont bother me.
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  • Avatar for docexe #8 docexe 4 years ago
    @Terpiscorei I think the rating might have played a part in the decision to “tone down” the sexual elements. As far as I know, Bravely Default received a “T” rating in America, like Fire Emblem Awakening. Like Pete mentions, the standards of what American and Japanese consider appropriate for children and teen audiences tend to be very different and overall the Japanese seem to be more laid-back when it comes down to the sexual content.

    Bayonetta 2, on the other hand, will very likely receive an “M” rating just like the first game, so I doubt Nintendo will tamper with it at all. It is truth that they are a very paternalistic and conservative company, who historically tended to be very strict with “inappropriate” content in order to maintain their family friendly image. But they do have published M-rated games in the past without incurring in censorship (fun fact: The remake of Conker’s Bad Fur Day for the Xbox was actually more censored than the original N64 version). So I’m not concerned about them trying to “sanitize” Bayonetta. The true problem is that (precisely due to their family friendly image) it’s very likely they are not going to give it much promotion or marketing once it finally launches (Conker also didn’t receive much marketing from NOA, if I remember right).

    Anyway, given that the practice of “sanitizing” games (and anime for that matter) when localizing them for the west is so old and persistent, I don’t really bother about it anymore. It’s annoying from a “respect the integrity of the artist original intent” perspective, but once again, different standards and values of what’s appropriate for what audience. I only take issue with it when the “sanitizing” part is taken so far that it pretty much destroys the original work (textbook example: The original dub of the One Piece anime was so incredibly censored and edited, it made the series unwatchable).

    Edit: And looking at the posts below, people said the same thing that I did in a less wordly manner. Me and my big mouth -_-Edited January 2014 by docexe
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  • Avatar for cscaskie #9 cscaskie 4 years ago
    Just out of curiosity, are they also censoring that costume Ringabel has where he's just in his tighty-whities and a scarf?
    Edited January 2014 by cscaskie
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #10 SatelliteOfLove 4 years ago
    Eh, I'll live. It was kinda silly before.

    "And this is far from an isolated incident; despite having the somewhat cheerful aesthetic of a PS1-era Final Fantasy game, Bravely Default very much has a dark side, and when that comes out to play, it doesn't pull any punches."

    Like PS1 FF games, then.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #11 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    Well, a lot of gamers these days seem to be very prudish with a lot of anti-sex and body shame issues, so unfortunately I think they made the right choice to cater to those individuals. Sad but true.
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #12 Funny_Colour_Blue 4 years ago
    @cscaskie This is so weird to think about.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #13 Kuni-Nino 4 years ago
    @cscaskie Sadly, that costume has been completely removed from the game. The West will never see Ringabel in his full speedo glory.
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  • Avatar for The-Fool #14 The-Fool 4 years ago
    I can confirm that this does not affect the game in any substantial way at all.

    Honestly, as@gigantor21 said, they are so minimal it shouldn't bother anyone.
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  • Avatar for nnecron #15 nnecron 4 years ago
    I'm usually the guy who snarks at non-Japanese gamer and call them prudish, but I agree with the redesigned costumes.

    I don't know why JP devs keep doing this especially when even the audience in Japan showing dislikes against this sort of sexualized character designs.

    Believe it or not, moe lovers like me actually prefer more modest looking characters, and a lot of us would feel uncomfortable staring at characters showing too much skin just as you guys do. Except we don't really care that much about ages because it is a form of fiction that we've already accepted as a norm.
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  • Avatar for pjedavison #16 pjedavison 4 years ago
    @Kuni-Nino@cscaskie That costume was DLC in Japan, I think. Somehow I doubt we'll see it over here. :)
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  • Avatar for pjedavison #17 pjedavison 4 years ago
    As always, thanks everyone for some quality discussion here. I knew I could count on the USgamer community!
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #18 SargeSmash 4 years ago
    I'm sure some of it is the rating, but the character models look pretty underage as well, so that's a bugaboo they don't want to deal with. I wouldn't have designed the game with those costumes on those models in the first place... which I suppose speaks to a cultural difference, perhaps not in the overall Japanese sense, but the market that Japanese devs are increasingly aiming for.
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  • Avatar for docexe #19 docexe 4 years ago
    @nnecron As far as I understand it, the moe aesthetic as originally conceived wasn’t about over-sexualizing characters. It was about characters with cute qualities that evoked a feeling of endearment and “desire of protection” from the audience. I remember someone describing it as “you know that feeling you have when you see a kitten or puppy and the first thing you want to do is hug him because he looks just so damn adorable. That’s more or less the feeling that moe is supposed to evoke”. From that point of view, that these kind of characters tend to be (or look) so young and childlike is more a byproduct of the intended “cuteness overload” reaction rather than any “perverse sexual desire” or something like that.

    The thing is that some sectors of Japan’s population (including some sub-sectors of the otaku audience) are known for their tendency to fetishize anything (and when I say “anything” I mean ANYTHING). And it seems some of those sectors are also among the biggest consumers of DVD’s, merchandise and other related by-products of media, i.e. they are a very lucrative audience. So media companies started to cater aggressively to them, sometimes to the exclusion of everyone else.

    I honestly don’t mind the moe aesthetic (I have greatly enjoyed anime of that kind: K-ON!, Haruhi Suzumiya, Shakugan no Shana, Accel World, among a few others), neither fanservice of the sexual kind. But I do think that in recent times some creators and companies tend to go too far with both, which can be definitely troubling in some cases (and that’s coming from someone who occasionally indulges in hentai).Edited 2 times. Last edited January 2014 by docexe
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  • Avatar for Wolfe-Wallace #20 Wolfe-Wallace 4 years ago
    Thank you very kindly for a well-measured examination of the topic rather than the usual preaching advocated by one side or the other. Impartiality and reasoning is very rare in gaming journalism.
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  • Avatar for MightyJAK #21 MightyJAK 4 years ago
    @cscaskie I soooo wanna cosplay that.
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  • Avatar for cscaskie #22 cscaskie 4 years ago
  • Avatar for zhoobinmolavi99 #23 zhoobinmolavi99 3 years ago
    the only thing that this change took away from the game was that ringabell's comment saying "clearly it doesn't fit," doesn't make sense with the US (same as Europe) version. in the end, of course, that was just a passing comment, with no effect on the quality of the actual game.
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