NIS Discusses Criminal Girls 2 Content Changes for Western Release

NIS America decides to be open and honest about why it's making changes to Criminal Girls 2.

News by Mike Williams, .

NIS America has announced that it will be bringing Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors for PlayStation Vita to North America and Europe this September. The game places you in the role of a warden trying to reform seven delinquents through dungeon crawling and punishment games. Like the previous game, Criminal Girls 2 has a strong focus and the game doesn't try to hide what it is.

There is dungeon crawling in the game.

What's interesting about the announcement of Criminal Girls 2 is that NIS America has released a blog post being completely open about content changes and why they're being made. Instead of the guessing game that leads to people being angry at each other, NIS is being honest.

"Some of you might be asking, 'Why change anything in the first place?' The answer to that question is pretty complicated overall, but here's the short version: While we do our best to make all our fans happy, we also need to make sure that our games can be released on the platform they're made for, and released in the various territories in which we sell them," explained the company in the blog post.

"There is still a demand for the game and its content. Although some players might not be happy about the changes, we expect many will still appreciate the product for what it is and localizing it allows them the chance to enjoy the game's unique story, gameplay, and characters without needing to speak Japanese or deal with the pains of importing."

An example of the edited art.

The company is making the changes primarily to ensure an M rating with the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), as AO rated titles aren't allowed on certain platforms or retail shelves. NIS America explained that time and budget were the reasons behind content changes prior to the ESRB ratings board seeing the title.

"When we submit something to ratings boards, we need to be absolutely sure that it's going to be the final version, or we risk costly delays and even the game not being released at all," said NIS America.

The biggest changes are all to the game's "Punishment" mini-games, which is likely the reason series fans might want to pick up the title. All of the game's Punishment scenes have been renamed to "Motivation" scenes (like the first game) and NIS America worked with the game's original artists to redraw most of the bondage-themed artwork. The redrawn artwork is supposed to still include the Live 2D effects of the original.

There's no English dubbing in the game, which is most likely a cost issue. This means there's no dialogue during the Motivation scenes, since that dialogue was previously voiced. There were no subtitles in the original scenes, so it represents a technical hurdle for NIS America to add them for the English release.

Many of these changes sprung from notes received from the ESRB during the release of Criminal Girls: Invite Only and further conversations prior to the release of Criminal Girls 2.

"Two of the main concerns that ratings boards had in regards to Criminal Girls: Invite Only were power imbalance and consent," said NIS America. "To avoid this, we decided to change some of the terminology to reframe the situations to be accepted by the ratings boards. Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors follows the same trend for consistency."

"I'm sure many of you noticed that I said things 'could' be an issue," the company added. "That's a little vague, and not 100% saying something would cause, for example, an AO rating. And you're right. However, we consult with rating boards, our developers, and a variety of other stakeholders before deciding on a course of action with a title, and we did so with Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors."

Jeremy previously pointed out how region ratings have a part in determining what content goes into a game, despite a developer's true intentions. Certain ratings are simply the kiss of death. Most North American retailers don't stock AO games, PlayStation and Xbox Stores avoid the rating like fire, Steam only has a few AO-rated titles, and Twitch doesn't allow AO-rated games to be streamed on the platform. Europe has the analogous PEGI 18, Japan has CERO Z. If you want to sell outside of a niche, many times your available platforms determine your reach. Hence content changes.

For some companies, it's worth the time and cost it takes to make alterations to a title. For others, it's just not in the cards: either the production is too big, or too small for the company in question.

I also wanted to point out "stakeholders", which is one of those words that's used in the industry, but generally unknown by fans. Many gamers have this view of games as a straight A > B transition. Developer decides to make a game, game gets made, players buy it. In reality, there are a ton of stakeholders for most games: directors, executives, producers, marketing and public relations teams, shareholders, licensors, and more. Most of the time, these stakeholders are around at every step in the process, providing feedback in some cases and directives in others.

Many games are the result of executives and marketing leaning development teams towards what sells, adding certain aspects purely to please fans. Bioshock Infinite creative director Ken Levine noted that the boring cover for the game was created to cater to uninformed gamers in "frathouses and places like that". The Last of Us and Uncharted 4 creative director Neil Druckmann previously mentioned that the team at Naughty Dog had to fight to keep Ellie on the cover. Rare's Dinosaur Planet became Star Fox Adventures after the input of Nintendo and Shigeru Miyamoto.

Resident Evil became more action-oriented because Capcom felt survival horror was too niche for its flagship series. Hell, I wrote an entire feature about the fact that game development is a process with many hands and heads, thus ending in cuts and changes. Even fans can get in on it, as Nintendo is currently dealing with Chinese fans unhappy with Pikachu's new name in the upcoming localized versions of Pokemon Sun/Moon. Most of your favorite games are from developers doing the best with all the demands and feedback thrown their way. (My forever question: Does Intelligent Systems love adding soft dating-sim aspects to Fire Emblem, or is that just what sells?)

Criminal Girls 2 in its original form might be good enough for Japan, but given the ratings board and additional stakeholders for the Western release, what you get in September was the best NIS America could bring across. You can be dissatisfied about that, but at least NIS America's honestly in this situation should let you know where its coming from with this release.

We're at E3 next week, covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2016 hub!

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Comments 14

  • Avatar for Pacario #1 Pacario A year ago
    Sort of begs the question whether it's worth bringing a game like this over here in the first place. Do the censored bits harm the game's artistic integrity, thereby making it less worthwhile, or do they simply lend the title a bit of tact and class that's sorely lacking in the Japanese original?
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  • Avatar for detten17 #2 detten17 A year ago

    JK, this is downright embarrassing though, I understand the audience for this particular type of game is very niche, with the main attraction being the "artistic design" but its probably greater crime is that this series is just middling. If you're going to be a pervy game at least be a good to great pervy game, justify one aspect of its existence.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #3 VotesForCows A year ago
    This is a good move - and probably the best way to avoid yet another storm-in-a-teacup. That said, things being how they are, I'm sure that some fool will quickly find a woman to blame and harass over this.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #4 link6616 A year ago
    @detten17 I've got to admit I feel about the same. Although apparently Criminal Girls actually is a really good dungeon crawler deep down...
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  • Avatar for ping33 #5 ping33 A year ago
    @link6616 I heard that about Dungeon Travelers too.. so I downloaded the demo and was playing it on the train home from work... then there was a Moe Soft Core Porn Screen spash screen 10 mins into the first Dungeon and I had to shut it off.

    I really wish that some of these had a Mortal Kombat Blood Kode so I could just shut off the Perv.
    That said: in Criminal Girls (unlike DT2) it seems as though the Dungeon Crawling is an afterthought and the Perv is the Point.
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  • Avatar for KaiserWarrior #6 KaiserWarrior A year ago
    I'm going to go out on a limb here and posit that there are very few people that were interested in Criminal Girls for its riveting plot and deep, engaging gameplay.

    In which case, if you cannot deliver on the game's purpose due to market realities, why bother? People that want to play the game are just going to import it and get a fan translation anyway, as they've been doing with Super Robot Wars games for a long time now. In-game English text isn't worth the price of admission, namely the complete butchering of the game.

    I don't understand it in the same way I don't understand radio stations playing songs that have to have every third word silenced to meet the FCC rules about on-air decency. People that want to listen to those songs want to listen to them with all of the lyrics, so who are these butchered versions for?Edited June 2016 by KaiserWarrior
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  • Avatar for TheWildCard #7 TheWildCard A year ago
    Good on them for being transparent about this stuff.
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  • Avatar for Mad-Mage #8 Mad-Mage A year ago
    Like a couple others posting, I am completely baffled as to the point of releasing a softcore porn RPG with the smut censored. I've played a few over the years and can attest every one I've played has ranged from sub-par to outright terrible in terms of actual gameplay.

    I've since become an older person and am not interested in this title regardless, but man, why? Who is this for now?
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  • Avatar for magnamaduin #9 magnamaduin A year ago
    @Mad-Mage Probably Jon Lovitz
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  • Avatar for TernBird #10 TernBird A year ago
    I appreciate NISA trying to instill some goodwill from their fanbase with their honesty and transparency. They've got a good reason to do so: these days, changing a character's shirt color brings in alegations of censorship and bowing to "SJWs" and how dare you compromise artistic integrity in a commercial product.

    (That hurts to type, BTW.)

    The sad thing is, even when NISA is being open and transparent, they are still getting crap for it--which is why Nintendo's approach of "don't say anything" might be better for other companies to follow. NISA's blog post was very informative and educational. True, you get the feeling that nobody really wants to make the changes, but understand that a compromise has to be made in order to release a game they know has an audience in the U.S. It's as if people choose to ignore the business side of things so they can prop up some bogeyman as the reason behind the changes.

    Also: I know people point to Idea Factory's new policy as being "ideal"--no game being brought over if something has to be changed. I hate that idea: how's a game studio going to keep the lights on if they don't bring over any games? Imagine what Atlus USA would have gone through if they never brought over a single SMT game prior to 3.
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  • Avatar for pdubb #11 pdubb A year ago
    I would love to knos what are the sales numbers/profit margins are for Criminal Girls games.

    I would then love to come into that amount of money and shove it in Square/Enix's face and yell, "If they can keep making Criminal Girl Sequels, why the %รท/! can't I get a new #%$@!/$! Ogre Battle game!!"

    I'm real !&$*@# bitter right now.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #12 SatelliteOfLove A year ago
    "(My forever question: Does Intelligent Systems love adding soft dating-sim aspects to Fire Emblem, or is that just what sells?)"

    It's odd seeing these changes happen to the most skeevy of examples here, as watching the opposite happen over the last 12 years as the dedicated Japanese gaming market shrivel was rather frightening and disheartening.

    It is wierd seeing these core creeper games getting the same treatment, I guess. I mean, it IS built from the ground up laser-aimed right at them, you know? It ain't it being purged from SE or Falcom's stuff.

    As to the question itself, I dunno, but I do think it comes from a variety of sources and angles (which either end up in FE's shoes or is still a gamble in such a crowded minute arena as the Otaku market).


    It ain't going to work. Those crazy enough in the target audience to spawn spittle-flecked apoplexy and death threats over something like this dont care how its phrased.
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  • Avatar for WorstClassic #13 WorstClassic A year ago
    @Pacario But what even is "artistic integrity" when Occam's Razor says that the artistic intent was to peddle barely-legal barely-smut to folks without the means, spine, or stomach to buy proper pornography?
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  • Avatar for Pacario #14 Pacario A year ago
    @WorstClassic Exactly. So again, do the censored bits harm the game's "artistic integrity," assuming it even has any? Or does the censorship actually do the game a service by making it more palatable to western audiences?

    In other words, are there instances when censorship is necessary/justified? Or is it always bad, no matter how questionable the material?Edited June 2016 by Pacario
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