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Scantily-clad 15-year-old girls and sexual innuendo has apparently been censored out of the Western release of Bravely Default, Square Enix's latest 3DS RPG due to arrive in the US on Feb. 2. For the first time in a long time, I find myself torn on the matter of censorship, perhaps because the content in question is so damn ridiculous to begin with.
When I first caught wind that Bravely Default was receiving some creative editing for Western audiences, my initial reaction was outrage. I openly detest Nintendo's incessant need to push censorship upon all gamers, crippling content and services (like the recent SwapNote debacle) because there's a chance some kid might see or read something that's inappropriate because mom and dad refuse to utilize the large number of parental controls at their disposal.
So yeah, I was mad to hear that this was happening again with Bravely Default, quickly jumping to rage before looking into the matter myself. Then I actually tracked down the source of this latest censorship offense in an article published by IGN. I was shocked.
According to the story, it's actually Square Enix who is doing the censoring this time around, including a number of changes to the game's content like altering various female characters' costumes, ages and dropping some racy dialogue. It sounds ludicrous in black and white (we've seen far worse than skimpy outfits in Teen-rated games before, after all), but when you consider the reasoning behind these alterations, it's hard to understand why this crap was allowed in the game in the first place.
First there's the matter of censorship in general. I can understand the desire to edit a game for a different audience, but when you consider the content in question, it feels more like a frantic attempt to hide one's porn stash as a group of friends enters the room. I'm usually of the mind that a developer/publisher has every right to pursue whatever art style they feel is appropriate for a game. That was my stance concerning Dragon's Crown, after all. I may not have appreciated the nearly naked Amazon or the ludicrously proportioned Sorceress, but I had a hard time begrudging a studio their chosen designs. If nothing else, at least Vanillaware/Atlus had the cojones to stand behind their artistic decisions through to the end.
But there's one very big difference setting apart that game from the upcoming Bravely Default: The thong and belt-wearing chibi characters prancing around your screen this time around were originally in the neighborhood of 15 years of age. Not only has Square Enix dropped a few sex jokes and trimmed the amount of visible skin, but they have shifted the age of these female characters to 18 so, you know, they don't seem like absolute perverts for letting it slide by in the first place.
IGN's Luke Karmali states that the above image (Left: Western, right: Japan) was found on their forums and, after looking into it, have discovered that the game has, in fact, been censored. He goes on to say that, since this is the European version of the game we're talking about (Bravely Default has been available across the pond for several weeks now), nothing guarantees that the same edits will be made in the North American version of the game.
Given the current climate of the US gaming community and hot button topics like sexism in games, I think it's a safe bet that the censored content will remain edited in the Feb. 2 release and, honestly, I couldn't be happier.
While I may not appreciate hyper-sexualized characters in most instances, I'm not going to pretend like I don't understand why they keep popping up in video games. But here's the deal: We're talking about extremely young characters (originally) and character models that would feel right at home on a Saturday morning cartoon. The purpose of these types of outfits in a game is to titillate. What audience, exactly, is supposed to be stimulated by these child-like avatars? Even from an artistic standpoint, the original decision to go with these designs (never mind the age of the character's wearing the garbs) is baffling.
Everything else I've seen concerning Bravely Default seems like what you would expect out of a fantasy RPG, making those tiny outfits feel even more out of place. Given the right setting (Or, at the very least, less cringe-worthy ages), even the outfits wouldn't have been an issue. And those redesigned duds and the alteration in ages for the Western audiences pretty much nips my complaints in the bud. So I have to wonder why Square Enix didn't just go this route in the first place? These alterations show that they felt some sort of change was needed. I can't for the life of me understand why that decision wasn't made somewhere much earlier in the development process.