JRPG Censorship Is Such A Silly Thing

For as long as there have been Japanese role-playing games, there has been censorship. Since the NES days, Nintendo and other big Japanese companies have been quick to stamp their big black bars on anything that might be considered offensive to Western sensibilities: alcohol, religion, sex, octopus statues, whatever. And JRPGs have been the biggest victim of this misguided crusade.

There are lots of egregious examples. Dragon Quest's churches were transformed to Houses of Healing, perhaps because Nintendo believed that Westerners do not go to church. During the Magicant sequence of Earthbound, during which our protagonist Ness is supposed to be totally nude, he got pajamas, perhaps because Nintendo believed that Westerners do not get naked.

Even today, Nintendo doesn't think Western gamers should see everything that Japan sees. No thighs allowed. No bikinis either.

Putting aside the conversation about what's tasteful — or why Tharja would be wearing a swimsuit — I think we can all agree that this sort of censorship is absolutely asinine. So let's look back at some of the strangest and silliest examples.

Here's an image from Suikoden, sent in by reader Ahmed just this week.

In this scene, the characters Varkas and Sydonia have been tied up in the back of a mansion by some nasty soldiers from Suikoden's obligatory Evil Empire. There's really no narrative explanation for the crosses — at least in the English translation — so this act of censorship is rather mild. But if the developers at Konami wanted Varkas and Sydonia to be hanging on crosses, then we should let them hang on friggin' crosses.

Then there's this bizarre choice, from Super Mario RPG:

In the Japanese version of the game (left), Bowser's victory move is to cross his left arm over his right arm, which I guess is some sort of slang for "screw you" or "up yours". Nintendo changed this for the Western version (right), in which Bowser raises his fists to the air in victory. Thank goodness. I'm sure fans across the country would have taken offence at the questionable hand gestures of a grumpy cartoon lizard.

There's a great site called Legends of LocaliZation, where Clyde "Tomato" Mandelin — best known for leading the Mother 3 translation project — writes all sorts of fascinating things about game localisation. He's also got some great breakdowns of the changes made when Japanese publishers bring their games to our shores.

One example of a game full of weird changes: Earthbound.

Japan's version: a bar. America's version: a cafe. BECAUSE CLEARLY AMERICA DOES NOT HAVE BARS.

Here's another ridiculous one, also via Legends of Localization:

In this scene, the heroine Rosa has been kidnapped by the villain Golbez. She's all tied up in some sort of diabolical trap. A big object is about to fall on her head. In Japan, it's a giant blade. In North America, it's a giant boulder.

That's right. The folks who brought over Final Fantasy IV thought a blade might seem too violent, but they were OK with the image of a giant boulder crushing Rosa's skull.

OK, your turn. What are some of the most egregious examples of JRPG censorship? Tell us about 'em below.

Random Encounters is a weekly column dedicated to all things JRPG.


    During the Magicant sequence of Earthbound, during which our protagonist Ness is supposed to be totally nude, he got pajamas, perhaps because Nintendo believed that Westerners do not get naked."

    I'm pretty sure you know that that isn't the reason.

      He was clearly pointing out the absurdity of it.....

        Oh, certainly. I agree, censorship is quite silly. However, his argument is stupid. He's clearly aware of why it was done, but ignores the actual reasoning behind it, and goes for an extremely weak argument, in an attempt to make the censoring seem even more ridiculous.

          To make it more obvious as to the reasoning behind the censorship, here's a hypothetical situation... "Tonight on fox news: Japanese video game Earthbound let's you play as a naked young boy! Could your children already be playing this paedophile simulator?" An extreme reaction? Yes but this is why they would have censored it. Worrying about it being taken out of context and western culture being sensitive about nude children.

          Last edited 05/05/13 6:25 pm

            The US can thank their extremely sensationalist media for this.

            Actually, the US can thank their extremely sensationalist media for a lot of things.

            Last edited 07/05/13 12:36 pm

        Not sure why Mr Jason Schreier is complaining about censorship, I'm sure he would have been x10 happier off if they censored big boobs.

        Based on his outrage I'm sure Japanese companies will be even more aggressive in removing things that upset Westerners, perhaps even going so far as to remove characters that might create unwanted controversy.

    I remember there was a Final Fantasy end boss (I think FF9 but I might be wrong) who had an attack called Jihad in the JP version, which was turned into something a lot more neutral in the English versions.

    Also not RPGs but I remember Capcom vs SNK 2 had some censorships. Sagat's Tiger Genocide super became Tiger Destruction, and they cut off the second half of the sound byte entirely so he just said "Tiger-" as he did it. Rugal also had two instances, one of the same word (Genocide Cutter -> something forgettable, sound byte replaced by a grunt) and the rather baffling God Press -> Big Press.

    Because the US/EU/AU game ratings board doesn't exist for each respective country and it's obviously just the Japanese being intolerant/ignorant/misinformed of other cultures.

    You are aware that the changes they make are not by their own choice, but by the directions asked of by the ratings board for each country that's outside the developers home country yeah?

    Obviously they removed limb mutilation from L4D2 because the Americans believe that we Australians don't believe that limbs can be removed!

    Last edited 04/05/13 7:10 pm

      Don't expect Scheier to understand how different cultures work, he's already demonstrated he has no clue.

      That's not entirely true. During the 90s, Nintendo America had a policy about games released for its platforms and censorship of certain things in them. As far as I'm aware, it was independent of anything demanded by ratings boards.


      Most of this stuff looks like it was removed for cultural reasons, I expect long before they were shown to ratings boards.

    I've heard that Japanese DVDs of some series had blood changed to blue ? Red was too gory ?

    OH.. i'll nominate the cover for the first Neptunia game =P

    It seems like having the main female leads breasts at the cover might be too "sexy" so they censored it by drawing in her arm/hand in front of it to cover it up on her pose.... which is all fine and dandy except the other two goddesses for Xbox and PS3 where left intact in the background next to her complete w/ skimpy outfit and breasts and all.... >.>

    I find it rather amusing that the censorship that started this re-surge of interest in the topic, Tharja's arse in Awakening, was actually kinda a failure.

    Anyone with an imagination is going to think something waaay worse that what it really was. Especially with her own comments about it are more extreme than what she was actually wearing.

    So yeah, good one NoA.

    I wonder if there has been any censorship in the Pokemon series? Anyone got anything on this?

    Don't froget it swings the other way to,the Japanese version of Fallout 3 doesn't let you explode the nuke in Megaton, The Indian version ommited the Brhama's and Chinese Elder Scrolls games don't have skeletons.

      They also delayed the Wrath of the Lich King WOW expansion in China for the same reason.

        All the undead in Chinese WoW have skin covering their bones. No bone exposed, it seems, so you can see why WotLK might have been a problem, haha.

          Can you imagine being in that meeting?

          "OK so, guys... Northrend. We have a problem."
          "Yeah. The Chinese are offended by the sight of exposed bones. Of pretty much any kind. So. I need you to go through and find all the bones and get rid of them."
          "Uh. Have you seen Icecrown?"
          "Yes. You have to remove all the bones."
          "The entire zone is made of bones. All the archicture, even the ground textures are actually a carpet of bones."
          "All the bones. ...Are there any messages you want me to get out to your families and loved ones?"
          "I'll let you know when I come up with a good 'boner' joke."
          "That's how you know we hire the best of the best."

    That top image is priceless. Most horrifying sex toy ever. She looks dead serious, can just picture her saying with grim determination, "The safeword is 'Eidolon'."

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