Poor localization, cut content and censored material in a game coming from the East to the West has been an issue for a long time. However, gamers have grown to a point where they feel as if the industry needs to mature to the point where localizers should stop denigrating regional cultural differences by removing content or censoring material they deem culturally inappropriate. This kind of localization corruption all came to head recently with the release of Fire Emblem Fates for the Nintendo 3DS.
Recently there was a tweet by game developer Mark Kern who runs the pro-consumer advocacy group League For Gamers, where he and others have formed together to use social media to make other gamers aware of the content butchering happening through the localization process.
Nintendo’s localization of #FireEmblemFates is rife with cut content and unneeded censorship. #ChallengeOurFates http://thndr.me/x8UqcH
There’s an additional image in the Twitter feed attached from 8chan where they explain all of the content that’s been altered or removed from the Japanese version of Fire Emblem Fates when it made its way through Nintendo’s Treehouse localization process. They mentioned that out of the total 3,196 audio files, the North American version only contains 1,208. So yes, 1,988 audio cues are missing. Many attribute this to the missing head-petting mini-game that was supposedly removed from Fire Emblem Fates, even though some conflicting reports like the one from Go Nintendo state that maybe the head-petting isn’t completely removed.
According to the post various character changes were made, names were altered and some skill names were changed. One of the more damning charges is that the voice actors allegedly lacked proper direction by the Treehouse localizers. This was covered in a report by Niche Gamer. However, later the voice actress tried clearing up what she meant and opted to have an interview with Niche Gamer about the topic, following the original video being taken down where the claim was made.
A thread over on /r/Games/ from user Zhaoshike also gained quite a bit of popularity after he pointed out how the localization team completely altered one character’s entire personality from what it was in the Japanese version, linking to a pastebin of other changes that the localization team took liberties with in Fire Emblem Fates.
A video from Netscape9 also quickly covers some of the changes in the game as well as the charges of censorship against Nintendo’s Treehouse localization outfit.
Even gamers over on the sub-Reddit for the Nintendo 3DS have become disgruntled with the completely rewritten dialogue sequences in Fire Emblem Fates where the top comment from JSRen asks…
“Do you know what would be nice. Actually translating from the original source material and faithfully representing the original work?”
The issue of proper linguistical representation is sometimes excused away because some state that the languages are so different that not everything spoken or said in Japanese translates 1:1 in English. Well, most gamers aren’t asking for a 1:1 lexicon, but they are asking for a fairly accurate representation of the dialogue as opposed to conversations, phrases and jokes completely made up to fit the localizers’ cultural specifications.
What’s more is that there are a series of other changes made in the game such as outfits that were removed, as outlined on the Serene’s Forest forum. According to the post, some of the clothing options were replaced with a large towel or completely removed altogether.
Some gamers were angry at the fact that Treehouse would have writers on board that don’t speak Japanese, as admitted to by one of the Treehouse members, Rich Amtower. A collection of tweets where Amtower essentially admits to not being qualified for translating Japanese text have been dug up by the anonymous diggers over on 8chan. You can check out the tweets that were posted by Amtower on Twitter.
According to Amtower, he actually does what many gamers are angry about: making things up and completely ruining the translation by “localizing” games with content not faithful to the original.
Nich Maragos is another localizer who worked on Fire Emblem Fates that recently joined Nintendo’s Treehouse after doing a stint at Atlus, as noted on his Twitter account.
Maragos was firm in making it known that he didn’t want companies like XSeed and Aksys to localize games like Senran Kagura, and he also made a video claiming that no one wanted to take away games, even though the United Nations recently made it a priority to discuss the possibilities of banning certain Japanese games following a report they did about harassment against women in the gaming industry.
This isn’t anything new to the space of translations and localization, though. Just in 2015 alone there were several cases of censorship via localization, including the Blade & Soul incident, where the localization team made story and characters changes unrelated to the original design and censored various kinds of content to fit in line with their perception of American “cultural sensitivity”. When gamers caught wind of this and attempted an e-mail campaign to NCSoft, the localizers and community managers had the e-mail campaigns censored and banned.
Another case in 2015 included Xenoblade Chronicles X, where various outfits, character customization features and story related content were either cut, censored or altered to fit Western sensbilities.
Gamers absolutely livid at the mistreatment of titles being localized that come out of Nintendo of Japan can be proactive and do something about it.
There are letter-writing campaigns just like in the early days of #GamerGate directed to both Nintendo of America and Nintendo of Japan, as well as Thunderclaps designed to help get the word out about the misappropriation being exercised in the translation process by the localization team. Change.org petitions are also up and alive to collect signatures of Nintendo fans who are fed up with corrupt localization efforts being applied to the creative works that they hold near and dear to their hearts.
Would you like to learn more? You can direct your efforts toward the Kotaku in Action thread to informed about what you can do to help.