America’s birthday is just around the corner, and you know what that means: it’s time to blow things up loud so we can drown out the embarrassed voices in our heads reminding us how strange and bad America can be . In honor of it all, this week week Split screen is about how games from other countries are being modified to appeal to our sensitive American sensibilities – and vice versa.
To kick off the episode, Ash Parrish, Mike Fahey, and I investigate the strangest cases of games changing for the west, including the one “Vaginal Bone” Controversy Surroundings Tokyo Mirage Sessions back in 2016, Kirby’s furious eyebrows, the original Mega man‘s low-key, terrifying boxing art, the profanity-inspired origin of Pac-Man’s name, Fire sign‘s Conversion therapy for gays controversy, and that once a Mario game almost including blackface.
Then we turn things around and discuss Western games that had to be reconfigured for an international audience. You’d better believe that, for example Many things have changed about nuclear weapons in the Japanese version of Fallout 3, including the name of the weapon used for the bomb America dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.
Finally inspired by a recently excavated and extremely questionable one Electronic gaming monthly Review of the original Yakuza, we decide to turn the Japanese gangster game set in Tokyo into something egregious and outrageous American. Sorry in advance.
Get the MP3 Here and view an excerpt below.
Ash: When I think of things that have been changed to make them palatable to the American audience, the only thing that comes to mind – and these aren’t necessarily video games – are vagina bones. Who remembers vaginal bones?
Nathan: Man, I didn’t even think about that in this episode. What a saga.
Fahey: Oh yeah, the vagina bones off Tokyo Mirage Sessions.
Ash: It is one thing. I think it happened in Onechanbara, also. But anyway, for those of you who don’t know, God bless you. You lived an enchanted life and I am sorry to have to ruin this for you now. But “vagina bones” is one thing gamers came up with – weebs was there too – where you see a woman, and she has V-cuts that I guess should be like pubic bones. They call them “vagina bones”. I do not know why. But for the localization from Japan to America they will wipe that away so that the stomach is flat and there is no indentation where the hips meet. And people really got up in their arms because they said, “They took out their vagina bones!” And then everyone had the conversation about “What exactly is a vagina bone?” And that’s fun. That’s what I always think of when I think of localization for America.
Another thing that I always think about is Pokémon, with the jelly donuts.
Nathan: Oh yeah, in the anime – when they were clearly onigiri but the characters were like, “We have jelly donuts!”
Ash: I love the fact that when we get stuff localized for America it just looks like Americans are totally stupid. I think, to be fair, we are. But I don’t know that when I was this old I was the first Pokémon Series came out, I would have watched this and thought it was a jelly donut – or would have been completely confused if they actually called it that, rice balls. Which sounds damn tasty. Much more than a jelly donut; I don’t really like jelly donuts.
Nathan: You remind me of Yu-Gi-Ohwhere they would censor guns by showing people around. In the Original Version they were holding real guns, but in the American Version there was a big, confrontational scene and they only pointed at someone for a long period of time. It’s really funny to me because you take a show made in Japan – where basically nobody has guns – and edit it for a country where basically everyone has guns and you instinctively remove the guns.
Ash: What do you think of when you think of localization for an American audience?
Nathan: I think there are a lot of different little strands in the things I’ve looked at, but my favorite is that they have to make it harder and cooler. The best example of this is Kirby’s eyebrows, which have been around as long as Kirby. The basic idea is that on the box type for all Americans Kirby Play, they change almost nothing, except that they give him little angry eyebrows. His eyebrows are always sloping down as if he were mad at someone. It’s so at odds with what the games are about. The character is this happy little pink blob.
So as it turns out GameSpot a Nintendo person asked about it in 2014. The response was basically what you would expect. They do this based on “feedback and insights” from the market. In particular, they said, “What we’ve heard is that strong, tenacious Kirby who fights really hard is more attractive [side] from Kirby, that’s what we’re showing in the US. ”He has to be strong and tough. That is definitely what I think of when I think of Kirby.
Fahey: That’s why he has it really muscular feet.
Ash: Oh no.
Nathan: This is the real American Kirby. If I can’t see his bare, muscular feet, I don’t want anything to do with him.
Fahey: When I think of what they changed for the American audience from Japan, I think of most of the RPGs released for PS1 and PS2 that were 2D and they decided that Americans hated 2D wholeheartedly and none of them wanted to. So they just didn’t bring games here because they were 2D and not 3D. But that’s a completely different matter.
My favorite example is the damn one Mega man Box art. We have this amazing robot character with the huge eyes in the game and they brought him to America and they said, “You know what? You want a slit in your overalls. This is what Americans identify with: a guy in a dingy overalls. Maybe he has a gun. “
Nathan: His sleeves really do something. Whatever they do, I’ve never seen it replicated in real life. They are folded in a million different ways that swirl into one another.
Ash: He wears sweatpants. In his arms.
Nathan: Well, I mean just because someone is a robot super soldier doesn’t mean they can’t be comfortable too.
Fahey: They make sweatshirts. It doesn’t have to be jogging pants on his arms!
Nathan: These are sweatpants for your arms, Fahey. Catching up.
Ash: Get equipped with: sweatpants for your arms.
For all of that and more, check out the episode. New episodes appear every Friday, so don’t forget to like and subscribe Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or stapler. If you feel like doing so, leave a review too, and you can always send us a message at [email protected] if you have any questions or suggest a topic. If you want to yell at us directly, you can reach us on Twitter: Ash is @adashtra, Fahey is @OnkelFahey, and Nathan is @ Vahn16. We meet next week!