There's a lot of things to love about the Fire Emblem series, the tactical RPG games that saw a massive resurgence in popularity in the West following the critically acclaimed response to 2013's Fire Emblem Awakening.
And now the next chapter in the series - Fire Emblem Fates - has released, and been received with similar critical praise as its predecessor. But there's something missing from Fates, something which has always been a fairly central facet of the Fire Emblem series.
Because, as much as the Fire Emblem games are grounded in the turn based tactical gameplay, the dialogue and interplay between characters as part of the RPG element is also central to the attractiveness of the games.
As you play through your characters grow together, interact, forge friendships and relationships, even marry and have children which then join up with your army (the only instance where we advocate using child soldiers). And a huge part of this has been removed for the Western release.
Forbes points to localization as the main flaw in Fire Emblem Fates, succinctly describing localization as "the process of translating a game from its place of origin to foreign markets". This often involves changing words to make more sense for a specific regional release, like changing "rubbish" to "garbage" in an American release of an English novel.
Localization and censorship aren't necessarily the same thing, but they do often have the same effect. Prior to release there was a lot of dirt kicked up about Nintendo of America removing certain aspects of the Japanese game like the "petting mini-game" and the "gay drugging controversy" (and how we wish we'd just made that last one up), but now that we've gotten a look at the finished version there's a lot of other stuff missing from it.
Certain elements of Fire Emblem Fates have gone for the US release, reportedly because Nintendo were worried about offending the American audience. But on top of the aformentioned controversial aspects there's been a lot of other things removed which may seem unnecessary. Entire dialogue exchanges have been cut, as can be seen in this fan made YouTube video by stricknit of a "conversation" between ninja assassins Beruka and Saizou:
The original scene contained 14 boxes of text, but was cut down to four boxes of "..." for the US release. And it's a strange one to cut too as there doesn't appear to be anything particularly out of place in the conversation itself; the two assassins discuss how many people they've killed, but it's not presented in a particularly offensive way.
And that's not all that they've removed, as Breitbart.com posits: Fire Emblem Fates "has been butchered beyond comprehension by its localization team". Whole scenes have been removed, characters have been replaced and even the narrative itself has been altered, to often cringeworthy effect.
But why would Nintendo of America do this? Well, it's probably for the money. In the West Nintendo market themselves as a family friendly, child orientated company, and in order not to piss off their key demographic they seem to have removed anything that could be taken as offensive. In an RPG which takes place in the middle of a war and deals with issues of kidnapping and family abandonment, that's a tough pill to swallow. It's less outright censorship and more worrying about losing money.
Whilst Fire Emblem Fates received a Cero "C" rating in Japan (which translates as suitable for gamers ages 15 and up) it was given a "T" ESRB rating in America, which targets gamers 13+. And whilst the game would certainly not merit a M rating, it's still worth pointing out the discrepancy between the two there.
This problem is not specific to video games though, many fans are worried about the fact that DC's Suicide Squad (set to release later this year) is targeting a PG-13 rating in order to appeal to a wider demographic and achieve the highest ticket sales. But the clue is in the name; the Suicide Squad of the comics aren't exactly PG-13 material, and they're certainly not the ones you want your kids to read.
Sadly this neutering of media for profit is not new, but that doesn't make it any less grating and, whilst Fire Emblem Fates is still a perfectly enjoyable game, it's a shame knowing that it could've been so much more.