Censorship is a complex issue and it’s very easy to say that “Censorship is never the right thing to do.” In fact, it’s such an easy phrase that it’s been the motto over the last week following controversies over Xenoblade Chronicles X‘s localisation and Dead or Alive Xtreme 3‘s lack of a western release altogether. However, the situations involved are rarely so clear. There are cases where censorship merely seems to be the product of hypersensitivity by media ratings boards (shoutout to the Australian Classification Board) but then there’s also situations like these, where the publishers involved made the correct call, given the circumstances.
As an Australian, censorship is not an uncommon topic to be brought up and it’s only been recently that the R18+ classification was brought in, finally allowing some great games to hit our sandy shores. Prior to this, Left 4 Dead 2 had very little blood or gore, turning fearsome zombies into something almost comical, South Park: The Stick of Truth had large sections cut out altogether and even Grand Theft Auto V risked getting turned away from this wonderful land of kangaroos, Tim Tams and drop bears. These are all clear cases of censorship gone wrong and overall, bad decisions that left an impact on Australian gaming culture.
That is real censorship. Games with high sales potential losing integral parts of their design to suit archaic standards because of outdated classification systems. But what we’ve got here has absolutely nothing to do with that. Putting the much anticipated Xenoblade Chronicles X aside for a moment, it’s worth addressing the much more pressing issue of a Western edition of Dead or Alive Xtreme 3.
In a quote from Team Ninja’s Community Manager, it was stated: “Do you know many issues happening in video game industry with regard to how to treat female in video game industry? We do not want to talk those things here. But certainly we have gone through in last year or two to come to our decision. Thank you.”
That quote is certainly bitter and only paints part of the larger picture that is the Dead or Alive Xtreme series due to the reality of the situation being far less gung-ho. When it comes to fighting games, the Dead or Alive series is certainly up there as one of the genre’s best and I absolutely love Team Ninja because of it. As a big fan of Dead or Alive 4, I spent hours upon hours trying to progress through each and every story mode throughout unforgiving difficulty. I still regard completing Dead or Alive 4 to be one of my most rewarding gaming experiences. But the series’ reputation took an odd turn in 2006 with the release of Dead or Alive Xtreme 2.
To the average fan, the original Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball just seemed like a bit of a laugh. A silly spinoff that had a surprising amount of depth when it came to its gameplay, standing tall strangely as a really good volleyball game with some of the best graphics on the original Xbox. But this quickly turned sour with the release of Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 which deteriorated the image of what Dead or Alive really is, up to this very day. Although the game featured the same level of scantily dressed women and eccentric fanservice, this time there was no great game behind it all. Featuring several minigames instead of a single sport like its prequel, they featured little depth with review scores dropping across the board. As IGN’s Erik Brudvig stated in his review, “Team Ninja brings back the sexy, but forgot the game.”
Dead or Alive Xtreme 2‘s failure wasn’t just reflected by the critics, but even the fans who quickly rejected the new 2006 title with North American sales hitting a devastatingly low 140,000, more than 200,000 sales less than the original game. For comparison, Dead or Alive 4 sold double this. If you want to try out the title for yourself, you’ll probably be able to find it in a bargain bin at your local GameStop or EBGames.
We’ve had to look past PR talk for years when it comes to video games and there’s no reason to stop doing so now. Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 was a terrible game, received the lowest sales of any Dead or Alive console game ever released in the West, and created a controversy that has never stopped following the franchise since 2006. This isn’t about “SJWs”, “Feminazis,” or whatever cool slogan the kids have come up with lately. This is about a game that failed to justify its own over-the-top sexualisation and has no place haunting the series for any longer.
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 was never a highly anticipated game and many of those that have been following this release from the start are merely hoping for the second coming of the highly entertaining first entry. It’s not that this is a rare case either. There are tons upon tons of Japanese games that never make it Westward, a fact that every Gundam fan is painfully aware of. It wasn’t that this new entry to the series was cancelled, it was that the release never existed in the first place. If you still wish to play Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, you will be able to import it when it’s released in Japan on February 25th next year.
Taking a step away from busty volleyballers (sorry, that means no more screenshots), it’s worth talking about the ridiculous Xenoblade Chronicles X censorship controversy of late. It’s worth pointing out that the localisation of this title in particular is a absolute dream. After over a year of protest, the Operation Rainfall movement finally managed to get Xenoblade Chronicles along with Pandora’s Tower and The Last Story brought to the United States (They even got the brilliant British dub too). So with that in mind, it’s certainly something to see that a sequel is being brought across within the same year.
So it’s very strange to see fans of the title so eager to boycott it over slight costume changes for one of the game’s younger female characters. As reported by Twitter user, @teikage, Lin (who is 13 years old) has received outfit changes that cover up more skin, and generally just make more sense. It’s no surprise that Nintendo of America would want to release the game with these new designs featuring more appropriate clothing for adventuring across alien planets. Yes, it’s censorship. Yes, you have the full freedom to get mad, boycott the game and demand less clothing on women. But it’s censorship fueled by common sense. Even the removal of a bust slider for female characters isn’t worth getting mad about, although it certainly is a much more valid criticism, as it does restrict basic character creation.
Sometimes censorship really is just common sense. It’s easy to get paranoid about the evil “SJWs” taking over video games, but in both of these cases, there’s much more to it. Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 is a game that has no reason to exist in the West, with low sales and low reviews, taking away from the novelty that was the original Xtreme Beach Volleyball title. And Xenoblade Chronicles X is just a case of costume changes for a young character within the game, turning them into something more appropriate within the lore of the game, even if it means crushing a costume designers eccentricities.
Not all censorship is worthy of outrage, sometimes it’s just worthy of a shrug and a “whatever.” And honestly, within the gaming climate of the past years, we need a few more “whatever” moments.