The announcement of censorship for the upcoming Western release of Zanki Zero: Last Beginning was met with a lot of negativity from the gaming community. The California-based localization team announced that they were changing the packaging art, altering multiple CG sequences, and censoring the opening sequence. The censorship being applied to the Western release for Steam and the PS4 was detailed in an article back in early March. Well, at this year’s GDC in San Francisco, California, a representative for Spike Chunsoft discussed the censorship issues and how they come about.
Speaking with Noisy Pixel, Spike Chunsoft PR representative Ari Advincula explained…
“In terms of any content changes, it’s actually never a choice. On the development team side, having to make certain changes in the game was tough, because the team had to go back and edit things. And then, on our side [publishing], there are all these submission processes that have to go through. So, it’s all time consuming, overall, and it’s tough in that sense. It’s also tough because there’s obviously a very strong negative reaction that happens.
“At the end of the day, we always put the community first, and I think it’s always important to listen to what fans say. At the same time, we can’t release a game if we don’t do it [make changes], sometimes, so it’s a matter of having a game or no game. After everyone’s put so much hard work into the game, of course, we want to release it, so we need to do what we can to make that release happen.”
Actually… there is a choice.
Sony’s PS4 censorship regulations dictated that Harukaze censor Nora, Princess, and Crying Cat on the PS4. Harukaze did so. However, what they didn’t do was censor the Nintendo Switch version. The Switch version was released to meet the ratings board standards while the PS4 version was specifically censored to comply with Sony’s PS4 regulations.
See the pattern here? Just because Sony has a regulation in place to censor games doesn’t mean that all versions of the game have to be censored. Noisy Pixel sided with Spike Chunsoft, though, writing…
“ True, a few of the game’s CGs have been changed to conform to western standards, but putting the blame solely on the publisher doesn’t fix the problem as it wasn’t a choice.”
This is something that was called out in the comment section of Noisy Pixel, where users asked why didn’t Spike Chunsoft leave the Steam version of the game uncensored since they don’t have the same censorship policies as Sony?
User MusouTensei perfectly summed up the situation, writing…
“This explains the PS4 version but why is the PC version also censored? Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal was censored on PS4 because Sony wanted it but they still released an uncensored version on Steam no problem,
“Also there is no such thing as an universal “western standard”, stop using that term, back to the SK example the uncensored version was already approved by age rating boards, even germany was okay with it but Sony still told Xseed to remove the Intimacy Mode, a mode which you can buy in an enhanced stand alone version on Switch, also approved by rating boards including germany. These are Sony’s own standards, or better said, the standards of the californian QA team ALL PS4 games regardless where they are released need to be approved by now.”
Now this is true.
There is no “Western standard” for all distribution platforms. Some of these platforms adhere to using ratings boards for content standards, such as the PlayStation Store, the Xbox Store, the eShop, or the Epic Games Store. But on Steam you don’t have to be rated by the ESRB to have your game sold through their store. There are also a bunch of other distribution storefronts such as Nutaku, G2A, GamersGate, Jast USA, Fakku, or MangaGamer (to name a few) that allow gamers to purchase titles without any ratings at all, going from all-ages content to R18+ uncensored content.
In the case of Spike Chunsoft, they didn’t have to censor the Steam version of Zanki Zero. Many people believe they did so in order to maintain parity with the PS4 version.
Moreover, this was the sort of future that many gamers feared would affect multiplatform titles, because most publishers would end up sticking with platform parity to address the lowest common content denominator in the room, which would be the PS4 in this case. In fact, we’ve already seen that Spike Chunsoft’s upcoming Western release of Crystar already appears to be censored in equal measure for both PS4 and Steam. The opening movie cut out a short segment of a character’s transformation sequence that gave viewers a brief glimpse of her butt.
Maybe with the backlash against Spike Chunsoft for censoring the Steam version of Zanki Zero we’ll see the localizers take a different approach to their future localized releases. The best case scenario would be leaving the Steam versions uncensored while complying with Sony’s censorship standards… or at least we can hope that’s the route they take. Otherwise, the company certainly won’t last long in the Western niche market if they keep censoring all versions of the game when it isn’t required.
(Thanks for the news tip Animatic)