Back in the middle of April Katana Zero launched for PC and Nintendo Switch in the West, but not in Australia. The game had been refused a classification by the Australian Classification Board, which effectively prohibited it from being distributed in the region. Well, after the board reviewed the game it was granted an R18+ rating for “high impact drug use”.
Originally Devolver Digital mentioned back in April that they were re-submitting for another review, and so it appears as if the board came through and provided the game with a proper rating.
Heads up to folks in Australia / New Zealand – Katana ZERO has a ‘Classification Refused’ rating and therefore will not be released on Switch in Australia and New Zealand on Thursday.
Our team is re-submitting in hopes to get that changed and we’ll keep you posted with news! pic.twitter.com/VTt9U4Jni3
— Devolver Digital (@devolverdigital) April 17, 2019
The latest update on the news comes courtesy of Student Edge, who reported that after they reached out to the Classification Board, they received a response regarding the new rating attributed to Devolver Digital’s side-scrolling title, where they stated…
“The player-controlled character is given special psychic and physical abilities via a fictional drug named Chronos that does not resemble any real-world drug.
“The Guidelines state that ‘interactive illicit or proscribed drug use that is detailed and realistic is not permitted’, however, the highly stylised pixelated graphics and distant perspective lacks detail, reducing the impact.”
Due to the game’s lack of realistic drug use depicted through the ability to manipulate time, the Classification Board opted to rate Katana Zero R18+, which means that it can be legally sold and distributed through Australian distribution chains without any issues.
Student Edge explained that due to receiving the R18+ rating, it means the game can now be distributed legally in Australia.
“At the time of the news, we reached out to the Classification Board for some clarification over what the reasoning might have been and whether they could overturn it. They’ve since confirmed that the ban has been reviewed and Katana Zero is now rated R18+ (only over 18s can purchase it), meaning it can be distributed throughout Australia.”
If you check the Classification Board website, you’ll see the entry for Katana Zero has an R18+ rating under the GHI Media LLC label, which is what Devolver Digital used to be known as. Why the entry is labeled as August 20th, 2018 is beyond me, or why they’re using Devolver’s old company name is also beyond me.
This was also recently called into question by a censorship cataloger going by the handle of Ref Classification, who keeps track of games, movies and music censored or banned in Australia. They asked how the game could have been refused classification if it was never labeled as RC by the Classification Board.
Question @devolverdigital regarding your April 17 tweet about Katana ZERO being banned in Australia. The Classification Board have never listed it as being RC. The only database entry was when it was passed R18+ (High impact drug use) in August 2018. What version is this? pic.twitter.com/fPCbgWRO4x
— Ref Classification (@RefusedC) May 10, 2019
While the Classification Board may not have publicly announced the refusal of classification, what could have happened is that Devolver Digital may have been notified about it through the IARC classification – which can also rate games or refuse classifications for Australian releases. It’s possible that it was automatically refused due to the drug content, but as Student Edge reported, after the actual Classification Board committee took a look at the game they rated it accordingly and added the R18+ classification to the game. Unfortunately there’s no cache or archive of the page so it’s tough to compare it to what the page was before the appeal was made to re-review the game.
Nevertheless, Australian gamers were originally peeved that they couldn’t purchase Katana Zero after Devolver Digital made the announcement back on April 16th, 2019 about the refusal of classification.
KATANA ZERO ISN’T OUT IN AUSTRALIA BECAUSE OUR RATINGS BOARD IS SHIT AND DIDN’T GIVE IT A CLASSIFICATION
SO NOW I HAVE TO AVOID SPOILERS
— Quartz (@SqueakBird) April 21, 2019
As some people pointed out in the Twitter threads, though, it’s still very possible to purchase Katana Zero from the Steam store, even if you are living in Australia.
For a game that’s banned in Australia, Katana Zero sure is purchasable on Steam.
— Super Tim Norman Ultimate (@PerfectStormo) April 19, 2019
I love on how Katana Zero is RC’ed in Australia yet can still be bought on Steam.
— Matty M. (@Valkian24) April 19, 2019
While some Australians can still purchase the game from Steam, it’s no where to be found on the Australian Nintendo eShop. The eShop search results turn up nil.
Other Nintendo Switch owners also noted that the game is unavailable for purchase. Some gamers had to switch their Switch’s region from Australia to the U.S., in order to purchase a copy of the game.
@devolverdigital @katana_zero absolute must play! Had to make an American eshop account to play it here in Australia but so worth it! Story is so intense and gameplay is extremely rewarding when learning the mechanics. Can’t wait for it to actually be released here is Aus!
— CypieSays (@CypieSays) May 14, 2019
But now that the game has supposedly been rated by the Classification Board right proper, I’m assuming Devolver Digital will have a full version of the game up and out for Australian gamers as soon as possible.
We did reach out to Devolver Digital to ask about their plans for the game now that the Classification Board has given it an R18+ rating. If they respond the story will be updated with their response.
(Thanks for the news tip Ebicentre)