Considering it’s the same country that gave us movies like "Battle Royale," "Tokyo Gore Police" and "Ichi the Killer," Japan’s method of handling violent video game content can be quite perplexing at times.
Despite being able to attack the undead hordes in survival horror beat-em-up "Dead Rising" with everything from ‘wet floor’ signs to katanas, decapitations were notably absent from the Japanese version of the game when it released back in 2006. More recently, Japanese "Metal Gear Solid" and "Gears of War" fans were shocked to see that numerous scenes and animations were cut from the versions released in their homeland, even though the games were clearly marked as “adults only”.
Japan’s video game censors have struck again, this time taking their (presumably family-friendly) hatchets to newly released PlayStation 4 horror game "Until Dawn" — and the method of censoring the scenes deemed too much for Japan is startlingly bad.
Supermassive Games’ "Until Dawn" treads familiar ground in that it tells the story of a group of young friends who become trapped in a remote mountain lodge and quickly find themselves fighting for their lives as they are picked off one by one. Despite its rather hackneyed premise, the narrative-driven game has received largely positive reviews, with critics and gamers alike praising its plot twists and multiple endings as well as the voice acting and lifelike visuals.
Summer isn’t exactly known for its abundance of triple-A video game releases, so no doubt plenty of PlayStation 4 owners have been looking forward to "Until Dawn" for a while now. But players in Japan who were expecting the game to be the "Saw"-like horror fest that it was billed as may be disappointed to learn that Japan’s censors have been doing a little chopping of their own.
The eagle-eyed gamers at YouTube channel Censored Gaming have put together a short video detailing the cuts made to "Until Dawn" in Japan. It seems that one scene in particular was deemed too extreme for the Japanese public and was heavily edited. While you might be imagining a few awkward cuts or a conspicuous lack of blood, however, the edit is nowhere near as graceful; instead, during a scene where one of the characters is cut in half with a giant circular saw (this is a horror game after all!) Japanese gamers are shown…nothing but a black screen.
Those who don’t care for horror movies may think little of this ham-fisted edit, and might even argue that, due to the interactive nature of the medium, video game censors are right to be stricter than those policing movie releases. But as a lifelong gamer this kind of censorship irks me terribly. After all, "Until Dawn" is rated CERO “Z”, the strictest rating a video game can receive in Japan and which indicates that it is suitable for adults only; shouldn’t consenting adults be allowed to see the game as its creators intended? Besides, I’m fairly sure horror fans have seen far worse at the movie theatre.
But putting the issue of whether the game should or should not have been censored aside for a moment, let’s focus on the way it was edited. Without making the cuts requested by censors, no film or video game will see the light of day; that’s just the way of the world, and we have censorship for a reason. But can you imagine watching the latest summer blockbuster in a movie theatre when, suddenly, instead of a sex scene or a violent montage playing out as it does in every other country, the screen cuts to black for 10, 20, 30 seconds while the audio played? It just wouldn’t happen, would it?
Video games today are not made by pallid-skinned, neck-bearded men alone in their bedrooms; they’re the product of years of work done by hundreds of talented artists, programmers, directors, sound engineers and testers. They cost hundreds of thousands, often millions, of dollars to make. So to present players—consenting adults who knew exactly what they were getting into when they picked up the controller—with a black screen because a group of people at the Computer Entertainment Ratings Organization said the original scene is too graphic for the general public to see shows a baffling lack of respect not just for the player but the game’s developers.
Granted, not every game’s publisher is prepared, or able, to spend the time and money required to localise and edit a game so that it retains the same level of polish after meeting censors’ demands. But considering that "Until Dawn" — a game which had both a sizeable budget and the full support of its publisher, Sony Computer Entertainment — has been released in Japan not with a new title and few subtitles slapped on, but properly localised and complete with a brand new voice track makes these cuts look all the more lazy by comparison. Perhaps Sony Japan just wanted to get the game out at the same time as in its other territories and didn’t have the budget to edit the scene properly; maybe the censors simply didn’t give them enough time to adapt the game prior to its Japanese release; perhaps someone thought a black screen would leave more to gamers’ imaginations and be more horrifying as a result. Whatever the reason for this startling shoddy cut—the censorship equivalent of your mother stepping in front of the TV and flailing her arms about the second an actress takes off her shirt—I’m fairly certain that a lot of gamers in Japan will be feeling understandably miffed right now.
Cut if you really must, Japan, but for the sake of the player and the hardworking people who poured their heart and soul into the game, please, please don’t hack.
Source: YouTube/Censored Gaming
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