When NIS America announced erotic dungeon crawler Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors would arrive this September on Vita, it came with a big caveat. Like the last game, there have been “modifications” to make it appropriate. In advance, the company published an exhaustive explanation.
Warning: The content in this post may be considered NSFW.
“I want to give you some insight into our process and exactly what’s changing so you can make an informed decision,” said NIS America senior product marketing manager Jordan Vincent in a blog post. “ [...] Although some players might not be happy about the changes, we expect many will still appreciate the product for what it is and localizing it allows them the chance to enjoy the game’s unique story, gameplay, and characters without needing to speak Japanese or deal with the pains of importing.”
Even conceptually, the Criminal Girls series is likely to make a lot of people uncomfortable. You’re a dude sent to hell to “motivate” a bunch of young looking girls (some of them look more like children) to be “rehabilitated,” so they can perform better in battle. This is accomplished via sexual mini-games, whether it’s spanking or brushing soap off their bodies.
Yep, it’s that kind of game. But whatever you think of it—and it’s not hard to guess what I do!—it’s unapologetic. Criminal Girls isn’t hiding anything.
NIS America was forced to change several elements when it brought the original game over, and nothing’s changed in the year and change since.
“Some of you might be asking, ‘Why change anything in the first place?’” said Vincent. “The answer to that question is pretty complicated overall, but here’s the short version: While we do our best to make all our fans happy, we also need to make sure that our games can be released on the platform they’re made for, and released in the various territories in which we sell them.”
To that end, NIS America explained the how and why behind four changes. NIS America has made these changes prior to submitting the game for evaluation with the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, but given NIS America has dealt with them plenty in the past, they know what to expect.
1) Some artwork, especially during the “motivation” scenes, were altered over their “explicit nature.” It seems NIS America worried the ESRB would take issue with women tied up against the their will.
To NIS America’s credit, they worked with the original artist to find common ground. “We didn’t want to make any alterations to the game that would be jarring to the experience or feel ‘off,’” said Vincent.
2) Swapping the term “punishment” for “motivation.” In the Japanese version of the game, the “motivation” scenes are actually “punishment.” Combined with the girls being tied up, it’s easy to see a potential problem.
“This reduces the power distance between the player character and the girls in the Reformation Program,” said Vincent, “and makes the activities of the game more consensual.”
3): There won’t be any English voice overs. All of the text will be displayed in English, but the voice tracks are staying Japanese. No explanation was given for this, but given the niche focus of Criminal Girls, one suspects this has more to do with properly budgeting than anything.
4): All dialogue has been removed from the “motivation” scenes. There’s no subtitles in these scenes, only voice overs, and since the developer isn’t recording new voice overs, this proved a technical issue.
However, it sounds like this came down to the idea of consent again.
“Some of this could cause an issue with power distance, or perceived consent of the activities of the game,” said Vincent. “ [...] Another reason this dialogue was removed was to avoid a situation of no text to accompany several lines of untranslated Japanese being spoken.”
You can see an example of this from the Japanese version below:
Video Credit: NinNinGame
The ages of some girls have been changed, as well.
As part of a Q&A session in the post, NIS America ruled out the idea of an uncensored version for the PC, largely due to a lack of resources and budget, and because it’s against company policy to release unrated games.
If you’re not aware, games need to be rated to be released on Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo’s platforms. Thus, NIS America needs to go through the ESRB to have this game released on Vita at retail and PSN.
Remember, though, that Criminal Girls 2 was altered before submission.
“When we submit something to ratings boards,” said Vincent, “we need to be absolutely sure that it’s going to be the final version, or we risk costly delays and even the game not being released at all.”
The reality is that NIS America is subject to what the ESRB deems appropriate. To maintain their business, they have to play ball with them.
“Though the debate about precedent and what ‘should’ qualify as AO vs. M is ongoing,” said Vincent, “the only opinion that really matters is that of the ratings boards. We can (and often do, trust me) argue our position, but at the end of the day, we have to conform with the guidance the ratings boards give us. If they inform us that a title is going to be rated a certain way, we cannot persuade them otherwise by bringing up [Other Game]. They’ve made their decision, and we have to respect that and work with it rather than against it.”
Of course, that might not matter to some fans. When Kotaku’s Mike Fahey wrote about the original last year, he dismissed the changes as too much:
It’s just that not every Japanese game needs to come over here. If a game is too racy to be released as is in the West, maybe just mention that somewhere on the company message boards instead. Import sales will boom, pervy gamers will rediscover the joy of adult game imports, and the publishers can focus on releasing entertainment that doesn’t require pastel obfuscation.
I’ve been covering censorship issues for a while now, and though fans of games like this would, in a perfect world, get these games without any alterations at all, the bigger frustration is not knowing why changes are made. Good on NIS America for having thoughtful and thorough answers.