It never seemed clear that Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, a brand-new entry in the sexy fantasy spin-off series, would leave Japan. But when publisher Koei Tecmo made one poorly translated comment on Facebook about why it wasn’t happening, the Internet exploded into another heated debate over censorship.
No one would blame you for not remembering Dead or Alive Xtreme. At the height of Dead or Alive’s popularity—when Tecmo hadn’t merged with Koei, the company had a relationship with Xbox, and designer Tomonobu Itagaki was still around—Tecmo released Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball. The 2003 Xbox exclusive focused on a two-week vacation that women from Dead or Alive took after being tricked into coming to “Zack Island,” a resort founded by one of the male fighters from Dead or Alive. It nabbed an M-rating from the ESRB, a series first, due to the revealing swimsuits the women could wear. Swimsuits like this:
There was a barely a plot, and while the volleyball part of the game was surprisingly well-done, it was an excuse to watch beautiful polygonal women.
The sequel, released in 2006 for the Xbox 360, expanded the number of mini-games, fleshed out the game’s relationship options (i.e. characters giving gifts to one another), and developed Enhanced Breast Physics Technology (TM).
Per an IGN preview from the time:
“With the sequel, the women fighters of DOA now have independent breast physics which create an asynchronous movement while giving a water balloon sensation to each mammary gland. We s*&# you not. Usually, boobs move in tandem. Not these melons. They’re all over the place, bouncing like a juggler throwing water balloons.”
Besides a brief PSP pitstop in 2010, series was largely silent, with Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 for PlayStation 4 and Vita finally getting announced this past August. This time, however, isn’t wasn’t clear there were plans for a release outside of Japan, though new producer Yosuke Hayashi told Famitsu (via Gematsu) they would consider bringing over a “modified” version if there was enough demand.
It’s unclear what a “modified” version would look like. Different clothing? A mistranslation in the Gematsu piece erroneously suggested the series might feature male characters on the island this time around, but it wasn’t true.
This isn’t the first time the concept has come up in Dead or Alive fandom, either. While researching this story, for example, I spotted a poll from one of the game’s most popular community hubs, Dead or Alive World, showing support:
But as expected, Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 has maintained its preference for showcasing the female form, even when it comes to, uh, bikini malfunctions:
While there haven’t been large, formal campaigns to lobby for Dead or Alive Xtreme 3’s release—perhaps a sign of Dead or Alive’s decline in the fighting game community, more than anything—people have continued to ask for a Western release in the expected places, like the official Facebook page for Dead or Alive.
And that brings us to the events of the past week. On November 18, a Facebook user asked Koei Tecmo whether it’d reconsidered a release outside of Japan. The response, as expected, was that nothing had changed and it wasn’t coming over:
That should have been the end of that, but when the same user asked for a more specific reason, the company actually provided an explanation—well, sort of.
“with regard to how to treat female in video game industry” and “certainly we have gone through in last year or two to come to our decision” is rough English. That’s not to make fun of a developer trying to communicate with English fans, but only to underscore how little we can actually discern from this “statement.”
It’s entirely possible Koei Tecmo is speaking to—and wanting to sidestep—differing cultural values in the west, which has seen a shift in attitudes towards media representation of women since Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 came out in 2006.
Koei Tecmo has not responded to my requests for comment. The text has not been removed from Facebook, however, despite causing waves in recent days.
Another way to interpret it, and the interpretation that’s driven conversation around the game for the past week, is that so-called “social justice warriors” and other media critics are directly responsible for the game not coming out.
(I’ve been called a “social justice warrior” many times, a label I’ve never shied away from. I’m not going to apologize for going to bat for marginalized groups.)
Without context, we don’t know if that’s what Koei Tecmo meant, but that didn’t stop popular import retailer Play Asia from stoking the flames on Twitter, and pointing people towards a spot where they can buy a copy from their site:
While Play Asia didn’t point to any specific “#SJW nonsense,” and I could find no evidence of an organized protest against the game’s release, there’s an ongoing narrative in these circles that media critics are making companies like Koei Tecmo afraid to release games with sexual content in the West.
This kicked off a day of activity and discussion on Twitter, including but not limited to supporters of GamerGate, who often jump at the chance to point out the alleged censorship of games. (A debatable point.)
(When I tweeted at someone about the game to research this article, I was quickly bombarded with rapid-fire tweets from public GamerGate supporters.)
HuniePot, developers of the erotic match 3 puzzler HuniePop, announced it would pay up to $1 million for the distribution rights to Dead or Alive Xtreme 3.
(Kotaku’s Mike Fahey reviewed HuniePop earlier this year and really liked it.)
I was surprised at how well HuniePop must have sold to let HuniePot make such an offer, but when I asked to speak with them, they turned down my request.
Unsurprisingly, the @KoeiTecmoUS account on Twitter has not responded, but the company’s European division did:
(TN stands for Team Ninja, the developer of Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, while CM stands for “community manager,” an employee usually tasked with monitoring and responding to fans on Twitter, Facebook, and other places on the Internet.)
Koei Tecmo Europe did slightly pull back when asked about it, however.
If you’ve made it to the end of this story hoping for an easy resolution, it doesn’t exist. So long as Koei Tecmo is silent, a garbled Facebook comment will continue serving as the latest ammunition in a never-ending ideological war.
You can reach the author of this post at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @patrickklepek.