Somewhere beyond this eerily silent, pink-mist clogged screenshot is the "motivation" mini-game from the unabashedly risque Japanese game Criminal Girls. Stripping the sound and obscuring the action made it okay for Western release—only no it didn't.
It's kind of amazing the 2010 PSP game from developer Imageepoch made it to North America in any form, especially given the current gaming climate. Criminal Girls (now Criminal Girls: Invite Only for the Vita) is a game that centers around a male protagonist sent to hell and tasked with overseeing the rehabilitation of a series of seven girls. This involves a great deal of mildly entertaining dungeon crawling, as well as a heaping handful of discipline.
Leading his stable of women into battle, the protagonist must motivate them by essentially spanking the temptations out of them. This makes them more effective in combat and unlocks new abilities for each character. In short, it's pretty much essential to survival.
Now if the very idea has your skin getting all crawly and your stomach turning, this is obviously not your cup of tea, and you're in good company. While in New York City for our big meet-up last week I would pull out my copy of Criminal Girls every time my fellow writers suggested we spend some time gaming, and not one of them took me up on it. There were however, several disapproving head shakes. I get those a lot.
Some of them and some of you no doubt feel such a game has no business coming to North America and Europe. I agree, but not for the same reason. If NIS America wants to make a little money off the awkward pervert crowd, more power to them. Just don't insult them by taking a core game mechanic and "hiding" it behind a cloud of smoke.
Warning—there's some mild NSFW coming up, followed by a video you'll probably want headphones on for.
Check out the slider below. On the left, the North American version of the motivation mini-game. On the left, the original Japanese.
I'm not going to be an asshole here and say something like "Oh my god, they're damaging the artistic integrity of the original!" It's an anime game about spanking women to increase their powers, not a gallery opening. I'm just saying that unless a thick pink mist is some new American standard for making inappropriately sexy things more appropriate I was not aware of, this is just ridiculous.
The Pink Cloud of Righteousness isn't the only change made to the mini-game. In the following video from the folks at Censored Gaming, we see that while the original Japanese game had the women moaning and making comments, in the North American version they just quietly take their motivation.
Is it just me, or is it creepier without sound? It's okay if the levels of creep are already so high that the difference is indiscernible.
I appreciate NIS America—I really do. I love the lengths the company has gone to in order to bring quirky Japanese fare over to this end of the world. Hell, I have a tattoo of Etna from Disgaea prominently displayed on my forearm, causing every stranger I walk past to stop me and go "Ooo, which anime is that from?"
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.