'Fire Emblem Fates' Changes: The Censorship Is America’s Fault, Not Nintendo’s

fire emblem fates release date
Fire Emblem: Fates hits stateside in 2016 (Photo: Nintendo)

So, you’ve probably heard right now that the upcoming North American release of Fire Emblem Fates is a little different than the original Japanese version. It has been changed. Or, perhaps, it has been censored. While same-sex marriage is staying in, some more controversial elements—notably petting (as reported by Nintendolife) and a weird sequence that could be interpreted as “gay conversion” —are getting the cut. A lot of people are hammering on Nintendo for this, with cries of censorship, or at least they’re disappointed. And you should be disappointed, but not at Nintendo. This whole censorship kerfuffle is America’s fault, not Nintendo’s.

 

Nintendo, Localization, America And You

 

Let’s get a few things out of the way. First off, yes, Nintendo is self-censoring Fire Emblem FatesKotaku reported this well. The company’s reasons for it may or may not be sound, but that’s exactly what’s happening. It’s removing content from the game strictly for the North American market. Second, it’s true that Nintendo has a long, long history of doing this sort of thing. Remember Mortal Kombat? So does everyone.

But here’s the thing: Nintendo does this stuff for a reason. We can’t set aside for a moment the fact that the things the company is censoring in Fire Emblem Fates are, well, actually a little weird by Western standards. A petting minigame? Yea, okay. These are people, and this isn’t Pokémon-Amie. Insta-controversy would ensue. To be clear, I don’t think Nintendo should censor the game, but I understand it.

American culture is weird about sex, especially in the media, especially when children might be exposed. And Nintendo is almost universally esteemed as a family company, its consoles a natural and easy choice for young children nationwide. Nintendo may have lost lots of hardcore gamers, but the company still has nearly endless goodwill among families.

The company has shepherded that reputation for well over a generation now. Nintendo loves to call itself a toy company (and with Amiibos, it makes sense again). To do that, it has to keep the loyalty of parents. Censoring Fire Emblem Fates is, of course, a choice that the company has made. But it’s a choice that’s necessitated by the American market, by squeamishness about sex and political correctness and high levels of concern about how video games can wreck children’s fragile little minds. Trust me, if Nintendo hadn’t censored Fire Emblem Fates, you would have heard about it. In a very different, far more aggravating way.

Again: Censorship sucks. American prudishness is highly problematic. Ridiculous censorship is ridiculous. It was dumb when Australia and the European Union did it for (genuinely gasp-inducing) things in South Park: The Stick of Truth. It’s dumb when Nintendo proactively censors itself. But these things don’t happen because Nintendo hates you and doesn’t want you to get to pet your Fire Emblem characters. It happens because localization is real, and American culture demands it, and if Nintendo hadn’t done it, you would never have heard the end of it.

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