EDITORIAL: Censorship, Sales and Monster Monpiece

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

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This article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the oprainfall staff as a whole.

Monster Monpiece First | Crush Rub

Haru Akenaga, CEO of Idea Factory International, Inc. has released a statement regarding the fan feedback of Monster Monpiece and its censorship. Fans are not happy about the censorship and are speaking out. While we certainly don’t fault anyone for speaking out… Let’s break this down a little bit. For those of us who have looked at the cards that have been censored, we know that they really did censor as little as possible. The main things censored were girls that were, or appeared to be, underage. There is a difference in each culture of what is acceptable, and what is not. In our culture, some of the cards in the game would not have been acceptable.

I get it! I truly do. I am against censorship. I want any game as close to the original format as possible. There are differences between censorship and localization, however. Changing these cards, in my opinion, has more to do with localization than censorship. With the amount of games I play and anime I watch that makes others cringe… even I have to admit that sometimes you have to put a bit of cloth on the girly bits!

One of the first things Haru Akenaga says is: “First of all, please allow me to clarify that Idea Factory International is fundamentally against censorship and we will never censor a title purely as a strategy to increase sales.” He later says: “The Monster Monpiece license was also offered to third party publishers but none were interested in acquiring the license. The main reasons cited were that the title was too “hard-core” and “niche”, making it extremely difficult to forecast enough sales to make this a profitable title for the western markets.”

Translation – card games do not sell well here. So, the company has taken it upon themselves to localize this game for all of us who do want to play it! If you would like to continue to see these types of games from the company, let’s really look at this “censorship”. Can we see a little bit of the reasons behind this decision? Should we see the reasons behind it or should we stick with our ideals of not ever altering anything? If we can’t see the reasons behind this decision, we may not get these types of games from Idea Factory Int. in the future. Let’s keep this in mind and decide what side of this fight we want to be on.

The statement continues to say: “Idea Factory International intends to focus its ongoing licensing and publishing activities primarily on titles that will appeal to the most hard-core gamers within the JRPG niche of the North American and European game markets. As such, this first title, Monster Monpiece, is an important test case for us and the final results will weigh significantly towards our decisions regarding future titles for these markets.”

Translation – if we can’t sell this game, we won’t be able to bring others over. When (just as with this game) other third party publishers will not localize a game with mature themes such as those in Monster Monpiece, we won’t have access to them at all. Idea Factory Int. will not be able to localize the game since we will have proved to them that if they have to alter anything in the game, we won’t buy it.

One of the ending paragraphs of this statement is this: “We decided to release Monster Monpiece in these markets because we wanted to make our fans happy. However, if those same fans find that the modifications we felt we had to make have made the localized version of the game completely unacceptable, perhaps it was not the right decision to try to localize and publish this title for these markets. Perhaps it would be in the best interest of both our fans and our Company to publish only those titles that will not require any censoring or modification.”

This is the bottom line here folks. If you can’t accept changes that are necessary in the localization process, you may well lose out on games down the road that you really want to play. I said this above and I’ll say it again: I am against censorship. I do see the difference between censorship and localization though. Are there any other issues with the game that you feel were altered that did not need to be?  If we were talking about story changes here, I would likely be angered and speaking out against this game as well. In this instance though, it’s about changing cards where seemingly underage girls were way too exposed. You are all smart people who are passionate about their beliefs and I respect that! If you feel that I am wrong, or am missing some fundamental aspect to this, please (nicely) let me know!

I’ll leave you with this final thought from the Press Release: “Please be assured that we did our utmost to make sure that the modifications/censoring we determined necessary for Monster Monpiece were at the absolute minimum. We have paid meticulous attention to which images to replace/modify so as not to affect the gameplay and game system itself.”

Click HERE for the full Press Release.

About Crystal Colwell

What's up everyone? Crystal here! I spend my time writing up the news for you all and keeping us all up to date with incoming game info from Japan. I do a little bit of everything else around here, too. 🙂 Happy Reading!

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  • Iyamtebist

    I agree. I was slightly concerned when I heard things related to the cards were changed, but they were alleviated once they revealed it would not effect the game overall. If the game still retains the general feel that it originally has then I am fine with it. SO yeah I am still getting this game.

  • Thanatos2k

    “There are differences between censorship and localization, however.”

    If you truly were localizing it, you’d get new art to replace the ones you removed. Art perhaps of the characters looking of legal age if that’s what’s expected in the region you’re localizing it for. It would even make sense in the context of the game, with the monster girls “evolving” (read: aging) as you level them up.

    But no, much easier (and cheaper!) to just cut content and censor then actually localize. And then to blame the very people you’re upsetting with being the reason why you won’t get new games if you don’t sit back and take it.

    • Charlotte Buckingham

      And what was cut, exactly?

      “We kept the same number of cards in the game as the original Japanese version, but replaced some of the higher level Monster Girl images with the “less exposed” lower level versions of the corresponding Monster Girls due to some intense sexual imagery. The number of censored cards is about 40 out of the approximately 350 card images available in the game.”

      “each card that has had its image removed will still have the same number of levels for the player to increase, but the higher level card images will be the same as the lower level, even though they have leveled up and have become more powerful”

      They changed some images. That’s all. Unless you have evidence of other changes that have been made that I haven’t heard?

    • Thanatos2k

      The artwork was cut. I’m fairly confident that’s their selling point for the game, so……they cut over 10% of the artwork in the game.

    • Charlotte Buckingham

      They cut a few images on some of their cards. That is nowhere near 10% when you consider all of the artwork that’ll be in the game NOT on the cards; characters, backgrounds, all of that stuff. It’s barely even 10% of the cards, let alone 10% of the overall artwork.

  • Charlotte Buckingham

    I’m with you completely, Crystal. I don’t like censorship, but when it’s as you described and what’s happening here, it’s fine. I see no problem with making some alterations to make it fit in more with the culture.

    • SullenSamurai

      “I see no problem with making some alterations to make it fit in more with the culture.”

      This is a very worrying statement. You are entitled to your opinion, and by no means am I trying to attack or belittle you, but I have difficulty reconciling the above statement with your proclaimed dislike of censorship.

      It’s one thing to, say, rewrite a joke during translation because the original Japanese relies on cultural knowledge an American audience is unlikely to possess; this is a defensible alteration on cultural grounds. The wholesale alteration or removal of art assets because you consider their content to be questionable is not a defensible alteration. Such a change is not meant to maintain your audience’s understanding of the story or acessibility of the dialogue — something objective; it is purely a change on personal grounds — something subjective.

      As a general rule of thumb, any alteration to the original work made during localization that relies on subjective criteria should be avoided if at all possible. However, many choose to instead adhere to the fallacious notion of “if I don’t like something, I should change it until I do” (feel free to replace “I” with whatever pronoun is most apt for the situation). Localization is about increasing accessibility, not about increasing “cultural acceptibility.”

      Artforms are meant to be protected from such nonsensical things, especially in a country that supposedly espouses freedom of expression. To see individuals not only tolerate censorship like this, but advocate or embrace it is beyond concerning. If you truly dislike censorship, you shouldn’t be okay with it when it involves the alteration or removal of content you personally deem unimportant or offensive.

    • Charlotte Buckingham

      I don’t like censorship when it affects the story or gameplay. Idea Factory have taken the steps they feel necessary to make the game appropriate for a Western release, and made especially sure it won’t affect the player’s experience in a negative way.

      Tell me, how will this negatively affect the player’s experience? How will it negatively affect yours? You’re talking about how it’s changing the artform of the game; they’ve altered very little, and they wouldn’t have done it if they didn’t feel it absolutely necessary.

      You’re probably going to bring up that I’m just dismissing it because I don’t feel it affects me. And it doesn’t, because the game is still the same, functionally. The fact that it is still functionally the same – the cards in question can still upgrade as normal, still have the same stats – is why I see no issue here.

    • SullenSamurai

      The game is still functionally the same, nowhere did I ever deny that. But if you think the gameplay has to be changed in order to affect the player’s experience than you are mistaken, as said experience is not purely reliant on gameplay but rather on the game as a whole. Even if they altered “very little,” that’s enough to have an exponential impact on an individual’s enjoyment of the game; if more than a little, this effect has the potential to be even greater. Seeing as more than 10% of the cards lost a unique illustration in a game all about cards, I personally wouldn’t call that “very little.” If Idea Factory International felt such a drastic course of action was necessary, I question their judgment and their suitability as a localization team.

      The gameplay is intact so your are satisifed; that is enough for you and there is absoluetly nothing wrong with that. I believe there is, however, something wrong in believeing that gameplay is the only aspect of a videogame that matters; a videogame is made up of far more than just gameplay. Narrative too is important, as you pointed out, but so too is artwork, music, sound design. Don’t get me wrong, it’s safe to say most would agree that the gameplay is the most significant aspect of any given videogame. But significant enough to render all other aspects peripheral? I’d like to think that’s not commonly accepted as truth.

      Ultimately, you’re making the incorrect assumption that because something doesn’t bother you that it can’t bother someone else. Censorship on a fundamental level offends me, especially when I see it as needless and/or excessive (as I believe is the case here). As such, I can’t in good faith purchase this game as is because, I assure you, the changes made would negatively impact my own personal experience.

      Once again, I mean no animosity in my statements. I merely wish to express my frustration, both in this particular situation and in the practice of videogame censorship as a whole. If you desire further clarity on my viewpoints, I will do my best to accommodate. This is a controversial topic, but I in no means wish to make it any more confrontational than it needs to be.

    • Iyamtebist

      The problem I have with this statement is that you claim that the censorship is not a minor issue, but if you really are going to avoid the game over this issue than you likely were not that interested in the first place. The people who are really passionate about the game are the ones that will not care as long as the game itself isn’t changed to a huge degree, not the ones who refuse to play it over this issue.

      We are already aware of just how niche these games are. As a fan of these games, I can say from experience that every time I see a game like this, there is always a part of me that is worried about it never being localized due to it not being profitable enough, and the only option being to either spend years learning Japanese or hope that there is some type of fan translation hack of it years later, and even then we would be lucky seeing as how it is not that popular in the first place to get enough people to fan translate it.

      Yes I would prefer it uncensored but you take what you can get, and the choice is either having it be censored or not getting it at all, and as long as the game at least retains what I was interested in the first place.

      So when I see people up on their soapbox about how offended they are about this and that they would rather not have the game be localized then have a few images removed, it royally pisses me off that these people could potentially ruin everything for the rest of the fanbase when it was already difficult for us to get the game to begin with.

      I ultimately feel the same way with this issue in terms of there being a lot of frustration, but at least the two of us can agree that we would prefer it without the censorship. However, I am simply under the belief that protesting the game and making it less likely to get future games localized will just make things worse for everyone. If one can think of a way to go about this that would not be counterproductive than I would gladly support it, but I simply cannot agree with a method that harms the company that provides us a chance to experience a game that we most likely never would have gotten otherwise.

    • Tyrannikos

      “The problem I have with this statement is that you claim that the censorship is not a minor issue, but if you really are going to avoid the game over this issue than you likely were not that interested in the first place. The people who are really passionate about the game are the ones that will not care as long as the game itself isn’t changed to a huge degree, not the ones who refuse to play it over this issue.”

      Gee, look at that straw man go.

      You can’t say whether or not they were truly interested in the game. You just don’t know that. Your entire argument falls in upon itself because you just don’t have that knowledge. Personally, I am VERY interested in this game. I just so happen to detest censorship even more.

      You can’t honestly say that cutting over 10% of the art from a game whose focus is on its art isn’t changed to a “huge degree”. 40 cards, out of 350, will not change when leveled. That’s very significant. Other cards will be changing around them, but these 40 will just sit there. You’ll do the rubbing mini game and be rewarded with nothing, visually.

    • Iyamtebist

      “Your entire argument falls in upon itself because you just don’t have that knowledge.”

      Did you even read the rest of my post? My argument was based on a lot more than just the situation regarding what makes a supposed “real fan” or not. The main point is beggars can’t be choosers, and I have a hard time believing that anyone is serious about the game if they would rather it not be localized than be censored, and if that does end up the case, then you can be pretty damn sure that the finger will be pointed at the people who just could not get over the censorship and tried to ruin things for everyone else.

      It doesn’t matter if the intentions were good or if you were legitimately passionate about the game beforehand. If Idea Factory International decides to halt future localizations as a result of this misguided attempt at a protest, it will not change a thing whether or not you really cared about the game.

      Maybe start calling people out when you have an idea that will actually work and won’t screw the rest of the fan base over. If you have one I would love to hear it. Otherwise you are just spreading your misery everywhere else in an attempt to incite rage because others are not as outraged as you are.

    • SullenSamurai

      You’re mistaken. I did very much want this game, but not in the state it’s to be offered in. You may believe that this particular case of censorship is mild, but that does not mean everyone else feels the same way — I know I don’t. Were the alterations less severe, I would likely still be buying the game.

      Case in point: Bravely Default. I’ve very much been looking forward to that game, much like Monster Monpiece — and like MM, it too has been censored. Even so, I still preordered the game (after learning of the censorship, mind you) as the censorship was not overly extensive — something I can’t say the same for MM.

      Also, “beggars” can be “choosers” in the marketplace (assuming the’re not literal beggars with no money). As consumers (the figurative beggars), we are ultimately the ones in control; it may not feel like it all the time, but we have the power — so long as we don’t willingly relinquish it. That being said, it’s our spending that sends the clearest message — not our words. As such, there would be no point in my complaining about MM’s censorship if I did not also elect to not purchase it. When you choose to buy a censored product, you are potentially sending the message that censorship (at least to the extent demonstrated in the given product) is an okay practice, regardless of how much you actually disagree with that notion. I’m willing to risk this in the case of BD — I can’t do the same with MM.

      I understand and empathize with your frustration over many Japanese games not being localized — we are both on this site after all. And I can respect that you can tolerate a greater degree of censorship than I can when it means more games make it to our shores. However, I can’t respect your clear desire to silence me simply because you disagree with my viewpoint. Sadly, I can’t offer you a perfect, painless solution to this problem as one does not exist. But I can assure you that accepting whatever you’re offered is not an effective means of getting what you want.

    • Iyamtebist

      Fair enough. It does seem the two of us agree regarding the lack of localization regarding games and censorship. The main difference here is simply that the former is much more of an issue for me than the latter while for you the reverse is true.

      As for the question of whether or not consumers have the power, I can also kind of understand what you are saying, but ultimately I don’t feel that not purchasing a game you want as a result of this will really be effective either. I guess I can agree with if it is something that legitimately affects the quality of the game, but the main problem I have had with most people is that they happen to say it is just censorship in general where they admit it has nothing to do with the actual content itself and is just “because they censored it.” When that happens I find it hard to take them seriously seeing as how the content itself is a very big issue in and of itself and trying to brush under the rug with something like Bravely Default that it is really only a piece of cloth I just find ridiculous.

      As for the idea that accepting what I am offered is not a good way of getting what I want, I have to disagree. Assuming that the ideal case in this situation would be the game released uncensored or at least less so or with different artwork. Naturally what I want is the game itself but what option do I have to get it uncensored? Obviously there is the Japanese version but I don’t know the language, so that leaves either not getting it at all, which Idea Factory would interpret as either a result of the game’s nicheness or the fact that they cannot censor anything (and I am willing to bet that they probably have interpreted the complaints towards the game’s censorship the same way I did) which will just make them think that they can’t release these games here. Or I could go with the version they release, which, while the presentational aspects may make it inferior to the original Japanese version, it at least still retains enough that I would be able to enjoy the game overall and that I would be supporting a publisher who manages to take a risk by localizing these niche games in the first place. As you have said, there is not an alternative solution to this so I am simply taking what I believe is the superior option. Yes that will not be a way of getting the uncensored version but, as far as I’m concern ed, that ship has sailed and I will be satisfied enough with what I am getting in this case.

    • Charlotte Buckingham

      I think I’m going to stop debating, and agree to disagree with you on this one. Censorship gets to me personally when it affects gameplay or story; if the game is still the same functionally, it doesn’t bother me as much. Obviously I’d rather the uncensored version, but I’m willing to put up with alterations such as this one.

      On the Bravely Default censorship – One cutscene had a few more clothes thrown on the characters, as did a couple of class costumes. If you’ve heard that dialogue has been altered, that’s a lie; there’s a tentacle-covered boss in the game, and one of your party members drops a tentacle joke. If that got through localisation, I’m pretty sure everything else would. So there’s probably even less censorship than you originally thought.

    • SullenSamurai

      They also upped the ages of all the primary protagonists by three years, if I’m remembering correctly. The other changes bother me, but I consider that alteration to be the most obnoxious; in a small way, it’s a change to the narrative, one which would carry on into future titles if the affected characters return and continue to age in the sequel(s).

  • Tyrannikos

    “With the amount of games I play and anime I watch that makes others cringe… even I have to admit that sometimes you have to put a bit of cloth on the girly bits!”

    But…why? This argument doesn’t really work when the main selling point of the game is lewd imagery and stroking your Vita to rub girl’s clothes off.
    Cutting artwork of a game that is focused on its artwork is only going to frustrate their target audience. The already small target audience that would likely buy this game for the artwork. Not even all the girls who were gimped were lolis. It sucks that cards will level up and show nothing for it, visually. It’s like evolving a Charmander and seeing no change other than, “Oh, this Charmeleon looks like a Charmander, but it’s really a Charmeleon.” How un-rewarding.

    I also feel bad for the artists who were commissioned to create assets for the game, only to have it cut out because the West is too sensitive – Western culture will accept hyper violence and gore, but nope, no skin.

    I’m kind of disappointed that the artwork in this game was cut before even submitting it to the ESRB. They cut content and then sent it in for review, where they got an M Rating. According to Tom over at XSEED, it’s crazy hard to get above an M (An AO rating), practically requiring actual sex.

    Just my two cents. I just feel like they didn’t try and this isn’t going to please the main portion of their target audience.

  • They could have handled this so much better by just creating new artwork with older looking characters. I would have been okay with that. I get that since you’re rubbing clothes off a simple Bravery Default style edit is out of the question but come on, do it right

  • Vinicius

    To everyone complaining that they should make new art for the game you guys need to remember that this is a very niche game, and they don’t expect it to sell well on this side of the world, and redrawing, making new art, and editing them into the game would cost a lot of money.If they do this they will probably loose money and think twice before releasing other games on this side of the world.

    • SullenSamurai

      Making new art would be a waste of time, especially considering it would be a solution to problem that never needed to exist. This is indeed a niche game, and as such Idea Factory International should have better taken into account the niche demographic that would be interested in purchasing it — a demographic that tends to dislike censorship at the very least and refuse to abide it at the very most.

      Outside of being forced to censor their project on legal grounds or trying to avert a potential AO rating (both rather unlikely), this is another case of needless censorship meant to act as a safeguard against hypothetical controversy — which is to say Idea Factory International was more concerned in appeasing the American culture at large (or their idea of it) rather than the micro-culture that the game appealed to. You want to sell a niche product, do your best to appease those with which said product has appeal; ignore everyone else.

      If they were really interested in making their fans happy, as Mr. Akenaga claimed, I would like to think that this would have never happened. As such, I hope Idea Factory International does think twice about releasing their products on this side of the world in the future, because if this is what we can expect going down the road, color me disinterested. I rather a game not get localized at all rather than it be significantly censored. As it stands, I can barely stand Bravely Default levels of this nonsense, and this is much worse than that. When it comes to the localization of Japanese games, you usually have only one chance to do it right, so do it right the first time or don’t do it at all.

    • Thanatos2k

      That’s the biggest part. The controversy would be coming from people who wouldn’t even be interested in the game.

      So they anger the people who would have bought it to appease people who never would have touched it to begin with.

      What’s the point?

    • Tyrannikos

      Refer to Mugen Souls for this exact scenario. Censored to avoid controversy. Controversy is STILL stirred up by people who weren’t interested in the first place. Censorship pushes away the target consumers anyways. Game fails, as far as statistics are concerned.

      I’m almost certain this will happen to Monster Monpiece.

    • SullenSamurai

      It may very well. For those that may not know, Mugen Souls was also censored because of scenes/mechanics featuring characters that appeared “underage.”

      NIS America usually has no problems selling out the limited edition versions of their games. Mugen Souls limited editions are still readily available on their online store, and have been for quite some time, something I’ve always seen as evidence of lower than usual sales. Correlative evidence, mind you, not causational, but still evidence.

      When your target audience is already small, the last thing you want to do is make it smaller.

  • Eric Blondebeard

    I get it that they were forced to do things like that, due to a lack of third-party publishers…but i wish people in these “civilized” cultures we call ourselves would just put a warning on the covers, making it rated M or something. As a student of japanese culture studies, I would like to chose myself if i can handle the images I’m confronted with or not. There was a time when it was enough to state “The characters depicted in thise game are all supposed to be over 18 years old” not that it mattered, since they are just anime-characters……I acknowledge them trying their best to keep those censors to a minimum, but so much for western civilization i guess….Getting sick of it, really! An example from Germany: the Saw movies were really popular and underaged kids easily managed to get inside the cinemas to watch them. Games like Dead Rising, rated M in the states, were completly forbidden. That way censorship only looks like a product of hyprocrite parents and nay-sayers who want to complain but are not able to keep their own kids away from stuff they shouldn’t be confronted with. I really wonder were the roots of THIS kind of censorships are, in the case of monser monpiece….

  • Blergcest

    ” I do see the difference between censorship and localization though.”
    IF International is trying to chalk this up to “we didn’t think people would appreciate it,” but the reality is that they’re afraid of backlash from PEOPLE THAT WOULDN’T EVEN BUY THEIR GAME IN THE FIRST PLACE. Instead, all they’ve done is fracture and alienate half the audience that did want their game. Based on the fan outcry over this, this game is going to flop hard. And IFI only has themselves to blame.

    “If you can’t accept changes that are
    necessary in the localization process, you may well lose out on games
    down the road that you really want to play.”
    I’d rather have nothing than have a game that’s been hacked up to meet with a perceived notion of what I want. Don’t tell me what I do and don’t want, I already know what I want. And what I want is the original product unaltered except for a translation. If we start supporting this censorship, what’s to stop them for further censoring future games? “Hey, our idea of western sensibilities says that you wouldn’t like this mission where a character visits a Shinto shrine so we removed it from the game.” Eventually you start getting half of the original game all because someone else thinks they know what we want more than we do. We’re gonna start getting the video game equivalent of 4Kid’s One Piece. Ya yo ya ya yo ya’ll want that?

  • Matteo Neviani

    “If those same fans find that the
    modifications we felt we had to make have made the localized version of
    the game completely unacceptable, perhaps it was not the right decision
    to try to localize and publish this title for these markets.”

    As long as you don’t want my money, that’s ok with me. Your loss.

    “Perhaps it would be in the best
    interest of both our fans and our Company to publish only those titles
    that will not require any censoring or modification.”

    Perhaps i wont’ buy those as well because i’m pissed off about you not importing the other games.

  • Alistair

    “even I have to admit that sometimes you have to put a bit of cloth on the girly bits”

    But have a look they got bit of cloth on them but still you censored it not all are very young take the flower girl 1 & phantom & Pegasus the body are not to thinly or small like goblin & not as flat chested as the others.

    The main concern is the sexual pose the bit of cloth but it not alright for that but it totally okay for a cartoon 8 year old boy arse rapped & a small girl getting abortion for kicks in South Park the stick of truth.

    & it never idea to blackmail the fans by saying if you don’t buy this game there won’t be any more. murder is a crime but it alright for murder to portrait in games it alright for South Park shows anal rapping of a boy.

    The censored cards are got on a tiny bit of cloth on & I’m more concern about PEGI-12 there suppose to be overage woman but can you see a overage woman with her arse stick out like Pegasus.

  • Alistair

    Just for the record this is not hardcore it more softcore even then you don’t see the other naughty bit the next game for the western world will be conception-2 another game for the lobbyists to sink its teeth into girls with big boobs that jigger & the dialog you got nice breasts.

  • Alistair

    Another game to be release uncensored is from xseed’s akibe-trip2 you rub the clothes of vampire gals. To their undergarments just like some undergarments in another game.

  • TheSpoonyOne

    Ha. Ha. No.
    You just picked the other extreme between the two. You put it nicely, but you denounced any views of the other side. There as a halfway point between flipping out and brown-nosing.