OPINION: Mr. Kollar’s Dungeon Travelers 2 Piece

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

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By


(NOTE: All quotes in this rebuttal are taken from the original piece.)

When I look at the state of mainstream journalism, there are opinion and news articles out there which leave me scratching my head. And then I remember that tabloid news sites (especially game news sites) don’t have particularly high standards for content, peddling whatever headline happens to catch the most attention and clicks from its potential viewers.

Atlus can do better than this creepy, porn lite dungeon crawler” certainly is an eye catcher of a headline, complete with picture of a cutesy anime girl, half-naked with some underboob going on. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say, but does that really tell the whole story?

dungeon travelers 2 conception 2 atlus

At first, Mr. Kollar praises Atlus as a niche games publisher, because they brought us the Shin Megami Tensei franchise (which includes spin-off series like Persona) that has become so beloved over the years. But then he goes on to say that he finds games like Conception II disturbing, because the idea of “classmating”, or performing a magical ritual with your female classmates to make star children, bothers him. In practice, Conception II’s concept of procreation is by far the most innocent method of doing so I’ve ever seen in a video game — aside from when you drop off your Pokemon to mate with Dittos in the daycare center to create clones.

dungeon travelers 2 dragons crown atlus

Dragon’s Crown also gets criticism from Mr. Kollar. He loves the hand drawn art style, but doesn’t seem to care for the exaggerated proportions of the female characters, which he feels drags the game down. I’m going to play devil’s advocate here, as I always do. This comment reminds me very much of Jason Scherier’s condemnation of Dragon’s Crown back in 2013, but his article was far more insulting to Vanillaware’s artists. Having played Dragon’s Crown myself, there was no point at which I felt the stylistic choices of the artists hampered the game in any way. Hypothetically, if Mr. Kollar were to review Dragon’s Crown today, would he have docked points for the sorceress’ sex appeal, just as Arthur Gies infamously did for Bayonetta 2? There are times when the two major tabloid game news sites are so similar in their narratives that they are indistinguishable, other than their names. This is one of those times.

So what is Philip’s problem with Dungeon Travelers 2?

Let’s start with the cast: Dungeon Travelers 2 is that rare RPG that mostly stars women. 16 of them to be precise. Cool! However, like Conception 2, the main character is a dude, and the women are primarily presented as things for him to interact with; they’re in the game to be rescued, fought or used in combat rather than acting on their own.

And above all else, they’re in the game to be ogled. As you can see in the trailer below, Dungeon Travelers 2 presents its hand-drawn female leads in various states of undress and, beyond that, in full-on sexual situations.

Let’s make no mistake, Dungeon Travelers 2, like Conception II, is a niche moe Japanese RPG. This sort of game isn’t going to appeal to someone like Mr. Kollar, who I’m going to guess possesses some strong progressive and feminist views. What he sees as a problem is actually par for the course for games like this, and as I’ve said before, the PlayStation Vita is the de facto home for some of the most niche games out there. I’m still waiting for my copy of Moe Chronicle, but I digress.

This trailer he uses as evidence doesn’t provide sufficient evidence to me for his claim. Sure, there are a few suggestive outfits among the girls, but the most ‘sexual’ thing I saw there was two girls relaxing in a hot spring, which could have very well been a scene of skinship, a concept foreign to Westerners but is normal practice among Japanese people.

Philip’s next point goes over Atlus’s censorship of the game for the ESRB. According to them, they had to make minor edits to a few images in order to avoid crossing that AO rating which would make the game unsellable. The public still doesn’t know which images were censored or to what degree they were edited, but Atlus wants us to take their word for it:

We are very aware of what impact censorship can have on import titles; we are confident that the changes we made to the images in Dungeon Travelers 2 were the least invasive possible to still be eligible for a release in the west.”

An attempt was made to discuss this on NeoGAF, but they swiftly banned the topic (which I vehemently disagree with, by the way).

Mr. Kollar then tries to assure his readers that he isn’t against sex in games, and he thinks there should be more of it. All well and good, except that it isn’t one of your articles you linked to, Philip; it’s Nina Freeman’s. I’m not sure why he feels the need to backpedal, this is his opinion piece that he wanted published, so I feel he should back it up all the way, lest he look like a hypocrite.

I’m going to pause for a minute, because I think there’s an important distinction to be made here. What Mr. Kollar is against is what he sees as straight up pornography in games, even if he’s wrong and he’s misinterpreting the whole thing (which I think he is). Nina Freeman’s article discusses how video games can be used to talk about sexuality, possibly using mature and in-depth storytelling. This would be right at home for someone who harbors strong progressive/feminist viewpoints, and that sentiment echoes various other articles I’ve seen from writers on the left who want to see video games “grow up”. Perhaps they’ve forgotten that Atlus has tackled this topic before in Catherine, which focuses on sex and adultery, and the fears of being tied down in marriage. Those aren’t subjects video games normally take on, and I think they did a fantastic job of it.

dungeon travelers 2 catherine atlus

Anyway, let’s continue. This is Mr. Kollar’s conclusion about Dungeon Travelers 2:

The goal is not to get one of the game’s many women to fight alongside you or to forge a deep relationship with them; it’s to eventually see them naked and probably doing something demeaning. Game design shouldn’t be a matter of putting Pokémon into the bodies of playmates in order to appeal to gaming’s worst instincts. That’s lazy and insulting.

I have a hard time understanding this paragraph. What does the stated goal of the game have to do with its design? You may not like the goal, but the objective of the game is not in and of itself a design flaw; it’s just not in line with your politics.

It is, for all intents and purposes, a porn game, or the closest you can get to a porn game on the PlayStation Vita.

This is a fairly damning statement, and probably the biggest issue I take with this piece. Imagine being John Hardin, Atlus’s PR manager, and having to read that. (Funnily enough, John is quoted later in the article…) Remember that it was stated earlier that Atlus did make efforts to avoid the dreaded AO rating through their edits. Atlus is doing its best to get this game to market in a sellable fashion. What if a major retailer such as GameStop happened to read those words and refused to carry Dungeon Travelers 2 out of fear of what Philip Kollar is saying? Atlus’s work would be all for naught. They don’t want to be seen as a publisher of pornographic games, but this article creates an image problem for them that they don’t need.

This is the last part I’ll respond to:

Before anyone starts in about how people only complain about this stuff when Japanese developers do it: Nah, it’s just as bad with Western devs. In fact, one of them still owes fans a replacement calendar of guy butts.

Of course there’s one important way that Dungeon Travelers 2 sets itself apart from a game like The Witcher or even something like Dragon’s Crown: the age of its subjects. While we can’t say for sure what Dungeon Travelers 2‘s protagonists are aged, many of them sure look disturbingly young.

The truth is that tabloid video game writers like Philip do tend to complain more when the subject revolves around niche Japanese games and the way they handle sexuality. Hyperdimension Neptunia has been a victim of such mockery. It is the subject of clickbait stories, relegated to being non-content for quick and dirty ad revenue and little else. Rarely do we see any positive coverage from “K + P”, and that’s why alternatives like ours exist and are sorely needed. I’ve yet to see an article from a mainstream gaming outlet that laments the way The Witcher tackles sex, and I’ll bet hell freezes over before I do.

There are two more points I’d like to make: First of all, the age of consent in Japan is lower than it is in the US, so if the female characters in Dungeon Traveler 2 appear younger, that’s probably the reason for it. Secondly, this game is drawn in the moe art style; so as with Dragon’s Crown, we mustn’t fall into the trap of being too judgmental based on appearances.

I understand well that this is an opinion article, but I feel articles like this one are damaging and set back the cause of trying to understand our cultural differences.

 

About Joe Sigadel

Joe is the reporting manager for oprainfall, he is also a broadcaster on Twitch and loves showing off many of the games we report about on his channel. He has also been known to defended Senran Kagura from those who only want to accept it at face value.




  • blockofcheese

    I err on the side of the original author with this. I believe that games in this niche moe category are being sold on the art and character design first before the gameplay even gets considered. If this game was not about sexualization and ogling, there wouldn’t be a calendar of the girls in the game distributed as a bonus with the game but rather it would be something like a map poster or figurine of some sort.

    With that said, I don’t believe those that don’t understand what this category is about should not be making judgments on a game without understanding what the audience for this game is. The everyday gamer, art enthusiasts, or even RPG lovers won’t be buying this game because of what it is: moe. This game is only appealing to those who enjoy moe and anybody else looking at the game is going to immediately reject it because of its themes and art direction of scantily clad women.

    As a final note, just because age of consent is lower in Japan than in the U.S. does not mean it’s suddenly okay to ogle the women in these games; a sixteen year old in Japan is still a sixteen year old in U.S. There’s a reason Hollywood increases the age of characters in films and TV (see: Hunger Games & Game of Thrones) and that is so people do not feel like they are looking at children when viewing. Does it make it right to ogle the actors? No, but it definitely makes it more palatable to the viewer.

    Take this opinion piece with a grain of salt; most people that read that site probably have no idea this niche and fans of it even exist in the first place.

    • PanurgeJr

      I think a bigger grain of salt has to be taken with your reply. I assure you Operation Rainfall’s readers are well aware of such basic Japanese pop culture concepts as moe; to suggest most aren’t even aware of its existence is false.

    • blockofcheese

      I didn’t say reader’s of this site, I said readers of the site that the article was posted. I’m well aware of what this site is and is not aware of.

    • blockofcheese

      readers*

    • Neckto

      Barrel of salt can be purchased at your local distribution center.

    • DDD-kun

      “I err on the side of the original author with this.”

      You shouldn’t, because the man makes it crystal-clear that he never, ever put any lasting hours into his playthrough. And I don’t mean that he just skimmed it (though that’s incredibly likely); Kollar never, ever put any work that a reviewer should put into a game. Especially an involved dungeon crawler.

      1. “…and the women are primarily presented as things for him to interact with; they’re in the game to be rescued, fought or used in combat rather than acting on their own.”

      Every girl in the cast list is there of their own agency. No one held a gun to their heads and said “Join the Royal Library Monster Suppression Team”. All of them have varied circumstances for being there; ducking out of real work, being paid to spy on the main character, happenstance of a battle—the reasons are all diverse and they ALWAYS include the ladies being present from their own agency. The main character’s role is that of the tactician and ultimately the person that seals the monsters as it’s difficult to “kill” monsters from a story perspective (a theme reinforced with postgame content bosses).

      2. “As you can see in the trailer below, Dungeon Travelers 2 presents its hand-drawn female leads in various states of undress and, beyond that, in full-on sexual situations.”

      Except for the moments where Princess Eltricia is striking out into the world to make something of herself to simply be more useful to her royal bloodline, and thus all of her option scenes and her main focus heavily on the fish-out-of-water vibe she has going. Or Connette’s notorious laziness and demotivation, where if she’s doing something nice, it’s because you just picked up a rare snack item that she wants; or even she’s EATING it and the crumbs attract a random monster hoard. Or perhaps Tsurara, whose solemn and thorough ninja training drives the main character up the wall because she’s so quiet that she vanishes from his senses, he negotiates with her to wear a bell…and she STILL manages to be stealthy after that.

      The game’s primary sale is fun through comedy and risque humor. And yes, there’s loads of sexual humor. But it’s not the vast majority of the game, and in fact while the cheesecake moments are prominent the CONTEXT of those moments is often something more normal or lighthearted (Alicia, the group’s main fighter, training in the courtyard, Yae the Lachrann princess Samurai relaxing on a day off gambling, Yuni the bard practicing singing, Ist’s the maid’s hilarious gourmand moments and teasing the main character about a presumed relationship).

      3. “The goal is not to get one of the game’s many women to fight alongside you or to forge a deep relationship with them; it’s to eventually see them naked and probably doing something demeaning.”

      Just covered this; I think I provided enough samples to show this point as invalid. He did not pay attention to a single character in the roster long enough to be able to justify this statement.

      4. “It is, for all intents and purposes, a porn game, or the closest you can get to a porn game on the PlayStation Vita.”

      And here, he proudly displays his ignorance not just of porn games, but of the total content available on the PSVita, and the origin of those contents. ToHeart2, ToHeart2: Dungeon Travelers, Utawawerumono—all three of these are products developed by Aquaplus, the same developer for Dungeon Travelers 2. All three of those titles have 18+ versions floating on the PC; in ToHeart2’s case, the game was originally an all-ages clean title for the Playstation 2, but either fan clamoring or company demand convinced Aquaplus to turn to Leaf (the PC/adult game creator and sister company) to develop an 18+ version for PC. So Dungeon Traveler’s 2 doesn’t even come close to qualifying as a porn game in its own developer’s backyard, to say the least of what else is offered on the Vita that has origins or successors in genuine adult games.

      The man is wrong, he doesn’t know the audience these games were made for nor the purpose for which they were made. And I’m not often to stating this, but he should honestly stay in his own lane if all he has to offer is sweeping ignorance for Japanese games.

  • SullenSamurai

    Well to be fair, I don’t think it’s quite as simple as the legal age of consent simply being lower in Japan as, much like the US determines these things at the state level (which causes altogether way too much confusion), Japan effectively determines this at the prefectural level via anti-obscenity laws, which typically knock the age of consent up to 18. However, this is purely for sexual relationships; any relationship that can be proven to involve sincere romantic involvement is not affected, and then we have have an age of consent hovering around the 13/14 year mark. This is as far as I know, mind you; if someone knows better than I feel free to correct me.

    Either way, I find it hilarious (read: imbecilic) how Americans on average seem to apply some sort of magical properties to the age of 18, as if individuals suddenly graduate from childhood to adulthood at this age and then and only then possess adequate maturity to tackle heady subjects like sexuality and self-agency. Where I live, the legal age of consent is 17, but most are unaware of this, thinking it to be 18. Informing them of this frequently elicits horror, as if the one year difference is earth-shattering. Not trying to ruffle anybody’s feathers, but thanks to a magical process we call “puberty,” nature is meant to tell you who is and isn’t off-limits, not arbitrary laws determined by people. Being attracted to someone, real or fictional, who is *gasp* underage should not be viewed as some sort of massive affront to human decency (much less grounds for legal action), so even if we’re dealing with a fanservicey game with undeniably (as in stated in-game) “underage” characters, people, regardless of region, need to learn to cope.

    Of course, legal age of consent laws have nothing to do with illustrations/animations, and trying to determine an illustrated character’s age via only appearance is a fruitless enterprise anyway. Disliking a fanservicey game for being too laden with cheesecake is one thing, but claiming it’s pornagraphy is fallacious; claiming it’s child pornagraphy (as I heard some describe Dungeon Travelers 2 and similar titles) because *inhale* “this short, cutesy character with small breasts who doesn’t even remotely resemble an actual human being is clearly meant to be 11 despite there being no actual evidence to back such a claim” *inhale* is not only fallacious, but asinine as well.

    …But I guess that’s just my opinion. Sorry for the novel.

  • Daniel Pina

    “I’ve yet to see an article from a mainstream gaming outlet that laments the way The Witcher tackles sex, and I’ll bet hell freezes over before I do.”

    Erm… Polygon just pulled a polygon on the Witcher 3 review. The game is fantastic but 8/10 because they could only find caucasians in a nordic fantasy setting and Geralt has consensual sex with women.

    • I guess I will eat my words then.

    • Daniel Pina

      In your defense, Polygon might be on the way out of the “mainstream media” status and the “reviewer” was the same who did the infamous Bayonetta 2 “review”.

      Polygon obviously chose the same guy to make the same clickbait crap to generate long-needed ad revenue.

      Remember:
      “I had one editor tell me flat-out that the site needed a boost one month, and I needed to give a big-name release a low score.”

      From http://goo.gl/T9hjuR

    • I’m not a fan of the way big titles like Witcher/Gta get to skip the majority of the reaction line from our regular big publications where as JP titles or those of a similar art style get huge amounts of complaints. We have on one side a field of people trying to push down what they see as some form of sexual pandering whilst slipping by are the big existing western companies trying to push their limits of what they can have in their game. Whilst not getting the same age rating as some of these imported titles. Despite some of them including more in your face adult content.

    • amreese

      GTA just gets sued a lot and gets a lot of litigation thrown against it for what they do. They also get governments trying to stop people from buying their game. I’d say GTA doesn’t get to skip anything.

    • Well it still gets a lower age rating and a different kind of treatment from the majority of users. & The company is still trying to push it. Ok its not to say it doesn’t get some flak aswell. But I didn’t really see a reaction like what we have now with dungeon travelers ? from most press sites we hear from?

    • amreese

      It’s more due to the apparent age of the females in the game, not really due to the mature content being shown. That’s usually the case for backlash against these sorts of games. If Japan didn’t have some sort of fixation for over-sexualizing jail bait, it might not get as much controversy.

  • Mr0303

    So long story short, some video game “journalist” who hasn’t played the game is judging it based solely on how it looks. Yes, it has fan service, but calling it a porn game is an insult to the 100+ hours I put into dungeon crawling.

    Also going to the same old talking point of comparing anime like characters (you know – cartoons) to children and trying to shame people with the paedophile label is quite low.