Welcome, everyone, to Japan Service—a new column here on EGM where I’ll be taking a look at some of my favorite finds when it comes to news, announcements, or interesting tidbits from the world of Japanese gaming.
Throughout my years of playing video games, I’ve long had a love for the weird and wonderful creations of those talented developers living on the other side of the Pacific ocean from me. While the Japanese industry has changed quite a bit over the years—and not always in a good way—it’s still a source for some of the most interesting, creative, or downright bizarre experiences you can have with our favorite form of digital entertainment.
The rules for what I’ll be covering in Japan Service are simple: it has to be developed in Japan*, it has to be based around or focused on a title or franchise of Japanese origin, and/or it has to be something that wouldn’t be big enough for us to write a dedicated news posting to it.
* I reserve the right to be a liar and break this rule at times in order to talk about other Asian-developed games.
If there’s one thing I love, it’s when crazy, bizarre, and/or niche Japanese games end up getting released in English in the West. Even when they’re games I may have little interest in playing, I’m always of the believe that the more chances we have to receive such games, the better.
Which brings us a little segment I like to call “I can’t believe this is actually coming out in English,” today staring a PS Vita title known as Monster Monpiece. Coming this Spring, Monpiece will serve as the first official Idea Factory International release, and even if you don’t know the game by name, you might know it through its stint with internet infamy.
Like, for example, animated gifs such as this:
So, okay, an explanation. Monpiece is based around the very popular trend of “card battle” games, where you build your deck of monster girls and then use them to battle against other players (locally or online) who have their own teams of monster girls. Integrated into that are various RPG elements, such as storylines, characters, skills, leveling your monster girls up, and so on.
That last part is where I proceed in explaining what’s going on above—in as much as I can do so having not played the game yet. In order to power up your various monster girls, you’ll need to “seal” their cards. One of the main methods of that is the First Crush ❤ Rub, where you’ll rub your Vita along its two touch surfaces vigorously until some of the monster girl’s clothes come off. At that point, she’ll become a more powerful version of herself.
Look, here’s the thing: I’m not the target for super fanservice-y games like Monpiece, and I’ve gone on my fair share of rants about how I wish so much of Japan’s entertainment industry wasn’t now based around moe and/or pandering to lonely male consumers. At the same time, like I said at the start of this segment, I often support games even when they aren’t directly relevant to me—and that’s the case here. Plus, to be fair, I’m a fan of Idea Factory’s Otomate stuff, and I’m sure there’s plenty of people who see those games as being pandering drivel. Plus plus, to be even more fair, the First Crush ❤ Rub segments are a mini game that serves as one piece of a much bigger, not-as-fanservice-y whole.
There is one catch those looking forward to Monpiece will want to know, though: there’s going to be some editing done to the game. As with Bravely Default, I’m not totally comfortable to call what’ll be going on here “censorship,” but I think the term would be more correctly used in this example instead of with the changes going on to Square Enix’s 3DS RPG.
Here’s the official announcement of what’s being changed for the English-language versions of Monster Monpiece:
Disclaimer for the North American and European versions of Monster Monpiece: Idea Factory International, Inc. would like to inform fans and prospective users of Monster Monpiece that we have made the decision to remove several Monster Girl images from the North American and European versions of Monster Monpiece. The gameplay, game system, and storyline are fully intact and Idea Factory International strives to localize and publish Idea Factory titles with the same content as their Japanese releases. Here is the list of Monster Girls whose images have been limited to that of their level 1, 2, or 3 evolution form due to the strong sexual nature of the card images: Vampire, Kraken, Goblin, Cockatrice, Kobold, Skeleton, Titania, Bahamut, Fia, Brownie, Pegasus, Mandragora, Mau Sibau, Rafflesia, Death Scorpion, Phantom, and Tengu.
We fully understand that there are needs and demands for the complete version of these games. Our intention and motivation is to offer Idea Factory titles in a form that is as close as possible to the Japanese versions. This was a tough decision, but we would greatly appreciate your understanding and support.
Controversy! Not only will Monster Monpiece only be coming digitally—causing some to bitch because they’ll only buy crazy niche Japanese games that really only have a legitimate chance of coming out in the West thanks to digital distribution if they also get an unprofitable and illogical physical release—but some of its monster girl undressing is being stripped—get it, stripped?—from the game.
Here’s the thing: The unfortunately truth about Japan’s moe movement is that sometimes the characters look uncomfortably child-like. Having seen some of the cards in question in Monpiece, I can completely understand why Idea Factory International wouldn’t feel comfortable having players stripping them down in the Western release.
Having seen countless examples of what’s been done to localize games for the Western market during my years, there are choices companies can make that are inevitable or which make sense, and choices companies can make that are going too far or which insult us Westerners (like thinking we won’t understand things if they’re “too Japanese”). This, to me, is an acceptable decision to take in the localization of Monster Monpiece—and if it’s a question of this or nothing, I think this is better. And, kudos for Idea Factory International to be upfront and proactive in informing their customers about the changes.
If there’s something to really complain about, it’s this: why is Monster Monpiece rated M in the United States, yet it received a 12+ rating in Europe? Hmm.
Literally minutes after this column went live, Idea Factory International sent out a press release going into more depth over their decision to edit parts of Monster Monpiece. Here is the text of the release in full:
Idea Factory International is fully aware of the concerns expressed by fans, so we would like to inform everyone about the censored images in greater detail.
Monster Monpiece is a card battle game, in which players summon various “Monster Girls” onto the game’s battlefields and then fight their opponents. These cards—meaning the “Monster Girls”—are able to be powered up by exposing themselves (taking off their clothes) via the level-up features called First Crush Rub and Extreme Love. 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. This means that over 300 cards are left untouched from the original images. That said, 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. We would like to emphasize that the game’s playtime, the game’s system, and the game’s features are all the same as the original Japanese release, and players can level up their Monster Girls to the highest levels as well, again, matching the Japanese release.
This was a very difficult decision since we work very hard to satisfy our fans and want to bring the same content being offered in Japan. However, Western society is not as lenient as that of Japan when sexual images are involved—especially images of humanoids that appear to be younger than a socially acceptable age. The borderline of what is “acceptable” will always be extremely gray and vary from person to person, but as a responsible company working in the U.S., we had to make the difficult decision that we did. We sincerely apologize for those who do not agree with any level of censorship, but we greatly appreciate your understanding with the decision we have made.
About the rating differences between North America (ESRB, Mature) and Europe (PEGI, 12):
The reason for the difference in these ratings is simply the difference in the rating system between ESRB and PEGI. We received a Mature rating for Monster Monpiece from the ESRB with the censored material we submitted. However, for PEGI, and with the same material assets for their review, they rated it 12+ because of the minimal amount of violence shown in the game. We appreciate your understanding with these rating differences.
Idea Factory International, Inc.
Since we’re already on the subject of games I was surprised to see get a Western release, let’s continue on to Conception 2: Children of the Seven Stars. I’ve talked about Conception 2—and how crazy the idea is— here on EGMNOW before. (If you don’t know what the game is about, I encourage you to go read my previous explanation.)
We knew Spike Chunsoft had somehow convinced Atlus USA to release their game about birthing babies to send into battle with random monsters—and I say that with love Spike Chunsoft, because you also helped get me Danganronpa in English—but now we’ve got an official date for its release: April 15th. That, and the new trailer that you see above.
The problem with Conception coming out is my list of games that I’m certain will never, ever come our way is starting to look a little barren lately, seeing as we’ve gotten this, Monpiece, Steins;Gate, Danganronpa, and others recently.
Last—but, in my heart, never least—is Corpse Party.
Sure, after utterly adoring the Corpse Party PSP remake, I found its “what if”-focused follow-up Book of Shadows to be something of a disappointment. Still, this is a series that I’m ready and willing to give a fresh chance to whenever the opportunity may arise, and that includes the sequel-to-a-sequel that will be Corpse Party: Blood Drive. While I’m trying not to spoil too much for myself, I know the game will pick up where Book of Shadows left off, it’ll be on the PS Vita, it’ll be hitting Japan sometime this year, and XSEED has expressed interest in bringing it our way.
Recently, developer 5pb held an event where they showed off some of the elements from Blood Drive, including the below character models for Ayumi, Aiko, Satsuki, Naomi, and everyone’s favorite, Seiko. (Images come courtesy of Famitsu.com.)
And, of course, I still wait for word on an English-language version of the official Corpse Party sequel, Corpse Party 2: Dead Patient. That, and the hope of a Vita version. (Maybe I should hope for the Vita version first, and then hope that gets translated.)
02.07 – Bravely Default (3DS)
02.11 – Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (360, PS3)
02.11 – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (Vita)
02.11 – Toukiden: The Age of Demons (Vita)
03.04 – Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden 3 (360, PS3)
03.25 – The Witch and the Hundred Knight (PS3)
04.15 – Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars (Vita, 3DS)
Spring – Monster Monpiece (Vita)