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[Dtoid community blogger OpiumHerz shares his experiences gaming in Germany. Want to see your own blog appear on our front page? Go write something! --Mr Andy Dixon]
Salida dear readers,
My name is Jim and I am German. I've been writing a blog series titled "The worst thing about censorship is ███████" for about a year now in order to give you a little insight into videogame censorship, which is still pretty much alive and kicking here in Germany (and elsewhere). In this episode, I'll discuss censorship in various games spanning multiple regions, including Soldier of Fortune II, The Witcher II, Bulletstorm, Balder's Gate, Dead Rising, and more. For more entries, check out my Cblog!
Soldier of Fortune II
We start right off with one of the most ridiculous censorships ever: Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix. You remember how in Half-Life some enemies were exchanged for robots? Yeah, they pulled that one again. Except, this time it wasn't only the enemies. The WHOLE game was robotized. Now don't get me wrong: Soldier of Fortune 1 and 2 were brutal as hell. The gore engine developed for those titles was incredibly detailed and I would dare to say that, as far as simple splatter goes, there are few games that have matched them. You could literally dissect killed enemies up to the organs.
As I said, in Germany the whole game got the robot treatment. This means that not only your enemies are robots (and thus no blood and no gore exists, only sparks fly when you shoot somebody and burning robots don't scream of course, because they know no pain), but everybody. They even have welding seams. In fact, the whole story takes place in a parallel universe, as a convenient text explains. Yeah. The German version of SOF2 takes place in another universe where the machines took over the world and humanity went extinct. Over time, the robots became feeling beings and because they only know humanity, they started living like humanity. Isn't that a great explanation why those robots go to work and have families and build cities with human-like politics and stuff? So while the original story was about biological warfare, the censored version is about a computer virus. I shit you not.
Funfact: the UK version had a region lock. So when you played it in German, it still had human enemies, but no gore. Human enemies in this version just dropped dead and that was it. However, this region lock could be circumvented with a simple console code. I personally had a Russian version of this game, where this region lock was in effect too. So I guess it was coded into every other version.
Also, the censored version is incompatible with uncensored versions in terms of multiplayer. So German players were only able to play against other German players. They also didn't even bother with patching the game to Version 1.03 over here.
And the real kicker? This censored version was still rated 18+, so it got our highest possible rating. Later on the game was released on the original Xbox. It came to Germany completely uncensored -- with the same rating. There is no set process in rating a game in Germany, and stuff like this is the result of that.
The Witcher II
A game that was uncensored for once in Germany was The Witcher II: Assassins of Kings. As you might know, you can have sex with multiple characters in the Witcher games. We're not talking hardcore pornography here, but still a good bit more explicit than what Mass Effect gives you.
[Censorship is bad. --Andy]
Surprisingly it was Australia that had a problem this time around. Two of the sex scenes were too "hot", so they were simply completely removed. In these cases the dames offer sex as a reward for quests. In the uncensored version the player can decide to decline the offer or take it. In the Australian, version the answers are already set and the dialogue runs on itself down the path, that Geralt declines the offer. Nonetheless the game got the rating 15+ in Australia, which was the highest possible rating back in the day.
Staying with the RPGs, Baldur's Gate 1 and 2 were also censored -- this time in Germany again. Blood and gore are a factor again and while these games had not much to offer, it was removed nonetheless. The blood splatters were so small you could barely see them anyway and the gore wasn't too much of a real gore fest either.
Also, a little flow of blood in the intro scene was removed in Baldur's Gate 1. These censorships went over to the sequel. But BioWare apparently felt sorry for the German players. With a simple edit of the .ini file you can activate the brutality again in all its pixely glory. So it's cool.
The enhanced versions that were released over Steam recently were uncensored. Sadly, though, they are available only in English. Now while I play pretty much every game in English or its native language, Baldur's Gate had a genius German translation. You see, the dub contained different English accents. Of course you can't translate those to German and the game got a full German dubbing. So instead they simply took German accents. This is hilarious because most of Germany looks down on Bavaria and East-Germany for their accents. Imagine a game dubbed completly with different kind of hardcore-hillbilly accents and you kinda understand. However, I do honestly love the German Baldur's Gate dub and am sad it's missing.
When it comes to the Nazis, as I explained earlier in a longer entry solely about that topic, we Germans are a bit sensitive. So it doesn't really surprise that the NES cult classic Bionic Commando was censored for the European release. However, this is one of the games that was censored not only for Europe, but for the whole western release. So not only did we get no Nazis to fight, but neither did the US. That is already mirrored in the title: Bionic Commando is known in Japan as Top Secret: The Resurrection of Hitler. And you can already see it on the cover:
So you removed a few symbols, you change the title screen and done is the censored version. As I said before in the Nazi-themed episode: it's totally stupid. Once you see the in-game graphics you know it's about the Nazis, because when you decide the replace the Hakenkreuz with an eagle (which was also prominently used as a Nazi symbol) then it's not really hiding what the enemies are.
In 2008, Bionic Commando got a little remake, called Bionic Commando ReArmed. And the most famous scene from the game was censored -- this time exclusively for Germany. In the final scene you have to fire a rocket at Hitler's helicopter. Your reward is a closeup of his face exploding. This scene was already there in the NES version. In the German version, however, you simply shoot your rocket and the wonderful orchestrated slow motion scene doesn't happen. Instead it transits right to the scene where the helicopter goes down.
You know who else fought Nazis? Indiana Jones! You know whose click and point adventure got censored in Germany? Indiana Jones'! While it was perfectly fine to fight the Nazis in the movies in Germany, the same couldn't be said for the LucasArts (RIP) adventure Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. So as usual, the symbols were removed.
And again: the way they did it was so utterly stupid that I can't find really words for it. Because, especially in Germany, we surely will never know what this could be! Also, the texts of the game were censored to remove the word "Nazi".
Usually it's the US where sex is removed. In the case of Dead Rising the Yankees got the uncensored goods for once. You might wonder now: where can you find sex in Dead Rising? Well, on a t-shirt. And a classic painting. You can obtain a white shirt in the game that has the black drawing of a topless woman on it (you can find it in the shop "In the Closet"). You can also find an old looking painting (in the shop "Casual Gals") which shows a topless woman. Except that in the European version both women wear bikini tops.
This is one censorship that can be easily overlooked though. It's already hard to spot when you look at the pictures and you will most likely not even notice this when you use the painting to smash zombie heads in. WHY anybody would think this censorship was necessary is a total riddle. At least in Germany it didn't protect the game from getting confiscated.
Final Fantasy VIII
Also a really minor censorship happened to Final Fantasy VIII. On its way out of Japan it fell into a bucket with clue color in it and a single boss got his organs recolored. They also threw its Triple Triad card into the bucket.
Now I must add that I've heard of a good lot of changes in the translation about this one. Since I don't really speak Japanese I can't say anything about this. I would expect however the "usual" changes, meaning that certain food names were changed to more Western food, etc.
Staying with the topic of recolored blood: DOOM 64! Now if you think that only the Western world censors their videogames you are wrong. In fact, Japan censored their games more often than you might think when it comes to violence. Of course, most Western communities never notice this. Why would you import Resident Evil 4 from Japan, when it gets an uncensored release in your country anyways, for example? DOOM 64 is one of those games that got censored only in Japan. Enemies now bleed green.
The funny thing is that all the gore that is lying around in the levels and on the corpses still is colored red. Only the "active" bleeding was repainted (a technique that was also used for the US TV broadcast of the anime "Naruto", by the way -- blood was okay, as long as it wasn't actively flowing out of wounds), making this censorship a bit strange.
This game was even released in Germany (pretty unexpected because it's DOOM) and got rated 18+. A whole fat lot of good that did, because the game was indexed anyway. Back in the day it was possible to index a game even if it got rated -- something that isn't possible anymore (thank fucking god for that).
Speaking of unusual stuff: that something with a rating 0+ gets censored is pretty unusual. FIFA 13 was hit by the censorship train, however (and 11 and 12 for that matter, too). And I think this is the only case where I will say this, but: the game is better for it. The game has in-game advertising for real sponsors. Some of these sponsors are betting companies, like bwin or SBOBET. Their logos were removed when you play the German version, resulting in nice and "clean" shirts of the players of Real Madrid, West Ham United, Wigan Athletic, and the Wolverhampton Wanderers.
If you switch the language to anything else but German, however, the game is uncensored. So if this removal has actually done anything for the rating is somewhat questionable.
In the other versions of FIFA those sponsors were removed, too. In those versions there were the sponsors of different clubs, however.
The King of Pop
Staying with unexpected censorship: I'm sure most of you are aware of Michael Jackson's Moonwalker. It's a bit hard to speak of real "censorship" here, since the comparison is drawn between the Master System and the Genesis version. When you play the Club level there are women in cocktail dresses blocking your way. They don't attack you, they don't even damage you when you touch them. But what does good ol' Michael do to get past them? He kicks them, that's what!
After Michael gives them on the kisser they let him pass. These "enemies" are completely missing the Master System version though.
Now I think it's pretty well known that Australia in general has a problem with "real" drugs in games. The UK had a long time a big problem with certain weapons: butterfly knives, shurikens and nun-chucks were often censored (you wouldn't believe how hard the Turtles got hit by this). So back in the day when the original Shadow Warrior released there was one minor change.
Yep, you're throwing darts instead of ninja stars. The UK, however, decided they wanted to be a cool kid some time ago, so these censorships aren't really contemporary anymore. In the recently released Shadow Warrior Classic Redux on Steam, you can simply decide if you want to use darts or shuriken.
I already mentioned that religious stuff often got censored in ye olde days (and I'm sure I'll devote a whole entry to this topic one day). Another thing that often got censored for the Western market were references to smoking and/or alcohol. One of the better known censorships is from Super Mario Kart, where the victor of the cup gets a bottle of champagne. The animations for Bowser and Peach were changed here.
In the original, Bowser just gulps the champagne down like the animal he is, while Peach takes a good sip and gets a red face afterwards. In the Western version, the bottle was simply tilted in Bowser's hand so he doesn't drink anymore. Princess Peach throws the bottle in the air instead of drinking from it.
Again: this is such a minor censorship that it really doesn't matter, but this kind of censorship was very typical for the 16-bit era.
And for the last game of this entry we go out with a bang -- or a little, pitiful whimper in the German version. Who likes some mindless, violent fun? Everybody, that's who! And rarely did this description fit a game better than it fits Bulletstorm. You have a whip with which you can pull enemies towards you, you have a boot with which you can enemies kick away from you, and about one hundred different kinds of hazards. The game gives you points for creative ways of killing enemies, like say pulling an enemy towards you, kicking him in the air and then shooting him. Of course stuff like kicking enemies on spikes works perfectly fine too. So you see, the violence and gore are a pretty integral part of the game.
Too bad nothing of that was left in the German version, huh?!
I won't even start to get angry that this game STILL got an 18+ rating in its totally butchered version. But I don't lie when I say that the only form of graphic violence left in this game is that you actually shoot at enemies. As you can see on the screenshot above, there is, of course, no blood. And I mean this very literally. Enemies don't bleed. The mutants don't bleed (although their blood isn't even red). The so-called Final Echo Elites, which bleed a yellow-green liquid, don't bleed. The surroundings were completely scrubbed clean of any decorational blood. Even blood splatters on your own screen when you get hit were removed. And of course you can't remove body parts anymore.
See that above? That's a pretty standard finisher, where you pull the head off with the whip. Now the animation is still in there, but the head simply stays where it is. No blood, no gore, no nothing. Of course you can't sever limbs anymore, either. There is also a weapon which shoots a kind of rocket-drill. This weapon leaves a nice hole in the enemies' chest. Of course the enemies in the German version look like nothing happened to them after they get hit with this baby.
For some reason they also censored the corpses, but only those of the Burnout enemies. While they usually shrink until they are gone, they simply dissolve in the German version. Why this way of "removing" the corpse is better than the other one -- your guess is as good as mine here. And while we're at corpses: some special fire modes leave only a skeleton behind in the uncensored version. This doesn't happen in the German version.
And last but not least, of course the cutscenes were censored in this way too.
It's a miracle that they actually kept three things uncensored: corpses still have ragdoll effects (they like to remove those), the spider enemies still splatter into pieces, and the pre-rendered cutscenes are untouched.
Now after the trailer and seeing the uncut version, nobody here really expected this game to come over here uncensored. But censoring a recent game on this level is almost unique (the only other example that comes to mind is Left 4 Dead 2, which I will cover eventually in its own entry). That this game still got rated 18+ is a slap in the face. And you know a game's censorship is really bad, when even the German magazines complain about it (you can consider yourself lucky when they even MENTION that the game is being censored). This is censorship in its worst form and the German version of this game isn't worth one single cent, seeing how this game simply lives off its over-the-top violence.
Another slap in the face was an interview with People Can Fly's former boss, Adrian Chmielarz. In an interview in 2010 he said:
"Luckily for us, we haven't been asked by anybody to tone down the violence. This is a game for adult people and I hope people realize these characters are not real. We will have things like mature language filters, so if you want to turn it down yourself if you want to. If that then makes it possible to release Bulletstorm in Germany? I have no idea. We're working on it, I guess. If we can, it will be awesome [...] We want to give this to German players, which is a big PC market. But if we can't... there's always Amazon."
The last part is the important one here. Basically he said: this game will come uncensored or you'll have to import it. (Yes, this is me interpreting the text.) And this time even EA chimed in and stated that they would try anything to get Bulletstorm in an uncensored state to Germany. Yes, EA tried to do the right thing for once.
As you can see, that didn't work out. Thinking about it, I can only imagine they tried to make the German version as useless as possible on purpose. Because all of this censorship would definitely not have been necessary for a rating in Germany. That they really wanted to rip the game of all of its atmosphere ("Oh my god, our spaceship crashed, and the whole crew died. No, there are no corpses for you to see, you monster.") as a form of satire. I can't explain this version in any other way.
So, if you just read this blog and never read any of my blogs before this: go on and do it. You will find a list of all my censorship related entries in chronological order on the right. Because I will go on break for a while now with this stuff and collect some new ideas and material for more episodes, take care of some things and try to simply just game a bit again. I'm doing these blogs since last April now and I feel that the batteries are drained a bit. And if you enjoyed my entries so far, don't fret: they will come back. It just takes some time. If you have any questions regarding the censorship in Germany in the meantime, just hit me up via PM. And if you understand German you can check out my pals at schnittberichte.com, which is also where I steal all the pictures from. And if you are interested in Anime censorship reports, check my profile, there are a few hundred up there.