Getting word that Fire Emblem: Three Houses got an award for Best Strategy at the Game Awards makes me proud for supporting the creators. Just in case if you didn’t know, if Awakening, an older entry in the franchise, didn’t receive the praise at first then Three Houses wouldn’t exist today. It’s quite a miracle that one series got back into the spotlight amidst many competition.
Putting that aside, I play video games here and there. I don’t consider myself as a hardcore gamer and I almost exclusively play JRPGs. Some series that include at the top of my head include Bravely Default, Etrian Odyssey, Pokemon, Shin Megami Tensei, and of course Fire Emblem. I also played a visual novel adventure game which is the Zero Escape series by Kotaro Uchikoshi. The themes can vary, but the similarity to most of them is having an anime artstyle or having a style influenced from anime, you get what I mean? Majority of games always have a semi-realistic to 1:1 style that imitates real life but on a digital world. I find it quite boring despite having a good premise that may lead me into playing the game.
Even though older JRPGs exist with having its own semi-realistic anime style like the Final Fantasy series and Monster Hunter games I still see a barrier between games made from different countries. It may be that some tropes in anime do not fare well in another audience’s perspective. Because, of course, video games is another medium entirely and the same thing goes with the people who support them.
Here’s an example: there are players who don’t like how the Handler is depicted in the newest Monster Hunter World game. Based on my brother’s experience he’s quite familiar of how she acts. She’s basically a walking Genki girl who does most of the research for you while you, the player, just hunt. Her archetype is quite common in most Japanese media that some players never liked her character to the point of being annoyed. My brother wasn’t the least bit affected, since it makes the world more immersive. I sometimes don’t understand why some would put the blame over a fictional character.
It also doesn’t end there. There’s a bias that anime-style designs can only sell if it’s strictly a dating sim. The Persona series, part of the bigger Megami Tensei franchise, uses this mechanic as the selling point in going through the story which is to getting to know the characters more. I still wonder if other players know the fact that it’s not a series of its own but rather a spin-off series. Even the recent Fire Emblem games have their own version called Support Conversations wherein characters interact and sometimes reveal a part of who they are.
And this is where the tricky part comes in. Games with gore get a pass but if a character shows skin, that’s when the game undergoes localization. Anime games with heavy usage of ecchi elements may get revamped to the point it became a different product entirely where the initial vision gets lost along the way. Some character’s own clothing even gets redesigned just because it may be “too provocative”. One instance was seen in Bravely Default.
Slight spoilers in the next paragraph.
There’s a certain quest where you need to beat the Red Mage. The Red Mage is a guy who loves to use pheromones for his female harem. In getting his attention to battle him, one of the main characters Edea Lee wears the so-called Bravo Bikini to infatuate him so the player can get access to the job after defeating him in battle. The design of the costume is different in both Japanese and International releases. Biggest change is that the original design is so revealing it exposed her cleavage and hips. The one that I got it was toned down with her wearing shorts instead where the name is the same except the story of how it goes hasn’t changed at all. Even the the characters had their ages bumped up to a couple of years older for unknown reasons despite having an option to switch voices from English to Japanese and vice-versa in-game. Having their ages changed didn’t affect my experience of playing the game in the slightest.
Spoilers end here.
Still, games with anime artstyles or specific stylizations have a long way to go. I’m just content to see games with this specific art direction in a myriad of games today. Who knows when will come a time where it will be a norm to have it a yearly thing where no one will be criticized of their own preferences. But, that’s life, you cannot control everything at your own fingertips. Sometimes, it may be best to leave it up to those who really want it.