He’s gone, really, according to gaming blog Andriasang, because of the rules that CERO has in place for every game. CERO is the Japanese equivalent of the ESRB, the ratings board over here in the States, though their requirements are a bit different from ours. For example, two of the rules they have against “scenes deemed malicious to an existing person/country” have apparently replaced North Korea with “A certain country in the North” and Kim Jong-il with “Northern Leader”.
If you’re not sure what Homefront is, it’s THQ’s new shooter that’s headed to retail in March. It features the somewhat sketchy premise of North Korea’s successful unification of the peninsula and its preparation in the years since for war, culminating in half of the United States falling for a surprise invasion. The story puts players in the shoes of a grassroots resistance movement in occupied America as they take up the fight. With the tensions between Japan and North Korea, it’s probably not too hard to understand why this might be a somewhat sensitive topic.
It’s also not the first time a game coming in from the States has had to go through the wringer in order to enter certain markets. Australia’s somewhat draconian rules have made headlines over the years for their handling of titles such as Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2 which only entered the country via a German version that was already edited for content. Typing in “video games banned” in Google brings up “video games banned in australia” as an auto-complete term.
Even the United States has its own funny rules on censorship. One example that jumps out is how the NES’ port of Bionic Commando originally pit the player against Nazis complete with Hitler at the end – until it was whitewashed when it came over here. The Japanese fought a vast, neo-Nazi empire while we got – Badds and Master D. Now, more than twenty years later, it sounds as if they’re getting the Bionic Commando treatment. Of course, the difference is that one game was based on history and sci-fi; the other more on speculation on current events.
Things have somewhat relaxed a bit since then, even for Nintendo, and I’m also sure the Japanese audiences looking at the game know exactly who Homefront’s story is really pointing to. THQ is also apparently okay with it leaving it to Spike in Japan to handle the distribution there. As long as the gameplay itself proves to be just as interesting, a relatively small change like this shouldn’t keep Japan’s gamers from finding the same amount of fun that other gamers elsewhere are hoping to get from Homefront.