It is now Boxing Day, which means that it is now time to start The Otaku’s Study annual End of the Year Awards for 2013. Over the rest of the month I will be pouring through the thousands of news, reviews and articles I have posted up over the last year and will be naming the best and at time shaming the worst titles, news and events that have taken place. This will eventually climax on New Years Eve with me announcing the top two awards available on this site – Video Game of the Year 2013 and Australian Anime Release of the Year 2013. Following the saying “Save the best ’till last“, I have decided to start off this award ceremony by highlighting what I think has been the biggest conundrum over this year in the video game industry.
This year was an exciting year for Australian gamers, with the introduction of the R18+ rating that many hoped would not only bring a wealth of games to our shores unedited, but also would help protect the younger audiences from more mature content that was previously available an an M or MA15+ level. It has worked to a degree despite a number of teething issues and a couple of controversial refused classifications (Eg. Saints Row IV that was later revised to an MA15+ with a small amount of content removed and a later release date). While I don’t deny that there has been some considerable benefit, there was one issue that left me questioning the classification process in general – how in two years a game that was on sale pretty much for all-ages is now restricted to those over the age of 18.
Therefore… my Conundrum of the Year 2013 goes to the R18+ Australian Video Game Classification of Atelier Totori Plus.
Take a minute to look at the above video… cute isn’t it? Atelier Totori was originally classified on the Playstation 3 back in mid-2011 and walked away with a suitable classification of PG given for mild violence and infrequent coarse language. Having played it for myself when it was first released I would have personally described it as being a suitable classification, and was overall a great game for the younger teen and above audience. There was your classic RPG fantasy violence and a few other minor fanservice scenes but nothing over-the-top.
Last year saw the Japanese development studio GUST work on a Playstation Vita port for the title, essentially coming with a few bonus costumes for the games titular character, complementary DLC content and a few other added bonuses that didn’t do much to contribute to the experience. I broke the story earlier this year that Atelier Totori Plus was receiving an English localization in my article “Atelier Totori Plus: The Adventurer of Arland Seems to Be Headed Internationally BUT.…“. And yes… came with the unpleasant surprise that it had somehow gone from the (almost) all-ages friendly PG classification to an R18+ classification – meaning that it isn’t appropriate for those under the age of 18 to purchase or play.
Why? Apparently Atelier Totori Plus contains:
- Moderate Impact “Themes”
- High Impact Violence (Highest level possible)
- Mild Impact Language
- Moderate Impact Sex
Do you want to know the funny thing? The controversial release of Saints Row IV only merited a “Strong Impact Violence” classification and Grand Theft Auto V also earned a “Strong Impact Violence” rating. So apparently defeating Puni’s in RPG-style combat is worse than both other games which feature what could easily be considered more realistic violence. The formal classification comes with the description of “References to Sexual Violence“, but I have yet to see any content of the sort in the game.
Granted this could have been a mistake on their part as this description doesn’t sound like Atelier Totori Plus, if this is the case why haven’t they updated their website over these last six months or so? So assuming this classification is correct it leaves a greater conundrum. Have they essentially made it more difficult for younger audiences to pick up Atelier Totori Plus, a game that is actually appropriate for them…. or have they allowed the sale of a game that should only have been playable in Australia for those who are over the age of 15/18? Honestly, I would go with the former rather than the latter.
So many questions has left the R18+ classification of Atelier Totori Plus as being my “Conundrum of the Year 2013“.
For those worried that more games are going to become R18+, the Australian Classifications Board recently rejected a request by the South Australian Attorney General to reclassify twelve video games including Killer is Dead, The Walking Dead, God Mode and the fantastic Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut.