The things that happen when people try to adopt Americanization without the soul

While releasing Sengoku Basara, Capcom attempted to appeal to the western audience, by removing all Sengoku references in favor of a generic fantasy story vaguely connected with Capcom’s hit franchise Devil May Cry (a DMC-type font was even used for the cover title of Devil Kings).

An extract from IGN interview with the game’s producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi:[1]

Kobayashi: In Japan, Devil Kings is called Sengoku Basara, and it focuses on Japanese history in the same sense that Dynasty Warriors focuses on Chinese history. So it’s similar in that sense, but with a Capcom style, a Capcom flair to it. We took the concept, and said, “What can we do to differentiate this to make this different from the Dynasty Warriors games?” And we decided the secret maybe lay in some other games Capcom has done. We said, “Let’s give the characters a kind of Devil May Cry flair — some really cool moves, like the kind of things you might see in Devil May Cry. Let’s the characters and make them all vastly and distinctly different from one another, like Street Fighter II.” That’s the Japanese version. Then, we said, “Okay, let’s release it in North America — what can we do to make it different again?” So we said, “Okay, we’ll make it dark.” Call it Devil Kings. The main character sold his soul to the devil. We’ll darken up the background, give more moves, more ability to power your character up, and things like that for the American market.
IGN: Plus it’s not historically accurate?
Kobayashi: The Japanese version of the game is based on Japanese history. There are some fantasy elements that didn’t actually happen, of course, but enough of it is there. With the U.S. version, we’ve taken that element out entirely. Some of the backgrounds may retain that eastern flair. Many of them don’t and are brand new; many of the enemies are brand new; and it’s no longer based around the idea of feudal Japan at all. That part of the game has now been changed to be darker, devilish.

Well, did you think that was a good idea?

These alterations were regarded as unpopular, as the Devil Kings version was a critical and commercial failure, and no more Sengoku Basara games were brought to North America and Europe until the release of Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes in the fall of 2010.

It’s usually not a good idea to take the soul out of something. The Japanese had this tendency to believe Americans love power and powerups, but in fact Americans like history and context as much as anyone else, the Japanese included. While the American military does forever seek more powerful weapons and the American government seeks more and more power, that’s not the same as what the commercial free market of America desires. It wasn’t true back then in the US and it certainly isn’t true now.

This is what happens when you don’t understand cultural differences and try to make economic gambles in ignorance. A lot of times changes are made due to economic restrictions, but here you saw that Capcom intentionally went out of their way to “add features” which in reality detracted from the draw of Sengoku Basara. Generic fantasy will always lose out over specific, historically real, heroes. Hollywood could not have created the Spartans or the Battle of Thermopylae if you gave them a million typing monkeys and a million years to work with. Truth is often stranger than fiction.

The Japanese of earlier times were rather xenophobic. They had an intense pride in their own nation and culture, but expected other cultures to be like themselves: wary of foreigners. But the United States is something foreign to the Japanese senses. The US is a culture with a strong tradition and love of country, yet at the same time this love comes from embracing, not rejecting or fearing, other cultures. Thus the primary reason why Americans like anime, especially amongst the younger generation, is that it is different. It is quite obvious that the show came from a different culture with different expectations and aesthetics.

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Explore posts in the same categories: PC Games, Spirituality

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