After Tetsuya Nomura confirmed changes in Tifa’s design in Final Fantasy VII Remake were due to their internal “ethics department”, Square Enix has clarified exactly what the department does.
Speaking to Polygon, a Square Enix representative explained the ethics department was to help the game meet an anticipated age rating.
“In the Square Enix Japan studios, the Ethics Department is actually a group within the company that evaluates game content to make sure it is aligned with the anticipated age ratings standards across the globe (CERO, ESRB, PEGI, etc). In this case, we want a new generation of gamers to experience Final Fantasy VII Remake and are working very closely with the company’s internal experts to make sure all of the game’s content is appropriate.”
Despite this explanation, international ratings boards seem to rarely have agreements on smaller details of age-appropriate content between them, even within their own country. This is also in spite of claims from Sony attempting to censor sexual content to meet so-called “global standards“, as there is no global standard, hence the different rating boards of each nation.
For example several T for Teen rating games have had prominent, barely covered breasts, groping, and kancho (the Japanese prank of shoving your fingers into someone’s butt). These include Sword Art Online Re: Hollow Fragment, Fairy Fencer F, Skullgirls, Guilty Gear Xrd – SIGN-, Toukiden: Kiwami, and Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3 V Generation. You can find examples from those games here (Editor’s Note: Some lewd content).
WWE 2K16 also earned a T for Teen rating, despite clearly sexual content. “Female wrestlers are depicted with exaggerated-size breasts and/or in outfits that expose large amounts of cleavage; some female wrestlers also make provocative gestures/taunting moves (e.g., pelvic thrusts, bending over in front of the audience, shaking buttocks in an opponent’s face).”
Polygon themselves explain later in the article that the original Final Fantasy VII is rated T for Teen by the ESRB.
“This is a role-playing game in which players embark on a quest to prevent an evil corporation from destroying the world. As players explore this fantasy realm, they can use melee weapons and magical attacks to engage in turn-based combat with various enemies (e.g., human-like characters, giant insects, snake monsters, biomechanical creatures); damage is indicated by a loss of hit points. Cutscenes include additional instances of violence: soldiers shooting at unarmed men; characters getting slashed/impaled with a sword in slow motion. A handful of environments also depict bloodstained floors and walls. The game contains suggestive innuendo in the dialogue during a bathtub sequence (e.g., “Bubby! So you’re the intimate type, eh?” and “Why don’t you stick around and play a bit? Daddy’s so lonely . . .”). During the course of the game, a goddess-like character is dressed in a low-cut top that displays moderate amounts of cleavage. The words “jacka*s,” “goddamn,” and “sh*t” appear in dialogue.”
Elements of this story remind us of the censorship of Street Fighter V in order to earn a T for Teen rating, and the ESRB’s response:
“ESRB provides an informal pre-review process, which is open to all developers and publishers who submit their game for a rating. ESRB does not tell developers and publishers what to put in a game, but we do provide general guidance regarding content that would most likely result in a more restrictive rating. It is then up to the developer to decide how to proceed. Given the confidential nature of this process, ESRB does not elaborate or provide details about which games nor the content that may have been pre-reviewed.”
With a lack of clarity on what is and is not allowed for a Teen rating and its equivalents, could other content be affected (such as blood, language, smoking, or horror elements)? In fact, why advise the changes to the game with so many examples of Teen rated games that have done “worse” sexually?
What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!
In case you missed it, we did a thorough hands-on preview for the game at this year’s E3 – you can read that preview here.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is launching for PlayStation 4 on March 3rd, 2020.