The Business Of Making Gorgeous Visual Novels And Releasing Them Outside Japan

By Ishaan . July 10, 2013 . 2:36pm

Visual novel publisher MoeNovel recently published their first English-language release—If My Heart Had Wings, a visual novel about a boy, Aoi Minase, and a wheelchair-bound girl, Kotori Habane, who revive their school’s defunct Soaring Club. “A tale of boys and girls who loved the sky,” is how the game is described on its website.

 

If My Heart Had Wings is different from most current-day visual novels on PC, in that it has been rated by both the ESRB and PEGI. Additionally, the game has also had any explicit content taken out of it. This is because MoeNovel hope to target a broader audience with their games than your average visual novel does.

 

Siliconera caught up with one of the producers at MoeNovel, Fujisan, to ask about the game, why MoeNovel made the choices they did, what their thoughts on the Western visual novel market are, and where they plan to go from here.

 

MoeNovel’s “About” page says that you’re a company that will focus on visual novels with high-quality visuals and cinematics. Is this something you feel the visual novel market in the West is lacking?

 

Fujisan, MoeNovel producer: I don’t think many visual novels released in the West are of high picture quality yet. In the past couple of years, more HD visual novels like IF MY HEART HAD WINGS have been slowly coming out in Japan, but it’s not as if all of these titles are being localized and released in the West. With that reality in mind, I still feel that most visual novels in the Western market are released with a resolution of 800×600 pixels.

 

I think there have probably been titles that have a theatrical flair to them that were released in the West before, but not many like IF MY HEART HAD WINGS, which add in animation and script-acting to create a product with a sense of movement.

 

What else do you think the visual novel market in the West lacks at the moment?

 

Officially localized and released visual novels are few in number. That and also makers that actively try to spread the Japanese-born visual novel game genre to the West are few in number too. Perhaps for that reason, I feel that there are also few Western-made visual novels. Of course there are visual novel creators out there in the world, but not to the extent that you could say the visual novel genre is commonplace.

 

This is still a sort of far off dream, and of course MoeNovel is simply a company that officially localizes and releases visual novels in the West, but sometime in the future I’m hoping that we can help out people wishing to create visual novels in various countries on a commercial level and perhaps offer them help by lending know-how on the matter from Japan. I think if we could do that, it would lead to the stimulation of the visual novel market.

 

We’ve heard so many stories over the years about various visual novel publishers being wary of the West and also being difficult to work with. Especially since you intend to focus on more “high-end” visual novels, are you worried about being able to license the kinds of projects you want to work on?

 

In working on this project, of course I discussed this with many industry people, but I was repeatedly told, over and over, that “The Western market is difficult.” Thinking of it business wise, I’m sure it’s not uncommon to not see any results for a long time, and we have to move projects along somewhat blindly, so I’m sure it won’t be easy. I fully understand that this isn’t going to be an easy ride. But our number one motivation is in wanting people all over the world to know about the Japanese-born game genre known as visual novels. Business is important too but that motivation is stronger.  Rather than quitting because we hear that the Western market is a difficult, we’re going to give it a try. We at MoeNovel really take this to heart.

 

The reason we’re sticking to high resolution graphic visual novels is because of the changing user environment. Nowadays even smart phones have high-resolutions, and PC monitor resolutions continue to get better as well. Amidst such circumstances, we thought that customers might feel unfortunate about being stuck with titles in the 800 x 600 size resolution, so we decided to stick to high-resolution visual novels. That’s not to say there aren’t interesting visual novel titles in the 800 x 600 resolution. MoeNovel runs on the idea that it wants to spread to visual novel genre to people that might not know about it, so it’s not as though we’re only going to release high-resolution visual novels like IF MY HEART HAD WINGS. If there are any titles that we really feel we want people from around the world to play, there’s always the possibility that we might release such titles even if they aren’t high-resolution.

 

Tell me a little more about MoeNovel. Are visual novels for the West currently your only business? Or are you associated with any other publishers?

 

MoeNovel isn’t trying to restrict its focus to the West, and is set up as a brand that aims to release visual novels to all areas that have an understanding of English such as South-East Asia or South America, so visual novels are our focus for now. We expect to continue working around that concept, but as our brand becomes more familiarized to people around the world, if there are any interesting requests or opinions, we may very well give those a try as well.

 

We do have some interaction with other publishers too. The only thing, though, is that everyone seems only to be looking at where MoeNovel is headed in the future, so they are only casual relationships. We may become more involved in the future depending on circumstances, but to be honest I can’t say too much.

 

Why pick the name “MoeNovel” if you intend to release games that Westerners will enjoy? “Moe” tends to have a certain stigma attached to it in the West, so I’m curious as to whether you think this will affect people’s perception of you or not.

 

One of the reasons we used the word “moe” in our brand name is of course because “moe” is an important keyword within the otaku culture of Japan. But more than that, the word “moe,” written in kanji as 萌, originally means “to sprout,” as in grass or saplings, or alternatively to forecast events or to indicate the future. This original meaning has more meaning as to its application to our brand name.

 

We thought this apt for a new brand that’s meant to spread the Japanese-born visual novel genre throughout the world, and so we chose “MoeNovel.” In the west the word doesn’t have a very positive connotation? I find that unfortunate. It traditionally has a very positive feeling to it, and is used in very old traditional Japanese songs (waka) as well. Perhaps Westerners are more used to seeing it be used in ways like, “Ooh, I like you!” or something, and unfortunately this is what’s been focused on regarding the word.

 

Within the otaku culture, if you analyze the term “moe,” perhaps it could be described as a “sharing of a feeling.” They feel a character someone else create is cute, or that they’re cool (燃え). Maybe they feel a story to be wonderful, or get sucked into it. To sprout such feelings and share them with one another is what we think of when we think of “moe.” If Westerners don’t have a very positive impression of the term “moe,” we at MoeNovel would like spread our interpretation of the term “moe”.

 

One game I feel that recently did manage to find a different audience than the typical visual novel crowd in the West is Kara no Shoujo (above). 5pb’s games tend to be popular as well, so I think what a lot of people are looking for is games that are a little more “adult” in nature. Do you have any thoughts of your own on what the West wants?

 

Regarding the popularity of Kara no Shoujo, I feel that the illustrator Miki Sugina’s influence is quite strong, and I like his illustrations as well. Miki Sugina’s delicate visual style plus his unique worldview match very well, resulting in an inspirational piece of work. The music is also quite good in Innocent Gray’s games.

 

I think things like unique atmosphere and worldviews are what draw people in more than the adult themes, but am I wrong? If that’s incorrect I apologize. Whether adult themes are what are sought… This debate is brought up frequently in Japan as well, but there are people who think that visual novels should have adult themes while others don’t think they’re necessary. I also think some people choose to not to pursue adult themes in some games while insist on them in others, and this can naturally occur as well.

 

There’s been a lot of talk about the sexual content and even kissing scenes that were taken out of the game. What was your vision when you decided to do that? And why go to the trouble of getting an ESRB rating? What do you think that will accomplish?

 

As mentioned earlier, our greatest motivation in getting people who aren’t familiar with the visual novel genre to become familiar with it all over the world. This is why we decided to pursue ESRB and PEGI ratings. We wanted to be able to spread the title name IF MY HEART HAD WINGS or the genre name visual novel all over the place. This is so that people who never knew about the game genre or people in their teens can access this topic.

 

It’s possible to take the exact same version as in Japan and localize it and bring it over to the West. But the reality is that we would be unable to bring such a title to people who are unfamiliar with it. So we thought, “What do we need to do in order to get people to become familiar with IF MY HEARD HAD WINGS? How do we get people to become familiar with the Japanese born genre, the visual novel”?

 

The answer was to get an ESRB or PEGI rating. “There are many people all over the world who don’t know about the visual novel genre. We want those people to become familiar with it and take an interest.” This is what we thought. Those who were unfamiliar with visual novels or those who couldn’t take an interest in it, if we can appeal to those people I would consider our work a success.

 

That’s not to say that I look down on visual novels with sexual content. We’re just trying to spread the visual novel genre around that world and increase its reach. Although we’ve cut the sexual scenes, it’s not as though we just cut them out and left the rest as is. We added in new scenes to fill those areas or edited the game to make the plot make sense and have added to the story. And of course we’ve added new voice-overs for such areas as well.

 

Visual novels have proven to be a very challenging market in the West, partly due to piracy and partly due to very few games actually being the right kind of “fit” for the audience here. What do you hope to do differently from other publishers?

 

I’m really hoping that getting the ratings, which other publishers haven’t bothered to do, will make a difference in how well we’re able to diffuse the game. “I love Japanese anime and manga subcultures, but I’m not so sure about so-called hentai games.” People with such opinions are the people we’re trying to reach out to, and we’re hoping they might finally take up the genre.

 

I also want to appeal to South-East Asian and South American youth who understand English as well. When talking about game markets, of course the first areas of discussion are North America, Europe and Japan, but we at MoeNovel want to appeal to people of other countries as well.

 

Is If My Heart Had Wings more of a one-time experiment or do you already have other games that are in the works as well, that you hope to keep feeding to the West, in order to build up an audience over a longer period of time?

 

This is not an experimental sales scheme. As stated previously, our number one goal is to get people unfamiliar with the visual novel genre all over the world to get to know about this Japanese-born genre, and while this might take time, in order to do so we’ll need to release other titles as well.

 

What was it about If My Heart Had Wings in particular that made you want to pick it up? What traits do you look for in the games that you want to license? Is there something in particular?

 

There were other candidates as well, but we wanted to choose something new and something that received high praise from Japanese players. There’s also the fact that the story is one of youthful exuberance, where the main characters and the heroine of IF MY HEART HAD WINGS all strive through adversity and reach for the sky they’ve dreamed of.

 

Fujisan, MoeNovel Producer

Lastly, thanks to all the people who’ve taken an interest in IF MY HEART HAD WINGS. Thanks to all the people who’ve spread knowledge of the existence of IF MY HEART HAD WINGS. Thanks to all the people who have pre-ordered IF MY HEART HAD WINGS.

 

If I meet anyone who’s bought IF MY HEART HAD WINGS, I’ll buy you dinner (laughs).

 

Favourite Manga: Ushio and Tora

Favourite anime: Gintama, Kamisama Kiss, Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day

Favourite visual novel: Portrait

Favourite movie: Kids Return

Favourite movie director: Takeshi Kitano


Read more stories about & & on Siliconera.

  • WonderSteve

    I applaud MoeNovel’s effort and bravery, even though I don’t agree with the censorship.

    I do agree that we should bring more HD Visual Novels over. I would love to see 失われた未来を求めて(À la recherche du futur perdu) be translated to English, in uncensored form.

    Unfortunately, I decide to use my wallet to vote against this localization. I am just afraid the “pure version” will become the standard procedure for future visual novel localization. Technically, MoeNovel can cease and decease any effort to restore the missing content of “If My Heart Had Wings” to the English audience.

    • Crazy_O

      > I am just afraid the “pure version” will become the standard procedure for future visual novel localization.

      That’s exactly what I think too. I appreciate any company bringing over visual novels, but if you think it’s difficult to release an uncensored game, get a game without erotic content in the first place.

    • Crimson_Cloud

      I agree with you, but in all honesty, if they pick one of the VNs that I absolutely need to play, even in butchered form I’ll probably buy it. It’s not like there are a lot of options…

      • JeremyTMH

        There is an option… learn the language. >.>

        • Zak Ledward

          you win an internet, sir

        • DyLaN

          Not every1 can instantly learn and master the language overnight…. I am slowly learning it but it won’t be anytime soon tht I can play a VN.

          • lrdalucard

            True fact, Kanjis are the hardest part of it…

            About Censurship… is easy all they need to do was creat an option ” play full game / play censured game ” wen u run the game for the 1st time(options adjsutable) and jsut make black screen(or somthing similiar) during those scenes and off the voices.
            Even thridparty translators do that on some games translations, why can’t a official company work that out to?

        • Crimson_Cloud

          First of all, not every country has a course where you can learn languages. Secondly, learning through internet requires a LOT of time and dedication. I’m working now so I don’t have too much time to dedicate to it. If you can do it and have the option, it doesn’t mean that everyone can…

          • JeremyTMH

            That’s really an excuse ultimately. I studied Japanese to a level where I can read LNs on MY OWN, back then I was schooling and had lessons almost every single day, ON TOP of part time work to fund my hobby. I still finished my lessons in 1 year to a reading level. That was almost 15 years ago.

            I’m working now as well, 7 days a week running my own businesses. I’m still finding time to practice on speech now, which would help me in business as well as when i visit Japan now and then.

            Sure taking a course would be faster, self learning has it limits, but 15 years ago i reached a level enough for me to enjoy manga, LNs, VNs and games.

            Like mentioned, commitment is the issue here. I am able to read English, Chinese and Japanese. I won’t say my Japanese is on a JLPT1 or above level, but its enough for me to go to Japan and shop and get things then alone. I’m now seriously considering taking oficial lessons to get certification so I can lias better with businesses in japan.

            But at least I did MY effort? Its still a lot better then say a bunch of people who whine about localizations not coming to them, then whine they don’t have time to learn a language or even worse, whine when the localization isnt what they wanted? No one expects to learn a language overnight. But in the amount of time one can complain about localizations, waiting and even more whining, why not use that time to start learning the language in what free time you have and not be keyboard whiners?

      • Corey Owens

        Any VNs that you “absolutely need to play” have likely already been translated to English.

        If they haven’t, they’re probably just obscure eroges.

        • gtharby2

          Baldr Sky is probably exhibit number 1 of something which would be “absolutely need to play” but not translated into English

        • Crimson_Cloud

          Search some more and then say that again.

          • Corey Owens

            I really don’t have to worry about these things since I’m not lazy and am Bilingual.

  • mirumu

    Aside from the specific problems of their If My Heart Had Wings localization, I think they have the right idea in general.

    The best way to get the world outside of Japan interested in visual novels is to produce as high quality ones as possible. This means high production values, HD visuals, animation, quality audio and user interfaces that feel like they’re from modern games. It’s not something I personally care about, but a little gameplay wouldn’t hurt with broadening the appeal too. I like a lot of the old 800×600 classics, but they aren’t going to grow the market.

    Moenovel just have to be careful not to alienate the market at the same time. Censorship has always been a hot topic for gamers even in the mainstream. It’s not an issue they want to get on the wrong side of. I’m not suggesting they should translate and release uncensored eroge, there are too many in society for whom that isn’t acceptable, but that if they want to develop an all-ages market they need inherently all-ages content. Without that they’re wasting everyone’s time including their own.

    Edit: I should mention translation quality too. That’s an absolute must.

  • Juan Andrés Valencia

    Wait… wasn’t Sugina Miki a woman? :X

  • MrSirFeatherFang

    They should sell it at GameStop if they can… I don’t like them (GS) very much, but just having the game in the store can get a lot of exposure.

  • STVR

    It’s good to try reaching out to a wider audience, but censorship is kind of a blow to the niche audiences that would build the fanbase of a product like this from the start. You shouldn’t turn your back to the demands of fans who would buy happily buy the uncut game. Maybe the solution to this would be to release the vanilla edition to retail and such, and at the same time offer an uncensored version for sale on your own website.

  • psycho_bandaid

    I wish them luck, I guess. This game doesn’t look like a visual novel I would get into (Games like 999, Phoenix Wright, or basically games with at least some light adventure game mechanics. For straight up visual novels the only one I have liked so far has been Fate/Stay Night and this doesn’t seem to match at all).

    I guess I qualify as someone from the outside looking in so here is my two cents–I wasn’t interested in this game when it had H content. Removing said content and getting an ESRB/PEGI rating hasn’t made me any more interested. It sounds like a gamble from where I am sitting because it only looks like they are just going to piss off the crowd that actually buys this type of game. However I am going to assume they didn’t go into this venture blind. I figure they’ve done the research and has figured out a way to make it work. I’m just not seeing it.

  • CirnoLakes

    I’m glad to see people standing behind the Visual Novel industry.

    But I hear they have a bad reputation with censorship. You don’t truly stand behind your product if you overzealously censor it.

  • Akai Ringo

    the guy likes Anohana, so he must have his heart in the right place. i just can’t stay totally mad.

    • Aoshi00

      His fav manga is ushio & tora too I used to love it in Sunday and it was pretty violent. So that’s the moe meaning they were going for :)..

      Hmm..a lot of VNs ported to consoles before on PS and Saturn had ecchi scenes taken out too for a broader audience, guess this is not that different to get rated. I don’t like censorship, but personally I don’t like ero or grotesque things in VNs either. Steinsgate was so good and was only Cero C..

      • mirumu

        From what I’ve seen taking out the ecchi scenes is just common practise in Japan and is generally accepted. I don’t think the same is true in the west however.

        • Kevadu

          For console releases, maybe. But:
          1) This isn’t a console release
          2) Releasing an edited console version of a game doesn’t prevent people from playing the unedited PC version. There is no unedited English version of this game being made available.
          3) The censorship in the game actually goes *well beyond* what is normally done for a console version. See my reply to WyattEpp. They went totally overboard with the censorship here.

          • mirumu

            You’re preaching to the converted here. The link Andrew A posted above goes into detail about the changes, and I agree. Totally over the top.

      • Hyosuke575

        Not the same, definitely not the same. Ports will remove h-scenes, h-cg, and and possibly edit cg (like towels for bathing scenes). Though they would still keep sexual humor, kissing and hugging ect. The would also do what Moenovel did, and make it so the game would flow well even after taking out the h-scenes. They would also choose their titles to port, better than Moenovel did. Like a title where the adult content wasn’t apart of the story (like a certain character’s route was in this game). So it’s certainly not the same. Then again their rating system isn’t a stringent as ours, and how afraid we are with anything that involves younger looking characters….

        • Aoshi00

          I don’t know how extensive Moenovel’s editing is, but what they are doing is removing adult contents to reach a broader audience right? how is it not the same as console ports for PC dating sims w/ H-scenes? Like Doukyuusei or Kakyuusei and such. The PC originals had nudity but the console ports didn’t. I know sometimes Hollywood movies are censored in other countries as well (like Singapore which is really strict). Well, personally I don’t really play PC VNs w/ sex scenes or graphic violence.. and I don’t depend on what is localized because I understand Jpn.

          Actually this is the same for violence in games in Jpn. Jpn gamers didn’t like Tomb Raider and the Last of Us (to a lesser extent) being censored either, that’s part of the experience. The corpses in the Jpn TR look like mannequins.. the Last of Us was still bloody, I think there’s just no crushing heads, so it’s no big deal..

          If they’re changing the story though, might be a bit excessive.. so I do agree, if possible, let the audience enjoy the work how it was intended to be. Like 2 SKUs like Catherine (but that’s just different covers outside :)

          Again, I’m not familiar w/ Moenovel because I only play VNs on console (360 this gen mostly).. and back then on PS/Saturn/Dreamcast..

          • gtharby2

            >How is it not the same as console ports for PC dating sims w/ H-scenes?

            The English community isn’t buying console port with H-scenes, so it’s irrelevant, and in Japan they still have the original to play.

            > I know sometimes Hollywood movies are censored in other countries as well (like Singapore which is really strict).

            Legally required in many cases, consumers who do know about the censoring aren’t happy, and those who know how to work around them do so.

            >Paragraph about games censored for Japan

            As you said, Japanese gamers generally weren’t happy about it (or in many cases I’m guessing ignorant about it). It certainty doesn’t help sales with those who would know about the censoring however.

            If there is a broad market that is turned away by H-scenes that is now suddenly reachable with these edits, then what Moenovel is doing makes sense. Censorship isn’t always a failure of a business strategy, just look at the popular TV anime in the 90s and early 2000s which wouldn’t have been aired otherwise. However the strategy fails when the audience knows about the censorship, and thus far it does not appear Moenovel has found a large ignorant market, and has lost the small existing market. But that said, the small existing market probably isn’t large enough to be worth selling to alone.

          • Aoshi00

            Still, the purpose of editing/censoring is the same, watered down ver. w/ adult contents taken out for a broader audience.

            Actually for those who don’t like the localized ver for whatever reason (games, manga, anime), whether it’s translation or editing. They could learn Jpn and import the original, instead of complaining about it. Just like if Jpn gamers are not satisfied w/ Cero rating, they could easily import the American ver on Amz Jpn and play the game in Eng (of course most of them would stick w/ the Jpn ver a language they understand). I didn’t feel like reading some manga in Chinese and didn’t want to wait and wanted to read weekly serialization in real time, so I learned Jpn early on.

            I used to not like censored/edited anime when aired in HK either when I was a kid, like Jpn OP or EDs taken out (I didn’t even like the title change), let alone the heavily edited version of anime aired in the US in earlier times.

            Maybe I’m not the targeted audience of uncensored VNs because I never play PC games. I had only played games like Doukyuusei or Kakyuusei back on Saturn or PS…

  • Hyosuke575

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m really thankful to Moenovel for trying to bring more visual novel to the west. At first I was very bitter towards them, but over time I realized that they are really passionate about trying to increase awareness of visual novels and what they have to offer, and they’re not just half-assing it either. If that were the case, they wouldn’t have edited the story or voiced new lines so it would flow better and would have left it as is. I get it, I really do get all the work this company has put into making this visual novel the best it can be…. but it still feels wrong.

    Censorship is wrong and I’ll always feel that way. If we can’t enjoy something how it was meant to be, then their either needs to be some kind of compromise or it’s better off for them to not bother with it entirely. I mean, they had to make some major edits for one of the characters routes. I also still don’t see the point of censoring kissing and hugging. Especially when our generation tends to have sexual relations (of sorts) at ages as young as thirteen. So I can’t see those scenes they edited graphic enough to deter anyone around that age. As well as with the sexual humor and panty shots. I mean, they include a shot of a duck flying around with panties, but when it comes to a shot of a girl with her skirt hiked up lying on a bed. It suddenly is a problem and is thus edited. Which says to me, as long as they’re not on the girl it’s “okay”. I just, can’t understand there logic most of the time. Not to mention, even though I now they’re not actually saying this. I still get that sense of *screw you” to the fan base that they’re not aiming at. As if they don’t care about us. I know this may not be true, but not once do I feel that they have been sympathetic toward the fan base they no doubt realize they are alienating in the process.

    So I have a love hate relationship with Moenovel, and I really fear that they’re going to keep doing the same thing and nothing is going to change. Even though there are people unsatisfied all over with what they are doing. So all I can do now is wait for the restoration patch since I don’t want to play an inferior version, but it still feels like the cycle will only repeat itself. Since Moenovel has still yet to address the issue at hand. My opinion, take it with a grain of salt.

    • Otaku-Sama

      I can understand your point of view.
      As long as they butcher the original VN to appeal the general audience, I will have love-hate relationship with what they are doing.
      I can feel their passion, and I can understand their goal, but… How do I put it? They catched my heart, but they wont catch my wallet.
      There should be another solution to the censorship issues.
      I mean… Why not try to sell two versions of the game? A censored version, and an unaltered version.
      Given that they took all the effort to translate the whole thing, edit and even add some new scenes to make the plot make sense, they could deliver the original VN without problems.
      I don’t know how they are selling their game (physical or digital), but they could even sell the original version exclusively for download, or They could even sell it as patch for the other version if they wanted, and I am sure they would still make profit.

      • kanade3

        MoeNovel’s excuse is they don’t have the resources for two versions,but even if they did I doubt they would spend it on a uncensored version as they are kinda obsessed with appealing to a wider audience.

        • Hyosuke575

          Yeah there was talk online about a patch or two versions wouldn’t make sense for a company that is trying to reach a broader audience. Since it would be simple to find that the original version actually has h-content for those who are leery of those types of games in the first place. They basically want people to look at the game and only see the type of image they’re trying to convey. Such as a romantic love story, or something deeper. They want to keep their “new” audience away from the original and what could possibly deter them from giving the visual novel a try. Only problem with that logic is, if someone decides to Google even the English name, they’ll still probably find a way to the Visual novel database and find out for themselves what the original really is. Though like I said before, I never really understood Moenovel’s logic in the first place.

  • Andrew A
  • WyattEpp

    To all the people decrying the censoring, an honest question:
    How is this any different from all-ages console re-releases of eroge in the past?

    I mean, don’t get me wrong, I understand that it’s disappointing that we live in a culture so Puritanically unenlightened that gratuitous sex is fine until it leaves the New York Times bestseller list. That really sucks. I’m totally with you on that.

    …But that’s showbiz.

    Pragmatically speaking, what would you honestly expect them to do? I know I saw at least one suggestion to release two SKU, but from a
    business standpoint, that has all sorts of places it could screw you
    over– not an option if you’re serious about gaining a foothold in this
    market. The thrust of the producer’s statements here indicates they’ve put a lot of work into making sure the changes mesh well. In reality, it may even be better off than other releases with cuts; we’ll see.

    • Aerii

      It’s different from all-age console re-releases because presumably the original writer is the one who changed it, and I think they’d know best about what to take out and how to change it.

      Also, censorship is mandatory for release on consoles, so people just accept it. And if you want to play it uncensored… you can just go play the PC version. There is no such option here.

      • kanade3

        The original developer was part of this project in this case. Only problem is they didn’t execute their own strategy for our market well enough which is kinda why we were left with this mess of a all ages game.

      • Lynx

        -censorship is mandatory for release on consoles

        Majikoi R. PS3. For the most part, everything was intact. I can’t remember if ‘those’ scenes were still in though. It’s been a while. I know a fact that the fanservice scenes were unedited.

        Now, I have a sudden kick to re-read it. Great.

        • Logeres

          As far as I know, the sex scenes got cut. It still got a 17+, presumably because of all the fanservice.

      • WyattEpp

        I understand that. But the flip-side is a very cogent business argument: Can it be sold to a lot of people for a profit? In a very real sense, for this to have any chance for a decent release, it had to be ESRB-rated. Yes, that sucks; but you play the cards you’re dealt.

        More to the point, there are strong statistical arguments to be made for bringing it down to the lower end of the scale. The scale that is notorious for being unreasonably difficult to appease. (Even with all that was apparently cut, it’s still listed with “Mild Language, Suggestive Themes”. I didn’t choose to use “Puritanical” for its looks.) So I’m sure you know AO is completely out of the question. You probably understand that an M rating would be a bad business proposition at best. It comes down to T or E, really.

        On that, there’s room for debate, and I’m truthfully not entirely sure where I stand on it. The size of the E market is an order of magnitude greater than the T market, and has more traction in other English-speaking territories, but it involves a lot more changes and invokes fierce and lasting ill will from long-time fans. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Moreover, I’m not especially comfortable with the extent of the changes, if what I’m hearing is accurate; though neither am I in a position to judge whether it truly compromises the spirit of the original work or not.

        Essentially, I think it’s unrealistic to treat the Western market for visual novels in particular as being appreciably different from the console market for visual novels in Japan _for the time being_ if your business goals don’t hinge on becoming a pornography/snack retailer. e.g. for the time being, it’s _de facto_ mandatory for them to censor it to some extent, though how much is up for debate.

        (To clarify, I don’t intend this to be an endorsement of
        what is apparently a fairly heavy-handed treatment, so much as
        to address the parallels with console releases)

        • kanade3

          If MoeNovel can control the backlash it could potentially work out well. The current problem is they are not addressing it which leads to interviews,and third party selling platforms like Densura filled with negative comments about the content being removed which hurts potential sales. We also have to consider that people may feel more inclined to pirate the game,and play it with the patch to try to send a message to MoeNovel.

        • gtharby2

          And I shall not support censored releases, and most of the existing VN market will do the same. That said, the whole point of this is to expand well beyond the existing VN market, so if they can be successful in that without the small existing market, that works out great for them.

      • http://eonhack.blogspot.com theclaw

        I think it’s ultimately fallout from a wider issue, what we should aim for is more content that doesn’t need censorship. The studios responsible for these games have pigeon-holed themselves too much.

    • mirumu

      Is the reaction different from other all-ages re-releases? It happens every time as I recall.

    • gtharby2

      For the most part, people in the West don’t buy all ages console versions of VNs because they are not released here, so asking what we think of the situation in Japan is kind of pointless. Besides the comparison is not useful because such releases in Japan add significant amounts of new content to make it worth buying over the PC version, and they still have both options.

    • Kevadu

      The censorship in this game actually goes well beyond any console edit. It’s completely excessive. It’s not just H scenes we’re talking about, even just hugging and kissing. And much of the *writing* has been changed to remove sexual humor. A whole route for one of the characters was drastically altered.

      Something like 50% of the CGs in the game have been discarded or altered in some way. That’s ridiculous. It’s not even the same game anymore…

      • WyattEpp

        See, now this is interesting information; this at least puts the fan reaction within the realm of reasonable, where before it seemed overwrought by a great deal.

        • JeremyTMH

          Yeah and don’t forget, usually all ages versions come with NEW non-H cgs or events to replace the gap of the H ones.

  • https://twitter.com/Best_Lolicon_NA Best Lolicon NA

    all that aside, I will be waiting for the fan restoration patch before I even touch this, the awful translation and the gaping holes left by their “edits” is to much to warrant even wasting my time.

  • Raika Souku

    not too big on the censorship of the game i felt it took out some key point cause of it this is why i decided to learn japanese i want to play my VN uncensored to get a better understanding and it has a better flow than working around censorship. Over all i like what thier doing in trying to expand VN to a larger audience, but i think it would go over better if they started with all-age VN first. Starting with an eroge has alot of issue with western market even then some all-age vn might be censored as well, the only thing i can really hope for is basically the western rating system mature up a bit. I mean they are fictional characters in a fictional world, and that these type of games are basically novels. cut out some parts or rewriting over some parts can kill the whole storyline and the flow of it as well. I mean if you hate kissing and hugging so much why not ban it in real life too. I mean take it easy i know the western market has a harsh rating system, but seriously if your going to censor a game take into account of the audience that its aimed for. isn’t that why we have a rating system in the first place. i mean its not the game, game developer, or party bringing it over fault that parent are letting their children buy game they shouldn’t play. god damn the western market seriously need to change the rating system they treating everyone like a freaking 10 year old

  • piichan

    As much as I hate the censorship, I don’t blame them for doing it since it’s their first VN with exposure in mind. They know there’s a small percentage of VN fans who will be displeased, but they’re aiming for people who have no idea what or how VNs play or for those who want to try one without the sexual content.
    So I hope they make more people aware and little by little introduce those people with the uncensored version, if not, there’s always MangaGamer for your nukige needs.

  • GVmanX

    Why can’t they release an Adults Only version as well?

    • Aerii

      Probably because even touching pornography once ruins your image completely in the public eye. I don’t think parents would be very happy if they bought their kid a game and discovered a nudey patch for it online. Sorta like with Hot Coffee.

    • Zak Ledward

      Apparently they “don’t have the resources” to have 2 versions available. Some speculate that it’s to keep possible consumers from finding the “other” version and becoming disinterested in a game that “had” H-scenes in it. Again, speculation.

  • Doddler

    My main issue is with the translation. They alienate the VN community with the censorship, but if they had a solid translation I think people might look past it. Sadly that’s not really the case, and the translation could use a fair bit of work….

  • Lynx

    I can understand cutting the sexual content but it doesn’t really sit with me with regards to the kissing scenes as I LOVED the original version and was really excited for the localization. Then I heard what was cut and it sort of dropped me down. I still bought it though.

    -We added in new scenes to fill those areas or edited the game to make the plot make sense and have added to the story.

    These new ‘scenes’ didn’t really feel like they fit well when I was reading, but that might’ve been just me.

    If I could give a recommendation, it’s possibly stick to that don’t require censorship but can still tell a great story. That way, both sides win. You don’t get censorship but at the same time, you can still have a great story.

    • JeremyTMH

      Having played the original and the fan disc, the new scenes are actually bad…

  • Aerii

    I don’t know about weird censored eroge, but I think if Steins;Gate (that’s all-ages, right?) got an ESRB rating and got put in stores and marketed and everything, that could seriously have an impact on the spread of visual novels in the West.

    • kanade3

      JASTUSA has plans to release Steins Gate.I don’t think they have released any information about how they will be releasing it yet.

      • Aerii

        I know JAST is releasing it. That’s why I mentioned it. XD I’m just saying, I hope they do something like this (but without the censorship).

    • Aoshi00

      That’s what I really liked about Steins;Gate because it didn’t have graphic violence or sex.. just plain good story and very subtle romance. It was a VN made for console, not ported from adult PC ver like most titles. It was rated Cero C.. and the only thing gross about it was pretty much “jelly-man” as a result of time travel experiment w/ human subjects.. It’s not that I’m against those things, but sometimes they seem to be there for shock value and kinda turn me off..

    • Zak Ledward

      Had shower scene which was “censored” by “that random mist” but I’m sure MN would’ve jumped on that like tigers on a lame deer

  • Aristides

    I applaud your courage and your passion to bring VNs over. Your move has been somewhat controversial due to the censorship however I think your effort can pay off in the end. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you gotta start somewhere spreading the word on the genre. I wish Moenovel great success!

  • ZekeFreek

    I’m just not going to buy such a heavily censored product and that’s the end of that. I’m not sure if there even is a fan translation of this VN, but if there is, why would anybody in their right mind pay 50$ for a heavily censored product when they can get it totally uncensored for free?

    Part of me really wants to see MoeNovel succeed, but they have to be smart about this. Don’t try attracting an audience that isn’t interested and forsake the audience you already have. The VN audience DOES NOT LIKE CENSORSHIP, they just don’t. And whether you like it or not, H-scenes are a selling point. But even beyond that, to remove things even such as kissing scenes is plain ludicrous.

    I’m not buying this one, MoeNovel. Maybe next time if you get your act to together and release something uncensored, as other VN publishers in the west do.

    • malek86

      “when they can get it totally uncensored for free?”

      I suppose I should at least point out that it’s not like visual novels are actually free. You would need to import them to play it, and that would likely cost more than $50 (iirc this game has not received a budget version yet).

      Of course, you “can” technically play it for free, but going with this mentality, you can also play the english version for free…

      • ZekeFreek

        Yes, I’m referring to just pirating the damn thing. Heavily Censored releases promote piracy. People don’t want it. And they shouldn’t be reaching for an audience that isn’t interested and abandon the people who already are.

        If the Visual Novel market can get up to the size of the JRPG market, that’s probably good enough. Going “mainstream”, as they put it is only going to piss off the people who already like VNs.

        • malek86

          Even if we exclude the odd beast that is Final Fantasy, that will take a very, very long time, and there’s no guarantee it will ever happen.

          I think managing to reach the same size as the graphic adventures market would already be an accomplishment.

          Notice that there have already been some “sexual” graphics adventures, such as Leisure Suit Larry or Lula, but aside from the early days of LSL, they never got as popular as other series.

  • Ni

    I always skip the sex scenes on the visuals novels so i really didn’t care for this part of the censoring (I tend to buy all ages version more than the standard +18 one), but that censoring the kisses scenes is weird it is.

  • Bacon_n_Lettuce

    I understand why most people are concerned with the censorship issue first and foremost, but what personally lowers my faith in MoeNovel the most are the basic translation issues. It seems like a lot of the lines don’t flow in English at all (or are just downright ungrammatical), and it really shows a lack of care in their editing work, and generally gives the whole product an unprofessional feel. And honestly, with a game that is primarily composed of text, the writing becomes a major piece of the whole package, if not the main facet that carries the entire experience.

    It’s too bad, because I’d love to support anyone that seems so passionate about localization, but if I don’t see that passion within the product itself, then why the hell should I bother with it?

  • Richard N

    Meh, censorship I can care less. As long as I get the basic gist of the story than I’m solid. I’ll buy it just to support visual novels over here on the west.

    • serverny

      You will also support them in making rushed lazy google-quality translations ?

      Also they totally ruined a lot of original content, so game is not what was created by original authors – why even bother ?

      • Richard N

        Mangagamer wasn’t as good as they are now. Edelweiss’ translation is pretty poor at times. But nowadays they do a damn good job with what they got, despite you know, taking years to finally release the voices for Kara no Shoujo.

        You gotta start somewhere. This is the first time they’re doing this, so maybe next time they’ll learn from their mistakes. If all they get is hate from the get go, why would they even bother trying to reach us again?

        • kanade3

          I think people really want MoeNovel to address the complaints that are being made ,and then work with us to maybe figure out a better way of doing it.It’s very difficult for people to drop their hate for them when censorship is involved along with the other problems.

          • Richard N

            I can understand that, but at this point with the market where it is in the West I can’t really complain when I’m tossed crumbs. I can’t see them fixing the issues people have with the game when it’s already been released. The damage has already been done unless they decide to do an uncut release later on. Personally I just rather they move on to a new VN.

            So like I said, this will be a good learning experience for them. In the future I’m sure they’ll think twice before censoring it, or else feel the wrath of fanboys everywhere.

          • kanade3

            Moving onto the next VN probably won’t change anything as they have already confirmed in their interviews that they are sticking with censorship even if it fails with IMHHW.

  • gamefreak86

    Wonder if VNs will start hitting vita or the ones already in Japan on vita and PSP will be localized at one point.

  • Niyari

    hmm wasn’t there an article similar to this last week? or am i starting to lose it…

    • mirumu

      You’re not losing it. A piece of this article was posted as a separate article a few days back. Why, I don’t know.

  • wererat42

    Maybe it would have been better to have gone for a title that already had an all-ages version, like Little Busters, but I wonder how difficult it would be to license a higher profile title like that.

    However, It really doesn’t make sense why they would even take out scenes of hugging or kissing.

    • Zak Ledward

      so that the Mod doesn’t have to; KEY (creator of Little Busters) has no interest in localizing any of their games in the west. So KEY is out of the question, though I agree with your idea in taking up an already censored game. THOUGH! Now knowing MoeNovel, they’d probably censor it EVEN MORE then it already has been since the guidelines are differen’t between Japan and US

      Their reason was it was “sexually suggestive” and thus had to be removed. Also it gave them that E rating they were shooting for =.=

  • Zak Ledward

    Fav Anime was AnoHana? We will never be friends.

    That said I support MoeNovel in mind, but not in money. The US is a hell of a place to start up in, yes, and for anything japanese related that’s not Street Fighter or some other mainstream game, its even worse. I still remember the drama concerning Mugen Souls’ bath minigame. In any case, MoeNovel has a noble idea: To introduce the unfamiliar and create a fanbase for VNs in the west. It’s a likable idea, though how they’re executing it is far from what I would’ve wanted. To bring in an uncensored game, censor, Censor it SOME MORE, and then redo an entire character route is KIND OF PUSHING IT! Plus when you take out kissing, hugging, and sexual humor (first my loli and now THIS!?) on the grounds that it conveys the wrong message and constrains the market is kind of…unintelligent. As MoeNovel said they’re still growing in the West, but there is a fanbase for VNs in the west (albeit small compared to other genres) who are ready for whatever VN MoeNovel can dish out. But when you alienate the already existing fanbase in hopes that another will form around your “VNs” is counter-productive in my eyes. IDK, perhaps the US needs to loosen its leash on DRAWN PORN and our kids need to grow a pair and get a little more mature. Point is, MoeNovel needs to work on their policy and not shoot the people who are gathering at their feet, hands open for our uncensored/well-censored VNs.

    P.S. I play both 18+VN and All-ages so I’m not another “No H-scene crybaby”

  • DyLaN

    I’m afraid the impression tht ppl not familiar with VN get frm the whole ruckus are: “VN players are a bunch of whiny ppl who can’t stand their pantyshot removed and VN ARE for creepy ppl!” honestly….

    Oh well, time will tell whether if this incident will make the dev give up on marketing VN here or not. Just remember folks, don’t point the finger to them if the effort to popularise VN failed and scares away dev wanting to bring VN over.

    • kanade3

      I don’t see why we shouldn’t point the finger at MoeNovel as it would their fault for the poor quality translations for award winning games , being over zealous with the censorship, not calming down the people they pissed off ,and poor execution of a idea that could be brilliant if done right.

      • DyLaN

        Problem is, Moenovel stood up to the challenge and ppl reward them by boycotting it. This is giving off the impression tht VN fans are picky and unreasonable tht might cause other company backing off due to them not being able to edit the contents to fit the intended requirements/ratings w/out causing outrage.

        >not calming down the people they pissed off
        I don’t see them not doing this. They are trying to be reasonable with why they need to edit the contents judging by the interviews. And even though i’m baffled by why the need to edit the kissing CG, I wouldn’t call tht over censoring….. Plus I’ve seen ppl commenting tht the sex jokes are still present in-game.

        >poor translation
        Some of officialy translated VNs have these derp here n there too.

        • kanade3

          They took the wrong approach to the challenge which is why people are boycotting them.This is the western market at the end of the day,and people really don’t reward companies for censoring their content to get lower ratings.

          Telling us why they censored the content over many interviews is clearly not working as people are still hating on them,and boycotting. Also not being able to clearly explain why the kissing scenes were edited as you pointed out hurts them further. Editing the kissing scene is censoring as they are trying to cover up something that they deem inappropriate for their audience.

          The thing is this VN deserved a decent professional translation as it was award winning,and very popular in Japan. It doesn’t deserve the half ass translation that most first time localization companies put out.People even told them that the demo script had problems,and was a bit stiff so they had feed back to work out the kinks.

          • M’iau M’iaut

            Yet, translation tweaks can be required in plenty of existing VNs. MGs can read just as rough still, even with putting much focus on improving them. I am not sure there has ever been a JAST/PP release without screaming loud glaring typos.

          • Guest

            I”m aware that other companies have their faults when it comes to the translation. The point I’m trying to get at is a high quality VN like IMHHW should have had more care taken into the script itself since it’s not one of those run of the mill VN. I’m not saying the script should be 100% prefect,but good enough that people are not hating on it, it shows the company put a lot of care into it,and people don’t have to consider going back in,and fixing the grammer,and word structure.

        • gtharby2

          You can say we will give the impression that content can’t be censored and sell well, but guess what, as far as the existing community goes that is a true statement which none of us would be able to change. In practice, an approach which includes censorship only works when the audience wouldn’t know about the censorship, and this applies to any fictional medium.

        • mirumu

          If there’s going to be outrage, I think it’s something Moenovel need to know about. If other companies are contemplating the release of edited content and this is how the market feels, then maybe they should be backing off. Listening to customers is not a bad thing. The public is under no obligation to support products or encourage trends we don’t approve of.

          Moenovel themselves claim they want to grow the VN market. If they want to achieve that, they need to have better translations than what the likes of JAST/PP and Mangagamer have done in the past. If censorship is a problem then they should avoid content that requires it at all costs. This isn’t just fans whining, it’s good advice. If they actually listen and learn we’ll all be better off.

          • DyLaN

            You do realize tht sometimes some contents had to be edited or else it can’t be released here w/out getting a AO/M rating or something similar…. (The same reason why MS bathing mini game got cut) And again, they are trying to sell to ppl outside the otaku/VN crowd…

            Also, read MM post up there. The only non-H quality VN I can think off atm is 5pb ones and the licensing fee can’t be cheap.

          • mirumu

            Did you possibly reply to the wrong comment?

            Obviously if they release an adult game and don’t want it to get an AO rating then they have to censor it, but then they shouldn’t be surprised when people complain.

          • kanade3

            NISA never submitted MS with all content intact so it getting AO rating was pure speculation on their part. Sadly they did pay a heavy price for doing it as both LEs are still sitting at the less then 50% mark for months now.

  • landlock

    To be honest I think games like Danganronpa on the PSVita have a better chance of bringing visual novels to a wider audience then something like this.

    Like others I don’t want this to become the standard release style and again voted with my wallet. Both versions would have been better.

    • DyLaN

      Tht due to Danganronpa have some gameplay elements. This one is a pure VN (in which majority of the VN falls under) which makes it a bit harder to sell to western audience.

      • landlock

        Some yes. There are games like Koihime Musou that also have little bits of gameplay. It’s a better way to introduce people.

  • KnifeAndFork

    imo VN’s need more gameplay elements and less static art. They should be evolving in design not being stagnant in it just for the sake of keeping things low budget..

    • British_Otaku

      What you describe be summed up by trying the likes of School Days (uses animation for the whole length, for an anime feel) or more mainstream titles like Ace Attorney and Zero Escape (not pure novels but close enough for me) which have puzzles on top of the narrative.

      There is still plenty of room for something like Saya no Uta, something short with few endings even for a VN but tightly knit and all sorts of works.

      It can’t all be summed up as “not enough gameplay elements” and “too much static art”.

  • supervamp

    Just do all ages from now on

  • Anoia

    I won’t support such severe censorship, changing something that much alters the original vision. Offer an unrated adult version online and I’ll pick it up.

    Alternatively just bring over VNs that don’t require censorship.

  • Xerain

    I think instead of just altering a game for the international market, MoeNovel should work with the original Japanese VN companies to create an official All Ages version for japan. Then translate that. So long as the existing VN fans feel the international market isn’t being treated with the same level of respect as the Japanese market, there’s not going to be much positive word of mouth going around.

  • Firekitty

    If they don’t have problems with adult content, but feel that it would be an obstacle to reaching the ‘broad audience’ that they want…Why not localize a game without adult content, instead?

    There are plenty of serious story-focused VNs that don’t have porn in them
    . Wouldn’t it be more cost-efficient to localize something that wouldn’t require massive edits and the writing/recording of new scenes in order to ‘break into the market’…and then once they’ve got the market, they can start easing us into the more adult stuff, or even…gasp…Otome or BL?

    • M’iau M’iaut

      MoeNovel is Pulltop, so actually finding someone else’s all ages VN — especially one with any Western knowledge, would add costs that are otherwise not there. And since it is Pulltop, I am unaware of any all ages versions in their library. So if the current market won’t allow Pulltop to edit and rework their own creations, they really had better succeed in grasping these new targeted folks.

      • School Idol Addict

        They do have 1 all ages PSP port.

      • kanade3

        Shirokuma Bell Stars is the only all ages VN that Pulltop has. Boost-On,and Future-Digi worked with Pulltop on it so there could be licensing issues etc which is why we didn’t see it localized first.

  • http://www.youtube.com/Lyonharvestmoonfan Eduardo Rocha

    I really hope this works out for them. But I would love games without censorship…

  • katamari damacy

    Technically Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright are offshoots of the visual novel but include more gameplay to it than, read, read, make a choice. 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward are also visual novels but have a puzzle element to it.
    I think if they want to market visual novels in the west, they’re targeting all the wrong markets. Get into Chapters, Barnes and Noble and treat a visual novel like a REGULAR novel. The market would more likely be women, and eventually it would will get culturally accepted. They should get the publishing rights for Steins;Gate and CLANNAD if they really want to show good storytelling.

  • Mokou Moe

    I’m fine with the censoring the H scene but taking out even the kiss is a little too much.Even if it’s hard we should tell people to accept it for what it is(A H game)rather than censoring it even if it is hard.

    But i understand that they may think taking that risk is too much. Either way censoring the kiss is just too much….

    For me personally want the wider audience to accept it for what it is but that’s just me.

    Who know this may be the way to lead them “Deeper”.

    I also think that if the story is good the HD is totally unnessesary.

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