“Welcome to the new ’90s” – Sony insists that XSEED censor “Senran Kagura Burst: ReNewal” in the West (opinion)

In a unsettling turn of events, the release of Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal has been delayed for both PlayStation 4 and PC.

Why?

According to the game’s publisher, XSEED, Sony has insisted that a feature of the game called “intimacy mode” be removed. XSEED has chosen to do so rather than not release the game in the West, but the extra development time to remove the mode has caused a delay in Senran Kagura’s release.

What exactly is “intimacy mode?” It must be pretty horrifying for Sony to insist that it be removed from a mature-rated title, right? Essentially, it’s a mode where players can “touch” the scantily-clad (not nude) female characters from the game using the analog sticks in place of hands. Depending on how you choose to interact with the girls, they can become either very angry or very enamored with you, and you may even score a kiss from your lady of choice if your touches are to her liking. Sound familiar? If you followed our coverage of Senran Kagura Reflexions for the Nintendo Switch, you might have already realized that Reflexions is essentially “intimacy mode” stripped out and sold as a stand-alone title (yes, even the notorious puritans at Nintendo were okay with it).

Intimacy mode certainly isn’t central to the rest of the game, as the primary gameplay in Senran Kagura is over-the-top, hack-n-slash action. While the Senran Kagura series has always marketed itself on its exaggerated fan service, apparently this “intimacy mode” was too much for Sony to allow on their PlayStation platform. Funny thing though, earlier titles in the Senran Kagura series on PlayStation 4 (i.e. Peach Beach Splash) included an identical version of the mode, so Sony’s insistence on censoring Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal represents a backpedaling on their part.

Prominent gaming commentator and human punching bag, Jeremy Hambly (we love ya’ Jeremy), covered the issue very well on his YouTube channel, The Quartering, which you can watch below.

For those disappointed by Sony’s decision to remove such sinful content, XSEED did confirm that the PC release on Steam would survive unmolested with all modes intact. Kudos to XSEED, too, for being upfront about the issue as they could have tried to hide Sony’s censorship up until Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal’s release.

It appears that the PS4 is becoming less and less of a free and open platform for developers, particularly in the West. Sony already forbid publisher PQube from releasing Omega Labyrinth Z in the West. It wasn’t long ago that the PlayStation brand was synonymous with more mature experiences and pushing the envelope, and now PS4 gamers are left scratching their heads, wondering what game could be next for Sony to deem “verboten.” Clearly there has been a shift inside the western offices of Sony to cause this regression.

One XSEED employee familiar with the situation poignantly expressed his disappointment on social media:

“If you don’t stand up for the stuff you don’t like, when they come for the stuff you do like, you’ve already lost.” -Neil Gaiman

I don’t like intimacy mode in SK. But I’ve always stood up for it, because…well, this. This is how it starts, my friends.

Welcome to the new ’90s.

I personally don’t think we’re quite at ’90s-level interference with mature gaming content, but actions like these coming from Sony are absolutely steps backward. Today consumers have more tools than ever to make informed choices including the ESRB ratings system, parental controls, and the nigh-boundless trove of information we know as the Internet. Despite all this, we’re not that far removed from the ’90s, after all. This generation’s Jack Thompson could be getting his law degree as we speak (with a minor in the social sciences, no doubt), and make no mistake, his ban hammer will be out for blood.

In the meantime, how many PlayStation owners are going shopping for a new gaming PC this weekend?

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