Video-Game Censorship: UK and Germany make games suck for the rest of Europe
When it comes to European video-game censorship, the countries you can always rely on to screw everyone over are United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Bundesrepublik Deutschland. In the past, these countries have had the most ridiculously strict censorship policies and especially in the olden days of video-gaming, this resulted some games to be right out banned in Europe.
There are more recent examples of games getting butchered to adhere to these countries’ standards (such as Manhunt 2 on the Wii), but at least on a general level, thankfully, things aren’t as bad as they used to be. Though Germany and UK kept fucking things up for a long time, eventually Germany started to have specific national bans for certain games and the UK now, at least for the most part, keeps its censorship bullshit to itself.
But certain important chapters in Video-Game censorship history wouldn’t exist, were it not for these two countries, so it’s time to reopen some old wounds and see how these two former foes have united in their suckiness when it came to shielding kiddies from their perceived video-game nastiness…
Contra ist verboten!
When it comes to competing which of the two countries is more squeamish in relation to video-game violence, Germany takes the cake by far. More cuts to so-called “video-game violence” have been done to PAL region games on the behest of Germany than any other country. And note, this was already before Wolfenstein 3D. Germany would have game companies turn zombie blood green or purple in some instances or even change game titles from something like Castlevania: Bloodlines into The New Generation, just because they didn’t want “violent” words like “blood” in the titles.
The gravest injustice befell however on Konami’s Contra series. Even though, I’m not a Contra fan in the very least, I simply can’t condone what Germany did to the Contra series in an effort to clean it up for all the Deutsche Kinder who would have been playing the game circa 1988. The hectic blasting title where a pair of commandos go up against armies of enemies and eventually an alien (suspiciously similar in appearance to a xenomorph) was changed so dramatically that unless you had played both versions of the game, you wouldn’t even know it was Contra to start with.
For one, all human characters in the game were turned into robots. This was apparently to tone down the violence, because robots shooting other robots to bits is completely fine (then again, Germany never banned a Mega Man game as far as I know). But it wasn’t bad enough that the game had to be pussified in such a manner to avoid a game where people were shooting at people from reaching store shelves. To make sure that no-one would ever connect the dots (yeah right) even the title was changed… to Probotector.
I don’t even know which is worse. The fact that Germany took it upon themselves to shield people from a game where people died without so much as a pixel of blood on-screen or that they should change the name to further confuse people in the future. The Contra series continued to be released in Europe as the Probotector series until 1997’s Contra: Legacy of War on the Sony PlayStation.
UK hates Ninjas
Kids in the UK had their hopes of becoming a Ninja dashed when the British government decided as early as the 1980s that anything Ninja related should be banned from the public. This included throwing stars, nunchucks and even the very word Ninja. The fact that the video-game industry went through a massive Ninja boom in the late 1980s of course meant that Europeans were going to have to put up with some pretty stupid crap because the U of K didn’t want anyone seeing the word Ninja anyway.
Once again, this time it was Tecmo that had to take it in the ass from European censorship policies, when their famous (and infamously difficult) Ninja Gaiden series had to have its name changed for European audiences. Now admittedly, Shadow Warriors wasn’t nearly as bad of a change of title as Probotector and as far as the game itself was concerned, UK didn’t meddle with the game’s content – but this is the worst kind of censorship in my view: Changing a name of a game just because you don’t like that one word in there.
Of course, the most famous victim of UK’s anti-Ninja agenda was of course Eastman and Laird’s famous pizza-loving heroes in a half-shell, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. UK couldn’t fight against the biggest kids’ pop-culture phenomenon since He-Man*, but that didn’t mean they weren’t going to try. Of course everyone now knows that the show’s title was changed to Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, and this changed remained for the longest time. Additionally, scenes of Michelangelo were consistently edited out from the first two seasons of the TMNT cartoon show (or at least in TV broadcasts, VHS releases often avoided this treatment), until Murakami-Wolf-Swenson Studios decided not to put up with it anymore and had Mikey just use a grappling hook from Season Three onward.
But the Turtles name change affected all media related to TMNT: the toys, the comics and even the video-games. Thankfully, neither UK nor Germany took offense to the contents of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time for the Super Nintendo – but even as a kid I was wondering how come the game had Hero in the title, when the theme song for the show clearly said Ninja.
At the same time, UK’s fear of the word Ninja seems absolutely ridiculous. Certainly, if the UK saw certain games as too extreme for release, I could understand, but the Ninja panic is one of the dumbest and asinine cases of moral panic I’ve ever seen from any European country. There’s just no defending something that makes absolutely no sense. Kids like Ninjas because they’re cool, but if people are going to assume that they’ll go around slicing people up with Katanas and Sais – and that leads to a country-wide ban on nunchucks, I think you need to re-check your ass-backwards logic.
Then again, I should expect as much from a country that still censors headbutts from all major motion pictures. Thank god, the UK has since eased off on Ninja related products (though Nunchucks are still illegal) to the point that the newer TMNT stuff hasn’t had to be Hero-fied to get them released in Europe.
* Side-note: In the mid-1980s, the UK banned Mattel from advertising Masters of the Universe action-figures during the commercial breaks for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.