As much as we love Japan, they do seem to be about 30 years behind the rest of the world in the area of political correctness.
And while it may be wrong to stereotype Japan in an article about cultural insensitivity, we can't help but notice their domination of the game industry has led to some hilariously cringe-inducing moments. We're talking about games like...
In the Japanese version of this Sega Genesis game, men clad in leather chaps and a bushel of chest hair daintily stroll up to your character and attack. And when we say "attack," we mean "dry hump you from behind."
If there are two of these leather-clad enemies on the screen simultaneously, the other one will sometimes hump a light pole until the bulbs drop on his head, bludgeoning him.
Gay or straight, if two people are so horny that they're willing to risk their lives to have intercourse with a light pole, wouldn't common sense dictate that they'd just have sex with each other instead? And what does that say about the one guy who continues to probe a stranger's anus while he watches his friend die from blunt trauma to the skull?
Maybe he's just afraid of the poison that seems to coat the genitals of gay men in Konami's Vendetta universe (your life bar drains substantially with each thrust of the attacker's hips).
Almost As Bad...
While Vendetta really set the bar for unrealistically flamboyant portrayals of male homosexuals, Sega's Bare Knuckle 3 (Streets of Rage 3 in the US) couldn't back down from the challenge. Thus, they gave us Ash.
He slaps. He cries when he's defeated. He strikes effeminate poses, covers his mouth while giggling and bends his knees inward, all while looking every bit the Village Person.
Yet, you can measure the progress of Japanese game developer attitudes toward homosexuality by the fact that in a game made three years later, the gay character no longer humps you to death.
Nintendo of Japan licensed Square no Tom Sawyer (Square's Tom Sawyer), a role-playing game developed by the future makers of the Final Fantasy series, meaning that it had met Nintendo's rigorous standards of quality. . . blackface and all.
Square no Tom Sawyer was never released in America, probably because an acute Square executive commented, "Someone, maybe an African-American, may find the blackface on Jim offensive." Hey, better safe than sorry, right?
Almost As Bad...
In 1989, SETA combined racism and incoherence to get The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Thankfully, there is no blackface in this adaptation. SETA opted to replace all of Twain's subtle commentary on racial inequality with giant alligators, zombies and gnomes. But then, Tom lands in what is either an underground lava cave headquarters, or Hell itself. There he encounters an American Indian straddling an enslaved brontosaurus:
A few well-thrown projectiles were enough to send the filthy Injun to a watery death. The game then cuts to a young boy apparently reading these adventures in a book, his face frozen in a priceless expression of childish wonder.
"What the fuck did I just read?"
In Gekisha Boy, a young man, still reeling from the deaths of his parents, finds himself failing photography school. The dean offers him a last-ditch test where his academic career hinges upon the quality of the unusual snapshots he takes.
According to Gekisha Boy, this includes: flying saucers, wind gusting up a decades-deceased Marilyn Monroe's dress and all sorts of African-Americans.
Maybe you could forgive the idea of photographing blacks as if they are exotic creatures to be glimpsed in the wild, but you'd still have to deal with the fact that in the world of Gekisha Boy, African-Americans only come in three varieties: street pimp, prostitute and Michael Jackson.
Almost As Bad...
A word of advice to all future game designers: If one of your characters has even a passing resemblance to Mickey Rooney from Breakfast at Tiffany's, you have a problem. Witness this cutscene:
If you're thinking the graphics there are a little too good to be from the "They Didn't Know Any Better" era of old school gaming, you're right. This is 2003's Kung-Fu Chaos, for the Xbox. And we can't blame Japan for this one, since it's from Cambridge-based developer Ninja Theory.
Thankfully, their attempt to use technology to break new ground in cringingly awkward character interaction mercifully cuts off soon after the "tiny sausage" jokes begin.