One of the greatest complaints I've heard from many Harvest Moon fans is the alteration of the games for U.S. release. Considering that the series is largely harmless, what change could so annoy Western fans? It's the removal of same-sex relationships.
Natsume — the Western publisher of the series — is well aware of the growing demand for unaltered localization of the Harvest Moon DS games, ever since the Best Friends system debuted in Harvest Moon DS Cute. Natsume declined to comment on this issue, but a PR rep at E3 revealed a wholly believable answer: Same-sex relationships would change the Western rating from E to T or M, depending on how the ESRB feels that week.
Since Harvest Moon is popular with younger audiences, raising the rating would hurt sales, and the inclusion of such content could outrage more conservative players (or their parents). The only comment I got from Natsume was the concern over ratings; the rest is easily obtained from observing American culture and consumer preferences.
Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar, the latest game in the series, features a slew of new and inventive gameplay mechanics that forever change the flow of the series. But the Best Friends system is lost to time. This system allows the player to live with a same-sex friend rather than marry one of the bachelors in the town. Now you can make items, grind grain, sell your produce and wares in the marketplace, and fashion gifts for your future spouses — but you cannot live with a similarly gendered friend.
This is a sad closure to something that could have a great deal of positive impact on Western culture. One video game is not the tipping point on tolerance and acceptance, but it could usher in greater multimedia acceptance. Of course, saying that is enough to start a flame war in the less civilized corners of the Internet, so the argument shall rest here.
Don't let cyber attacks kill your game! Join GamesBeat's Dean Takahashi for a free webinar on April 18 that will explore the DDoS risks facing the game industry. Sign up here.