Pink Doesn't Sell in America!: Kirby's Dream Land
(Game Boy, 1992)
Kirby debuted in Hoshi no Kirby on the Japanese Game Boy in 1992. His design was simple: he was a pink ball with arms and a goofy smile. However, Nintendo realized that this character would not sell well with the American audience, and they needed to drastically change Kirby's appearance so that Americans would even accept him. What did they do? They made him a white ball with arms and a goofy smile. Americans are comfortable and can identify with white people, right? Remember, this was the early '90s--Reese Witherspoon and Bret "the Hitman" Hart hadn't popularized the color pink yet.
Americans Aren't Afraid of a Little Violence: Left 4 Dead
Violence is nothing new to American culture--we actually might love it too much here. Ever since watching Wile E. Coyote getting killed over and over and over again as children, violent images and acts on television have become embedded into our minds as normal parts of our everyday lives. Look at the American Left 4 Dead boxart above, for example. I'm sure we can all agree that it's awesomely undead. On the other hand (get it?), the Japanese and Australian boxart is much more tame, with a slightly healthier hand--albeit still with a green zombie tinge.
Americans Are Afraid of a Little T&A:
Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier
(Nintendo DS, 2008)
(XBOX360, PS3, PC, 2009)
Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier is a game that stars a womanizing cowboy/bounty hunter who travels with a big breasted android in order to save the world from some crystals. In your travels, you encounter catgirl, robots, ninjas, mermaids, pirates and foxy girls--all of whom have huge breasts. Clearly: This game is Japanese.
Giant, exposed breasts right out in the open in media are a lot more common and accepted in Japan than it is in the United States. They have game shows about breasts, clothing that looks like breasts and piles of toy breasts in vending machines. Clearly: They love breasts! (And don't get us wrong... we here in America do, too. Magazines, advertisements, television, etc. But let us also remember when everyone went ape-shit over Janet Jackson showing a little nipple on TV for a fraction of a second.)
That is exactly why publisher ATLUS decided to shuffle around some of the characters on the Boxart for Super Robot Taisen. The three pairs of breasts (circled conveniently for you above) on the Japanese cover are strategically hidden on the North American cover. Heaven forbid that Americans, as violent and bloodthirsty as we are, can see such horrors! America's perception of sexuality in the media is perfectly stated by the great Bruce Campbell. According to him, "You can chop off a breast, you just can't kiss it."
Americans Want Angrier Characters!
Ratchet and Clank Series
(PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable)
Americans seriously love their edgy characters: Clint Eastwood, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Mr. T and Chuck Norris are all heroes that Americans have loved and grown up with. Ratchet, from the Ratchet and Clank game series, apparently needed to have an edgier look in order for American video gamer audiences to identify with him. Meanwhile, the Japanese are comfortable with the large googly eyes and exaggerated expressions similar to the heroes of their own culture, which can mostly be identified as anime characters.
Kirby Air Ride
Poor abused Kirby--always being forced to change and conform to American tastes. As if changing his race wasn't good enough, he was also forced to change his personality, too. In Kirby Air Ride, Kirby uses his Warpstar as a vehicle to race knights and giant birds around Pupupu Land. That's right--it's another game brilliantly written from Japan. Believing that such a foreign game design would never appeal to American gamer, they decided to make him (...Kirby's a guy, right?) angry as he was racing. As Americans, we can identify with driving around at blinding speeds as rotund, angry people.
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The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
(Nintendo DS, 2009)
We all know Link as the cute little green guy that stars as the hero protagonist in the Legend of Zelda series. For the UK boxart, Link gets to ride in a train with the beautiful Princess Zelda, and, well, he's happy. (To which we think: Good for him, he deserves it after saving the world so many times!) But the North American boxart is just a taaad different. He's pissed off, taken out of that nice train, grasping a weapon and forced to battle a Darknut... all while seconds away from being plowed down by his own train. Adorable.