Nintendo didn't hand out their seals of approval like they were tax-free candy. Well all right, when quality was the issue, they didn't discriminate much. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if the managements of Nintendo and Sega had a bet running about who could let the most games through each year. But when it came to inappropriate graphical elements or politically inflamed topics, Nintendo would demand green blood and renaming of characters and countries so fast it would knock the wax out of your ears.
These rules only applied to the American division of Nintendo, things were done a little differently in Japan. Japan is after all the country where distinguished gentlemen can join urine taster clubs and discuss each other's bouquets and where the pop culture describes semi-daily tentacle rape as the norm. If they were going to draw the line at 8-bit blood, they could just as well illegalise spitting into septic tanks.
We'll start with a pretty rare case: Monster Party. This game was released in the US, but not in Japan. The plot is as follows: Mark is walking home from baseball practice one day when he sees a star so beautiful it makes him cry. Soon, he discovers that the star in fact is a dragon called Bert. Bert needs Mark to come to the moster world and fight all the monsters with his weapon. When Mark points out that it's not a weapon at all, but a bat, Bert exclaims "Bat! Batter! Anything is okay! Anyhow, let's go!" Bert and Mark merge and become one on the way to Monster World, so if Mark finds any pills lying around on the levels, he can turn into a dragon.
The possible scenario of kids eating pills to become dragons named Bert wasn't the reason this game was modified before a US release. The problem was all the blood.
The human head spider and the rotting head cursor could also be involved, of course.
Monster Party is a pretty strange game. Not only because you're a boy fighting monsters on a strange planet with only a bat to defend yourself with, but also because the first enemies you meet are asses sticking out from the ground and burning men. The bosses vary from legless punk musicians to giant cats that throw their kittens at you to sweet'n'sour shrimps that metamorphose into onion rings to wishing wells that shout "Time to do some damage" before they start tossing coins. It's a madhouse, and not a very good game - bloody or no.
The blood removal process wasn't entirely successful. For starters, everything goes a little nuts once you walk past the big tree in the middle of the first level.
Suddenly everything turns hellish, and it stays that way all the way to the end of the level. The rest of the levels are however as spooky as basket of puppies, so I guess somebody simply forgot to remove the infernal part of level one.
But the thing that surprises me the most is this one: the splash screen preceeding each level. Skeletons bathing in a sea of blood is hardly Nintendo-approved material. The ending is pretty disturbing too: once you've defeated all the monsters, Bert flies you home and gives you a present. When you open it, a princess comes out. Suddenly, the princess turns into a monster, and infernal creatures invade your room. Then, your flesh rots off of your bones. You wake up, assuming the whole thing was a dream. But who is it that stands right outside your door? It's Bert, and this time he's far more menacing than when you first met. "Let's go again," he says while holding your bat.
I've got to warn you, I suspect there'll be a lot of animated gifs in this one. If you start to feel faint, just lie down a few minutes.
You may have heard of this one. Ring King is in itself not very unique. It's a boxing game with pretty bad controls, a description that applies to quite a lot of games. Since it didn't violate any guidelines, it was never censored, and it must have entered the market without much attention. Which is a bad thing, since a game tester from the outside probably would have realized that the boxers are given oral pleasure between rounds.
Seriously, though, what's supposed to be going on here? I've practically never seen a boxing match in my life, so I'm no expert, but I really don't think anything that even remotely looks like that is supposed to happen in a real game. Unless the boxer has to change his shorts and he's managed to tie one of those knots you only can open with your teeth, that can be nothing but a good old-fashioned blowjob.
Hooooboy. Sweet Home never stood a chance. Not only are most of the enemies legless zombies, puss-dripping skinless monsters or blood-spewing corpses, the blood also flows at ankle height at times. You'd need more than an altered palette to clean this game up, as the narrative itself is oozing of talk about fountains of fallen men's blood and gruesome tales of dead babies.
The plot is as follows: a group of people visit an old mansion to find some old frescoes created by one Mamiya Ichirou. Once they step inside, they're trapped by a collapsed wall. That's where the trouble begins. The house is packed with the undead remains of the poor souls who were unfortunate enough to encounter this house, and you need to figure out what exactly is wrong with the building in order to make your way out of it.
Piecing together information from various notes, diaries, written-in-blood messages on the walls and talking haunted dolls, you eventually come to the conclusion that Mamiya's baby fell in the incinerator and was burned to death thirty years ago. Driven crazy by this tragedy, Mamiya threw her other children into the flames and killed herself. You find the afore-mentioned incinerator toward the end of the game, and you can still hear the echoes of the dead babies' cries. That's right. No kidnapped princesses in this game, just get the hell away from the crazy baby-killing ghost.
According to Nintendo Power, plans were made for an American release. I guess the clean-up job just proved itself too... well, impossible. Sweet Home is bad to the bone, and if you would actually sit down and weed the graphics and code you'd not only be facing a shitload of work, you'd also remove the one thing that makes the game unique.
And the game is unique. It's in fact a very good game, and now that Gaijin Romhacking have managed to translate the ROM, you should definitely give it a shot.
A little trivia before we move on: Sweet Home is often referred to as the inspiration for Resident Evil, and a few elements do point in that direction. You have of course the whole running-from-zombies part. You have also cut-scenes where you see the doors open before you walk through them, and there is a note that describes the mansion as "a house of residing evil." I can neither confirm nor reject this claim, but I'm sure you'll find more evidence and information if you look around a bit.
A lot of people have commented on how much the final boss of Bionic Commando resembles Hitler. The reason is of course that this is Hitler. The US version beats around the bush and calls him Master-D, while the Japanese version doesn't try to hush up the identity of the head Nazi. In fact, the Japanese version of the game is called Top Secret: The Resurrection of Hitler. Releasing game called The Resurrection of Hitler in the US would probably result in a couple of flaming letters, but that's nothing compared to what the reactions in Europe would have been. Pretty much everyone in Europe is able to track down a Nazi sympathizer if they look up the branches of their family tree, and those who can't find any probably lost a few to the Auschwitz showers.
Releasing a game called The Resurrection of Hitler in Europe would be a very bad idea.
What's funny about the translated version is that while all in-game occurences of the word 'Nazi' are translated with 'Badds,' the instruction manual refers to the bad guys as 'The Nazz's.' The translators were able to keep the swastikas out without screwing up, though:
There is one element that in no way should have passed through the filters unnoticed. It did, and was there for all to see even here in the western world. Well, for the few who actually finished the game, anyway. Towards the end of the last level, you meet Master-D/Hitler. He tries escaping by helicopter, and to stop him you have to send a rocket straight into the cockpit. The result?
When Biker Mice From Mars came to Europe, they brought more chocolate than Willy Wonka ever dreamed about producing. Also: Japanese mayonnaise.
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