Censorship in the game has been a hot topic in the last few days, whether it be the revival of the dead topic that is the Height Slider, Smart Inner missing, altered costumes, Al being given clothes in his first appearance, to the outright removal of Bath Scenes and so on and so on.
Now mind you... this is all speculation, albeit speculation created by looking heavily into specific subjects relating to the Global version and previous speculations done in the same manner ended up being accurate to a degree so... here we go. The main important thing... who is to blame, there are two potential culprits here:
Foreign Classification Boards
Yes, the Global version launched originally in North America and was exclusive to that region... however there were indications that it wasn't always going to be that way. The 'global' expansion wasn't done as a result of demand from the player-base but was rather part of Sega's big plan for the game. This is further indicated by them reaching out to other Classification Boards as far back as the Closed Beta, despite the game at the time being 'only planned' for North America.
With that said, while classification boards like ESRB and PEGI are only there to inform people about game's content, there are other country's classification boards that would have issues with the game's content. I'll be bringing up my own country's, Australia, rating board as an example; the OFLC. The OFLC are quite strict when it comes to how characters that look underage are portrayed. The OFLC would not have had an issue with the likes of EPISODE 4 and the first sets of ratings were automated so my best guess is that Sega edited content they THOUGHT other rating boards would have issues with.
Sony Interactive Entertainment
"But Leon, the PlayStation 4 version isn't out and Microsoft has been spear-heading this release" Yes I am aware and months ago I had my doubts on whether the PS4 version would even launch outside of Japan... but having observed how the Steam PSO2 client works and how the release was handled... those doubts are no longer there, PSO2 Global will be coming to PlayStation 4 eventually either this year or next year.
But what's this got to do with censorship? I'm not sure if anyone here is familiar but... Sony's recently come under scrutiny for imposing censorship in games, including games which are already rated M to begin with. Although the Global version is spearheaded by Microsoft... plans to release the PS4 version outside of Japan could have been made once the Xbox One console exclusivity was over. (MS Store platform exclusivity for the PC version might be what's expired, not so much the Console exclusivity) As such one of two scenarios might have happened:
- Sega and Sony already work quite closely to handle the Japanese version of PSO2 on PlayStation 4 (and Vita... for now) and could have consulted them beforehand in regards to what content would need to be altered for such a release to be possible.
- Sega could have tried predicting what content Sony would have trouble with.
Either way it leads to the same scenario, the Global version's content is altered beforehand so that when the PlayStation 4 release came around there wouldn't be much content to alter... after all How awkward would it be if we truly did get everything uncensored from the getgo and after the maintenance for the PlayStation 4 launch, we find out our characters were suddenly made taller, certain costumes were altered, Al's wearing clothes and the bath scenes are gone?
At the end of the day keep in mind that these are just pure speculations and I could be wrong with regards to many of these. I'm against censorship but I maintain that the alterations that Phantasy Star Online 2 received do still come off as quite minor in comparison to how altered certain games have been and don't really prevent me from enjoying the game... and this is coming from someone who had been playing the JP version before coming to the Global version.