A previous admission by XSEED Games that their Western localization team fought for the inclusion of same-sex marriage options in Rune Factory 5 has brought the game’s English release under heavy scrutiny.
A spin-off to Marvelous’ Story of Seasons series – otherwise known as the actual successor to Harvest Moon – the Rune Factory series marries the franchise’s signature farming and social mechanics with action-RPG-style dungeon crawling.
Speaking of marriage, as part of said social mechanics, the Rune Factory games allow for players to romance, and eventually marry, various NPCs.
In September of last year, Marvelous announced that the Western release of Rune Factory 5 would debut with the option for players to enter into same-sex marriages and that a post-launch update would bring the mechanic to the Japanese version.
In a blogpost published that same month, after emphasizing ” that adding same-sex marriage didn’t delay the game’s Western release,” Western publisher XSEED revealed that the game’s localization team “had asked for same-sex marriage to be included in the game as early as 2018”, only to discover that “it was not planned for Rune Factory 5”.
However, after raising the issue to Marvelous through their company contact, “the game’s producer at Marvelous and others within the company agreed that including this feature was important and began to push for it.”
“At the same time, Marvelous’ localization team laid some ground rules for its implementation to make sure that players would have the same experience regardless of which character they pursued,” they added.
These measures resulted in the recording of additional voice lines not present in the original Japanese script, the creation of new code to ensure romanceable character dialogue referred to the player character’s selected gender, and changing the image featured on the game’s marriage stamp from a bride and groom to a pair of wedding rings.
Though the exact details on how this mechanic would be handled were relatively unknown until the game’s March 2022 Western release date, players have since offered further insight into how the localization team approached the implementation of same-sex marriage in Rune Factory 5.
As reported by video game censorship and localization-focused Twitter user @iuntue, unlike other games that may feature a few dedicated same-sex romance options, all romanceable characters can be dated by either gender. In essence, this makes all characters now bi.
These localization efforts have led to immersion breaking moments related to the game’s dialogue options.
One such example was seen in a Reddit post to the /r/runefactory subreddit made by @inenai.
Sharing a screenshot of the game, /u/inenai asked, “Uhm… Murakumo is a bit confused… or just delusional? I am not dating him,” as the character can regardless be seen telling the player, “Drop by anytime you feel tired. It’d be my privilege to help my weary boyfriend get some well-deserved rest.”
In another possible instance, wherein Cecil can be seen telling Kaius, “Dang, how strange, Heinz said that’s how all the cool guys invite people out”, @iuntue speculated that “since the localization made every character bi, this line probably was originally [that’s how all the cool guys invite ‘girls’ out]”.
However, it should be noted that @iuntue did not offer a comparison to the original script, and thus it’s unknown whether this dialogue line was truly another victim of localization.
According to @iuntue, the localization also allegedly changed the context of the game’s self-described post-game ‘change gender’ option.
In screenshots shared by the Twitter user, after a player makes use of this optional feature, the character of Eliza can be seen exclaiming, “I never knew this is who you wanted to be-and I love it! I support your decision!”
@iuntue also highlighted two tweets on the subject of Rune Factory 5’s localization made by XSEED localizers Derk Bramer and Derek Heemsbergen, respectively.
On January 3rd, Bramer, who currently currently Localization Editor on the Pokémon series, boasted, “Was feeling major FOMO [Fear Of Missing Out] thinking I’d been left out of the ‘shitty localizers list,’ but it’s okay—I got some secondhand hate for RF5, a game whose loc has not even been released. #blessed”
The tweet was made January 3rd of this year, prior to Rune Factory 5’s March release in the west- 22nd in North America, 25th in Europe.
Meanwhile Heemsbergen, who also now serves as a Localization Editor for The Pokémon Company International, announced on March 22nd, “I’m delighted to announce that I worked as an editor on #RuneFactory5!”
“I leveraged what I learned editing SoS: FoMT [Song of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town] to write more authentic, sincere same-gender romantic dialogue- and, of course, peppered my portion of the script with japes a-plenty,” he elaborated. “Pictured: me & Husb-akumo [male lovers emoji]”
Regardless of the mixed reception to this localization, Rune Factory 5 has sold over 500,000 units worldwide as of the end of March 2022.
However, the game currently holds a Metacritic score of just 68, with criticisms being levied at its graphics, performance, and its lack of features that justify its existence as a brand new entry.
What do you make of same-sex marriage options being added to Rune Factory 5 thanks to the efforts of the Western localization team? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below.