Today Sega announced the results of the survey that gathered feedback from Valkyria: Azure Revolution for PS4, and there were a lot of interesting changes listed, that should make for a more fluid game, closer to the original tactical RPG concept of the series.
Yet, there was a rather interesting (and maybe a bit odd) element right at the end of the list.
Removal of Ophelia’s leggings:
- “Those leggings…”
If you’re wondering what they’re talking about, Princess Ophelia wears black leggings under her battle dress. They’re normally difficult to see because the dress features a knee-length skirt. So I had to fire up the demo and do quite a bit of wiggling to make them visible (the camera simply doesn’t rotate very low in normal conditions).
In Japan those are normally defined “spats” (and that’s how they’re called in the report from the developers), and apparently they proved quite unpopular with the fans, given that the developers went out of their way to include them in the list of changes.
To be fair, they are quite unappealing, and this is where it gets interesting: While we don’t know how the change will be implemented, it goes rather radically against trends that we have seen lately in the industry.
With the current climate in the industry, a number of developers and publishers tend to add shorts to remove the chance of providing casual glimpses on underwear that some (I’m not sure who, actually, at least in the realm of real people) might consider too sexy.
Recently it happened with Square Enix, that added shorts to Miki Sauvester‘s outfit in the upcoming Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness. Covering up heroines in various ways is also fairly common in games published by Nintendo, and the addition of shorts/leggings is also part of the rather significant changes being made to the western version of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE by Atlus.
Star Ocean‘s case is actually the most radical, as the change was made due to feedback from the west, but to the original version of the game as well. That caused a mini-meltdown among some Japanese fans. That’s actually quite understandable, since I don’t think many like to see changes to a local product based on foreign marketing.
The case of Valkyria: Azure Revolution goes in the opposite direction.
Interestingly, shorts aren’t unique to the design of Ophelia. As you can see in the gallery below, every single female character introduced so far (besides Brunhild, who wears full trousers, even if admittedly she has plenty of alluring traits elsewhere) had similar leggings.
Since the feedback mentioned only Ophelia’s leggings, we don’t know if the change will be limited to her or will affect all the heroines across the board.
Instinctively, it’s easy to see this as a positive change, as it apparently goes against an industry trend that many among the JRPG fanbase resent, and the original leggings didn’t look all that good. You could certainly argue that they’re practical for combat, but going into battle wearing a skirt (or a a dress) already flies in the face of “practical” all on its own, whatever you wear under it.
Yet, here’s a plot twist: considering the consistent presence of the leggings in the game’s character design, it’s most likely that they’re part of the original aesthetic choices the developers made when designing the world.
The use of this kind of garment also isn’t new to Valkyria: Azure Revolution. While it’s hard to see (you basically have to step on a mine), Rosie in Valkyria Chronicles and Riela in Valkyria Chronicles 3 are two examples, as they appear to wear shorts under their mini skirts.
Could this be another case of developers caving to pressure (even if from an entirely different direction) and altering their original artistic choice?
The answer isn’t an easy one to give: we probably should keep in mind that in this case the development team went out of its way to ask for for feedback from the fans, and pledged from the very beginning to create a game that would fulfill their expectations by considering that feedback.
Ultimately, it’s up to you. Personally, the original shorts did not disturb me in the slightest (they didn’t look good, but that’s just taste), but think it’s intriguing to see developers listening to their fans as opposed to corporate and media pressure, especially considering that taking in fan feedback was their stated intention to begin with.
Incidentally, Ophelia’s design won’t be the only one to be changed, as the developers promised improvements to character models across the board in response to the comments they received. For instance Amleth wasn’t seen as cool enough, even if I suspect this might have to do with his face more than his clothes.
It’ll be certainly interesting to see what the new designs will be like. We’ll probably know in the summer, when the “Battle Trial 2.0” demo will be released.