By Heath | September 29, 2012 at 6:09 am
Everyone’s wondering what’s happening with the Final Fantasy Type-0 localization right now. People are wondering if the PSP’s lack of popularity in North America is a problem, wondering if Square Enix is making a Vita version — what’s the deal? There are a lot of plenty legitimate questions and theories, but I’m going to submit one I haven’t seen yet. It’s the theme song. In the game’s beginning and ending, a J-rock song by Bump of Chicken, entitled “Zero,” plays. There could be a contract dispute between BoC’s record label and Square Enix regarding the royalties, use, or any number of things with an international version.
I’ve found a working link for Zero theme song on YouTube, but most of these get blocked or taken down by Toy’s Factory, the record label of Bump of Chicken. (In the first month or two the game was on the market last year, finding something like this was impossible. Notice how the name is spelled incorrectly in that video I linked? You need to be sneaky, apparently.) These Toy’s Factory guys are diligent, if naive, and since they’ve never had an international release — according to my one and only source of “research” Wikipedia — there could be problems. For a handheld game in North America, would Square Enix really spend the money to hire another rock star to write a song for its international version? They can drop money on something like that for a console game, where they’re sure they’ll make their cash back, but for a PSP game in the West? That’s a death sentence.
The solution to that might be simple: remove the song, right? Just use any other piece of music from the game’s outstanding soundtrack and call it good. Not so fast. At two points during the game, one of the main characters (I will not spoil anything, you’re fine here) begins to sing that song. He/she begins to sing — same words and tune — the Bump of Chicken song. You could hypothetically remove a song from the beginning and ending credits easily, but uh oh, what do you do about that? Do you write a new song? Do you contact another pop star to do it, or do you write it yourself? This is a localization nightmare — pretty time consuming, difficult to pull off, and perhaps costly. Do you remove the scenes entirely? As someone who has beaten the game, ah, no. You can’t, because the two scenes in which that character begins to sing are very, very powerful scenes. To remove them would be to gut some of the most memorable moments the game.
Even if you remove Bump of Chicken’s version of the song from the game, the character singing it is enough to violate copyright law if you don’t have the record label’s permission. I learned this the hard way when I wanted to sing some words to the tune of a Michael Jackson song for a video review I did on another website. This was a corporate entity whose lawyers tried everything, but they said in order to do it, we’d have to buy the rights for a truckload of money — even for little old me to sing to the tune of a song, just as a one-minute game review. Copyright is a crazy thing. My review couldn’t go up because of the legal hangups and high cost of the musical rights.
Here’s what else I know about copyright law: almost nothing. I have my anecdote, but look, I’m not gonna be one of those game journalists that makes things up if he doesn’t actually have facts on something, but I’m also not going to law school to learn every detail about musical copyright. Even so, we’ve all heard of copyright issues enough to at least know that something could be slowing things down. Almost certainly, knowing what you know about the world, you know that bringing a song international isn’t just done with oral consent. Papers need to be signed and deals need to be made; this much, you know without having to know the exact wording of the law.
Bump of Chicken’s music has appeared in other video games that have come stateside, such as Tales of the Abyss, but who knows if the record company is still happy with the same deal that was made all those years ago? The asking price might be higher this time around. No one can be sure.
Before you laugh it off, know this: Square Enix owns no part of the song. One might say “But it was used in the game so of course that’s not an issue.” It is. Square Enix owns no part of the song, Toy’s Factory does. If you go to a record store in Japan and pick up Bump of Chicken’s “Zero” single — which is absent from the game’s OST — you’ll notice copyright claims by Toy’s Factory, but not a single mention of Square Enix. Toy’s Factory owns that song, and the company is not likely to let Square Enix use it for cheap. A likely case is that Toy’s Factory (being a music company and not a game company) doesn’t understand the international handheld market being smaller than that of Japan. The record company could be asking for the same amount of money Square paid for use of that song in Japan. Its a guess, but knowing the music industry, it’s completely possible.
Music copyright hangups are serious business. This is why the DVD releases certain TV shows are slow to release. The shows used copyrighted music during their original runs, but now would have to buy those rights again. It’s why The Wonder Years hasn’t been released on DVD yet, and even the Netflix version (only recently launched) is considerably edited.
There could easily be other things slowing the project down, and there probably are. I think that one piece of the puzzle — however big or small — might be that song. I’m not saying that is the problem, I’m just saying it could feasibly be one part of a bigger issue, or one problem among several. The majority of the world hasn’t played the game yet, so you might not be aware of that little hangup.