On January 18th, Atlus announced they are localizing the Japanese Visual Novel/Strategy Role Playing games Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception and its squeal, Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth, for the west this year. This news came after the discovery of Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception’s sudden ESRB rating popping up earlier in the month. Both games will be arriving for Playstation 4 and PS Vita with Mask of Deception hitting shelves this Spring. More information can be found from the announcement post by Atlus PR on the Official Playstation Blog. Now it’s pretty exciting news that these games are even making it over in English at all, but, honestly, for most people it brings up a big question: what is in the world is Utawarerumono? And better yet: why should I care about this niche anime game? Well folks, take a seat and let me tell you.
Utawarerumono is a Japanese Strategy Role Playing game series (similar to series such as Fire Emblem) by the visual novel development studio Leaf under the publishing company Aquaplus. The story of Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception follows the protagonist, Haku, after he is rescued by a curious girl with animal ears/tail from a nearby village. Awaking with amnesia, he has no aims or goals of his own so his savior, Kuon, takes him into her care. Becoming traveling companions, the two set out to the vast lands of Yamato, building new relationships and fighting off enemies along the way as Haku gets roped into the political struggle of the nation.
The gameplay of the Utawarerumono series is a mix between visual novel and SRPG, again similar to that of the modern Fire Emblem games. However, Utawarerumono is much more heavy-handed about its visual novel elements than other SRPG’s. Forming relationships, uncovering the mysteries of the story, and engaging in the political intrigue of the world will be half if not more of the overall gameplay experience. The other half of the gameplay features a turn-based strategy game of commanding your allies on the field of battle, boasting its overall game length to 50+ hours. Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is a lengthy experience not for the faint of heart but for fans of the VN/SRPG mix of Fire Emblem or the heavy visual novel games such as Danganronpa or Steins;Gate. I, for one, am very excited to get my hands on this series so I’ve provided the teaser trailer below for a taste of what’s to come.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is, interestingly enough, the 2nd installment of the Utawarerumono series, which has a total of three games and various manga/anime adaptations. The first game, Utawarerumono, released in April 2002 on Windows and features a similar story set-up as Mask of Deception. The original game never found itself outside of Japan due to the more explicit “adult” story content and lack of popularity for visual novels in other parts of the world at that time. Normally, it’s unprecedented to enter into a story-heavy series midway through but considering Mask of Deception released in Japan 13 years after the original, I’m confident the game will bridge the gap in story as needed.
Over the past few years, Japanese games and anime have found increasing popularity in the west as games such as Persona 4 (specifically around the release of P4: Golden) took more mainstream audiences by storm and anime such as Sword Art Online and Attack on Titan became more accessible to non-anime fans. Playstation Vita owners have seen the fall of Sony’s support only to be met with an influx of niche Japanese titles being brought over by NIS, Atlus, XSEED, etc. as the companies found a dedicated audience willing to support the games. The increasing support has, more recently, found its way over to Steam as these localization companies port over games and kickstarters by Sekai Project find enough backers to bring visual novels to the PC. This culmination of popularity is now why we find ourselves here today and why we can talk about Utawarerumono. If it wasn’t for the niche success of games like Danganronpa then games like Utawarerumono or similiar games would never see the light of day in the west. It’s an exciting time to be a fan of Japanese content.
With a lot of Japanese titles, censorship usually becomes an issue at hand. Atlus’ PR Manager John Hardin on the comments section of the Official Playstation Blog announcement post stated that Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception has a slight content change made to comply with the ESRB in its M-rating of the game with the intent to no compromise the original purpose of the scene in question. As far as we can currently tell, the change is specific to one scene and doesn’t imply that other portions of the game has been altered. While I’m not a fan of censorship, I can understand its purpose so long as the localization doesn’t run wild with it. Nintendo, as an example, has a tendency to take matter to the extreme, heavily adjusting portion of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE and Fire Emblem: Fates not because the games needed to be changed but out of fear for the cultural differences between the East and West. If what Atlus is saying is true, then I’m perfectly fine with the level of censorship taken to get this game in our hands, staying specific to sexual content and not violence or profanity. For more information about the nature of this censorship, I recommend checking out Censored Gaming‘s video “A Scene Will Be Censored In English Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception“. (Note: I have no affiliation with Censored Gaming or their channel. Any advertisements they have are their own and do not reflect upon TheDigiQuest.com)
All in all, Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is another niche Vita game that I can’t wait to get my hands on. If all goes well, I would like to get a review up for the game post launch. It’s a series I know very little about besides what I researched for this article. Despite that, the SRPG genre is currently dominated by Fire Emblem which found more popularity around the time when the game dipped into its more anime-like side so I believe there is definitely a place Utawarerumono to squeeze ever-so-slightly into, especially as a more mature title with a deeper story to convey. For those curious about the story in question or aren’t interested in playing the games but are looking for something to watch, there is a recent anime adaptation of Mask of Deception/Mask of Truth titled Utawarerumono: The False Faces over on Crunchyroll. I’m planning on skipping it so I can experience the full story via the games.
Regarding more information, the games will be priced at $49.99 / CA$64.99 for the PlayStation 4 version and $39.99 / CA$54.99 for PS Vita version. The release of physical copies of the game vary per region. The audio will opt to maintain its Japanese VO will providing English text. You can visit the official website for Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception here and for Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth here where you can find more information about the games pre-order the physical copies (if you desire to) through select retailers such as Amazon.
Update (3/22): Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception will release for PlayStation 4/PS Vita on May 23 in the North America and Europe. Check out the character introduction videos below!
Thanks for reading and keep your eyes pealed for more Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception when the game releases this spring.