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The Callisto Protocol proves too violent for Japanese censors

Developer withdraws Japanese release after failing to reach compromise with ratings body CERO

A gross, deformed, organic humanoid monster reaches its hand over the helmet of a spaceman in The Callisto Protocol Image: Striking Distance Studios/Krafton

Sci-fi horror game and Dead Space spiritual sequel The Callisto Protocol has had its Japanese release canceled after its developer was unable to reach agreement with Japan’s video game age ratings body, CERO.

The news was broken in a statement posted to the Japanese Callisto Protocol Twitter account by developer Striking Distance Studios and publisher Krafton.

In a translation posted to Reddit (and verified by Eurogamer), the post reads: “The Callisto Protocol has decided to stop the release of the Japanese version. As of now, the CERO rating cannot be passed. We have decided that we would no longer be able to provide you with the experience you need. We hope everyone in Japan will understand. If you have already pre-ordered, we will refund you.”

The statement implies that Striking Distance was either unable or unwilling to make any alterations to the game that might have obtained it a rating and cleared it for release in Japan. CERO’s top “Z” rating limits sales to players aged 18 and over.

Although Striking Distance didn’t comment on the reasons The Callisto Protocol failed to obtain a rating, they very likely relate to the game’s violent content. CERO is known for taking a strict line on the levels of gore it considers permissible. Dismemberment is a particular taboo; 2020’s The Last of Us Part 2, for example, had all dismemberment removed for its Japanese release, as well as a sex scene edited, to obtain its “Z” rating.

Striking Distance has spoken proudly of The Callisto Protocol’s level of brutality and gore. “We have a gore engine,” studio head Glen Schofield told Eurogamer in June. “It’s a lot of rendering, and you break up the characters into [chunks], cut them up with bones sticking out and all that. Then the rendering guys, they do their special thing to it which is make everything look wet. And so every character had to be done that way — and however you go at it, chunks break off, or parts of the face, parts of the head.” It seems Striking Distance has decided the game experience would be too radically changed if this interactivity was removed — if it would even be possible to remove it.

The Callisto Protocol will be released on Dec. 2 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

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