Cat & Chocolate –> Texas Zombies

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May 152012

I was checking out the new board game releases last week and I came across something called Texas Zombies. I was gonna pass it over, since I’m damn tired of the glut of zombie-related things (Board games aren’t immune to the plague.), but I noticed that the designer of the game was Japanese. For those of y’all not up on board games, most of the gamer-centric ones put the designer’s name on the box much like how you’ll see a director’s name on a movie or something like that. Designers tend to have certain tendencies to their games, so peeps like seeing that soandso made this and that game.

So yeah, a Japanese designer. That didn’t necessarily mean it’s a game from Japan, but it caught my eye since I’ve been going out of my way to check out from-Japan games for the blog. Turns out Texas Zombies is a game from Japan, but that isn’t what’s interesting about it.

“Texas Zombies” isn’t the game’s original name. In Japan the game was released as Cat & Chocolate.

Old school anime fans are used to things being “rethemed” for the western audience. Go-Lion gets mixed up into Voltron. Yamato becomes Starblazers. Stuff like the early episodes of Pokemon would call riceballs and meatbuns “donuts.” Even more recent localizations like Asobi ni Ikuyo get more “accessible” names like Cat Planet Cuties. But even the most drastic changes usually didn’t change the inherent meaning of the anime in question.

And that’s what’s interesting about this game. While I haven’t played the game, everything I’ve heard says that the actual mechanics of the game are unchanged. It’s a party game where the players deal with randomly drawn events, and all of the rules and card text was not altered when the game was “localized” for the US and European market. For most board gamers, this is all that matters. To these fans, the visuals and “theme” of the game are fluff that has no real impact on the actual experience. Some people might be turned off from the zombie theme, but for most gamers they’ll play it regardless if the actual game is enjoyable.

But I’m curious to see what fans of Japanese stuff think about this. Part of the reason why a lot of us like anime/manga/etc that is because of that aesthetic that’s inherent to it all. So in taking away the anime-ish art and replacing it with something wholly different takes away part of the appeal of the original product. It may make it more “accessible” to the board game audience as a whole, but it pushes away an entirely different audience that might find this interested for the very fact that it’s Japanese.

Then there’s the bit where you can’t help that they changed it not so much because they wanted to make it palatable for western audiences and more because it was too Japanese. Maybe they aren’t changing it because “zombies sell more,” but because “no one wants that anime crap.” It’s the whole “why the fuck are they getting white dudes for the Akira remake” thing in cardboard form. Or maybe they think the game won’t be taken seriously if it gets associated with Yu-Gi-Oh.

Whatever the case, it’s “interesting” to see import board gaming go through a lot of the same motions as the early days of import anime. Sometimes you get something completely untouched save for translation, like Tanto Cuore, and sometimes you get ghost cats turned into Texas Zombies.

Also: If anyone can find a copy of Cat & Chocolate, let me know. It’s sold out at all of the online shops I know about.