In the UK, the doling out of age ratings used to be handled by the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) - the same organisation responsible for deciding which ratings (you know - U, PG, 15 etc) movies are awarded; but since 2012 PEGI has been calling the shots. In the US, the ESRB does the dirty work, acting like some omnipresent Ministry from the mind of George Orwell and deciding what you can and can't play, dependent on the year of your birth. We're not here to wax lyrical on whether these organisations are correct in their judgement though. No, what we want to explore this time around is the BBFC's classification of some of the Dreamcast's more adult-themed PAL titles, and some of them are a little surprising to say the least...
Before continuing though, I just want to clarify - these are games that specifically have an 18 label on the cover. The ELSPA ratings (see above) you will find on the vast majority of PAL games are really only guidance labels and did not prohibit sales to minors as far as I'm aware.
Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage
We recently cast an eye over Berserk and think it's a decent hack 'n' slash with some great acting and an involving story. It's a little heavy on the cut scenes, but we'll let that slide for now. As for it being rated 18 though - we're not quite sure on the BBFC's reasoning here.
Grand Theft Auto 2
GTA 2 was always going to get an 18 certificate just because of its subject matter and illustrious forebear. The first game in the series was hardly a realistic portrayal of a life of crime with it's basic visuals and almost comical tone, but it is the connotation that is the issue.
Soldier Of Fortune
One of the Dreamcast's only true single player first person shooters, Soldier Of Fortune was a fairly late budget release that was met with mixed reviews. The loading times are almost Bloodborne-esque and the cut scenes are pretty atrocious even by 2000 standards, but it plays well enough and also features some great damage models. By which I mean, you can pretty much eviscerate your enemies with a minimum of effort. Or decapitate them. Or just blow an appendage off with your shotgun.
Mortal Kombat Gold
This is where is gets a bit silly. Sure, the recent Mortal Kombat X features some outrageously gory violence and finishing moves, and with the power of the next gen systems it looks brutally realistic at times...but Mortal Kombat Gold? An 18 certificate?! Yep, afraid so. Play Mortal Kombat Gold now is and you'll struggle to see what the fuss is about, as the fighting action is largely cartoon-like and not really that violent at all. Sure, you get those comical blood splatters that the series is famous for, and you can make enemies explode or mangle them in traps etc...but is there anything in MKG that can really be seen as anything other than tongue-in-cheek? Not in my opinion.
Exceptions to the rule
Bizarrely, the games listed above are the only four on the Dreamcast that the BBFC deemed worthy of an 18 certificate in the UK. This strikes me as very odd, because just glancing at my library of PAL cases I can instantly see three games that I would have naturally assumed to be worthy of an upper age rating. What are they? Why, the Resident Evil games of course. However, upon closer inspection they all appear to be 15 certificates, as does Dino Crisis. Even stranger, Shadow Man - a game in which you play an undead serial killer-hunting vigilante who travels between the realms of the living and the dead - also only receives a 15 certificate. It gets weirder though.
|Do you have the time to listen to me whine?|
And yet Mortal Kombat Gold is an 18.
Now, I'm not saying that all of these games should have been rated as 'adults only,' and that's not the point of this guff - I just think it's interesting and puzzling in equal measure that an organisation like the BBFC had such wildly differing benchmarks for what was suitable for the virgin, unspoilt minds of the youf of late 1990s and early 2000s Britain...and what they deemed far, far too dangerous.
What are your thoughts? Comments below please!