Massage Freaks delayed after receiving backlash in Japan over its risqué subject matter [Update]

All preorders will be canceled.

Written by. Ryuki Ishii based on the original Japanese article (original article’s publication date: 2022-07-22 20:27 JST)

qureate has announced that they’ve decided to delay the launch of Massage Freaks as a result of discussions with concerned parties. The game was initially scheduled to launch for the Nintendo Switch on August 4. The new release date has yet to be determined.

According to qureate’s announcement tweet, all preorders will be canceled as a result of this delay. In addition, the company states that it will proceed with legal actions against the spread of false rumors that obstruct its business, or posts on social media that are deemed malicious.

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Massage Freaks is a rhythm game where players perform massages on various girls. In the game, the protagonist Atsushi Yubihara takes over his late grandfather’s massage parlor and performs massages on the young women who visit to help relieve them of their troubles and pay off his grandfather’s debt.

Atsushi’s secret massage technique lies in massaging to the rhythm of the music customers subliminally want to hear to heal them both inside and out. Players massage to the rhythm by pressing the appropriate buttons in time with the music. This will increase customers’ affection toward Atsushi which can lead to love and seeing “unexpected things that would leave most men standing in excitement!”

While gameplay footage hasn’t been revealed and information was limited, the screenshots and game synopsis are quite provocative. As the songs progress, the girls’ clothing gets more revealing, and if a certain score is reached, “Nice! Totally Relaxed! Mode” (NTR Mode) will activate. The game describes this mode as the women baring their hearts being represented by physical nudity.

Although qureate didn’t elaborate on the reason behind the delay, there were critical opinions of the game being shared online, with some saying it shows discrimination against women, is a sexually exploitative game, and reminds some of sexual crimes at massage parlors that have happened recently in Japan. And some of the criticism was aimed at Nintendo due to the game being approved for sale on their platform.

This led to qureate making a statement on July 17 (JST). The company said that they are the only ones who can adjust the content of the game and asked that opinions on the game be sent directly to them. qureate also said at the time that they are considering adjusting elements of the game such as character names and what’s depicted.

* Massage Freaks received a CERO: D (17+) rating in Japan and an ESRB: T (13+) rating in North America.

It’s unclear whether the decision to delay the game was made to adjust what’s depicted in the game or whether there is another reason. In regard to the character names, it was pointed out that all of the female characters’ names are the same as members of the idol group Hinatazaka46 (though the last names were different). qureate made an apology on this matter a few days ago and updated the official website to reflect the changes made to the character names.

[Update 2022/07/22 23:22 JST]
qureate has issued another statement regarding Massage Freaks. In it, the company apologizes for carelessly parodying someone else’s names for the game’s characters. They confirmed that they’ve already made changes to the character names.

qureate laments the fact that they had to delay the release even though the game was on schedule to launch as planned. They intend to continue to provide content that fans can enjoy while learning from the helplessness they’ve felt as game developers over the matter.

The game’s official website is currently under maintenance, and all content, including game overviews and screenshots, are not available for viewing. The Nintendo eShop page for Massage Freaks has also been removed.

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Massage Freaks gets backlash over its risqué subject matter prompting the developer to respond