"Let me start by replying to that thought experiment. In such a case it's offensive by nature (but not intent)"
If the offensiveness of some content varies by geographic location, how is it 'naturally' offensive? Who is the arbiter of this nature?
For instance, if I were to call someone a spaz or something, that is perfectly permissible in America because here it just refers to acting animated and is more of a light-hearted jest, like calling someone clumsy. I can just sort of drop it into polite conversation and no one would even bat an eye.
Now -- correct me if I am wrong -- I believe this is not the case in most European countries, where the word has a slightly different history of use and is considered very strongly derogatory?
So if I call someone a spaz, is that word offensive by nature?
"But even then it doesn't have to be changed if it can be explained as a cultural difference."
Where and how would these explanations be included?
If material in its original form and context did not require an explanation, shoehorning one into the work is still a change to the material, and frequently an awkward change to boot.
Including a 'We know this seems really cringe-worthy to you, but trust us, if you had a thorough and deep knowledge of Japanese cultural mores that is necessary to properly contextualize what you are seeing, this extremely weird conversation would be totally hilarious' does not seem like something that anyone actually wants out of a localization.
"But it really seems like people are more sensitive, touchy and easy to offend now than they used to be."
I agree, people who complain about censorship are waaaaay more sensitive and touchy than they used to be.
I lived through the 90s when they actually tried to ban videogames and Nintendo testified before Congress that they would never let an M-rated game release on their system. Now banning games is unthinkable and Nintendo publishes games like Bayonetta 2
. You will have a tough time convincing me that things are 'worse than ever before' simply because an after-thought mini-game and a couple of costumes got axed.
"And it's almost as if people WANT to see controversy in some things, like how that 'homophobic' scene was horribly misrepresented to sound worse than it really is"
I do not think the scene in question was 'homophobic' or whatever, but I can certainly understand where people are coming from when they feel uncomfortable watching it, which I rather doubt was what the writers intended, how the Japanese audience responded, or is in general something that anyone involved at any level (players/developers/publishers) actually wants to occur.
If the express purpose of the game is for its players to feel immersed, have fun, and occasionally laugh, then what is the point of Nintendo translating the scene in a manner that directly conflicts with that purpose?