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ScrollBoss: Sidbillies

Most discussions about video game censorship in the 16-BIT era revolve around how the blood and guts were being removed from Super Nintendo games. Insert "Mortal Kombat sweat joke" here. Sometimes you'll hear about how religious references were censored to the point where "God" was transformed into a "car" in a Final Fight scene. One of the oddest bits of censorship had female enemies being removed from many games and replaced by male enemies. Sometimes these men were just copies of pre-existing enemies but quite a few used new sprites redrawn to fit the female hit boxes. For reasons that will be obvious to some of you and will be explained to the rest of the class later, I've decided to call these men by a new name: Sidbillies. Yeah, like that one cartoon but with a few less letters. The term has been on the Vernacula-X glossary here for a few years but I'm just now getting around to writing about it.

I don't know if this was a policy put in place by the console companies or self-imposed censorship from 3rd party game creators that didn't want to catch any flak from parents or groups of moral crusaders It's just odd that many companies seemed to do this during the same time period. As mentioned in nearly every Final Fight FAQ, a book titled "Game Over" tells a story where someone from Capcom USA brought up concerns about the male heroes beating up the women. This lead to the bad girls being replaced with new male sprites drawn to fit within Poison and Roxy's old attack and collision boxes. But was this Capcom's decision or was this a mandate by Nintendo? Pit-Fighter's bad girl Angel appears but has black pants edited over her original skimpy outfit while a Gorgons-Gone-Wild version of Madusa appears topless in Super Castlevania IV. Maybe Medusa just snuck in by being a monster. Catwoman was also allowed to remain in Batman Returns. I thought this may have been a trend where only the female drones were removed but Maximum Carnage has both a female boss and a female drone enemy. The focus seemed to be on female enemies in more realistic platformers and beat-em-ups.

Let's take a look at a few of the games with different types of Sidbillies.

Final Fight (SNES)

The SNES port of Final Fight is probably the most well known case of Sidbillyism if not the first. Why? Because Final Fight was a huge arcade hit back then with Poison and Roxy were even more well-known and popular than most of the bosses in the game. Yes, even more popular than Two.P. Leaving the bad girls out of the game wasn't as much of a deal-breaker as it was yet another thing missing from the game like Guy, Rolento (and the entire round he's a boss of), Sodom and Damnd's real names, the alcoholic health items and the ability to have a two-player game. Billy and Sid, their replacements, had to be redrawn in same hitboxes spaces as Roxy and Poison or else they'd have to do some reprogramming. Another problem is how it looks like the designers were aiming at a punk rock vibe with them but they just wind up looking like a pair of skinny guys with belly shirts, bangle bracelets and slightly womanly walks. Sid and Billy made a disappointing and downright unwelcomed triumphant return in U.S. version of "Final Fight One, the Final Fight SNES/SF remake for the GBA before returning to obscurity.

Sonic Blast Man (SNES)
The women in the original Japanese version were replaced with all-new martial art thugs who look nothing like the women they replace. That's a good thing since almost nobody wants to see a bunch of burly shootfigthers in evening dresses. Unlike most of the women on this list who could hold their own in a fight against the heroes of their games, the women in Sonic Blast Man just looked like a gang of surly, waif-class supermodels. Seriously, their legs are barely thicker than the chainlink fence in the background. You're basically playing as a guy who can kill a locomotive in a single punch (as does in the intro) also knuckle-blasting 98 lbs. women right in the face with enough force to knock them off the screen. It's as harsh as having Superman stop Catwoman from robbing a museum by punching her into orbit. Now those martial artists in the baggy pants? No need to feel remorse there. In this case, the sidbilly may be better than the character he replaced.
The Super Famicom version also had female martial artists in baggy outfits who were replaced in the U.S. version by male martial artists in nearly indentical baggy outfits. Unlike the women in the first stage, you can tell these ladies came here to fight and can be some of the most tricky and dangerous enemies on the screen. Once you see how cheap their attacks are, you probably won't feel bad for beating the hell out of either version.
Final Fight 2 (SNES)
Another Final Fight, another sprite set of Sidbillies. Since this was made for the Super Famicom and SNES, very few Americans would know there were evil ladies in the original unless they saw early screenshots of the Japanese version. Male sprites were drawn within womanly hit boxes to replace the leather-clad, acrobatic naughtiness of Eliza and Mary. I may have made fun of Billy and Sid from Final Fight, but at least I still knew what the artists were going for. Robert and Leon? They're on some other ish. Wearing skintight highwater pants, grocery store bobo shoes and a vest that hasn't been the right size since the 4th grade just isn't going to strike fear into the heart of anyone. Luckily, the heroic ninja girl Maki wasn't removed from the game but she's getting beaten up by guys that are much bigger than even Haggar. This policy fell by the wayside just in time for Final Fight 3's May, the most boring bad girl design of the entire series.

Ninja Warriors Again (SNES)
Here's a case of replacing the entire character with drone types that are already walking around. Instead of the crazy acrobatic ninja girls from the Super Famicom version, The Super Nintendo version gets more stumpy, claw-wearing ninja guys who, unlike some people on this page, know what their vest size is.

Sunset Riders (SNES and Genesis)
In a case of Cowgirls-to-Boys, the bad dynamite-tossing cowgirls got the boot from the game. The SNES version re-uses the firebomb-throwing cowboys's sprite set, recolors them red and uses them as the new dynamite expert. Both home ports ditch the cowgirls but the SNES version censors even more things including putting more clothing on them kissifyin' and dancin' saloon gals. Consarn it to damnation, it just ain't right!

This started as a Super Nintendo policy but some Genesis games began to use Sidbillies after the whole Congress vs. Video Game hearings in the mid 1990's. Sega was singled out of allowing blood in their home versions of Mortal Kombat and the untrue notion that Night Trap (Sega CD) had players trapping and killing innocent girls. Yes, really. This should tell you what kind of scrutiny the companies were under.

Robocop vs. Terminator (Genesis)
SNES Genesis
In one of the oddest cases on this list, the blondes in sunglasses are only available in the Genesis version if you use a cheat code which unlocks the 'mature' version of the game that also unlocks specific blood splatters and firey deaths. In a complete flipping of scripts, the Super Nintendo version has those gun-toting blondes in the regular version of the game. They wear full unitards instead of the skimpier gear they roll with on the Genesis version.

the Punisher (Genesis)

The quadruple-jointed ninja girls in the skintight outfits from the arcade game were replaced with... hold up, wait a minute. Are these supposed to be men or women? It looks like they drew some typical ninja pajamas over the original female sprite bodies but left the head and hair untouched. The face looks really mannish and they yell "OW!" and "YUAAAAAAH!!!" like the guys when they get hit and when they die. On the other hand, they still have their female Japanese names. Maybe they figured that English-speaking players wouldn't know. While that seems settled, look at that sprite up there and pay attention to the flashing circle. Is that a... breast? Dammit, stop looking at me like that and look at the sprite. What is that? Sure, I could just say, "That just the loose top of the shinobi shozaku uniform. It's hanging like that since the ninja is hunched over so stop obsessing over it." Forget that, I need the material for this page. Seriously, is this a gang of but-her-face female ninja assassins with horrible man voices or is there an entire ninja clan that only recruits men with womanly waists and perky breasts? In either case, what kind of crazy person decides to make a ninja clan of nothing but this? I thought the ninja in the arcade version were weird but this pretty much takes the cake, the cookies and all other nearby pastries.

So there you have it. Yet another phenomenon in the era of highly censored gaming that made some games more bizarre than they already were. The sidbilly concept seemed to live and die inside the 16-bit era of gaming. Eventually, games like Captain Commando, Combatribes, Final Fight 3 and Sonic Blast Man 2 and Streets of Rage 3 were released with all ladies intact. Sure, some of them were told to put a few more clothes on but that was the price of doing business in the 1990's. Less than a decade later, we went from playing toned-down beat-em-ups and side-scrollers with no villainous women to games where you can violently murder anybody right in the face on purpose AND be rewarded for it. Er... yay, progress?

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