Japanese video games get tailored for the States -- Games like ''Final Fight,'' ''Joe & Mac,'' and others had to be edited for U.S. customers

Forget Theory Z economics, Godzilla movies, and karaoke. Want to know what’s really different about Japanese culture? It’s the video games, which often undergo some revealing (and little-known) changes before hitting America. Here’s a critical look at some of the idiosyncratic games that are brightening video screens in the Land of the Rising Sun, as well as a peek into how the games have been altered for American consumption. (The Japanese versions can be found in some specialty shops, and require an adapter for use with U.S. systems.)

Final Fight
Japan: At various points in this brutal but fun combat game, the hero — either a karate black belt or an apparently steroid-pumped wrestler — head-butts, sucker- punches, or otherwise wreaks havoc on lithe female villains as well as the usual array of male opponents.
USA: The (white) hero still gets to whale on the bad guys — many of whom appear to be black — but the women have been replaced by colorful male punks. According to Capcom USA: ”Industry standards for game content vary as we cross cultural boundaries.”

D.J. Boy
Japan: At the end of the first stage of this generic action game, the skateboard- riding, kickboxing hero fights an obese black woman who periodically breaks wind on him.
USA: D.J. Boy still does battle with an enormous black woman, only here she’s a few shades lighter and no longer has a fondness for flatulence. Kaneko USA: ”[The Japanese programmers] were looking for input, and obviously they got it from the wrong people.”

Joe & Mac
Japan: Before you even press ”start,” four cavemen march into a thatched hut, which shakes suggestively for a couple of seconds — then they emerge, dragging cavewomen by the hair and looking very satisfied.
USA: All that’s pictured during the initial display is a hut that quickly fades into the title screen, allowing players to commence the cartoony prehistoric action. Data East USA: ”We didn’t want kids to see [the Japanese display] and think it was okay.”

Bonk’s Revenge
Japan: When he eats certain pieces of meat, the pint-size male protagonist sprouts long lashes, affects a fey, doe-eyed expression, and blows heart-shaped kisses at his male enemies, who then turn into stone. This game is known in Japan as Pithecanthropus Computerurus 2
USA: When he eats certain pieces of meat, a decidedly butch, scowling Bonk blows steam out of his ears and pulverizes foes with his enlarged noggin. (A Turbo Technologies spokesman, previously unaware of this discrepancy, laughed too hard to offer intelligible comment.)