Massage Freaks, the raunchy rthythm game from publisher qureate, has been quietly released on Steam. Not only that, but it's also received a complete name change and is now called 'beat refle', which sounds like a bit of a play on the term 'Reflexology'. It's certainly a more "neutral" title, that's for sure.
The release follows a storm of controversy following the initial reveal of Massage Freaks. Its depiction of women and the scenarios in which they find themselves caused many to draw comparisons to real-life sex crimes in Japan. In addition, the forenames of the in-game characters were identical to some of the members of Japanese idol group 'Hinatazaka46' before qureate swifly made moves to alter them. Indeed, the Steam page for beat refle contains a few choice statements to potentially avoid any future controversy:
※ All characters involved in sexual content are over the age of 18.
※ This game is a work of fiction.
※ It has nothing to do with any real person, group, or incident.
※ This game is not intended to incite or encourage crime. Do not imitate.
In addition to the name change, much of the game's steamier content appears to have been cut out from the vanilla release. Players can still access this via a patch from qureate's official website and experience beat refle as it's intended, but it seems that in order to get the game out there with minimal fuss, qureate has opted to leave out content that might cause significant backlash.
Perhaps most noteworthy, however, is that the game's release on Switch is still very much up in the air. Despite launching on Steam, beat refle's console launch is not mentioned anywhere on qureate's official website, and the eShop pages are still missing at the time of writing. Granted, there are likely procedures that need to be followed to get the game relisted, particularly after a complete name change, but we wouldn't be surprised if the launch has been canned entirely.
At the time of the indefinite delay, qureate refrained from providing any explicit reasoning behind its decision, only that it was “the result of discussions between relevant parties". Should the game see an eventual release on Switch, we imagine the cut content from the Steam release will also be missing on Switch, albeit without any option to manually patch it in.
What do you make of this continuing saga? Do you think Massage Freaks / beat refle will make its way onto Switch? Let us know in the comments!