Sunday, June 11, 2017


The new rant, updated on every 8th, 18th, and 28th of the month, is right below this post. Enjoy! But before you do, I have a quick announcement...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Fire Emblem Series's Flying Units' Weakness

I seem to be strangely over-critical of flying units in the Fire Emblem series.

One of the mainstay character classes of Fire Emblem is the flying unit. These are the ones where some fighter rides atop a pegasus, a wyvern, or, recently, a big honkin’ cockatoo in battle, and can travel over various map obstacles that other fighters can’t traverse, because, y’know, flying. Naturally, this makes these units extremely handy, particularly for accomplishing timed objectives during a battle which would otherwise be nearly impossible to get to in time. To balance these units out so that players can’t abuse their mobility too much, they always take critical damage from projectile weapons like bows.

This seems sensible enough at a glance. They’re flying units, so naturally the weapon you’d rely on to take them down would be a projectile, right? I mean, that’s how it works in real life. You need to take down a bird flying overhead, you’re gonna need something with a little more reach than a sword. But, scrutinize this system with anything lengthier than that glance, and you’ll realize that this actually doesn’t make any damn sense.

See, the problem comes back to the reasoning for why this would appear to make sense: flying enemies are outside our normal reach, so we would rely on a bow to take down, say, a pegasus knight. But the game doesn’t actually follow this logic, because a pegasus knight can be attacked using melee weapons just as any other unit can be! Get a ground-based unit with an axe up to a pegasus knight unit, and that axe grunt can attack the pegasus knight exactly as effectively as he can anyone else! The pegasus knight is no more or less evasive, takes no more or less damage from the axe, as any other unit would. The bow’s extra damage to flying units is founded on the core idea that a flying enemy can only be hit by long-range weapons, but the game doesn’t actually support this--the flying units are no less vulnerable to regular weaponry!

So why, then, should the bow be so deadly to flying units? It’s not like they’re significantly less armored than many other types of fighters in the Fire Emblem series. The regular horses that knights ride are just as vulnerable to an arrow’s damage. More, really, because any significant damage to the majority of a horse’s body is going to make the act of movement along the ground difficult or impossible for the horse, while in the case of a pegasus, a lot less of its body would need to be in perfect condition to keep moving through the air.

And what about wyvern units? Considering that these guys are dragons’ lesser cousins, their scales should make them far less susceptible to arrows than most regular units in the series, and the knights that sit atop them tend to be pretty heavily armored, too.

Heck, what about the issue of mobility? If anything, shouldn’t a flying unit be even harder to hit with a bow, since they have more space and distance when in the air to react and evade? Ground units are significantly more limited in their options for avoiding projectiles than those that can move through the air at will.

It just doesn’t make sense. If, in practice, everyone can attack the flying units with any weapon and not suffer any kind of damage or accuracy penalty, thus eliminating the theoretical benefit of a bow’s range in combat against a flying foe, then there’s just no logical reason why a bow’s arrows would be any more effective on a kinshi, pegasus, or especially wyvern rider than it would be on any other given fighter. I know it’s all in the name of gameplay balance (although I’m not actually sure whether this system even really balances flying units out very well to begin with), but that doesn’t mean it’s sensible on more important levels.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

General RPGs' Accessories

RPG heroes are dumb, man.

When it comes to RPGs, there are 3 mainstays of equipment: Weapon, Armor, and Accessory. Sometimes a game will differentiate separate parts of armor (Dragon Age 1, for example, has equipment slots for boots and helmets in addition to the body armor), sometimes a game will have multiple hand slots for weapons or shields determined by the player (DA1 also does this), sometimes a game will differentiate different types of accessories (to continue the example, DA1 has separate slots for equipping necklaces and rings, allowing for 2 rings and 1 necklace on every character), but in the end, it almost always comes down to these mainstays. I mean, not always, I’ll grant you (AeternoBlade, for example, has 3 slots for accessories, but Freyja’s weapon and armor are set in stone for the game’s duration...not that you’d ever want her to stop using the most insanely deadly sword in RPG history), but still, this is the case like 90+% of the time.

Accessories tend to be the most interesting and useful of these mainstays. After all, the bonuses from weapons and armors tend to just be simple increases to attack and defense. Yes, there are many weapons and armors that have other effects, and those can be exceptionally useful, but generally, accessories are the pieces of equipment that provide varied effects that can change your playstyle or be manipulated to make your characters unstoppable in 1 fashion or another. Is the deadliest part of an upcoming boss fight the enemy’s Damage-Over-Time effects? Throw on a couple rings that prevent Poison or Bleed conditions. Want to attack 8 times, that’s 8 fucking times, in a row in Final Fantasy 6? Throw an Offering and Genji Glove on a character. Want to just be actually, honestly indestructible in Lufia 2? Equip the Egg Ring (although by the time you can get the damn thing, you clearly don’t need it anyway). Accessories can cause you to regenerate health every round, increase the damage of critical strikes or attacks to hit elemental weaknesses, activate bonus skills on characters that normally have to choose between them, give immunity to status ailments and instant death attacks, increase stats, confer extra experience and money at the end of battles, lower the cost of spells and abilities, give elemental resistances, increase the amount of actions you get per turn, make healing spells and items more effective, empower attack skills and magic, and do so much more. A wide and varied number of accessories in a game can allow for party customization in RPGs which otherwise have no such opportunities.

So, of course, this begs the question of why the hell RPG characters only ever equip, at most, a few of these things at a time.

I mean, think about it. Let’s take Final Fantasy 6 as an example. If, say, protagonist Terra decides to equip both a Gem Box and an Economizer (Soul of Thamasa and Celestriad in the later translation), she can cast magic twice per turn (4 times if you abuse the Quick spell), and all spells cost her only a single MP. Being able to throw Ultima around twice (or 4 times) with no worry of running out of magical ammo for it is pretty awesome! But that’s just 2 accessories working in tandem--an orb and a necklace, it seems. Well, there’s nothing about wearing an orb (however that works) and a necklace that should stop Terra from also tying a Ribbon around her neck or wrist or wherever the Ribbon item is kept--she could have all that magical attack power, AND be immune to status ailments! For that matter, there’s no reason any of these accessories would get in the way of her wearing a White Cape, increasing her defense and magical evasion. And underneath the cape could be the wings of some Cherub Down, to ensure that she’s immune to all Earth-based attacks. And why should any of these accessories prevent her from putting on a pair of Marvel Shoes, granting herself faster actions, health regeneration, and additional protection from magic and physical damage? None of these accessories get in the way of one another, so if Terra really wants to be an unstoppable force of nature, she could equip them all. Hell, even the ones that would get in each other’s way don’t always have to be exclusive. I mean, I think the Beads accessory is supposed to be worn around one’s neck, so you’d think Terra wouldn’t be able to wear it and the Economizer at the same time, but it’s not like it’s physically impossible to wear 2 necklaces/pendants/whatevers at the same time. She could totally wear both, no problem.

Why does my protagonist in Dragon Age 1 only wear 2 rings? There are 35 different rings in the game that give beneficial effects. Just 2? Fuck that, I want a ring on every damn finger! And toe! Hell, if it means more spell resistance and critical damage, go ahead and pierce my Grey Warden’s ears with a couple of those magical rings each, and her nose, and tongue! Deck her out like a punk rocker with a fetish for costume jewelry! I like it, so I wanna put 3 dozen rings on it!

There are 39 different amulets in the game? Pile’em on! By the time I’m done with her, people are gonna be mistaking her neck for a cluttered keychain!

How many stat-boosting, effect-giving magical belts are there in Dragon Age, again? 32? Bring’em on, who said that belts are for the waist only? Throw 5 around my city elf heroine’s waist and then start strapping’em around her legs, arms, wherever they’ll go! If it means extra Cunning stats (somehow) and better health regeneration, I’ll make her look like she just came straight outta one of Tetsuya Nomura’s wet dreams!

It’s just always seemed silly to me that RPG characters have some arbitrary accessory limit imposed on them. You can only really wear 1 set of armor (maybe 2, I guess, if you have separate armors for clothing-type and real-armor-type), you can only grip 2 weapons and there are actual pros and cons to the issue of whether to go with 2 weapons, a weapon and shield, or just a weapon gripped with both hands. But nearly every RPG character has got a neck, 2 wrists, 10 fingers, 10 toes, and so on. There’s no reason they can’t wear 20 different magical rings into battle, a couple of pendants, several bracelets or at least 2 gauntlets, and so on. They’ve got access to all these incredible ability-boosting baubles, but they only ever wear 1 - 5 of them at a time! C’mon, Wild Arms 2’s Ashley, you’re trying to save your world from terrorists, an ancient demon, and an actual living universe that’s trying to eat your reality! You need to get serious about this shit! Pin the Sheriff’s Star on your chest, AND wear a pair of attack-increasing gloves! At the same time, you idiot!

And yeah, I know the reason for this from the gameplay perspective. Obviously, if you want any sort of game balance, you can’t give a character the option to load themselves down with as many accessories as they’re actually able to wear. Well, that’s great and all for design mechanics, but that doesn’t mean that it makes sense from a narrative standpoint when Hero McSwordbutt decides to take off the ring he’s been wearing because he wants to try on a new cape. Just because you have to do something to maintain game balance, that doesn’t mean it needs no explanation whatsoever to justify it, if it goes beyond the laws of common sense (I’m looking at you, Adventuring Party Size Limits). You still should do or say something to make some sense of it.

I’m telling you, the day some RPG hero realizes that she’s got more than 2 fingers, and that her neck and hands occupy different places on her body, we’re gonna have the most overpowered game character of all time.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fallout 4's Downloadable Content

Just so you know, I have also (finally) updated my Fire Emblem 14 DLC rant to reflect the second pack of DLCs released almost immediately after I first published the rant. Didn’t figure it deserved its own rant slot a second time, but I didn’t want to let it go totally unnoticed, either, since I’m full of myself and want everyone to read every word I write.

With the recent release of Nuka World, Fallout 4’s run of Downloadable Content has come to an end, and so has come the time for me to pass judgment on the game’s add-ons. Which are good? Which aren’t? Which are actually worth the price? And how does the game’s suite of add-ons compare to the previous title of the series, Fallout: New Vegas, which was overall quite good with its DLCs? Read on, and find out.

Or just go do something more interesting. I probably would.

Note: As always, my focus is only on add-ons that involve some kind of story content. DLC that solely affects gameplay elements is ultimately unimportant, so I’m not going to talk about it here. Thus, we’ll be ignoring the Wasteland Workshop and Contraptions Workshop DLCs for Fallout 4, which do nothing whatsoever but add some new building stuff to the settlement system in the game. I like messing around with the workshop and building settlements as much as the next guy (in fact, given what some of my settlements look like in the game, I think it’s safe to say I like it way, way more than most “next guys”), but I’m certainly not going to advocate spending money on playing around with what amounts to pretend postapocalyptic Minecraft and Barbie.

Anyway, on with the show.

Automatron: Eh...not a strong start for Fallout 4’s add-ons. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing particularly wrong with Automatron. The basic idea is that you meet up with a robot named Ada who wants to avenge her recently murdered master, and you go on a quest to a few locations to locate the individual responsible for it, stopping them from enacting a plan to fill the Commonwealth with deadly robots. Ada joins you as a companion permanently, and things wrap up in a way that’s predictable, but not unenjoyable.

The thing is, although there’s nothing that stands out as bad about Automatron, there’s also nothing that stands out as really interesting, either. Ada is an alright companion (and she gets serious bonus points for being the only party member who has nothing negative to say about you picking up junk objects...I swear to Mieli, I have gotten so sick of Nick and Piper getting judgmental every time I pick up a desk fan!), with a little more personality than some of the game’s party members, a little less than others, but nothing that really makes her especially compelling. The story of this quest is straightforward and simple, and it neither introduces any really interesting ideas, nor strongly represents the series theme of United States culture, nor the themes more specific to this installment of the franchise. Really, the most notable thing about this whole quest line is that you get to fool around a little more with being the Silver Shroud during the final showdown. Which is fun, to be sure, and something Fallout 4 needs a LOT more of, but a tiny handful of conversation cues aren’t exactly a reason to fork over $10. So, I dunno...I wouldn’t really recommend this one, I guess. At least, not for the current asking price. You can do better with your time and money than “neither good nor bad.”

Far Harbor: Ah, here we go, MUCH better. Far Harbor is just great, exactly what I want from a Fallout 4 DLC. It’s got a decent story, in which you get hired to find a girl who’s gone missing in Maine and end up getting involved in a conflict between caustic fishermen, synth refugees, and crazy radiation-worshippers. The concept is cool (even if the plot-moving motivation is “find someone’s kid,” which Fallout 4 kinda overuses), there are some decent characters (Dima is particularly great), there’s some great bits of Americana (I enjoy the stuff about Vim, the Fallout equivalent of Moxie soda, quite a lot), the new companion, Old Longfellow, is alright, the atmosphere of the island is perfect (the radioactive fog concept utilizes the Fallout setting nicely), the cult of Atom actually gets some significant story attention, and the best character of Fallout 4, Nick, gets another dose of solid character development. Best of all, Far Harbor really presents some succulent mental morsels. There’s a central theme to the DLC, that being the concept of the truth: how concrete it should be, how far one should go to investigate and tout it, whether it truly is the best policy and how sometimes it isn’t so easy to even really tell what is and isn’t real to begin with. The choices you make about the future of Far Harbor at the end of this DLC excellently test your commitment to honesty, and even the happy ending (peace between all 3 major groups on the island) still has an unsettling undertone, for it may be that it sets a dangerous precedent as it favors unity, peace, and nonviolence brought about by a secret manipulation and allowing a crime to remain unknown and unpunished.

I’ll give away no more than I have, but suffice to say, Bethesda really did a great job in making their detective side-story into an examination of the concept of honesty, and the question of what the truth is really worth to us, which in itself ties strongly into some of the most important issues facing the United States today as we struggle not to give up our freedoms to our government in exchange for (false) promises of security. Good, good stuff, Bethesda. This DLC package is definitely worth iiiiittttwaitholyCRAPisthatright is Far Harbor really, actually $25!? Twen-goddamn-ty-fucking-five-pissing dollars? Jesus jumping on a jungle gym with James Earl Jones, that’s only 5 bucks shy of being half the cost of Fallout 4 altogether! Seriously? The entirety of Far Harbor is like a tenth the size of Fallout 4’s main game, if that, yet it costs almost half the price? Sheesh! 25 bucks...I’m pretty damn sure I didn’t get 25 hours out of this add-on.

Okay, well...I dunno. Far Harbor is really, really good. I’d say it’s 1 of the best parts of Fallout 4. It’s up there with Point Lookout, Dead Money, and Lonely Road as far as quality Fallout DLCs go. Is it really worth the amount of money you could pay for another game (albeit not a flashy AAA title) altogether? That’s hard to say. I don’t recommend it for its asking price, but at the same time, I don’t recommend against it, either. I guess this, like Automatron, is gonna be a case where it’s going to be worth it some day, once the costs of Fallout 4 are cut substantially, but it might not be worth your money at the moment. Too bad. Do make sure to grab it sooner or later, though!

Vault-Tec Workshop: Poor, sweet, stupid Clem. Vault-Tec Workshop is a quickie. You find a vault, its overseer decides to have you enact social experiments straight out of some foolish corporate executive’s wet dreams which focus on enhancing productivity by eliminating humanity, explore a cave a bit. I think that’s about it.

The gameplay elements of this DLC are obviously the intended focus, adding a bunch of new options to the settlement workshop, but there’s still something of merit to be found in this add-on. The story, such as it is, is quick and not terribly compelling, but there’s a little food for thought and relation to American culture in the questions being raised (though in a humorous manner) regarding how far is too far in our capitalist obsession with squeezing every possible ounce of productivity out of our citizens.

It’s not bad for what it is. But is it worth its price of $5? Meh...I dunno. Not really. It’s not unenjoyable, but there’s so little to it. Hold off until it’s 50% off or something.

Nuka-World: Wait...what? That’s it? This is the last DLC for Fallout 4? No more after this?


Sigh...alright, then. Nuka-World is a mixed bag. On the positive side, pretty much all the stuff going on on the side in this DLC is pretty solid stuff. The Grandchester Mansion is cool, the exploration elements are solid, the lore is classic Fallout material, Sierra’s sidequest is great (and just having her return from Fallout 3 was an unexpected little joy), and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t a hoot to see those Hubologist dimwits again. Didn’t realize how much I’d missed laughing at the Fallout equivalent of Scientology since the second game. I’ll even give it a point for a gameplay element, which you know is pretty damn rare for me, because damn if it isn’t a (literal) blast to use weaponized Nuka-Cola shot out of a squirtgun.

Even a bit of the raider-related stuff is enjoyable in this DLC. Raider Radio is amusing (well, for 10 minutes, anyway), and the Gauntlet and battle with Colter is good. Gage is an alright companion character, too, though short-lived.

But the issue with this DLC...well, it’s the raider-related stuff. And that’s the main storyline of Nuka-World. And that’s a problem, for several reasons. The first reason is simply that the main plot of Nuka-World is not interesting. You arrive at a theme park, you become the leader of the raiders hanging out there, you bring the entirety of the theme park under your raider gangs’ control, and then you attack the Commonwealth while settling internal disputes with your raiders. That’s it. There’s actually less intellectual exercise to be had in this DLC’s main plot than there is in the rinky-dink little Vault-Tec Workshop add-on! The main story of this whole thing can just be summed up as, “Be a raider.” Not especially compelling.

The next reason that this is a problem is that it runs counter to the protagonist’s character. Due to the nature of Fallout 4’s main plot, the protagonist is left with a decent degree of malleability with her or his personality, but not nearly as much as with previous Fallout titles. Don’t get me wrong, here, I’m not complaining about that--the trade-off is that the more rigid structure of the Sole Survivor’s character means a much more interesting personality with greater depth than any previous Fallout protagonist, which is definitely a good thing. Unfortunately for Nuka-World, though, this means that even though there have been options in the main game to make your protagonist quite evil, those options are of an organized, structured kind of evil (namely, the well-meaning but utterly conscience-lacking Institute, or the bigoted asswipes with the Brotherhood of Steel). There’s really just nothing in Fallout 4 to set a precedent for Nora or Nate becoming a raider, and it doesn’t mesh with pretty much everything we know about her or his personality, regardless of which pathways you’ve taken in the game proper. This just doesn’t work.

Hell, even the voice acting for the protagonist seems to confirm that this doesn’t jive with her/his character. Courtenay Taylor has put in a great performance for Nora in Fallout 4, allowing the character of the Sole Survivor to develop almost as much through her voice acting as through the script itself, and Brian Delaney has done a solid job as Nate, too. Yet neither of them sound even remotely right throughout this DLC when speaking for a Nora or a Nate who’s totally down with being a raider. The voices that work so well as saviors of the Commonwealth, as misguided sycophants of the Institute, as thoughtless toadies of the Brotherhood of Steel, as desperate parents, and as flippant jokesters just do not work in any way as dedicated raiders. The character that Taylor and Delaney have helped to build over thousands of lines of dialogue simply does not work in this position.

Worth noting as well is that it’s not even all that well implemented in regards to the main game. I mean, the act of raiding settlements in the Commonwealth works just fine, but if you do this before you’ve completed the main story of Fallout 4, things can get...pretty disjointed. In the main game, if you get on the bad side of all the other factions, you can still side with the Minutemen to take down the Institute--they’re basically your fall-back option, the way to complete the game which you can’t mess up. But since the Minutemen are as anti-raider as it gets, if you start raiding the Commonwealth with your Nuka-World bunch, Preston Garvey, the leader of the Minutemen, will hate your guts and refuse to have anything to do with you...except that he’s still bound by plot programming to be the failsafe option for beating the game, so you can still have him and his faction cooperate with you to take down the Institute, even as he frequently tells you what a scumbag you are and how he’s done with you. Seriously, one conversation you’ll be discussing how to take down the Institute, then the next moment he’ll be mouthing off to you about how what you’ve done is unforgivable and how he can’t work with you any more. Forget the fact that being the raider overboss doesn’t fly with the game’s themes or the protagonist’s character...more tangibly, this shit doesn’t fly with just the basics of how the game works!

Now, there is, of course, the option to just up and obliterate the raiders of Nuka-World, and free the traders they’ve subjugated. Being that I am not a complete and total loser, I took this option myself, and encourage you to do the same. But the major plot focus of the DLC is on the raider aspect, so doing the only sensible and decent thing means you’re only going to get as much out of this add-on as the exploration and sidequest aspects can provide. And by itself, this isn’t too much of a problem. You still get a decent Fallout experience even if you’re cutting off the main story of the DLC early. While it’s disappointing that it worked out this way, the Nuka-World DLC would still, under normal circumstances, come up as positive for me.

But it’s the last DLC. This is the final moment of Fallout 4, the send-off to this great game! This DLC is the one which will give you the impression you get from the game overall as you walk away from it. Heck, this is the send-off to the Fallout series for some time; from what I hear, Bethesda isn’t even going to be thinking about Fallout 5 for quite a while. Apparently they just want to sit back and focus on their inferior franchise for a bit, presumably because the content of any given Elder Scrolls game’s story, lore, and cast requires a fifth of the brainpower to write, if that. And so this is what we’re given as the final moment of Fallout 4?

This is a DLC that focuses on joining up with the bad guys! And not even bad guys of any significance to the story and themes of Fallout 4 overall! There’s only a single connection in Nuka-World to any of the major points in Fallout 4, that being the Settlement thing, in that you can, as a raider, raid the settlements in the Commonwealth. And that connection is awful! The settlements of Fallout 4 are pushed in the story as a major thing, and hell, they’ve been (rightly) touted by Bethesda as a way to keep players invested in the game over time, giving the audience something to do between DLC releases. 2 of the DLCs for Fallout 4 have absolutely no plot, they just give more settlement options, and 2 more of the game’s DLCs, Automatron and Vault-Tec Workshop, base their small plots around the use of the settlement system! Of the 6 DLC packages that Fallout 4 provides, Far Harbor and Nuka-World are the ONLY ones that aren’t specifically centered around the settlement system. So what kind of bizarre idiocy is it that this final send-off to Fallout 4 is focused on turning around and having you destroy all the settlement stuff you’ve worked on so far, that the game has pushed as a major focus?

This should have been a good final note to Fallout 4. A theme park for Nuka-Cola? The idea is perfect! Theme parks are a huge part of American culture, soda is a huge part of American culture, and I honestly don’t think that there’s anything that embodies the Fallout series as much as Nuka-Cola does. The setting was in place for a perfect Fallout experience, and the side stuff in this DLC shows that Bethesda could have really done it right. But everything good about Nuka-World is kept to the background, and instead our last moments with Fallout 4 are being pressured to betray the Commonwealth, betray the protagonist’s character, betray her/his friends, and betray some of the ideas and focus that are at the very heart of Fallout 4. What a terrible disappointment.

I think my overall verdict on Fallout 4’s add-ons is pretty obvious: a big thumbs-down. Not enough decent material in half of the DLC packages that even bother to have any sort of story content, and Nuka-World, though it has many good qualities, focuses on all the wrong things at exactly the wrong time. If only Far Harbor, which connects to the themes of Fallout 4 properly and has pretty much nothing but good content in it, had been the final would have made Nuka-World a lot easier to accept and appreciate. But even Far Harbor is marred, by that unreasonable price tag.

I thought I was safe with Fallout. I really did. Fallout 3 and New Vegas provided such great overall experiences with their add-ons...I really thought I wouldn’t regret buying the Season Pass for this game. But I do. I am, in fact, thoroughly disgusted with myself. I don’t know how many more times I’m going to let myself get taken advantage of before I finally get it through my thick skull: You cannot trust companies. Maybe between this and my foolishness with Fire Emblem 14’s DLC, I’ll finally have finally wised up.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Witch and Hero 1's Reputation

I figured out quite some time ago that if you want a legitimately trustworthy video game review, you’re going to have to do some searching. Official, mainstream reviewers of games, particularly RPGs, are thoroughly incompetent, and their write-ups on games are so ignorant that sometimes I have to wonder if they’ve even ever played a video game before. I think that some review sites are actually going back in time and hiring people from the 1800s to cut the cost of employee salaries.

And that’s not even talking about IGN, the game journalism corporation that makes Fox News look like a legitimate enterprise. I mean, are there still any living, conscious human beings left on planet Earth that actually believe that IGN scores measure the worth of the game, and not the worth of the bribe that the developer gave them? People living in mud huts for whom the concept of electricity sounds like the work of the gods know that IGN is shit. I think if you found a frozen, perfectly preserved caveman and thawed him out, even he’d be up to date enough to know that when you hear the name “IGN”, the socially acceptable reaction is to laugh.

So anyway, what I’m saying, in a roundabout way, is that there’s no easy, quick fix for when you want a video game review that you can trust. Sometimes one of those video review show guys will do the job adequately, like Angry Joe or Jontron, but there’s only so many games they can get to, so usually you’re digging around for that one customer review that actually sounds like he or she shares your values on what makes a good game, and also like he or she has maybe even played a game before. And this is why I really don’t know why I felt the slightest surprise at seeing the degree of negative reactions that ‘official’ reviewers give to the little 3DS RPG, Witch + Hero 1.

Don’t get me wrong, this game’s nothing special, and nor is its sequel. You’d have to labor long and hard on it to elevate it to even being worthy of the term “good.” But neither is it very bad, and certainly not to such a bitter extreme as most seem to attribute to it.

Witch + Hero 1 is a fairly cute, innocuous little game with a simple premise whose small plot is told through visuals alone. To the game’s strength, the overall mood that W+H goes for is lighthearted, rather than serious, and that’s a lot of why it gets a pass from me. It knows what it is, which is a short, pixelated little quest of finding and defeating Medusa,* with a gameplay style so simple that your only attack is to ram into your enemies face-first and try to get them to die from this before you do. It’s very limited, yes, but it works with those limitations as best it can, rather than trying to pass itself off as something more than it can be. I can appreciate that. Most of the time, what I want is powerful stories with great characters that explore the nature of the human condition, but I don’t mind a break every now and then for a little game out to make me lightly chuckle. Kind of reminds me of Alundra 2 in this regard. If you go into Witch + Hero 1 with the idea that it’s supposed to be something it’s not trying in the slightest to be, then yeah, you’ll probably hate it.

Or you might hate it because you’re a hypocritical idiot who’s so bad at video games that even I look masterful by comparison. I’ve seriously read more than 1 review of this game in which the reviewer complained loud and long about the simplistic, bland gameplay that’s about grinding, not strategy...and then turns around and spits fiery fury at the fact that there’s an inventive strategy for defeating the final boss. Some people, I swear.

Anyway, that’s about all I have to say on this subject. Sorry most of the rant was about the shitty state of affairs of professional reviews, and only marginally talked about the the actual game. Hey, I don’t claim to actually be good at this ranting thing. Final Verdict: Witch + Hero 1 isn’t good enough that I’d recommend playing it when there are so many more meaningful RPGs out there on the 3DS to experience. But it’s also not bad enough that I discourage you from playing it, either, and it definitely is not the monstrosity that other reviewers make it out to be.

* Fun Coincidence: I played this game the same year as I played Kid Icarus: Uprising, another game whose (supposed) main villain is Medusa. Always weird when that sort of thing happens. Like that year I played 2 entirely separate RPGs that featured Rasputin as an antagonist.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Legend of Korra: A New Era Begins's Villain

Be warned: this is one of those rants where most of it is me talking about non-RPG stuff and only relating it back to the RPG at hand at the very end. But hey, whether I’m talking about RPGs or non-RPGs, it’s all a bunch of boring pontification anyway, so let’s do this!

You know what a major problem with the Korra RPG is? Besides a dull and cliched plot, 0 character development, and the inexplicable exclusion of one of the most important characters in the series, I mean. It’s that the game completely fails to include the major theme of the entire Legend of Korra series: Balance. Personal balance, balance of the tangible world and the spiritual, balance of government and civic issues, all of these aspects of the concept of balance are explored throughout the cartoon’s entire run, components of the show’s major focus. Hell, even Korra’s ultimate choice of romantic partner is a tiny, subtle example of this theme--the woman who bends all the elements joining with the woman who represents those who can bend none. But that all-important concept of balance, which unifies all 4 seasons’ stories together into a single, thoughtful animated treatise, is nowhere to be found in The Legend of Korra: A New Era Begins. And I think 1 of the parts of this game in which this theme is most absent is in the game’s villain, Hundun.

The villains of The Legend of Korra are thoughtfully created according to the theme of balance. Each is motivated by causes and ideals which are, in their basic form, good, as Toph points out in the show itself. Amon from Season 1 wants to take bending away from everyone in the world, and that’s wrong--but this ambition originates from Amon’s belief that everyone should be equal to one another, and that is a worthy goal. Unalaq from Season 2 wants to become a dark Avatar and unleash 10,000 years of darkness on the world--but this intention was born from his dissatisfaction with the fact that the people of the world were gradually turning away from an appreciation of nature and spirituality, which actually is a significant problem that needs to be corrected. Zaheer from Season 3 plunged the Earth Kingdom into violent chaos when he murdered its queen, and attempted to kill the Avatar for good--but he did so because he believed in freedom for all people to live their lives as they choose, which is certainly a good thing.* And finally, Kuvira is a harsh tyrant who is utterly merciless as she brings the Earth Kingdom forcefully under her heel--but her ruthless dictatorship is born from a love for her nation, and a desire to make it a stable, secure land again (instead of the chaotic, aimless anarchy that Zaheer’s actions turned it into).

Each major Korra villain has good ideals at heart; it is simply that they themselves are out of balance while seeking to achieve these noble ends. They’re consumed by the rage, disappointment, fanaticism, and self-doubt of their pasts. Korra stands as the reflection of each of them, the representation of balance, the Avatar, and because she stays balanced in her heart and body, she doesn’t just defeat Amon, Unalaq, Zaheer, and Kuvira: she herself brings about the balanced ideal that each wanted, whether actively or passively. As a result of Korra, Republic City, the heart of the world, goes from a city ruled by benders, who each already have their own nations, to a city ruled by freely elected non-benders, who until now have had no entity to represent them in the world: equality, as Amon wanted. Korra opens the gate between the physical and spirit worlds, meaning that humanity would be forced to live alongside the spirits and thus keep a respect for the world and the spiritual from now on, which is what Unalaq wanted. Korra’s actions and selflessness inspire the new airbenders of the world to reform the Air Nation into a global force for good, nomads who travel the world not just for the hell of it (as was the case with the original airbender society), but with the intent to do good and bring balance to all those they come across: a force to protect the peace and happiness of the world made up of many, instead of just the single Avatar, a step away from 1 person deciding the fate of millions and toward the self-determination of the people which Zaheer values. And thanks to the inspiration of Korra and the wisdom of her friends who share her values, Prince Wu decides that the Earth Kingdom will be united as democratic states, installing a new system of government that can work for peace and stability to the satisfaction of all, accomplishing the core of what Kuvira desires.

So you see, the villains of The Legend of Korra are a very, very major part of the theme of balance to the show. The show’s writers are careful to avoid making each season’s villain some black-and-white bad guy. Each one is fighting out of a genuine desire for good, but because they themselves are imbalanced, their methods of accomplishing these good intentions are harmful to others. By contrast, Korra is balanced and always seeking to do right thing in the right way, and so, after defeating each villain, she accomplishes that intended goal in the right way. Cool.

Unfortunately, Hundun of The Legend of Korra: A New Era Begins is no such layered, thoughtful villain. Basically, a thousand years ago the guy and his conjoined twin ruled a nation as evil kings who had some super special power known as the Chaotic Attack, the nature and origins of which really isn’t explained to any satisfactory detail in the game. The Avatar of that time came along, beat the crap out of Hundun, and banished him to the Spirit World. 1,000 years later, Hundun is back and wants to take revenge on Avatar Korra, then plunge the world into chaos, because...evil?

Where is the depth in this villain? The personality? What balance can be found in this story? Hundun has no more personality or quality as a villain than Final Fantasy 5’s X-Death, or Antasma from Mario and Luigi 4, or Thanatos from Secret of Mana. He started as a jerk with no discernible good motive, he just became a bigger jerk when he added a thirst for vengeance to his villainous resume, and that’s all there ever was to him. He’s evil for the sake of being evil; there is no greater goal hidden underneath his badness. And without an underlying noble belief or motivation, Korra’s victory over Hundun, and thus the whole story of the game, is just empty filler, a meaningless piece of fluff to the Legend of Korra series. She can’t exemplify the balanced, morally right way of accomplishing a goal that doesn’t exist, and that means there’s just no connection whatsoever to the theme of balance. And since the entirety of The Legend of Korra is devoted to this theme, Hundun and everything associated with him--meaning, the entire Legend of Korra: A New Era Begins game--really just has neither a place in the series nor a purpose for existing.

* Also, someone really did have to get rid of that abusive, selfish, power-hungry queen, I gotta say.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Shadowrun: Hong Kong's Ending Choice

Interestingly, the ending of each of the recent Shadowrun games has presented the player a choice in career path, and each of the choices have a similar theme. In Shadowrun Returns, the protagonist is presented with the opportunity to become a personal security officer for some wealthy, powerful bigwig. And in Shadowrun: Dragonfall, a representative of Lofwyr, the tremendously powerful dragon who heads the largest corporation in the world, offers the protagonist the opportunity for her/his team to become a retained group of mercenaries for Lofwyr. I say this is interesting, because both of these choices are basically presenting the issue that defines the entire Shadowrun franchise: the choice between the comfort and security of being owned by the enslavers of man (government, religion, and, by far most of all, corporation), and the hard, usually short life of refusing to give up your freedom to those who see you as nothing more than a resource to be possessed.

Now, almost needless to say, in both of these games, I told the mouthpieces of oppression to fuck off, and stayed a Shadowrunner. If I was possessed of the opinion that trading away your self-determination for comfort and security was a worthy goal to pursue, I wouldn’t be playing a damn Shadowrun game to begin with! Easy decision, right? Of course. Screw personal luxury, a Shadowrunner stands on her or his principles!

Which is why it would probably seem odd to you that in Shadowrun: Hong Kong, when this choice was presented again, I totally had the protagonist go for it.

So, see, at the end of Shadowrun: Hong Kong’s Extended Edition (which basically adds a small post-game storyline, much like how Fallout 3’s Broken Steel DLC extended the game past its ending), a moment comes when you have a choice similar to that offered at the end of the Shadowrun titles I mentioned above: you can follow through with the deal you’ve made with Qiu and the corporation she represents, or do as Kindly Cheng, the leader of the Triad group that you’ve been working with until now, orders. The former option will earn a reward from Qiu’s corporate backers in the form of restored SINs (System Identification Number) for the protagonist and the protagonist’s adopted brother Duncan--essentially, they’ll both be able to go back to a legal life within the social system like they had before Shadowrun: Hong Kong’s events. The latter option will be giving the finger to all involved corps and supporting the criminal organizations that live outside corporate law.

So, you’d expect that I would have chosen to side with Kindly Cheng and tell the corps to fuck off, right? But I didn’t. My decision in this scenario is to help Qiu and her corporation out, as promised, and have the SINs restored for the protagonist and Duncan. It seems hypocritical, I know, but hear out my reasoning:

First of all, the end result, on the large scale, is the same either way. Hong Kong is still doomed to become a plaything of the Ares corporation regardless of whether Qiu’s company can fight back or the Triads have a better starting position. If this was a decision that made a true difference for the citizens and runners of Hong Kong, I’d surely side with Cheng, since, though in an unpleasant way, her gang represents the freedom from the system that the Shadowrunners live by. But because this decision changes only the fate of the game’s core cast, more leeway is allowed for selfish reasons.

So, with that understanding, here’s the big thing about this issue: being a Shadowrunner is ultimately meant to be about having control over how you live your life, and refusing to relinquish your self-determination to some unchallenged, unchecked, and undeserving authority. Being a Shadowrunner is a choice to live free to who you are, instead of submitting to who someone else wants you to be.

But the protagonist of Shadowrun: Hong Kong, and her/his brother Duncan? They never got to MAKE that choice. The circumstances of the game’s plot forced them to become SINless and to live as soldiers of fortune.

The protagonists of Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun: Dragonfall were both Shadowrunners already when those games started. It’s right for them to reject the offers of the powerful to keep them in cages, because these characters’ lifestyle implies that they have already made that choice in the past. But Duncan and the protagonist of Shadowrun: Hong Kong are bound by no obligation to stay true to a past choice, because that choice was stolen from them by the circumstances of fate.

Additionally, Duncan and SHK Protagonist’s lives as Shadowrunners have not really been a particularly good representation of the freedom of living life in the shadows. They’re allowed to take jobs on the side, but ultimately, they answer to Kindly Cheng as their master, again as a result of circumstances beyond their control more than any choice. That’s basically almost the same as it would have been for the Shadowrun: Dragonfall team if I’d had them take Lofwyr’s deal: life as another’s pet, simply on a longer leash than most. In a case such as this, being returned to the regular social system would actually represent a life with more self-direction than the current life in the shadows allows. Hell, the protagonist could choose to have her or his SIN restored, leave Hong Kong, and then become a Shadowrunner again, this time on her/his own terms.

Furthermore, there’s Duncan to consider. It would be one thing if this choice only affected the protagonist, but the restored SIN deal is offered to both her/him, AND Duncan. Even if the protagonist wants to continue as a Shadowrunner, it’s not just herself/himself that she/he is choosing a lifestyle for, it’s also Duncan. Duncan eventually becomes resigned to a life of running the shadows during the events of the main game, but he doesn’t like it, and when the possibility is raised that he could have his SIN restored and live a lawful life once more, he jumps at the chance.

Like I said, if the protagonist likes being a Shadowrunner better than living a normal life, she/he can always choose at a later date to give up the standard life again and return to the underworld--and do so without being eternally indebted to Kindly Cheng, to boot. This isn’t the protagonist’s only chance at living as a Shadowrunner. But this IS Duncan’s only chance at getting out of the shadows and living a life he wants to. To give up on the chance to have their SINs restored is to screw Duncan, the longest and most loyal companion the protagonist has, over horribly.

And frankly? If you do that to Duncan, you’re no better than the careless, selfish corporations and wealthy assholes who are the villains of the Shadowrun franchise. No, really, how would you be any different? You’re taking a man’s ability to decide what he wants to do with his life out of his hands, deciding his fate for him with no regard to what he wants. That’s the thematic definition of everything the entire Shadowrun franchise stands against!

In Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun: Dragonfall, I told the messengers of society’s oppression to take a hike, because I believe in self autonomy, in the freedom that Shadowrunners represent. But it’s because I hold that belief that I chose the exact opposite in Shadowrun: Hong Kong, and allowed Duncan and his sister/brother to escape their lives in the shadows: because this time, that’s the choice that means freedom. And I say kudos to Harebrained Schemes for having the skill and creativity to flip the situation around in such a way.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Guest Rant: Final Fantasy 4's Insistence on Not Letting Its Characters Die, By Humza

Guest rant time! Today's rant is another in the fine line of Humza's work, and this time it's even about a game I know! Now isn't that spiffy? Thanks for covering for me yet again, sir!

Disclaimer: I don't own Humza's words below, and they don't necessarily reflect my own perceptions and opinions. Although they might. You'll just have to sit and wonder. I'm not telling.

Final Fantasy 4's Insistence on Not Letting Its Characters Die

July 11, 2016

I think most people that would visit an RPG blog are likely to be at least somewhat familiar with Final Fantasy 4, even if they haven’t played it; for those that haven’t, then it probably isn’t worth wasting your time reading through this and spoiling some important elements of the game.

One of the most bizarre aspects of Final Fantasy 4’s plot (which is saying something considering this is a game where you go to the moon on a giant whale) is how almost every character (save Tellah and his daughter, Anna) dies a fake death and then returns by the end of the game, despite having little plot relevance at that point. There are quite a few theories as to why the writers decided to do this, like the expected audience being too young to witness death, but those explanations aren’t really interesting since there isn’t much meaning to the deaths in that case, and Tellah’s death is also not explained.

The primary cause of the characters’ alleged deaths is their resistance to Golbez and their attempts to prevent him from gaining the crystals and thus achieving...whatever his vague goal in collecting those crystals was. Their deaths are also the main form of destruction and evil that we see from Golbez, since the game doesn’t show us many other evil deeds he was responsible for (the only exception being Rydia’s town, whose citizens were indirectly killed by Golbez).

By reversing the primary source of damage that the players can identify Golbez as being responsible for, the player is more likely to forgive him, since those characters weren’t actually killed (meaning that the player sees even less harm that Golbez has committed, which would make him seem less evil than they initially thought). This fits in with the last quarter of the game, where the game tries (but fails) to make the players feel more sympathetic towards Golbez since he lost his parents and was corrupted by Zemus as a kid. The combination of his backstory (intended to induce players’ sympathy) and his lack of killing (intended to make players hate him less) cause him to seem better than the player previously perceived him as.

That still doesn’t explain why Anna and Tellah didn't survive, though, because reversing their deaths could have added to the decrease in hatred that the player was most likely intended to have (especially so for Anna, since she is a non-combatant and more innocent from the player’s view because of that). So why does the game still not let those two survive?

Tellah’s death occurred by using the Meteor spell on Golbez, which was too strong for the former to handle while still surviving, and it damaged Golbez severely, which seems impressive to the player since the gap in strength between Golbez and the rest of the party is still quite large at that point. The same spell is cast by Golbez and Fusoya against Zeromus at the end of the game, which the player would expect to be extremely strong (especially since it was cast by Lunarians, who are portrayed as superior in magic to humans, and since two people were now casting Meteor instead of one), but Zeromus was still mostly unharmed after the duo’s attack, which increases Zeromus’ strength in the player’s mind and makes him appear a more formidable enemy as a result.

If Tellah didn’t die, then how would that event have differed? The player wouldn’t see Meteor as being such a strong spell if it didn’t have so much recoil damage, which would decrease the intended surprise that would be caused by Golbez and Fusoya’s attack. More importantly, it would also make Zeromus appear to be a less formidable enemy since he would have been unharmed by what the player would perceive as being a weaker magic spell, which isn’t as impressive a feat. This also deals with the problem of the game letting Anna die at the same time, because the chain of events that caused Tellah to cast Meteor and then die as a result would have been avoided if Anna did not die and cause Tellah to set out on his journey with the party.

Okay, so to summarize that verbose mess I typed above, I think that the characters’ fake deaths are because the game doesn’t want us to hate Golbez for killing the characters as much, but instead wants us to sympathize with him. Tellah did die because his death served the plot purpose of showing the strength of Meteor through the recoil damage that killed him, which makes Zeromus seem that much stronger when he survives a Meteor spell cast by Golbez and Fusoya, and this couldn’t have happened unless Anna also died and made Tellah seek vengeance.

Monday, August 8, 2016

General RPGs as Art

It’s a question that’s starting to get thrown around here and there in gamers’ communities with some frequency, and I only expect it to become more and more widely debated in the future:

Are video games art?

Well, that’s just too big a question for me to answer. I’m not qualified to judge the medium as a whole, so I’m not going to try.

Wait, where are you going? Sit back down; I’m not finished. God, you kids and your trying to leave before the bell rings, I swear.

As I was saying, I’m not qualified to judge the entire form of entertainment that is the video game on whether it is or is not art. But I do feel qualified to examine the question in terms of the RPG, at least.

As long as we’re pretty loose with what we consider “qualified,” that is.

So, are RPGs art? That, I can answer with an emphatic, “Yes! Well, y’know. Sometimes.”

What even qualifies as art, of course, is somewhat subjective, and always has been, and always should be. Still, even if it’s essentially impossible to hammer down the exact edges of the concept of art, we can at least generally agree on a broad area of its spectrum of definition. So even though my personal definition of art may not be exactly the same as your own, we’ll probably still be able to agree the majority of time. With this rule in mind, I feel safe in giving the definition I generally adhere to deciding whether something is or is not art:

To me, Art is a creative work or action created with the intent of conveying to or invoking within an audience an emotional, spiritual, or philosophical meaning, question, or resonation. And, well, gets some degree of success in its result. I mean, you can’t deny that Mass Effect 3’s ending invoked one hell of an emotional response, but I don’t think blind, unending fury against the game’s creators was the intended response, so I wouldn’t call that pile of shit art, at least not for that reason.

So, to me, there are a lot of RPGs that are art, yes. As a general rule, RPGs are plot-centric, attempting to engage us with characters who explore various theoreticals of the human condition, with the intent of making an overall statement on the world.

Are these statements always complex and intriguing? Certainly not. More often, the games convey fairly simple ideas as an overall theme, things like Love = Good, Know and Be True to Yourself, Friendship is Magic, and even just Be a Decent Person. Still, art doesn’t always have to be deep and complicated to be art. Sometimes it’s important to contemplate and reinforce the simple ideals and facets of ourselves, too. Besides, sometimes a simple concept can still make for a powerful piece of art; it’s just all in the execution. Yeah, “Love = Good” may be the simplistic message you can take from, say, Legend of Dragoon, but it’s also essentially the message of the gripping, emotional powerhouse that is Disgaea 1, or the truly spectacular Undertale, and I think it would be difficult to argue either of those creative, nuanced explorations of human connections as not art. Likewise, you can say that “Friendship is Really Good,” which is something you can find as a major theme of simple stories like Wild Arms 1 and Secret of Mana, is too facile to be art...but when you get down to it, isn’t that the fundamental theme of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3, a game which explores the power and spiritual meaning of our connections to one another in a grandly emotional and even poetic way, and The World Ends with You, an RPG widely recognized for its creativity and the strong emotional connection its audience forms with its cast?

And whether or not you can accept the RPGs with simpler ideas to convey as art or not, there are certainly a number of games in the genre which explore deeper ideas and emotional truths in a way too creative and devoted not to be called art. Deus Ex 1 explores the nature of government and its power, strongly relevant to our current society, and what the truths it has discovered mean for us as a society. The Shin Megami Tensei series takes a number of perspectives in analyzing the concepts of religion and faith, as well as the conflict within us and our society between the wish for security and order, and the wish for freedom and independence. Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume examines the concept of vengeance, and what it can do to a person who chooses it as his or her duty. The Fallout series explores, celebrates, and critiques the culture of the United States, and the inevitability of both good and bad aspects of human nature. Several RPGs like Tales of the Abyss, Star Ocean 3, Okage: Shadow King, and Valkyrie Profile 1 examine the question of Man against God/Destiny in a definitive variety of ways. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 and Q both explore the question of what gives our lives meaning. And then there’s Planescape: Torment, which is just damn.

To me, RPGs can, and more often than not should, be considered art. Not always--there are plenty of RPGs out there that just clearly are a paint-by-numbers affair that convey nothing but their developers’ wish to make money. But overall, the genre is all about the exploration and communication of truths of humanity, and/or the portrayal and invocation of powerful emotional states, be it in a simple or grandiose manner. And to me, that makes them art.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

General RPG Lists: Fire Emblem 14 Romances

Before we begin, I have a quick question for you folks, since you always seem to be way more in the know about these things than myself: does Nintendo have any plans to release a third pack of DLC maps for Fire Emblem 14? I made my rant on the game's DLC before I knew about the second map pack, which released soon after I posted the rant, and I feel like an idiot over it. I want to post an updated rant on the game's DLC which covers the new maps, but I sure as heck don't want to make the same gaffe twice. Is FE14 done with DLC now?

Thanks in advance for the answer. On with the rant!

Fire Emblem 14 has a lot of romances in it. Like, a fuckton of’em. The main character alone has almost 70 different romantic options--basically, Corrin can romance about half the entire cast as a man, and about the other half as a woman. And that’s just Corrin--most of the rest of the party members in this game have about 11 - 13 romantic options for themselves. By my count--yes, I did actually count them all--that’s over 300 separate romances!

And only TWO of them are same-sex. I know I talked about this before at length, but it bears saying, again: Holy Hell, that is just disgraceful.

With such an insane number of love confessions, it’s understandable that there’s a pretty wide range of quality in the writing of these romances. Some are really touching and genuine...others are quite stupid, or worse. So, with the wide range and the literal hundreds of possibilities, why not make a rant listing out the 14 best and the 14 worst of the FE14 romantic scene?

...Look, I read through all of them. I’ve gotta do SOMETHING to attempt to justify that, alright?

The Best Romances of Fire Emblem 14

14. Charlotte and Silas

This is a simple romance, but I like it. Silas doesn’t just happen to find out about and accept Charlotte’s true self, like all the other guys she can be paired off with--he actively pursues a knowledge of her, sitting her down and getting to know her in totality before the S rank confession scene. It seems like a small thing, but it shows a genuine interest in Silas for Charlotte as a person, and that means something. There are a lot of love confessions in this game in which one person says they look forward to deepening their knowledge of their new significant other, and that’s fine, but in Silas’s case, we see that he actually cared to know all he could about Charlotte as a person before he formed a romantic interest in her.

13. Azura and Kaze

There’s not much to say about this: Azura and Kaze form a bond that is sweet and compelling. Their affection just feels quite real to me.

12. Mitama and Shigure

This meeting of aesthetic-minded individuals who find joy in recreating the world’s beauty in their art is a natural, convincing progression of affection. The scene of Mitama and Shigure by the shore of a lake, spending their hours beside one another as they quietly labor on paintings and poems, brought together by their shared desire to’s romantic in a classic way, foreign yet somehow familiar to us, a compelling scenario of romanticism that ends in a convincing exchange of affection.

Also, you know it’s some serious romantic shit when Mitama actually says she’d rather spend time with someone than asleep in bed.

11. Azura and Laslow

Azura and Laslow connect really naturally through an interest in dance, and...well, that’s sort of it, but they seem to have a real chemistry with it. I hate to be so brief with Azura a second time here, but there’s not much to say, really: it’s simple, and it works.

10. Beruka and Kaze

Well, you know me: I’m a sucker for character development. The relationship between Kaze and Beruka has Kaze helping the assassin to rekindle her long-lost humanity by helping her to learn how to enjoy herself during her free time. What I like about this is that Kaze is gentle, patient, and accepting toward Beruka, coaxing her development as a person and connecting with her as he does so. The confession scene is pretty standard for Beruka, but the conversations leading up to it do a good job of selling you on the idea that Kaze has made a significant impact on Beruka, and that her quietly returning emotions bring a love for Kaze with them.

9. Kiragi and Velouria

Velouria’s odd obsession with what most people would consider rubbish is the basis for most of her conversation chains with other characters (and the same is true of her father, Keaton). Most of the time, however, this fundamental aspect of Velouria’s personality and values is seen as a mildly amusing quirk, or worse, a somewhat off-putting obstacle by her romantic partners. In this, Kiragi stands out, for once he gets a handle on what Velouria’s interests are, he just takes them in stride, without criticizing them or needlessly pointing out how strange they are. In fact, his first instinct is to invite her to come hunting with him so that she can find more of her treasures in the forest, and once they’re there, he generously lets Velouria set the pace of their excursion, and even helps her find objects of interest. Finally, I like the S rank conversation--I think it’s sweet that Velouria wants to show Kiragi her entire collection in her tent, and I like the fact that he’s genuinely interested in it. Not only that, but this confession conversation has a message of some merit to it, too, for Kiragi finds a new value to Velouria’s collection when he sees it all together, realizing that it has formed a breathtaking recreation of the forest within Velouria’s tent (and Kiragi does love the great outdoors). Kiragi and Velouria have a good chemistry, their interests mesh well, Kiragi shows honest respect for her, and their exchange of feelings for one another is genuine, heartwarming, and meaningful.

8. Leo and Nyx

Look, everything involving Nyx romantically is...kinda iffy. I mean, I know that, logically, Nyx is a consenting adult regardless of the fact that she’s trapped in a body that stopped aging at, what, 13? Objectively, I know that it’s morally okay for her to be in a romantic relationship with an adult person. Hell, age of consent is more about mental development than physical development anyway, so if anything, she’s the one with an unfair advantage over her partner given that she’s implied to be the oldest member of the game’s playable cast. Nyx having romantic opportunities with members of the cast really, honestly is okay.

It’s still off-putting and Japan is still weird, though. Just...c’mon, Nintendo, did you really have to? I know everyone took Xenogears in stride with Bart and his 12-year-old cousin Margie, and I’m honestly pretty shocked at how no one ever seems to even question La Pucelle Tactics throwing adult man Homard and “13”-year-old* Eclair together (and their relationship is really shitty, to boot; at least Bart and Margie appear to have a genuinely good emotional connection)...but did you really have to throw the lolicon community that bone? It’s better than Margie and Eclair in that Nyx is mentally an adult, at least, but still...Oh well. I’ve seen worse, so I may as well get over this.

Regardless, I strive for objectivity, and speaking from that perspective, the romance between Leo and Nyx is actually pretty nice. After she tells Leo of her curse, he helps her to see herself in her mind as an adult, and pushes her toward forgiving herself for her past sins. It’s a brief, but very touching moment, and it’s good for Nyx as a person. The same is true of the S rank confession. Nyx speaks of how she sees herself in her mind sitting with Leo as an adult as she should be...and Leo replies that he sees a similar scene, but one in which she is as she is, and between them, a child. Ignoring the slight mental discomfort of Nyx’s teen pregnancy, this is touching, and also good for Nyx, because while Leo acknowledges that within herself, Nyx is an adult (he was, after all, the one who first suggested to her trying to see herself as such within her mind), when he thinks of being with her, starting a family with her, he’s seeing her as she will have to be, should that come to pass. In essence, Leo understands her inner self, but also accepts the reality of her outward form, and that’s a good example to set for Nyx. And so, I think this is a good couple in the game--it develops Nyx’s character in a positive way, and it’s pretty touching.

7. Arthur and Felicia

This one’s in my good books just for the fact that Arthur’s one of the few people who actually encourages Felicia. Most of poor Felicia’s potential romances have her husbands-to-be criticizing her for her clumsiness, or at least approaching it with resignation as a negative thing to be mitigated. Arthur, on the other hand, spends his time in his support conversations with Felicia encouraging her, trying to show her ways not to lessen or eliminate her clumsiness, but rather how to live with her difficulty and function with it. And of course, if anyone could help Felicia with this, it’s the disaster magnet himself, right? So I like this one for the fact that it’s good for Felicia, offering her so much more than the slightly condescending pat-on-the-head that most of her romantic options do in regards to her difficulties.

I also like this romance in that it’s not just completely focused on Felicia--it also develops Arthur, as well. It’s often the case in this game that romances are one-sided in terms of character personality, even in the good ones. I mean, look at Leo and Nyx--they have a good romance, but it’s very Nyx-centric. You could fill Leo’s position with almost half the male cast and it’d work just as well. And that doesn’t take away from their romance, because as I said above, it’s good. But with Arthur and Felicia, Arthur’s part could be filled by no one else, and his own character grows alongside Felicia’s, and that’s a bonus.

Finally, it bears saying that beyond all these other considerations, the support conversations between Felicia and Arthur are also just a genuinely good bonding experience for them, and you can really believe that they’ve developed feelings for each other during their time with one another. Overall, this is solid.

6. Azura and Corrin

Hey, it’s the closest thing to a canon couple that we have in this game. But more importantly, Azura and Corrin have a fast, strong, committed bond to one another in this game, and it translates well into romance. Corrin is the one person that Azura can truly confide in and share her secret knowledge with. Corrin shares doubts and fears with Azura that he doesn’t share with anyone else. Azura is Corrin’s protector and partner in conspiracy, and she’s willing to plunge herself as deeply into darkness and sin to do what’s right as Corrin is (seen on the Nohr game path). Azura and Corrin are one of those put-together-because-of-plot-conventions couples, similar to countless other RPGs which pair the protagonist with the most plot-significant member of the opposite sex, but regardless of convention, it’s clear that these two do have strong chemistry and a connection that very easily takes the step into love.

5. Corrin and Rhajat

It’s a shame that the English release changed the way that Female Corrin and Rhajat’s S rank scene goes, because the original confession scenario implied that Corrin is the reincarnation of Fire Emblem 13’s protagonist Robin, and that (less surprisingly) Rhajat is the reincarnation of FE13’s Tharja, and that their love was so great that not even death and reincarnation could keep them from one another. I like that sort of story, one with a love that transcends time, space, life, and death, and keeps bringing two souls made for each other back together across lives.**

Still, what we ended up with in the USA, which is that the confession scene is the same for both Male and Female Corrin, is good. This one’s here not so much for the S rank conversation itself, as the overall concept. There’s something appealingly romantic about the idea of falling in love with the hero who inspired you and changed your entire life, and it makes a certain sort of sense--after all, the person you’re in love with tends to be the most important person in your life, so it seems a natural thing for one of the most fundamental figures in Rhajat’s life, the one whose actions shaped who Rhajat became, to also be the one that she loves and marries. And the authenticity of this love is helped by the fact that this is a rare occasion in FE14 wherein romantic interest is actually present beyond the confines of the support conversations--it’s a simple fact of Rhajat’s character in the game, independent of the player’s input, that she has an interest in Corrin. Admittedly, an interest that manifests itself through stalking, but that’s easy enough to take in stride once you’ve reconciled yourself with some of the other somewhat uncomfortable stuff this game throws at you, romance-wise.*** It’s kind of a nice and refreshing thing that Corrin and Rhajat’s support conversations function with the assumption that Rhajat is already romantically interested, too--almost all other conversation chains in this game have to establish the romantic connection themselves, while here, it’s already there (on 1 side, at least) and thus the conversations can run with it. Overall, Corrin and Rhajat have a good, touching, and enjoyable romance.

4. Beruka and Saizo

Alright, now we’re talking. The last 4 romances on this list are the ones I really, really like, respect, and/or feel are just real, true examples of love. Until now, this list has been a selection of the best examples of halfway decent romances; from this point on, we see stories of love that are really good even in the objective sense.

I really, really like what the game does with Beruka and Saizo. It’s a believable, compelling meeting between 2 emotionally damaged killers who have seen the darker depths of their world that most of the rest of the cast cannot truly understand for having never been involved in it. They connect from shared experience, and through that connection, are reminded of just how ugly and useless the violence their lives are based on truly is. It’s a thought that troubles the normally emotionless Beruka greatly, as each realizes how truly meaningless the cycle of vengeance is, a cycle which they help to perpetuate. In this understanding, they vow together to do their part for Corrin’s army to create a world in which this is no longer the case. And after that, Saizo proposes that after the war, both he and Beruka retire from conflict, settle down together and help each other find peace, 2 killers who understand one another in ways that no one else in the newly peaceful world could.

It’s not warm and tender, like most of these other romances, like the way we expect romance to be...but Beruka and Saizo come together in a powerful way, and I find it extremely compelling and beautiful.

3. Laslow and Peri

Generally speaking, Peri’s romances are...pretty awful. I’ll get into that below. But the romance between her and Laslow is pretty damn great. Through his interactions with her, Laslow helps Peri to grow immensely as a person, as she comes to understand what it was that made her a murderous psychopath, and finally reach an understanding of the tragedy of death. With the guidance of Laslow, Peri grows from a thoughtless, violent child into a woman who feels the consequences of empathy, who can cry out of actual sorrow instead of a mimicry of emotion, who can move beyond childish words and speak as a true, adult woman when she needs to...a woman who is in enough possession of herself that we can truly believe it when she tells Laslow that she loves him.

2. Selena and Subaki

Honestly, this is a terrific story of love, in ways far beyond any other romance in the game (even the couple in this list’s top spot). It’s everything it should be. Selena and Subaki are a great match, a woman whose issues of self-esteem and unrelenting drive to be the best at everything and a man who puts constant effort into the pursuit of perfection. They’re so similar in their desires, and yet completely different in their motivations and actions, that they fit together flawlessly. Beyond the simple fact that they’re a natural match, their support conversations provide a convincing romance, developing each of them (but especially Selena, which is fine, because she’s definitely the deeper character) in a positive way so that when they admit their feelings for one another, it feels like the only possible conclusion.

That by itself makes Selena and Subaki a great pair, but the unique aspect that puts them so high on this list also has to do with something that happens for Selena that doesn’t happen for just about anyone else (that I know of): the child she has with Subaki is uniquely tailored for her. Normally, the conversations between child characters and their mothers (with the exception of Azura and Shigure, and Female Corrin and Kana) are generally the same from one mother to the next. What I mean is, if you pair, say, Azura up with Kaden, their daughter, Selkie, will have almost the exact same support conversations with Azura as she would have with Hinoka, or Charlotte, or Rinkah, if any of them were her mother instead. A few words of the child’s dialogue may change, and obviously the mother’s dialogue is (usually) adjusted to reflect her personality, but overall, the same ideas are expressed.

But, in the case of Subaki’s daughter Caeldori, the support conversations she has with Selena have more content to them than with any other mother Caeldori might have had. And they’re...wonderful. Some of the best stuff this game has to offer, I would say. Caeldori is the spitting image of Selena’s mother, Cordelia (and her name is an anagram for Cordelia, too, so, much like Rhajat to Tharja, it’s safe to say that Caeldori is a reincarnation of Cordelia), and like Cordelia, Caeldori is admired and respected by all who know her for being a hard-working, flawless prodigy of nearly all she does. Thus, during the conversations that Selena has with Caeldori, she can’t help but see a lot of her mother in Caeldori, and this allows for some really engaging, emotionally powerful dialogue between Selena and her daughter that brings Selena to a really good place, reassuring much of her fears and allowing her to work through a lot of her longstanding issues of self-worth. It’s touching and it’s extremely good for Selena, and that’s what really skyrockets the pair of Selena and Subaki so high up this list: because not only is it a great meeting of personalities, not only is it a natural and real story of love, but the daughter that Selena has with Subaki also develops Selena’s character beautifully and brings her to a much better place as a person.

1. Camilla and Corrin

Look, Camilla is more than a little weird. Her obsession with Corrin is maybe a little uncomfortably intense, and while it’s established early in the game that she and Corrin are not actually siblings and that she and the rest of Corrin’s Nohr family knows this, Camilla still clearly thinks of herself first and foremost as Corrin’s sister, even as she dotes on and adores Corrin in a way that’s really, really hard not to see as significantly romantic. In fact, I’m fairly certain that the familial perception is part of it; her voice-acted love confession to Corrin actually says, “We’re a family now. And I love my family more than anything.” And if you set it up so that she’s Soleil’s mother, Camilla will actually say, when Soleil begins hitting on her in a support conversation, that Soleil has clearly taken after her.

She’s also just kinda off-putting at times on her own, able to switch disturbingly easily between compassionate, generous, and caring, to cold, ruthless, and bloodthirsty. And hey, on the other side, let’s face it, it’s kiiiiiinda disturbing in this support conversation chain when Corrin admits to having been attracted to Camilla for a long time--as in, longer than Corrin has had the knowledge that they aren’t siblings.

But you know what? Past the parts about Camilla and Corrin that are uncomfortable, awkward, and downright creepy, if you can let yourself get beyond that (though I don’t blame you if you can’t)...Camilla’s love for Corrin is just undeniably genuine. Like Rhajat, this is a case where the love goes beyond just the support conversations. Being just absolutely crazy about Corrin is the defining characteristic of Camilla as a character. Hell, even in a lot of her support conversations with other characters, characters you can have her marry, the focus of her interactions with them is trying to figure out how she can better convince Corrin of how much she adores her/him, or delving into the reasons why she is so fixated on being affectionate toward Corrin. Frankly, when Camilla says in one of these conversations, this one with Arthur, that she’s “overflowing with love for Corrin,” it rings far more genuine and is much more touching than the later conversation when she and Arthur get together.

She just thinks the absolute world of Corrin, and at the times in the game when she thinks that Corrin has abandoned her and betrayed Nohr, she becomes despondent, and even unstable. Look, call it creepy, call it unhealthy, call it heavy-handed--and you’re not wrong on any of those counts--but this is a woman who is so completely, utterly in love that it is an intrinsic, inescapable part of her, one which she cannot function without. And that kind of raw, overwhelming emotional power is something that I can’t help but feel some strange respect for, something that I can’t help but identify as the truest love that this game has to offer: primal, adoring love that cannot be contained and makes no excuse whatever for itself.

And I do want to note that it’s not all one-sided here. Creepy or not, Corrin’s admission to having felt attraction for Camilla for a long time gives their romance some foundation as something each was moving toward, and the fact that their support conversations before that point were helping to establish Corrin as an adult and resolving the conflict of Corrin’s mild annoyance at Camilla’s dotage really helps it. It truly does feel, as Camilla says, like they’re childhood sweethearts who have finally grown old enough to act on the love they’ve always felt for one another.

Honorable Mention: Corrin and Scarlet

In a game full of cheesy, over-the-top confessions of love, Nintendo at least shows us that it’s aware that a lot of the lines its characters throw around are laughably corny. When Corrin attempts to propose to Scarlet by asking her to “decorate me with your love,”**** Scarlet bursts into laughter at how bad a line that was, even though she does accept the proposal. And then, in the voice-acted confession, she tells Corrin that she loves him...even though his proposal was “was pretty weak.” Scarlet earns her place on this list for being the only person in the whole damn game who can keep it real.

Well, that was fun! But now that we’ve seen the best love stories that Fire Emblem 14 can offer...let’s take a look at the worst! And hoo boy, this game has some doozies.

The Worst Romances of Fire Emblem 14

Dishonorable Mention: The Ones That Come Out of Nowhere

Most of the time, I like to save the Honorable or Dishonorable Mention until the end, but this one kind of works better as a way to set the tone for the rest--a lot of the actual entries on this list will be this, and also worse.

Okay, so, this game may have some decent romances, but I’d say at least half of the game’s S rank confessions come out of fucking nowhere. Like, 1 minute Corrin’s just helping Hayato learn how to write a letter home, and the next, Lil’ H is confessing how much he loves Corrin and she’s all “sure why not.” 1 conversation, Hisame is teaching a friend how to pickle vegetables, and the next conversation, they’re deciding to be Pickle Pals on a whole other level. There’s nothing terribly wrong with these spontaneous feelings of mutual attraction, I guess, but most of the time when I was reading through the romance scenes in this game, I was just scratching my head on how they got from Point A to Point B (or more appropriately, Point C to Point S).

14. Camilla and Keaton

Camilla’s just really, really ambivalent about the idea of marrying Keaton. I mean, his interest in her comes out of nowhere, but she doesn’t even seem to HAVE an interest in him. The biggest draw she seems to have to him is that she can tell he has a lot of blood on his hands. Not exactly a huge thing to base a relationship off of to begin with, but even in itself, it seems a lot closer to a casual observation than a statement of romantic interest.

13. Arthur and Nyx

So, Arthur, lemme see if I got this right. You had no idea whether Nyx was as young as she appears, but you still procured an engagement ring before checking, just in case? I’m sorry, but there’s just no good way to have an inquiry about whether someone’s a legal adult, and a proposal for marriage in the same conversation.

12. Corrin and Hinoka, Corrin and Ryoma, Corrin and Sakura, and Corrin and Takumi

Look. It is 1 thing for me to accept the idea that Corrin could fall in love with her/his Nohrian “siblings,” since it is established early into the game that they’re not actually related to Corrin by blood. I’m still put off by the fact that Corrin still thinks of them as her/his siblings because she/he was raised with them as such, but as the number 1 slot of the list above proves, I can look past that. Although it WILL figure pretty heavily into the Since We’re Not Related It’ll Be Okay Syndrome rant I plan to write eventually.

But this is just going too far. Yes, it turns out that Corrin is also not related by blood to her/his Hoshidan “siblings”, either. So you’d think that hooking Corrin up with Ryoma, Hinoka, Takumi, or Sakura would be fine, at least as much as hooking up with the Nohrian royals is. But the thing is, it is only revealed to Corrin that she/he is not related to the Hoshidan royal siblings in the S rank conversation with them.

Think about that. This means that if you’re pairing Corrin with, say, Ryoma, Corrin will only find out that she is not Ryoma’s real sister in the SAME CONVERSATION which she accepts Ryoma’s proposal. I mean, come on now, Nintendo! I know that in Fire Emblem, brother-and-sister and husband-and-wife are practically the same thing, but you don’t think that’s just a little rushed and awkward? Not to mention that unless the player has gained knowledge of this situation from an outside source, you’ve created an uncomfortable scenario in which the only way for the player to find out that it’s arguably morally acceptable for Corrin to marry Takumi, Sakura, Ryoma, or Hinoka is to initiate a love confession conversation with them while the player still thinks they’re Corrin’s actual sibling!

This is what’s known as making a Hail Mary pass at someone.

The annoying thing is that that if they had timed it better, timed it so that Corrin wasn’t accepting a marriage proposal from the man or woman that 5 minutes ago Corrin thought was her/his actual, biological sibling...most of these romances would actually be pretty decent. Hinoka’s in particular would have been really nice. And if there had been a separation, so that Corrin learning of the truth of her/his non-relation to the Hoshidan royals didn’t happen at the same time as a marriage proposal by them, the revelation would have been rather nice, too, as it reveals an admirable side to King Sumeragi’s character. So this mess is detrimental twice over to what could have been good moments in the game.

11. Rhajat and Shiro

In this support conversation chain, Shiro keeps pestering Rhajat, a vegetarian, to eat some meat. Nothing says love like showing no respect whatsoever for someone’s dietary choices, right? And not only is this a lousy romance for Shiro being a pushy jerk for no reason, but it also promotes a lousy message to the audience by having Rhajat actually give in and eat some meat rather than stay true to her right to eat whatever she goddamn well pleases. The cherry on the top is the motivation that Shiro gives--at first, Shiro says that he’s doing it because he’s worried about Rhajat’s health, thinking that she might be so gloomy because her health is poor. Okay, acceptable, I guess, even if he went about it like an ass. But, if you have them pursue a romance, Shiro then takes it back and says that the real reason that he was being such a pushy prick was just because he wanted an excuse to have a conversation with her because he likes her. Being worried about her health is 1 thing, but insistently disrespecting one of her lifestyle choices just because he wanted more attention? This romance actually retcons itself into being even lousier.

10. Ignatius and Midori

I dunno about you guys, but when I think of sweet, tender romantic love, the first thing that comes to mind is ingesting live pill bugs, vomiting, and then fainting out of disgust in a pool of my own sick.

9. Azama and Sakura

Azama is an annoying jackass to Sakura for the first 2 conversations, only kind of makes up for it in the A rank scene, and then in the next conversation, he tells her that his apology gift was also a proposal gift. How fucking romantic.

8. Corrin and Selena

I like Selena a lot more than I’d have expected. She’s probably the most layered, deep character of the classic Tsundere role that I can think of. But sometimes she does play too much to type. Corrin and Selena’s romance amounts to Corrin being repeatedly berated by her for 3 conversations, and then actually bullied into marrying her. Corrin himself even actually says that his acceptance of her proposal is “against my better judgment.”

I have seen romance. This is not it.

7. Corrin and Odin:

The conversations between Corrin and Odin are about Corrin being reluctant to spend time with him, and then during his confession of love for Corrin, she demands that he drops his act and speaks plainly, or she’ll walk out. Be still, my heart, at this tender display of love. I’m supposed to believe in their romantic bond when Corrin shows, at best, tired resignation to the activity that Odin most enjoys doing? Yeah, there’s a marriage that’s gonna last.

6. Hana and Jakob

Ugh...and so we come to the Jakob part of the list. As much of a jerk as Azama can be, he at least usually has sort of good reasons for treating everyone around him like garbage. Jakob, on the other hand, is just 100% an ass.

As evidenced with his “romance” with Hana, if you really want to dirty the word by associating it with this debacle. He’s just hostile for no fucking reason to her, and even at the point where he admits that in some ways she’s a respectable person, he’s still standoffish about it. And then, suddenly, there’s love, for some reason, in which even the confession is kind of insulting. Ugh.

5. Azama and Hinoka

Man, and I thought Sakura had it bad with this jerk. Azama spends 3 conversations insulting and harassing Hinoka, and then, in the final scene, pulls a proposal out of his ass. And get this: Hinoka agrees to be Azama’s wife because, I shit you not, of the saying “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”

Now that’s some heart-stopping romance, there.

4. Jakob and Setsuna

Jesus, Jakob is such a lousy asswipe. What the hell were they thinking when they wrote this douchebag? Jakob spends the main 3 conversations of their support chain being a jerk to Setsuna, proving what a pathetic negativity-feeding parasitic troglodyte he is by picking the easiest target in the whole army, an agreeable girl who’s too spacey to fight back. And then...Jesus, even as I type this I am overcome with disbelief at this. And then, after using Setsuna as a verbal punching bag for 3 conversations without the slightest remorse, Jakob asks her to marry him, and starts this proposal by acting like this is him doing her a favor, since he can help keep her from falling into traps (she’s prone to doing this). As if he’s been trying to do so at all so far!

I just can’t wrap my mind around how messed up that is. What an abusive bottom-feeder. After he’s verbally belittled her every time they’ve spoken, he acts like marriage would be him doing her a favor. Eat shit and die, Jakob.

3. Peri and Anyone Who Isn’t Laslow

As I said, Peri’s romance with Laslow is a very touching, even heartwarming thing to see, which gets her in touch with a conscience and humanity she hasn’t had since childhood, and develops her excellently as a person.

Unfortunately...every other character’s relationship with Peri goes less well. With all other courtships, Peri’s penchant for reasonless, careless murder is treated with very little gravity, if it’s even addressed at all. Being a psychotic murderer seems to be seen as an unfortunate personality quirk and little more. For heaven’s sake, Felicia’s clumsiness gets more attention as a problem in need of fixing than Peri’s homicidal whims! I’m sorry, but so long as Peri is a gleeful mass-murdering psycho (and Laslow is the only individual who brings her past that point), I don’t buy that a romance between her and any of the well-adjusted (by comparison), morally functional members of the cast will work. Even in the case of allies who are known killers, like Keaton and Saizo (the latter of which can’t romance Peri anyway), and don’t feel remorse for their violent actions, they’re still pragmatic enough that they should see Peri’s casual violence as completely excessive and reasonless.

One more thing that really turns me off of Peri romances: her ability to consent to a marriage is pretty damn dubious. I mean, think about this. Laslow is the only person who helps Peri develop herself as a person and get in touch with her adult side. For everyone else, Peri is just regular Peri throughout their support conversations, including when she agrees to marry them. Which means that Peri is operating with a stinted, childish mind, and an emotionally damaged one at that. So, in spirit, these adult men are getting engaged to a child--a child with an adult woman’s body, yes, but what matters is that her mind is not adequately developed to the point where she can acceptably consent. Well, Nintendo, which is it? Mind or body? Is an adult romancing Nyx okay because within her child body is a fully developed adult mind, or is it okay when an adult romances Peri because her child mind happens to be kept within an adult body? Either it’s the physical or mental age that matters, Nintendo, you can’t just change your damn mind whenever it’s convenient!

2. Corrin and Gunter

Falling in love with a man who’s over 30 years your senior and clearly established, in the same line of conversations that lead to the love confession, to be a father figure to you? With whom you’ve literally spent every support conversation leading up to the marriage proposal playing catch, the most patently father-child activity ever invented?


1. Felicia and Jakob

Jesus Christ, Jakob! What the fuck is your real, actual problem?

As unpleasant as he is to others in general, as much of a jerk as he is to Hana and Setsuna, it’s his “romance” with Felicia in which Jakob truly hits his stride as a veritable superhero of douchebaggery. Jakob’s “love” for Felicia begins with reinforcing her low self esteem by reminding her of how awful she is at her job, and then develops this foundation through the next few conversations by expressing that she is not only completely terrible, but also hopeless, incapable of improvement without his help, and later he even goes further and indicates that she’s hopeless even with his help. This goes way beyond his abuse of Hana and Setsuna, because not only is he insulting Felicia at every turn for her completely harmless shortcomings, he’s going a tremendous step beyond that and saying that her flaws are inescapable no matter how hard she tries. And unlike Setsuna, Felicia can fully understand Jakob’s words and intent, and have her self-worth affected by them--Setsuna at least is spacy enough that she doesn’t take malicious statements to heart. And then, of course, once he’s been a merciless asshole for 3 conversations, the S rank proposal starts with him reaffirming how utterly hopeless she is of improving herself, and suggesting, as he does in the Setsuna proposal, that he do Felicia a favor and marry her because only a husband would be able to devote enough time to Felicia to make her less of a monumental fuck-up.

Watch out, Kevin of Xenosaga. You’ve got some stiff competition for Best Boyfriend Ever!

In this entire conversation chain from start to finish, in only a single line, at the end of the S rank marriage proposal, does Jakob express any actual, significant positive feeling for Felicia, when he claims, completely without basis, that he does want to marry her out of love. And he immediately follows this single, solitary moment of positive emotion with another low blow by reaffirming that her tea-making (a part of her job and thus something personally important to her) is “truly a nightmare.” The ending line of this romance--not making this up--is Jakob reassuring her that together, they’ll be able to wake up from that nightmare.

Just...what an unspeakable, monstrous piece of shit this guy is. Corrin and Gunter may be unhealthy and disturbing to the very core, but by God, at least it isn’t horrible, abusive garbage like this. Congrats, Jakob, you really are just the fucking worst.

Well, that’s that for the best and the worst that FE14 has to offer. There are some really lovely relationships to be found in this game...and some that make me cringe. But what can you expect, with over 300 different possible pairings in a game? With that many different romances to portray, naturally the writers are gonna hit all the bases.

Well...maybe not all of them. In fact, as numerous as FE14’s romances are, there are still some that really, honestly should have been there, but aren’t. Let’s do a final list, this time of the romances that should have been! We’re gonna split it in half this time with a list of 7, though, because I dunno about you but I am starting to get Fire Emblemed out.

Incidentally: most of the couples-that-should-have-been below are same-sex. I know it’ll come off like I’m very skewed toward that, particularly given how often I point out the fact that same-sex couples don’t get adequate representation in games, but it’s honestly not so much an issue of bias as it is that nearly every possible heterosexual couple in the game is already an integrated possibility. There’s just not a lot of hetero pairs that haven’t been explored by the game.

The Romances That Should Have Been in Fire Emblem 14

7. Effie and Elise

Look, I don’t want to go all slash-shippy on you guys, but Effie’s devotion to Elise just goes way, way too far not to be at least somewhat romantic in nature. When she recounts the day she met Elise to others, she speaks reverently of how incredible and radiant Elise was, how Effie knew then and there that this was the person she needed to devote her life to. Effie’s desire to serve and protect Elise have driven her to become utterly superhuman in her strength, to basically become the Fire Emblem equivalent to She Hulk, through effort alone. Much like Camilla to Corrin, Effie’s devotion to Elise spills over into many of support conversations with other characters, to such an extent that even as she pledges her love to these other characters, Effie clarifies that her priority will still always be her duty to Elise. Seriously, in 1 of these love conversations, she says, word for word, “I’d give my life to protect you as well. Assuming I’m not already busy protecting Lady Elise, of course...”

Considering some of the absurdly meaningless connections that this game has based other characters’ romances on, this one seems a no-brainer, and really should have been available, I think.

6. Male Corrin and Silas

Similarly to Effie, Silas has devoted the path of his life to being in Corrin’s life. This is the basis for the romance between Silas and Female Corrin, but that foundation is no different when Corrin is a man, so it seems natural that the aspect of romantic love in Silas’s devotion would be the same. I mean, Silas’s devotion is the same either way, so does the game want to say that the entire foundation for his potential romance with Female Corrin is an affection no stronger than it would be out of basic friendship?

The reason this one places above Effie and Elise is that even though we can very reasonably say that Effie’s fathomless devotion to Elise involves romantic feelings, there’s really no indication that Elise has an interest in women. There’s no indication that she doesn’t, either, but the only thing known about her sexuality is an interest in men. Corrin, on the other hand, is bisexual, since he can fall in love with Niles, so if we suppose that Silas’s devotion is partially romantic--and if we assume otherwise, then it undercuts the entirety of the relationship he can have with Female Corrin--we can also assume that Male Corrin would be capable of reciprocating that love.

5. Azura and Female Corrin

I dunno, it just kinda feels like the closest-thing-to-canon relationship in this game should be available to your protagonist regardless of gender. It’s not like, say, Knights of the Old Republic 1, in which there was a hugely plot relevant romantic option for each gender of Revan (Bastila for Male Revan, Carth for Female Revan*****). There’s no male equivalent to Azura in the game’s cast for Female Corrin. Additionally, as I said earlier, a lot of what makes Azura and Corrin work as a couple is their powerful connection established not just in their support dialogues, but in the events of the game’s story, and that stuff doesn’t change with Corrin’s gender. So a lot of the groundwork that’s laid out that maks you feel that Azura and Male Corrin love one another is there for Female Corrin, as well.

4. Charlotte and Ryoma, and Charlotte and Takumi

Um...why in the world would Charlotte, on the Revelations path of the game where you’ve united both the Hoshidan and Nohrian forces, not be able to pursue a relationship with the Hoshidan princes? I mean, gold-digging is the foundation of her split-personality character, right? It’s in Charlotte’s nature to go after royalty and other rich people. Takumi and Ryoma should be just as much in her sights as Xander and Leo.

3. Female Corrin and Soleil

I mentioned this in that previous rant, but it doesn’t make a lick of sense that Corrin, a bisexual character, has no ability to pursue a romance with Soleil, a bisexual-leaning-heavily-toward-the-homosexual-side woman who makes it a point to pursue nearly every woman she meets. It’s even more absurd that Female Corrin is unable to romance Soleil when Male Corrin can, and when Soleil’s first interest in Male Corrin begins in a conversation in which she’s pretending Male Corrin is a woman.

2. Ryoma and Scarlet

Scarlet’s one of the characters in the game who only has a single option for romance, Corrin. Now, this is acceptable enough in the cases of Flora, Fuga, Anna, and so on, because these characters usually don’t really have any non-family connection to the rest of the cast.

...Well, I mean, Flora has known Jakob for a long time, but I’ll be damned if I want to give that jackass another person to treat like his verbal toilet.

But getting back to Scarlet, the thing is, she has a relatively well-established friendship, or at least friendly alliance, with Ryoma. He treats her as a friend he values, particularly in the Revelations path of the game. Yeah, friendship doesn’t automatically mean romantic feelings, but this is Fire Emblem 14--the majority of possible romances in this game are based on a hell of a lot less than an established, visible friendship. Forrest and Sophie can fall in love over the fact that he sewed her a shirt with a horse on it, for Neaki’s sake! Every other slight possibility for a heterosexual romantic connection is explored in this game, so why not include one of the few which would have some actual basis?

1. Camilla and Female Corrin

As I said before, the majority of Camilla’s obsessive, overwhelming love for Corrin is visible in events involving her outside of their support conversations, and in support conversations that Camilla has with others, all of which don’t change depending on Corrin’s gender. It is very, very clear in this game that Camilla is just crazy about Corrin, period, gender notwithstanding. Not only that, but Camilla’s sexuality seems more pronounced toward women, anyway. If she’s Soleil’s mother, she’ll mention, as Soleil hits on her, that Soleil takes after Camilla. Camilla’s support conversations with Beruka and especially Selena are affectionate to a questionable degree. And in the plot itself--cold, hard evidence that is not alterable by the player’s choices--Camilla even says, on the Hoshido path of the game, to Hinoka that Hinoka is just her type, “cute and very beautiful.”

So the strongest evidence we have of Camilla’s sexuality distinctly shows that she is interested in women. The fact that Female Corrin can pursue a relationship with Rhajat means that she is also capable of being interested in women. Camilla shows an equal attention, which we know is strongly romantic, to Female Corrin as she does to Male Corrin. The C, B, and A support conversations that lead up to the S rank confession of love between Male Corrin and Camilla are in every substantial way identical to those between Camilla and Female Corrin. And lastly, even if they didn’t incorporate nearly enough to be morally acceptable, the presence of any same-sex relationships in Fire Emblem 14 means that Nintendo can’t officially take a stance against them in this game. To wit, in every observable way, Camilla’s love for Corrin is identical regardless of Corrin’s gender, sexual preference is no object, and same-sex relationships are an integrated aspect of the game universe. So what possible reason could there be to allow Camilla and Male Corrin to engage in a romance, but deny Camilla and Female Corrin that option?

I usually don’t do this, preferring to respect the wishes of developers and writers for their creations...but in my estimation, going forward, I view Camilla and Female Corrin as much a legitimate, canononical potentiality of Fire Emblem 14 as Camilla and Male Corrin. I’m not usually one to encourage or discourage headcanons, nor to engage in them myself, but there are rare occasions in which the audience has interpreted and understood the work better than the creator, and this is one such situation.

Dishonorable Mention: Anna and Female Corrin

Well, if you’re gonna include a character and let her be romanced out of fanservice and nothing else, I reckon you should be equal about it. If you offer a trite, manipulative little garbage romance to players of a Male Corrin, no reason it shouldn’t be offered to players of a Female Corrin, too. It’s obviously not being done for any reason of artistic integrity to start with, so why not?

Actually, you know what I would have liked to have more than the ability to romance Anna as both genders instead of just 1? To have Nintendo maintain some shred of dignity and not clumsily drop Anna in as a love interest at all.

Well, that was fun. And long. And took me way more time to research than it was worth. But on the plus side, I’m sure I’ll lose a few readers for dumping on their OTP or promoting some couple or other they find distasteful!


* I’m putting the quote marks around 13 here because according to online sources, officially Eclair’s listed as 13 years old, but when I did the math while playing the game a few years ago, I was coming up with 11.

** Well...I usually like it. It’s still possible to have such poor writing, convoluted workings, and unappealing characters that even this concept of love across lives is rendered lame and lifeless. Xenogears managed it.

*** Also, by the time Rhajat enters the picture, you’re probably used to Corrin having people secretly following her/him around all the time. Between Saizo’s suspicion, Kagero’s protective instincts, Rhajat’s obsession, and Camilla’s...Camilla-ing, there are so many people following Corrin around and spying on her/him that Corrin must feel like an animal at a zoo. Or the average American citizen.

**** It’s related to the previous conversations Corrin and Scarlet have had, involving decorating their weapons in mosaic to make them all sparkly and such. So there is context. But no, that context does not make the line any less ridiculous.

***** Although honestly, with the plot set up the way it is, it feels like Bastila should’ve been available either way.