A frequent criticism made against Fire Emblem 13, known also as Fire Emblem Awakening, was that the game incorporated a large selection of potential romances for its characters, yet of the literal dozens of potential love stories for its protagonist, not a single option for a same-sex relationship was given. The very legitimate argument was made by many players that in a game with emphasis both on character romance and great variety and choice in romantic options, to cut homosexuality out of the equation entirely was not morally acceptable in this day and age (and, for that matter, not even realistic, probability-wise). That is, in fact, the main reason that I have made it a point to avoid purchasing and playing the game. I’m not going to pretend I would otherwise have been chomping at the bit to try FE13 out--my feelings on the Fire Emblem series are mildly positive, but that’s about it--but there have been occasions in which I was reviewing what 3DS RPG to try out next, and deliberately vetoed that title for this reason.
Now, it does bear in mind that there is a reasonable argument to the other side of the issue: the reason that character romance was so important in FE13 was because the game’s plot significantly involved time travel from the future to the present, and the characters from the future were the children of the present time’s cast. So, essentially, the romance was important because it determined half the game’s cast’s existence. Thus, since heterosexual coupling can result in children and homosexual coupling cannot, there is a degree of sense in keeping the cast to heterosexual romance. Reasonable argument...to a certain, short point. Sadly, past that point are easily constructed workarounds that would have still allowed for same-sex romances which would not have caused the slightest hiccup in the game’s plot and the children’s existence, which will be detailed here a little later, so it’s still unacceptable.
Anyway, to whit, I made it a point not to support Nintendo with Fire Emblem 13 because their exclusion of same-sex love was not, ultimately, morally defensible. And because I had taken that stand on FE13...I jumped at the opportunity to buy FE14 when I learned that Nintendo had finally decided to do the right thing and include homosexual romance options for the new game’s protagonist. I bought FE14 the day it came out, all 3 paths of it, as well as all the DLC in advance. If I’m going to try to send a message by refusing to support immoral products, then I’d better damn well also make sure to send a message by strongly supporting products that are moral, right?
...Yeeeeeeaaaahhh. I might’ve jumped the gun a bit on this one.
Look, I’m sorry, but Fire Emblem 14? As Nintendo’s first (to my knowledge) real step forward in embracing the billions of human beings of sexuality other than hetero, Fire Emblem 14 can only be described as disappointing. And even that’s kind of a generous spin on it.
Alright, before I get into the negative, let’s at least acknowledge what Nintendo’s done right on this issue. Yes: Fire Emblem 14 has same-sex options for romance for Corrin, its protagonist. On 1 of the 3 paths of the game, a male Corrin can romance Niles, a male outlaw. On another path a female Corrin can romance Rhajat, a female sorceress (who is basically a reincarnation of FE13’s Tharja). And on the last path of the game, both Niles and Rhajat are available. So, yes: you can have your character fall in love with another character of the same sex in this game. And most of the benefits of the romance are the same: improved cooperation in battle, ability to share job classes, cute little scenes and sweet-nothings whenever you have Corrin stop by his/her personal home, a love confession scene, and so on. Good.
I’ll also defend Nintendo on 1 point of criticism, before I get to my own. I’ve seen some people say that it’s bad form for Nintendo to have had Niles and Rhajat as the same-sex romance options, because both Niles and Rhajat are considered very strange, in some regards deviant, people, so it kind of seems like Nintendo’s saying that it’s strange, in some regards deviant, to be attracted to members of the same sex. Well, this argument has a certain degree of merit, to be sure, but honestly, Fire Emblem 14 is filled to the absolute goddamn brim with bizarre weirdos who are heterosexually romanceable, too. Selkie’s a nut, Camilla is kind of disturbing, Odin’s a weirdo, Setsuna’s a space case, Asama’s just off, Mitama’s quite odd, Ophelia’s the same as Odin, Dwyer’s weird, Felicia’s at least a little unusual, Izana’s peculiar, Arthur’s a goofball, and Peri...goodness gracious, Peri. And frankly, a lot of the other cast members are strange in at least some small ways, too. Paradoxically, odd ducks are the norm for Fire Emblem 14. So I don’t know if you can really criticize Nintendo on the fact that Niles and Rhajat are pretty weird, because a LOT of the hetero options aren’t any more normal.
Okay. Now. My grievances.
First of all, let’s start with the obvious:
Two. Two. That’s how many same-sex romantic options you’ve provided, Nintendo? Fucking TWO? One for each Corrin gender? Yeah, that’s alright in a game like Dragon Age 1, where the total number of romanceable characters is 4 (5 if you count Anora, I suppose). But the number of characters in Fire Emblem 14 whom Corrin can be romantically involved with is, by my count, sixty-goddamn-seven. 67 to 2. Does that really seem fair to anyone? And let me point out that we’re ONLY talking about the love options for the protagonist Corrin with that number. The majority of characters in the game can also pursue romance with several other characters instead of Corrin, and what a shocker, they’re all strictly heterosexual ones. So we’re actually looking at, hell I dunno...150 heterosexual romances to 2 homosexual ones? 200 to 2? I ain’t spending an hour counting them all out, but trust me, an educated guess puts it up in that range.
Hell, even Niles and Rhajat, who I remind you are the sole characters who can be same-sex romanced by Corrin, have only heterosexual love options besides Corrin. Now you can make the case that this makes sense for Rhajat to some degree, because there’s some implication (most of which got translated out of the English version) that she and Corrin are reincarnations of Robin and Tharja from the previous Fire Emblem, and so Tharja’s obsession and love for Robin is so great that her soul retains it even in a new life. With that argument, you can then extrapolate that Rhajat’s love for Corrin doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with her basic sexual preferences. Fine. But the same can’t be said for Niles, so where’re his other same-sex romance options? He ain’t the type to hold back.
Here’s something to further compound the numbers problem. It doesn’t even make sense for the same-sex relationships to be restricted to 2. No, I don’t mean in the sense that it’s not even statistically likely to only find 2 bisexual (Niles and Rhajat have heterosexual partner options, remember) people in a group of 67, and no outright homosexual individuals. Although that is ridiculous. No, what I mean here is that it’s ridiculous for there to be only 2 potential same-sex pairings in this game when there are more than 2 non-heterosexual characters in the cast.
Yes. Yes, that’s right. There are characters besides Rhajat and Niles in the cast of Fire Emblem 14 who have differing sexualities, and yet neither Corrin nor any other character can pursue a same-sex relationship with them. The situation is just that bad.
First of all, you have Camilla. Camilla is a princess of Nohr, one of the 4 royal children of the country that adopt Corrin into their family and consider Corrin a sibling. Except Camilla, uh...she doesn’t...exactly...behave in a very sisterly manner toward Corrin. Well, I mean, she does, yes, she’s an incredibly doting and affectionate sister to Corrin, but, well, her focus on Corrin just goes waaaaaayyyy past the point of sibling affection. Look, I’m not gonna beat around the bush here: Camilla wants to pork with Corrin. She wants it Badly. Fire Emblem 14 is a game which gives you the option to have Corrin hook up with any of his/her adopted siblings (more on that weirdness in a moment), but Camilla is the only one where you can tell pretty much right from the get-go that she’s angling for that.
So what does that have to do with my point? Well, for starters, not a lot of interactions between Corrin and Camilla change at all for Corrin’s gender, including many which make Camilla’s obsession with Corrin reasonably explicit, so it’d be rational to infer that the attraction is there regardless of Corrin’s gender. But that in itself isn’t enough to prove anything, because this is true for other romantic support conversation chains in the game. But, BUT, there IS something more. In the Nohr path of the game, there comes a time when you defeat Hinoka, Corrin’s princess sister from Hoshido who everyone thinks is Corrin’s actual, biological sister. During conversation with Hinoka after she is defeated, Camilla stakes her claim as Corrin’s sister and kinda tells Hinoka to back the hell off, but then the conversation takes a turn for the...well, a turn for the Camilla, I suppose. She is her own adjective. Camilla says, and I quote,
“Now that I’ve gotten a good look at you...you’re exactly my type. Cute and very beautiful.
“How lovely. Your embarrassed face, too.”
Now I’m not sure if Camilla’s saying that because she’s associating Corrin’s supposed biological sister with Corrin him/herself, or whether it’s just outright, honest attraction to Hinoka. But I am pretty sure of 1 thing: those ain’t the textboxes of a strictly heterosexual woman, there. Hell, to my knowledge, that’s the only time in the actual plot of the game (not the side support conversations) that Camilla expresses an actual attraction toward a character whose gender is static, so if anything, the strongest evidence we have for Camilla’s sexual preferences is lesbian, not straight. From the perspective of pure logic, you could argue that pairing her with men is less in character for her! So with it established in hard evidence by the game’s own main plot, with multiple supporting implications in Camilla’s interactions with Corrin (and her dialogues with Selena and Beruka, too), that Camilla is quite capable of feeling attraction for her own gender, why in the world would she not be another possible same-sex partner for Corrin? Camilla says and does the same stuff with Female Corrin that she does with Male Corrin, who she can get together with, and she expresses attraction toward another female character. Nintendo could have just included the same romantic conversation between Camilla and Female Corrin, changed virtually nothing save swapping “brother” for “sister,” and effortlessly had a little more same-sex representation in the game. It wouldn’t have required the slightest change to Camilla’s character whatsoever; hell, with her obsession over Corrin overall, it would have been, if anything, more true to her character.
And it isn’t just Camilla. There’s also the matter of Soleil. Soleil is the daughter of Laslow, a ladies’ man who constantly flirts with women and just as constantly gets shot down. Well, Soleil’s a chip off the old block in 1 way: she’s crazy about girls, too. And this ain’t a subtle thing. This isn’t like Camilla, where the pieces are obvious, but nonetheless require you to put them together. No, when asked about it, Laslow just up and states, plain as day, that his daughter’s interested in both men and women. Not only that, but her interest in the fairer sex is not just established, it is the majority of her character development. This is not just a trait of Soleil: the fact that “cuties,” as she herself calls pretty women, make Soleil’s knees go weak is THE trait of Soleil, the most definable aspect of her personality that the game harps on.
And yet, ALL of Soleil’s romantic options are male. Including Corrin! Soleil can fall in love with Male Corrin, but not Female Corrin. Not just that, but the way she initially gets her interest in Male Corrin is when she’s blindfolded and imagines him as a woman! Yet she’s not a love interest when Corin actually IS a woman! How do you even wrap your head around this kind of non-logic? HOW?
So yeah, not only is 2 same sex relationships in a game out of 150+ possible couplings so paltry that it seems insulting rather than progressive, but there are characters who canonically have sexualities that could have raised that number who were deliberately disregarded. That’s just awful.*
But I’m not done yet.
See, there’s another problem I have with this situation. Remember when I said that most of the benefits of heterosexual pairings for Corrin were present for the same-sex options? There is, in fact, 1 thing missing: Kana, Corrin’s child. See, under most circumstances, when you hook Corrin up with someone, you’ll unlock the party member Kana, Corrin’s plot-convenience-aged-up son or daughter. If Male Corrin marries Niles, however, no Kana (and no Nina, Niles’s daughter, either). Likewise, if Female Corrin marries Rhajat, no Kana.
“Well, that’s understandable,” you say to yourself, sensibly enough. “To conceive a child, you need a man and woman. That’s basic biology.”
Yeah, fine. I’ll grant you that. It relates to the argument for why everyone in FE13 had to be straight: can’t have kids without a mom and dad. Except there are some pretty simple, obvious work-arounds for that, which gay people have been discreetly employing for ages.
The first and most obvious being surrogate parents! This’d be easy enough to set up. Just make it so that once Corrin reaches S rank with Niles or Rhajat, and they confess their love for one another, the player’s given the option to choose another character, one of the opposite sex, who Corrin has an A rank with to act as a surrogate parent for Kana. It’s not like it’d break the challenge or whatever, you put in the effort to reach S rank with someone, right? Couldn’t be that difficult to program.
There’s another option, too. Let me point your attention back a couple decades, to an earlier title in this series, Fire Emblem 4. FE4 was, to my knowledge, actually the game that came up with this idea of pairing characters together to create child characters. But here’s the thing. In FE4, when you had 2 characters fall in love, their child would become a party member in the second half of the game...but, if you did NOT pair everyone off, you would NOT lose out on a party member. The role that the child character would have taken on would simply be filled by a completely separate character, some other freedom fighter with their own personality and history. Their stats and abilities wouldn’t usually be as good as the intended child character’s would have been, but you didn’t just lose out on a character entirely.
So why not apply a similar solution to the issue of a same-sex married Corrin’s child? Instead of completely axing Kana from the game altogether, why not replace Kana with a separate child character--an adopted son/daughter for Corrin? He or she might be without the stat growths and such that Corrin’s actual parentage would have conferred, perhaps, but at least he or she would actually exist. Because surface logic or no, withholding a party member entirely from a player because they had Corrin fall in love with someone of the same gender feels an awful lot like a discriminatory penalty to me.
There’s also the whole Soleil fiasco. Long story short, in the original Japanese version, Male Corrin’s support conversations had him secretly adding a magical powder to her drink that made her see him as a girl instead of a boy, for the purpose of helping her become more used to being in the presence of attractive women so it wouldn’t distract her on the battlefield. A side result of this, if a romance with Soleil was pursued, was that she fell for Corrin along the way. A big deal was made about this situation by a lot of people, because, when some of these conversations are taken out of context, they seem to be making the case of support for the horrible, degrading, oppressive practice of conversion therapy, and also, it was kinda date rape-y with the whole making-her-drink-magical-drugs thing. Well, the situation was blown out of proportions, by and large, because when read within context of all the other parts of the support conversation chain, it’s fairly clear that the writers’ intentions were innocent, and saying that it advocates conversion therapy or anything like that is a bit of a stretch.**
That said...even assuming nothing but the best intentions here, it’s still a case of poor judgment, at the very least, to portray Soleil’s interest in women as an obstacle in any capacity, and to then have the approach to helping her with this obstacle involve her ingesting mentality-altering drugs without her knowing consent. I mean, Jesus, Nintendo, it never occurred to anyone in the writing department even once that there might be some dangerous implications in that? Even with the understanding of the full story of the conversation path, it’s still more than a little questionable, and it just sheds one more negative light on Nintendo’s treatment of same-sex attraction in this game. If for no other reason than the fact that they would be so completely careless with this particular character and her sexuality!
What I just don’t get is why it’s such a difficult idea for Nintendo to get used to, this concept that there are people--more than 2 per every 67--who fall in love with others of the same sex, and live in happy relationships with them. What has taken Nintendo so long to make any kind of effort to acknowledge and incorporate these human beings into its stories?*** Is it stuck in that incomprehensibly idiotic mindset that there’s something morally wrong with love that isn’t heterosexual? Or maybe Nintendo itself doesn’t really buy into that rot, but doesn’t want to alienate consumers who do? I know there are plenty of raging morons online who have complained that even the pitiful 2 same-sex options in FE14 shouldn’t be present because they have such a poor understanding of their own religion that they think homosexuality is sinful.
Which is ludicrous in the context of Fire Emblem, particularly FE14, I’d like to note. If you’re going to get up at arms about anything involving the romantic possibilities of this game, homosexuality ain’t it. I mean, this is a game in which:
-Cousins can fall in love with the second generation characters, and you can have Male Corrin marry Azura (it’s probably the closest thing there is to a canon pairing for Corrin, in fact), who turns out to also be his cousin. Now, granted, cousincest actually is legal in more parts of the world than it isn’t, including many first world nations, and genetically speaking, it is, I believe, not actually particularly dangerous for genetics as long as it’s not done frequently. Still, you’d think this would be more inflammatory to people than homosexuality.
-Corrin can marry his/her adopted brothers and sisters from Nohr, with whom he/she has been raised for nearly all his/her conscious life, AND
-Corrin can marry his/her (spoiler) adopted brothers and sisters from Hoshido, all of whom have lived their whole lives mourning Corrin’s absence as their sibling. Either way, we’re talking about Corrin hooking up with a man or woman that Corrin has a firm mental perspective of as being a brother or sister, and vice-versa.
-Nyx, a woman whose body is cursed so that it stopped aging at what appears to be 13 - 15 years old, can be romanced by any one of a number of adult men in the cast, and have their child.
-Hayato and Elise, two characters who look extremely young for their age (and Elise also acts as young as she looks, if not even younger), also can be romanced by adult characters and become parents.
-Male Corrin actually admits to Camilla during his romantic S support conversation with her that he’s been attracted to her for some time...as in, from a time before the game starts, meaning that he’s admitting to have been attracted to her back when he believed she was his actual, biological sister.
-Soleil hits on her own mom. And it isn’t subtle.****
-Selena can, by marrying Subaki, become the mother of the reincarnation of her own mother.
-Kana can reach an S rank support--that’s the romantic level, to remind you--with his/her own uncle or aunt. No, seriously, totally possible. Let’s say you hook up Azura with Kaden (any first generation male who has a daughter will do, though), which produces Shigure and Selkie, brother and sister. Now let’s say that your Female Corrin hooks up with Shigure, which produces Male Kana. It is possible, in this circumstance, to then have Kana and Selkie reach an S Support--and again, in Fire Emblem terms, S Rank = Love. That’s Kana, who is the son of Shigure in this case, and Selkie, who is, here, the sister of Shigure. And yes, most of the S Rank conversations with Kana are pretty innocuous, with Kana talking about being best friends with the other person forever, and the romantic implications being very light. But I’ve chosen Selkie for a reason in this example, because in Selkie’s conversation with Kana, they outright say that they like each other romantically, and will be girlfriend and boyfriend from this point on.
-Female Corrin can marry and have a child with Gunter. Gunter, who is like 30 - 40 years older than her, and, just for good measure, clearly established to be a father figure toward Corrin.
-Male Corrin and many other characters can marry Peri, a real, actual psychopath who has the mind of a child and is basically a grinning murder machine.*****
Oh, yeah, I can totally see how you’d want to limit how much same-sex marriage you allowed in this blushing maiden, no, this pure, pristine nun of a game. Jesus Christ, looking at Fire Emblem 14’s romance scene is like playing Fetish Bingo, and people are complaining about having a tiny bit of homosexuality in there? Unreal.
Anyway, I think I’ve said my piece and then some on this. I appreciate that Nintendo moved toward doing the right thing with Fire Emblem 14, really I do. But 2 same-sex relationships out of something around 150 can’t even honestly be called a full first step, and not only is it just too little of a gesture, it also doesn’t even make any damn sense when the game features more than 2 characters who have same-sex attractions. Nor does it make any sense to be reluctant to add homosexual relationships to this game when so much of its heterosexual romantic content is downright weird and/or far more risque. And that, combined with the issue of being problematically careless with Soleil and giving no thought to alternative solutions with the Kana situation, makes for an extremely disappointing first foray into representation of alternate sexuality. I’m sorry, but ultimately, Nintendo dropped the ball on this. Again I learn the bitter lesson: never trust a company enough to buy something before you know what you’re getting.
* And I just want to add, there are also a couple of characters who don’t actually show same-sex attraction, but really should be same-sex possibilities for Corrin. I mean, let’s face it, Silas’s devotion and friendship with Corrin is so strong that it already seems romantic anyway, and basically is if Corrin’s a woman, so why not just have him also be an option for Male Corrin? The character’s practically written for it already; hell, it’d be a lot less of a stretch than the majority of pairing possibilities in this game. And Corrin’s fast and powerful connection to Azura is such that it seems, again, like a natural gateway to romantic love, and is the case for Male Corrin. Really wouldn’t have been any stretch for Azura to be a romantic option for Female Corrin, too. And that’s just in regards to Corrin--there are plenty of other same-sex possibilities that are practically already in effect with the secondary cast, too. I mean, I talk about Silas’s devotion to Corrin, but Effie just plain lives for Elise.
** I don’t even think conversion therapy is a thing in Japan to begin with. A quick bit of research reveals no indication that it exists in the country to any real degree (good for you, Japan!), so it seems all the more unlikely that you can reasonably interpret that as an angle here.
*** In an official, significant way, I mean. There’ve been a couple Fire Emblem characters in the past, like Heather in FE10, who clearly weren’t straight, and heck if the entire Legend of Zelda series doesn’t seem more and more queer every time I look at it, but this is still the first time anything like that has been outright acknowledged and shown in a reciprocated fashion.
**** What’s funny is if you’ve set it up so that Camilla is Soleil’s mother, Camilla will actually say at one point that Soleil has “clearly taken after” Camilla. Just further evidence that Camilla should have been a same-sex option for Corrin. And that she’s really, really weird.
***** Although to be fair, Peri’s romance with Laslow is actually pretty sweet and compelling. But, y’know, in general, getting married to Peri is like exchanging vows with Chara from Undertale.