Howdy, folks. Before we get started, I'd like to just point out, in case you have somehow missed it, the button on the right there. That fun little dancing moogle button which my sister was kind enough to make for me is a link to my new Patreon page. Late to the party as always, I now have an account at Patreon through which you can, if you so choose, support my terrible ranting addiction! But I do want to make something clear: whether I get a single pledge or a thousand (odds are closer to the former than the latter, methinks), it will not have any impact on the frequency or quality of this rant blog. I didn't set up this Patreon account so I could hold something over your heads as a way to coerce you into giving me money. I've simply decided that if there actually is anyone out there who for some reason likes my rants so much that they think I deserve to be compensated for my time and effort, I'm going to give them the chance to put their money where my mouth is.
That sounded more clever in my head.
Anyway, bottom line: I would love it if you like my rants enough that you feel that they're worth a buck or 2 a month. But I don't hold any kind of expectation that you should do so, and I'm not going to push it any more than having the button and mentioning it this one time. Either way, the rants continue as they would have. And on that note...let today's ranting commence.
The way children are handled in Fire Emblem Fates is dumb.
I don’t even know why I’m making a rant on this. Because we all know that it’s dumb. And we all know why. And many, many people have pointed out the ways in which this situation is dumb. But what the hell, you’re here and I’m short on rant ideas. Let’s do this.
Alright, so quick recap for anyone who doesn’t know, which is probably no one because anyone who doesn’t know this wouldn’t be reading a rant about this game anyway, but it just wouldn’t be an RPGenius rant if at least half of it weren’t superfluous garbage. In Fire Emblem 14, you can pair off a massively large number of characters with each other. There’s over 300 possible romances in this game, and the majority take place between the first generation characters (those that become available to join your party naturally through the story’s course). Some are good, a few are really good, some are bad, some are just fucking terrible, and at least half of them are spontaneous and don’t really make much sense. Well, what do you expect? The writers had to come up with over 300 love confession scenes, for Medusa’s sake. Most RPGs can’t even manage a single decent romance. On the whole, I think the writers did a lot better than one could ever reasonably expect.
Well, except with Jakob. Fuck Jakob.
Anyway. So you hook these characters up, they get married (these folks just jump right into matrimony in this game, lemme tell you; marriage proposals are like handshakes in Fire Emblem 14), and they have a kid (or 2, if the couple involves Azura or female Corrin). At this point, the game informs you that since war times aren’t good times for child-raising, the characters decided to send their little bundle of joy to a place in the Deeprealms, a bunch of little mini-dimensions “strewn across the astral plane.” Also, time passes much faster in the Deeprealms, so the children grow up super fast by the standards of the regular Fire Emblem 14 dimension. According to the Fire Emblem Wiki, “a matter of weeks” in the regular dimension is enough for the children to mature into young adults. At this point, you’re given a side-mission, in which, through varying circumstances, it’s decided that Junior is gonna join your team, since he/she is by this point more or less as much a capable adult as his/her parents. Hell, in some cases, like Rhajat and probably whoever ends up being Elise’s kid, the child is actually older than at least 1 of his/her parents.
If you didn’t stare at the screen and say, “What?” at least once during that last paragraph, there may be something wrong with you.
Alright, so, now that we’re all caught up on how this system works...what the hell? What nonsensical crap IS this?
Look, I get why Nintendo wanted there to be children characters in the game. The company’s following the high that was Fire Emblem 13’s success, and one of the things that people liked about that game was that there were characters in it that were the sons and daughters of the plot-natural party members you hooked up. With FE13 being the first, to my knowledge, Fire Emblem that really hit on a widespread audience outside of Japan, not to mention being very popular in Japan itself, they didn’t want to risk losing this audience they’d been courting for years with previously mild success at best. Understandable.
But understandable does not necessarily mean acceptable.
In Fire Emblem 13, the idea of having child characters worked, because the plot was set up to sustain it. FE13 is a story about a hero going back in time to save her world by helping her parents and their allies to stop an evil that, in her timeline, they had fallen to. Children traveling back in time to help their parents save their world is already a natural part of the plot in Fire Emblem 13. The story automatically accommodates the idea of the child of the couple who just got together showing up as an adult ready to join the party and do their part.
This idea also worked in the game it originated from, Fire Emblem 4, because, again, FE4 was set up to accommodate it. FE4’s story was multi-generational; the second half of the game takes place years and years after the first, and you take control of the children of the first half’s heroes (or a group of unrelated freedom-fighters, if you didn’t pair off the characters in the first half). Again, you’ve got a case where the story of the game is specifically designed that children characters are a legitimate part of it.
Fire Emblem 14 just ain’t set up that way. FE14’s plot happens in a straight shoot, start to finish in a normal RPG’s time frame, and there’s no time-traveling involved. There’s just nothing you can reasonably do to include children of the game’s main cast who are born during the course of the game’s events. So if you’re gonna jam these kids in there, you’ve gotta stretch.
Oh, man, do you have to stretch.
So let’s roll through this 1 thing at a time. First of all, it’s just not a good thing overall, from a general viewpoint of story structure. Multiple dimensions linked together across an astral plane is not the kind of story element you just throw in on a damn whim! Yeah, I know that the multi-dimensional thing already exists in Fire Emblem 14 peripherally (Selena, Odin, and Laslow are “secretly” (it’s not that well-kept a secret) characters from Fire Emblem 13, called from their own world to save this one), but there’s a BIG difference between having 3 characters secretly knowing there are other worlds and other civilizations of people out there, and establishing as a matter of basic knowledge for the entire cast that there are numerous other worlds beyond their own. Everyone just takes this in stride? 1 day, everyone’s concerned about their little feudal Euro- or Japanese-styled kingdoms as the center of their existence, and the next, they know that other worlds exist and that there’s life and other civilizations in them, and no one bats an eye? Sees it as a handy place to stash their kids and nothing else?
No, no, of course, it makes perfect sense. Nintendo’s figured it out. The reason we advance our scientific knowledge in the hopes of reaching new worlds? The reason we conjure every imaginable scenario about our first exposure to alien life? The reason humanity looks up at the night sky, and wonders? We’re all just searching for the perfect daycare.
To get into the more tangible details of why this is ridiculous...let’s look at the time frame of this situation. You may want to skip this paragraph for the next if you just want to get to the answer without my rambling. We start out with 2 characters getting to know each other and having conversations with one another. There are ways to increase characters’ affinity a little outside of battle, but for the most part, characters become closer as they do stuff together in battle. So from the beginning of these 2 noticing the other exists, until the moment they get married, you’re looking at...let’s be completely insane and say that they have their support conversations and fall in love over the course of a few days. The stars have aligned to make it so that they each go up an affinity rank after each battle, so they only need to be in 4 battles, and miraculously, all 4 of these battles take place over the course of like 3 days, even though most battles in the game take place in locations scattered around the game’s world that would require a lot of travel time to get to. These 2 hook up after knowing each other for a few days, because they’re idiots, and decide to get married. Let’s now suppose that this is the barest bones wedding possible, even though that’s thoroughly insane to assume of a great number of individuals in the cast (Laslow, Charlotte, any of the royal siblings, Odin, Selena, the list goes on). You’re looking at, I dunno, a couple days for the FE14 version of a town hall wedding to go through when they’re already busy with the events of the plot going on. The marriage happens, the honeymoon happens, and there’s now a bun in the oven. Human pregnancy lasts about 9 months. No, I’m not going to assume that every child character in this game was a preemie; I’m already being more than lenient. So, 9 months later, the baby pops out. Let’s say that we give the birthing process and the process of the kid and mother getting their wind back just a single day. Hey, these are RPG characters, they’re built extremely tough. Now let’s say that it takes another day to move the kid to the Deeprealms, under the assumption that the parents have already set up the living accommodations for their progeny ahead of time. Finally, let’s assume that it takes no more than 4 weeks in the regular world for an entire childhood’s worth of years to pass in the Deeprealms.
So, essentially, if we assume an absolutely ludicrous breakneck pace from the beginning of the parents’ conversations to the point where the baby’s all grown up and ready to kick ass, we’re talking about a time frame of over 10 months. How long is Fire Emblem 14 even supposed to be? What time frame does this game take place within? Because the story events don’t give any sort of impression of 10 months’ worth of time passing between Chapter 6 (which is the earliest you can start working on hooking characters up) and the game’s conclusion. Not to mention that many, many of the characters in this game join you much later than Chapter 6, so you’re not even working with the full time frame of the game’s plot, which, again, I doubt spans 10 months to start with! And let’s not forget, that 10 months I’m giving is honestly a fallacy anyway. Even at the speedy pace at which people fall in love and get hitched in FE14, it’d be much more reasonable to say that the process takes at least a full year. That just seems way, way longer than the game’s story actually takes.
And as a sharp reader by the name of Dominique Marino points out, that's still not the end of the scheduling problem with this concept. To quote Dominique, "...even with the assumptions you made, a year is still way off. That, or literally every marriage happened at the same time, and the kids were all conceived within a month or so of each other. Basically, we´d not only have to assume that some of those parents are idiots who´d marry instantly and get pregnant within days, we´d have to believe that the whole of the army was in mating season and was busy fathering children like rabbits. Which also means that all the women were unable to fight for about 9 months, and yet we could use all of them in battle at any time. Heck, even if we assume that the pregnant dames sit out the battles until they give birth, if all of them are pregnant at once, that would severely weaken the army´s forces, making you question the wisdom of the army´s leaders even further." So yeah, either we have to assume an absolutely preposterous notion of half the force all needing to take maternal leave at the exact same time, or we have to believe that FE14's events somehow stretch themselves out over...I dunno, at least 2 years, considering all the child characters possible. Either way, this situation gets dumber and more unlikely by the second. Thanks for the insight, DM!
The difference between time flow in the dimensions is a stumbling block, too. Most of the time, yes, the dialogue involving child characters is mindful of the circumstances regarding the kid’s upbringing--parent could only visit, not stay around, the period of the kid’s childhood took only a matter of weeks in the main world, etc. But there are times in the support conversations between parent and child that just don’t really mesh with this situation. Like I say, most of the time, the child character remembers that his/her parents were usually not around and only speaks of their presence in the sense of memories, but there are also a few conversations where it seems like the writers forgot this, and the impression you get from the dialogue is that the parent had a more permanent part of the kid’s childhood.
Much weirder, though, is the parent characters’ side of this, at times. There are some conversations between parent and child in which the parent is extremely nostalgic when remembering moments of their kid’s childhood, and how the child used to be when he/she was younger. But for the parent, these memories are only weeks old! I mean, I guess I can understand having a little regretful nostalgia about how fast your kid grew up, particularly when we’re talking about a growing up period of like 2 months at the most, but when they talk this way, it sounds just like it would if it had been a normal span of years between the moment they’re remembering and the present. It’s never like, “I remember back when you were little like it was just yesterday...actually, it really was just yesterday, I guess. Man, I feel like we’ve really missed out on something important from this whole Deeprealms situation!” It’s just like, “Oh, remember when you were little and did cute things as a kid? I do. Memories, memories...” as though these things didn’t just happen last week for the parent.
Another oddity of conversation occurs with with some of the princes’ kids. A significant amount of Shiro and Siegbert’s character development revolves around their position as heirs to their fathers’ thrones, and both they and Forrest and Kiragi are heirs to their fathers’ powerful magic weapons, a point which is mentioned more than once. This would make sense under normal circumstances, but again, the whole thing with the sped-up time of the Deeprealms makes it really weird. I mean, thanks to the Deeprealms, Shiro, Siegbert, Forrest, and Kiragi are all close to their fathers’ age, right? I wouldn’t say that any of the sons are a full 10 years younger than their fathers once they’ve left the Deeprealms and joined the FE14 party. So the question of succession of thrones and heirlooms is a bit off here.
I mean, if, say, Ryoma gets assassinated when he’s 35, no problem, his throne and weapon pass to Shiro who’s probably like 30 at that point and Shiro gets to be the lightning katana king of Hoshido for the rest of his life. So that’s fine. But what happens if all the first generation princes live full, healthy lives? By the time any of them die of old age, their children are going to be elderly, as well! If Xander lives until he’s 70 before he dies, that means Siegbert only finally inherits his father’s title and sword in his early to mid 60s! Siegbert’s been preparing all his life to rule and live up to his father’s legacy, but there’s a very good chance that the first chance he’ll ever get to claim his birthright and fulfill his reason for existence, he’ll be only a few years away from his own natural demise! Hell, with a situation like this, it wouldn’t be strange for some of the fathers to outlive their sons--I sure as hell wouldn’t bet on Shiro’s lifestyle habits being as good as Ryoma’s, so barring an outside force killing Ryoma off, Shiro’s probably gonna kick the bucket before his old man. So yeah, just another way that this Deeprealms nonsense throws off character development and interrelationships as you think about it.
The whole reason given for this is silly, too. I mean, yeah, I can understand the characters of the game wanting to send their children somewhere safe to avoid the dangers of war. That’s reasonable. But they don’t need the Deeprealms for that! The party of FE14 already HAS an extra-dimensional safe haven where the fighting couldn’t reach their child: the castle headquarters for the army! Yeah, the base of operations for Corrin’s force is situated in a little pocket of its own on the astral plane, as far as I remember; it’s not actually a part of the world that FE14 takes place on. There’s no need to send the kids elsewhere. The castle already has all the defensive benefits of being in another dimension that the Deeprealms have. On top of that, it’s, y’know...a CASTLE. Filled with the members of Corrin’s army, and a handy baby dragon guardian, along with, potentially, some other defenses you can set up. The kids would actually be safer at the castle HQ than in the Deeprealms! Yes, the castle does get attacked by some of the Faceless 3 times during the game’s course, but it’s filled with defenders who are prepared to engage these enemies. Half of the side chapters that recruit the child characters to your party involve them being attacked by dangerous enemies within their Deeprealms, anyway. Why not keep the kids somewhere with better fortifications and more defenders, then?
How long were the children characters supposed to stay in the Deeprealms, anyway? I mean, what would Corrin’s merry band of deadbeat parents have done if the game’s events really had taken a long, long time to conclude? If FE14’s conflict had gone on for a couple years, was the plan to just keep the children in the Deeprealms, letting them live out their lives with nothing but intermittent visits from parents who would by then be far younger than the children? Would some of them have lived and died never knowing the world they were born of, the lives they were meant to lead, the family and friends they could have had? Some of the parents have to be convinced during the child recruitment sidequests to let their kids join Corrin’s army even when those kids are now able-bodied warriors, so there’s a real possibility that at least some of the parents really were intending to keep their kids in the Deeprealms indefinitely if the regular world remained unsafe. The more you think about it, the more messed up it seems.
Speaking of messed up, Azura and Female Corrin’s actions are kinda fucked up with this whole situation. With most couples, there’s a single child resulting from the union, but in any relationship involving Azura or Female Corrin, there are 2 children: the child of the father character, and then Shigure (Azura’s son) or Kana (Female Corrin’s son). These kids are sent into the Deeprealms, same as all the others, but they’re actually separated from their sibling! Shigure will be sent to a different dimension than his brother/sister, and the same is true of Kana. What the hell? These kids aren’t already going to be lonely and miss their family enough as it is, apparently, so Azura and Corrin decide that they’re also going to be isolated from their sibling! The 1 person in the universe who could share in the child’s pain at being only able to see his/her parents during intermittent interdimensional visits, and they have to separated from him, too! Is the marginal assurance of extra safety if you split your kids up and put them in different hiding places REALLY worth forcing siblings apart, particularly in these circumstances!? How much safer from worldly dangers do Azura and Corrin need their kids to be than a single separate dimension?*
It’s really deplorable on Corrin’s end, too. I mean, think about how important the Nohr siblings were to Corrin as she grew up, how much they meant to her and how much happiness they gave her as she was kept otherwise isolated in a castle all her life. Corrin has enjoyed and appreciates the happiness of the bond between siblings more than most. She knows how vitally important it is for a lonely child to have siblings for love and support. And yet, she separates Kana from his brother/sister! He’s kept separated from his family, tended to by servants in an isolated location for his entire childhood...Corrin is putting Kana in the exact same position that she was in all her life, a position that she hated, that was hurtful, and she’s denying her son the only comfort that made the same situation bearable for her!
Yeah, there are a myriad of reasons why this issue of children and Deeprealms in Fire Emblem 14 just doesn’t work. It’s dumb, it opens small plot holes, it gets kinda disturbing at times, a lot of it just doesn’t make sense, and it involves some very uncharacteristically poor decisions on the part of Azura and Corrin as parents. People are right: this is a flaw in the game.
...Sigh. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t say, in spite of everything wrong with the system, that I can’t find it in me to hate this aspect of Fire Emblem 14 too much.
Look. It’s stupid, it’s unnecessary, it makes no sense, it puts a lot of characters in a bad light. There’s a seemingly limitless number of problems with how children characters were handled in the game. But...there is a very sizable redeeming factor, too. One that doesn’t seem to get raised very often when people discuss and diss this aspect of the game.
The children themselves.
A lot of this game’s most likable characters are the ones in the second generation. Selkie and Mitama are a goddamn hoot; I cannot get enough of Selkie’s antics, and Mitama has a special place in my heart for being as lazy as I want to be. I find the antics of Velouria and Ophelia to be more enjoyable than their fathers’ shenanigans. Dwyer, Rhajat, Sophie, and Soleil are all fun, likable characters, and I can’t help but find Nina’s fangirlish ways amusing. And Forrest...well, Forrest is pretty much just the best character in the game. Everything he does and says is great, and damn if it’s not a breath of fresh air to see a crossdressing character in an RPG treated as something more than a cheap punchline.
I’m not saying all the children characters are good, mind you. Shiro is a waste of space, Midori and Siegbert are pretty blah, and Kiragi mostly just annoys me. But if you weigh the first generation characters against the second generation, I think, pound for pound, you get a cast with more appealing and vibrant personalities from the kids. The first generation still has the advantage of character depth (for the most part, at least, although there’s precious few who can compete with Forrest on that front), but if you cut the children out of the game, you’d be losing a lot. You’d be losing fun, engaging characters, you’d be losing a really great character in Forrest, and you’d be losing some really strong support conversations between some of the parents and their children, including 1 of the game’s best moments--Selena’s interactions with her daughter (if she married Subaki) Caeldori, which are just absolutely lovely for Selena’s character.
Also Dwyer shows his dad Jakob up at being a butler, and to me, getting to see Jakob be the one feeling belittled for once is worth just about fucking anything.
Now, you can make the argument that a lot of these people didn’t need to be children characters. It wouldn’t have been difficult at all for Rhajat or Ignatius, for example, to have just been outright characters in the game. This is a fair point. But there’s still a lot of character development for several of the kids that really requires them to be children of the game’s primary cast, such as with Forrest, Velouria, and Shigure. They really do have to be second generation characters; their connections with their parents are simply too big a part of their character depth.
Are these children characters good enough that they make up for the deficit to the game caused by the means through which they exist within it? Well...it’s hard to say. There are, as I’ve gone over, a LOT of problems with the way second generation characters are forced into Fire Emblem 14. At the same time, I don’t think the game would have been as enjoyable without Selkie running amok, nor as intelligent without Forrest’s wisdom and quiet forbearance, nor as emotionally strong without Caeldori present to help Selena come to terms with parts of herself and reach a better place. In the end, for me, the positives that the children characters bring to the table are enough that I overlook the utterly ridiculous, poorly written method through which they’re brought into the game.
But for Pyrrhon’s sake, Nintendo, next time, please try a little goddamn harder to insert characters into your game in a way that makes some sense. Or recognize when the plot just doesn’t allow for it. Come fucking ON, guys.
* I focus on Corrin and Azura, but it’s worth noting that, technically, every first generation male of the cast is guilty of this exact same crime (with the exception of Corrin-only male partners like Izana, since they have no child beyond Kana). I mean, Corrin and Azura aren’t the only parent of their multiple children. Their husbands, whoever they wind up being, presumably agreed to this plan of sibling separation.