Fire Emblem: Fates features three LGBT characters, but one had a big change in U.S. release
A popular Japanese game finally has gay relationships, but boy they don't make it easy.
First, let me step back a bit and explain. Fire Emblem: Fates is a turn-based strategy role-playing game for the 3DS. It was originally made in Japan, but was recently imported to the U.S. in English. It is the 14th installment of the Fire Emblem series and has three different versions with different stories: Birthright, Conquest, and Revelations. The latter comes out later on in the year.
In the game you play as a central main character, Corrin, who can be male or female. Within the game, you and all the characters you meet fight together and create relationships, both platonic and romantic. In special circumstances, characters can get married (and have children). This has been going on since the game prior to Fates, which was Awakening. But in that game, you couldn't have gay relationships.
People weren't happy.
This time around, the creators included an option for a gay relationship. I'm applauding the creators for finally opening up to wider representation of the LGBT community, but the relationships are very specific — you can't engage in a same-sex romance with every character, but just three. That makes sense in the real world because obviously not everyone in real life is gay, bisexual, or otherwise, but games typically open up to a wider variety of characters.
Take Dragon Age I and II, for example, where all main characters were romanceable regardless of gender. Even putting that aside, there are more or less fifty playable characters between the three games, making it seem strange that only three out of that many are anything other than straight.
And to put that in perspective, you can also marry a number of half-sisters and step-siblings in the game. You can basically commit incest with more people than you can be gay with.
The characters open to gay relationships are also separated by different versions of the game. In Birthright, you gain the character Rhajat, a female magic user. In Conquest, the avatar has the option of marrying Niles, a male outlaw. Both of these characters are technically bisexual because they can also be in opposite-sex relationships, but they do lean heavier towards the same-sex avatar. There is a third character, Soleil, who is also seemingly a lesbian.
The game doesn't water down the romance, either — it's a legitimate marriage, not a "union" or "partnership." Yay!
One of the main downsides of having a gay relationship is the missed opportunity to have children. There is no "adoption" so if your character originally has the option to have children, that won't be the case in a same-sex relationship. No children means less characters in-game, and less dialogue options and character development.
But this representation of LGBT characters isn't all happiness and rainbows. In Japan, you could actually force Soleil to fall for the male character. Yes, that does sound rapey. Basically, Corrin believes that she can't focus with other cute women around, so he spikes her drink with a "magic potion." This makes it so she sees men as women and women as men. Thus, you basically make her straight.
Then, Solei begins to fall in love with the male main character. And even though the potion begins to wear off, she admits that she loves the male Corrin even though he now appears as a man. You read that right, this game basically has gay conversion therapy. Using drugs. Anyone see a problem with that?
Well apparently somebody did, because during the localization of the game, that was taken out for the U.S. release. But other sites, such as one Kotaku writer, contend that this wasn't an attempt to remind people of the time where society thought it was okay to "fix" homosexual people. According to the author, an understanding of this mechanic requires more cultural context. For most of us in the U.S., though, we still think it was a good idea to remove it for the Western release.
Don't get me wrong, though — Fire Emblem: Fates is a fantastic RPG game and I can't seem to put it down. But one thing is for sure: there is still a lot that needs to be done in terms of LGBT representation within video games.