There's a lot of things to love about what is arguably one of the finest games currently avaliable on Nintendo's 3DS system, Fire Emblem Awakening. The fourteenth instalment in the Fire Emblem franchise, and the first made for the 3DS, Awakening opened up what was previously a niche Japan-based series to the West and it caught like wildfire.
The series in short is comprised of tactical role playing games utilising control of multiple characters in a grid, turn based battle environment. Each battle won moves the story forward and the narrative plays out around through the words and actions of the player's team characters.
Unlike other games of this type, a notable aspect of Fire Emblem is the permanent death of playable characters when defeated in battle, though there was an option to disable this in Awakening which opened the series up to players of all skill levels.
Awakening was intended to be the final game in the series which had been suffering from a decline in popularity since the early 2000s, but the commercial and critical success prompted Nintendo and Fire Emblem developer Intelligent Systems to continue the franchise, which it did with the soon to be released in the West Fire Emblem Fates.
Fates, unlike previous games in the series, will release as a two-parter with different narrative paths (Birthright and Conquest), with a third path available via DLC (Revelation aka Forbidden Kingdom). And for more details about the differences between the games you can check out our quick guide here.
A Twist To Relationship Mechanics
So each version of the game has different characters available to play and interact with. The ability to marry and produce children via matches between party members has been around for a while in Fire Emblem (ever since Genealogy of the Holy War in 1996), but Fire Emblem Fates is the first game in the series to widen the sexuality spectrum, allowing for romantic matches between characters of the same gender.
However the gendered marriage does vary depending on which version of the game you're playing. In Conquest there is a bisexual male Outlaw called Niles (Zero in the original Japanese version) who can marry a male Avatar, whilst Birthright features a bisexual female Spellcaster called Syalla (Syara) who can marry a female Avatar.
Video games haven't historically been a vehicle for subversion, so it's nice to see roles outside of traditional gendered relationships presented as an option for players. Nintendo's official line on this inclusion is as follows:
"We believe that our gameplay experiences should reflect the diversity of the communities in which we operate and, at the same time, we will always design the game specifications of each title by considering a variety of factors, such as the game's scenario and the nature of the game play. In the end of course, the game should be fun to play. We feel that Fire Emblem Fates is indeed enjoyable to play and we hope fans like the game."
Why Is This Important?
It might not seem like a big deal in the largely post-legalisation of gay marriage in America and the West, but it's not something that you see too often in video games even if same sex relationships are becoming more widely and fairly represented (not represented as oddities) on screen and in larger cultural discourse.
But it's worth remembering that gay marriage is still illegal in Japan where the game originated. Even though the first same-sex marriage certificate was issued in Tokyo last month only two wards in the city recognize same-sex unions, and many LGBT people in the country still conceal their sexuality so as not to be discriminated against as it remains a taboo subject.
Nintendo including same sex-marriage in a big release like Fire Emblem Fates may not be a landmark victory for non-mainstream representation, but it's still a positive gesture to see from the video game giant.