By Colby Tortorici
With Fire Emblem: Three Houses on the way in July, it gives Nintendo another chance to have meaningful LGBTQ storylines in their games, something they have never quite been able to do successfully.
Nintendo’s history with LGBTQ inclusion is short.
This is due to most of their games being very gameplay focused, with the story taking the backseat. However, one of the first games that gave Nintendo a chance for LGBTQ inclusion was with Tomodachi Life.
The simulator-style game centered around your Miis (avatars created to represent you) living on an island in an apartment building with other Miis, living their best lives! This includes eventually getting married to another character of your choosing. Well, except a character of the same gender. With LGBTQ relationships completely excluded from the game, fans were upset.
In response to the outcry from these fans, Nintendo issued this statement to Eurogamer, “We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life. Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch. At Nintendo, dedication has always meant going beyond the games to promote a sense of community, and to share a spirit of fun and joy. We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone. We pledge that if we create a next installment in the Tomodachi series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players.”
While the statement does seem to indicate that they will make sure any possible Tomodachi sequel will feature LGBTQ relationships, it does highlight that Nintendo made a clear decision not to fix this issue at the moment, as it does seem likely that a patch to the game could actually be made to change this gameplay aspect, despite Nintendo’s claims.
Nintendo’s next project that would include the LGBTQ community came with the release of Fire Emblem Fates, a 3DS installment of the company’s most prominent series. The role-playing game features the ability for your avatar to marry other characters that you fight with, and for the first time, there was a single male and female option that you were able to marry as the same gender. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, Fates has some issues to go right along with it. For one, Niles, the male rep for same-sex marriages, is a sadist. Ok, great. So the only man you can marry as a man derives joy from watching others in pain. Cool. The female rep, Rhajat, has the issue of being that she is a side character that can be skipped unintentionally, meaning players may never get the chance to marry or even meet her.
So while you can marry the same gender in Fates, you have only one option for each gender, with one being a sadist, and one being completely missable. Yikes. Since these two can actually marry either gender, their dialogue never specifically mentions their sexuality. Okay, not great. Also, if you do choose to marry these characters, you can’t have children like the heterosexual couples do, which means you’ll completely miss out on one or two new characters, putting you at a story and gameplay disadvantage. Also not great.
Additionally, the game features a character named Soleil who has a clear affection for female characters (which is even integrated into the story), yet she can only marry male characters. But considering that this is the first Nintendo game to feature LGBTQ people in any capacity, it was certainly is the best form of representation that we had yet to see from the company. Considering that “the best representation” is marred down with so many issues is telling.
And then we end with Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. This game features a gay man, in the form of Leon. While Leon’s story isn’t wholly original (unrequited love for a straight man, Valbar), he is far more than just that. He has his own character and ideals. He isn’t a marriage option (there is no marriage system in this title) and isn’t there to fill a quota, he is a gay man, and that is only one part of his character. With this game being a remake of an original Famicom game, Leon went from having a strong bond with Valbar in the original to being in love with him in the remake. Nintendo makes this conscious character change for Leon, and in turn, showed they weren’t afraid of having diversity in their games. Leon is a full, fleshed out character that just so happens to be gay, which is how representation should be handled.
Overall, Nintendo’s history with LGBT representation is short but seems to show progression. While Tomodachi Life flat out didn’t feature LGBT relationships, Fire Emblem Fates changed this. However, the title’s LGBT options were shallow and didn’t actually feature any real story or depth to them or their sexuality. From there, we have Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. This title took a previously established character and reshaped them into a member of the LGBT community. The character was fleshed out beyond just his sexuality and was a valuable part of the game experience. This is just one of many proper ways to write an LGBT character, and it seems that Nintendo knows this. As we now await the next installment in the Fire Emblem series, Three Houses, it remains to be seen if Nintendo will continue their upward trend of writing these characters correctly. Let’s hope they don’t disappoint in the future.