Fire Emblem: Fates is reworking one of the protagonist’s relationships with a supporting character, after the original context was criticized as a “gay conversion” scenario.
When pairing characters together in battle, the newest iteration of the Fire Emblem franchise allows you to gain relationship “ranks” via a graded support system. The highest level, “S-Support” can result in the opportunity to marry the player character with the one in question. The subplot for Soleil, a female member of your party, is odd in the way that most anime is odd, but it’s also a far cry from a gay conversion.
The introduction to this subplot comes at rank C — traditional rankings for these games tends to work like grading, except with S above A as the pentultimate score — when Soleil confesses to the protagonist that she has a weakness for “cute girls.” How much of a weakness? On the way home from battle, she literally collapsed after being greeted by an attractive female “townie.” In wartime, one of your foremost allies passing out around when around an entire gender is kind of a big problem, if a very silly one.
And the scenario is played for laughs, as Soleil’s utter debilitation around other women is cited as a major stumbling block in her quest to become “smooth.” This is a character who is jealous of her own father for marrying her mother, because she thinks her mom is cute. The entire situation is clearly slapstick situational comedy from the get-go.
In traditional sitcom fashion, your character schemes to try and help Soleil solve her problem, with predictably awkward results. At B-Support, Soleil approaches you in confusion. Your character immediately confesses that they’d obtained a powder that causes whoever takes it to see people as the reverse gender.
The intent is openly conveyed; the protagonist wants to help Soleil overcome her psychological complex during the times they are together. Mechanically speaking, this is accomplished by continuing to build your relationship score by taking her along into battle. And while dosing her drink could certainly come across as creepy, in context it’s very clear that conversion is not the intent. In fact, the entire motivation is to help Soleil function around the women to whom she is attracted, not to stop her from being attracted to them.
As the relationship progresses, Soleil is a willing participant. As a friend of your character, she confides ongoing discouragement with the “training” being ineffective. She still feels useless and light-headed in the presence of women. She leans on her friendship with the player character for support, because, as she says, “Whether or not you’re using the magic powder, it’s fun being with you.”
If you pursue the relationship to its conclusion, Soleil reveals that your efforts have caused her to fall in love with you despite your gender. No, she hasn’t been tricked straight. She’s still very much attracted to women. But like many people in the gay community already assert, her sexuality isn’t simple and binary, it’s a bit more fluid. Perhaps people outraged over Soleil’s decision shouldn’t claim to know her sexuality better than she does.
There’s one thing I’ve neglected to mention thus far. The protagonist of Fire Emblem: Fates can be male or female. So what critics are really arguing about is a plotline that is extraordinarily inclusive, besides being ridiculous.
But for the love of a waifu, let’s not miss a chance to be outraged!
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