Track 1: Fire Emblem: Awakening

*MAJOR spoilers ahead for Fire Emblem: Awakening*

Javy: This is the first, well, this is the test run of Game Chats!, which is a WORDcast about video games where we have two critics talk about a single game. And today we’re going to have myself and Kaitlin Tremblay talk about Fire Emblem: Awakening. That is how you say your last name, right?

Kaitlin: It’s Tremblay, but I forgive you.

Javy: That’s good. I should have asked first. Oops.

Kaitlin: It’s totally cool.

Javy: All right.

Kaitlin: Okay.

Javy: So let’s talk about it. So Kaitlin, I played the game about a year ago for the first time—like a year ago this week maybe. It’s an anniversary

Kaitlin: It’s a big deal!

Javy: It is a big deal. And you got it what, last month?

Kaitlin: I think so.

Javy: So how long did it take you to play through it—your first run?

Kaitlin: Uh, a month! I think. I got it, well as soon as I got my 3DS it was the only game I bought because I was like “I’m pretty much buying my 3DS for Fire Emblem at this point.” I’ve played it on my bus commuting to work, I play it at my boyfriend’s house, like I sometimes *try* to play it during work. But, uh, yeah, I pretty much play it all the time. But I’m a slow gamer and really invested in the storylines and the friendships, so I really take my time with it.

Javy: Yeah, it takes over your life. It’s definitely *that* game that you sort of just take everywhere, and the fact that it’s portable makes it that much worse.

Kaitlin: Yeah, exactly, like so many of my friends know who Chrom is…

Javy:[laugh] Yep. All right, so how would you describe it? Genre-wise? Y’ know, like both story genre and game?

Kaitlin: Okay, I would describe it in terms of game genre as RPG/strategy, kind of, actually almost exactly like Shining Force just with like the Bioware…hookups kind of inserted in.

Javy: That’s a good way of putting it: hookups. Not relationships! Just straight up hookups!

[both laugh]

Kaitlin: Exactly.I think it was Meg Townsend that said when you have the kids or whatever it’s a whole new level of hookups.

Javy: It is a whole new level of, oh, it’s like Inception hookups.

Kaitlin: Yeah, so I’m looking forward to getting to that point because I didn’t let many people marry in my first playthrough. Um, so my second playthrough is all about the hookups and seeing who will produce what spawn.

Javy: [laugh] Spawn. So the story itself is just general sorta dark fantasy. Uh, y’know, bad things are happening, monsters are coming—there’s also some political intrigue in there I guess where you have to fight different kingdoms. One of the main characters gets killed off pretty early and so it just gets darker from there. It’s really dark for a Nintendo game.

Kaitlin: Yeah.

Javy: And we’ll talk a little bit more about that later on in the cast, but what makes the story interesting besides the hookups? Uh, oh you go ahead!

Kaitlin: No, no, you go.

Javy: I was just going to say I like how free form it is because when you have something like Mass Effect or in any other Bioware game, those are very cinematic and you have choices (typically morality choices between good and evil or right and wrong or I guess in the case of Mass Effect even though that’s more of a morally gray area, paragon and renegade) but it’s basically very narrow. You have two tunnels running next to each other and you can go down either of them. And there are major changes within each tunnel except near the end they sort of come together in this one conclusion that disappointed a lot of people—at least Mass Effect did.

Kaitlin: Yeah.

Javy: But Fire Emblem is—there’s just a bunch of tunnels. And you can mess around with the tunnels, you can mess around with the pipes, I guess, and connect them to one another. That’s what I find interesting about it.

Kaitlin: Yeah, I love that you can really craft exactly how your character is and who they relate with and their entire world. Like, you’re not confined to what the writers necessarily thought you would do with these characters—like you can really create it however you want.

Javy: Yeah.

Kaitlin: The reason I’m so excited about my second playthrough is to make my main character *so* much more of a bitch than she was…

[both laugh]

Kaitlin: Just to see what kind of game it becomes when I follow more of a Chaotic Neutral alignment versus like a True Good.

Javy: That’s kind of, that’s exactly what I did when I played my second…no, it was my third character. I didn’t want to be evil, but I wanted someone who was selfish and who would sacrifice everything and get the job done, so I guess sort of comparable to Renegade Shepard, but I, uh, actually sacrificed some of the kids in battle because that’s what I thought this person would do. And I really liked that Intelligent Systems—who designed the game—invites you to be a storyteller. They give you more control over who these characters are, who lives or dies, the epilogues—um, I really like that final choice about the Fell Dragon. Whether you quote-unquote sacrifice yourself to kill the Fell Dragon or if you just put it back to sleep if you’re just like “this is not my problem!” Future generations can deal with it. And I really like that because I felt like this is something…the latter choice is something this particular character would do—the quote-unquote bitch character.

Kaitlin: I had a really intense moment with that question at the end because…can I…I might spoil…

Javy: I mean, we’re already in the spoiler territory.

Kaitlin: Yeah, so when it asked—I played as a woman, obviously—when it asked if Chrom gets to land the final blow, the little sister in me of like a bazillion brothers was like “No! He doesn’t get to land the final blow!” And so I almost did it out of ego and then I was like “oh, I almost killed myself, okayyy.” That’s where ego gets you.

[both laugh]

Kaitlin: But yeah, it was really intense and then seeing afterward everyone come and give you their messages of support and love…and…you really forge these relationships that take on different forms and mean different things.

Javy: Yeah, you really do feel attached to these characters more than you would characters in other games. And I think part of that lies at least with the pairing slash hookup , whatever you want to call it when you get to see love actually bloom on the battlefield between these characters, and then sometimes, y’know, either because you fuck up or because you want to orchestrate these horrible, terrible, heartbreaking events where it all falls apart. And I like that the game is confident enough to let you fill in the blanks because I saw someone…I think it was Marcus over at Press2Reset wrote about that we don’t see the grief when like Chrom’s wife dies or something, we don’t really see the grief. And I don’t really think that’s important because this game is progressing—you see the bits that matter. You see the parts of their relationships that matter, we see the actual battlefield sequences, when they’re at camp and what not. So I think for this game to focus on that instead of devoting resources to twenty scenes of the same character grieving over another character, I think that’s more important. I think it works because we don’t waste resources on that.

Kaitlin: Yeah, and how we move on is ultimately more interesting to me than how we mourn anyway. And it’s not that they weren’t capable of writing it because if you develop Tharja and Nowi’s relationship, it’s all about Nowi coming to terms with the loss of her parents, and it’s done beautifully and is so heartbreaking but like so optimistic and loving, so they could do it—they just obviously chose not to. And I think it’s totally to the benefit of the game, like you said.

Javy: Yeah, I really do like that combination of optimism and how dark it is. Most games can’t pull that off; they either go too far in on direction or y’know they don’t tackle it at all and it’s just sort of a gray universe. But this one…this one is really dark at times, but there’s still that happy ending. Even if you’re like the most horrible person imaginable as long as not everybody dies, it’s still…it’s still not a happily ever after but it’s an honest ending, I guess.

Kaitlin: Yeah, I think a good word for it is “honest” in how it portrays its relationships between characters. And for me honestly I think that was the biggest part because earlier you asked “what did it have to offer?” And I’m gonna be honest there is a couple of times where I skipped the storyline, where you could just press “skip,” because I didn’t care! I wanted to—because I love strategy games and I love that playstyle so I was just like “you’re getting in the way of me playing,” and so it took me a while to realize I had missed some serious shit. I had to like backtrack and go to old save files and fill in the blanks, but it just…there’s just so much in the game that’s so fun. I love that playing on the battlefield is actually what makes your characters grow stronger. It’s not just narrative choices where you can make them…it’s actually what you do with them, and it’s logical and makes sense: of course if you fight together on the battlefield you’re going to become super close and intimate.

Javy: Yeah, I uh like that—and I know a lot of people are going to disagree with this—I like that the big picture story isn’t important. Partially just because it’s generic fantasy: good versus evil. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but when you have a much more interesting game going on with the strategy and with wanting to see these characters get together, you’re going to pay more attention to that.

Kaitlin: Yeah, absolutely, and I was way more invested in making all my woman characters become best friends than I was in anything else.

Javy: That’s awesome. So who was your fighting squad?

Kaitlin: Okay, so, early on, I discovered that I couldn’t decide who I wanted to play with and then I discovered I could play with all women, so that’s what I decided to do, to play with all women. And so, my favorite was my main character, Tharja…because Tharja…

Javy: BecauseTharja is the best.

Kaitlin: Yeah. Cordelia, who…I couldn’t believe I couldn’t marry Cordelia because…she’s the best.

Javy: [laughs] She is the best. They’re all the best.

Kaitlin: They’re all the best.I liked Anna a lot too—the merchant.

Javy: Yeah, the merchant.

Kaitlin: Mhm. I made her into a healer too because I quickly got rid of Lissa and Maribelle…

Javy: Oh my god.

[Both laugh]

Kaitlin: They’re so useless!

Javy: Yeah, like all the noble women you start out with, so like Suima and then Maribelle and I forgot her name, Chrom’s sister…they’re just…to me, at least, they’re irritating.

Kaitlin: They are.

Javy: Because they’re stereotypes. They don’t want to get their hands dirty and fight, and they don’t really feel that particularly interesting. They feel more like plot devices than characters; I feel like Suima is there just to be Chrom’s love interest. And if you don’t do anything with her, which I did several times, nothing happens. She’s just there on the sidelines.

Kaitlin: Yeah, as soon as I met Suima I realized she was my number one threat to Chrom.

[Javy laughs]

Kaitlin: She was one of the few women characters I didn’t develop. I was like “no, she’s going to get my prince and that’s not going to happen.” So actually this playthrough I’m making her and my main character become super close because I feel really bad for how I treated her!

Javy: That’s amazing.

Kaitlin: I know, so I’m giving Suima a second chance.

Javy: So let’s talk a little bit more about characters, like main characters. This is something that interests me about this series because if you read any of the reviews they’re all saying “Well this is interesting because while Chrom…because your little avatar character isn’t the main character, Chrom is” and a bunch of reviews said that. The one for the Escapist said that, the one for, I think IGN, and to me it wasn’t ever really about Chrom or necessarily my main character. During my first playthrough I didn’t really feel like there was a main character. It was about the group. And then in my second playthrough…uh did you ever meet Donnel, the hick with the bucket on his head?

Kaitlin: Yeah, and you can save him? Yeah.

Javy: Yeah, you can save him and he becomes so powerful if you like grind with him, like if you take the time to nurture and show him how to kill people in all these different ways, he becomes so overpowered that he breaks the game. He can kill anything.

Kaitlin: Wow.

Javy: Nothing can ever hurt him.

Kaitlin: That’s incredible.

Javy: Yeah. On my second playthrough, he became the hero. He supplanted both Chrom and my main character as the hero of the story, and that goes along with the free-form storytelling. The developers are confident enough to hand you the tools; it’s pretty much fifty-fifty, they give you some tools and say “okay, make your own story” within these confines.

Kaitlin: I think that’s absolutely true ‘cause I know my first playthrough it was Chrom and..I did call my main character Kaitlin, so it was very heavily Chrom and Kaitlin-based. But I can see the potential in there and that’s really what I’m looking forward to doing with my second playthrough is not focusing so much on my playable character and seeing what else I can do with everybody else.

Javy: Yeah, I think the experimentation is something that makes the game highly replayable.

Kaitlin: Yeah, absolutely. I haven’t even finished it—I maybe beat it 10 hours ago and I’m already starting my next one.

Javy: Right? You just can’t get it out of your head.

Kaitlin: Exactly. I developed a really good strategy where I had my main team, who I referred to as the X-Men, and then their little hit squad, which I referred to as X-Force because Cyclops develops his kill squad The X-Force, and so my kill squad was Cordelia, Sully, and Panne, and they would just go and kill everybody—because they could move so far and do so much damage together. They were my core group.

Javy: That’s pretty awesome. I haven’t developed like a squad yet. I don’t ever really focus on a cast of characters. It’s really weird, I’ll usually attach myself to one or two people and say “everyone surrounding these two characters are interesting but I’m going to focus on these two characters.” Not necessarily in a romance way because sometimes the two characters aren’t in a relationship together; I just like watching their arcs develop and toying around with their stories. Speaking of relationships, one of things I noticed when I went back and was reading reviews—y’know, I was just going through Metacritic and opening links from there—and no one ever really mentioned like how you can only have heterosexual relationships in the game. Like you’re pretty much forced to have those relationships. You can’t have women with women or men with men.

Kaitlin: It’s so mind-boggling because I was playing under the assumption that I could, so for a long time I had been trying to, I think it was Kaitlin and…trying to get my main character and Anna together, and when I realized they didn’t have a level S I was just like “What? This isn’t fair.” It’s just strange that none of the reviews mentioned that when it was just something I assumed would be in there. But why would I assumed that? It was Nintendo. Of course it wouldn’t be in there.

Javy: See, that’s really interesting because I wrote a review of it and…it was a while ago. And I can’t remember it, I’ve tried to check up on the review, tried to read the review and see if I had mentioned that you can only have heterosexual relationships, because I *think* I might have mentioned it in a parenthesis, but even then, looking at it now it’s clear that it’s not a big deal around this time last year in these reviews—at least to reviewers—to the point that they don’t mention it in reviews. So after Tomodachi Life, y’know where everyone was really angry about that, why do you think that is? And you might have answered this with the Nintendo bit; do you think this is Nintendo so they’re clearly not going to go for that, so the automatic assumption is that this is going to be heterosexual relationships because Nintendo doesn’t want that controversy?

Kaitlin: I…perhaps. I’m not super familiar with a lot of Nintendo’s business practices but just from what I can understand it seems like, to fall into that illogical or wrong thinking that anything that’s not heterosexual is controversial or damaging for kids and so Nintendo really markets itself as “for kids,” right? And so it’s why my grade school and things like that wouldn’t let us talk about same sex marriage and stuff like that because it’s not “kids’ stuff.” But it’s…it’s people stuff. And so I think that probably has a huge part to do with it, because I mean if The Sims and Bioware and Dragon Age, like Mass Effect and Dragon Age have been doing this, then there’s no reason they couldn’t except for their false “kid friendly” brand.

Javy: Yeah, and there’s also the implication that heterosexual is the default. And I kind of wish I had written a little bit more about that, but I was still trying to figure out how to write reviews back then, but it’s, yeah, it’s kind of mind boggling they don’t allow that since this game is so clearly focused on building relationships. At the same time I’ve heard some defenses, and it’s what I like to call the Game of Thrones defense, where “Well, that didn’t happen back then…back in the fantastic Middle Ages where there were dragons and shit.”

Kaitlin: And it’s just wrong! Yeah, and it can be so damaging too. I remember that Samantha Allen had written this beautiful essay about how so many young queer kids are finding themselves through video games and being able to explore. Like, even for me—I’m 26—and being able to explore relationships with women in this game was a big part of me coming to accept myself as bisexual and things like that. And so including that in games for kids isn’t damaging, it’s so helpful, and I think that’s why it’s for me—it was almost a dealbreaker for the game when I found out. I almost put it down. But its clutches were too deep.

Javy: Yeah, and I think that’s kind of why people aren’t…and I don’t want to say aren’t making a fuss about it because I’ve seen criticism about it and it’s totally viable criticism, but the game’s almost so charming that you don’t want to be mad at it even though it’s fucking up. Uh, it’s that kind of game.

Kaitlin: Yeah.

Javy: So you kind of forgive it even though you’re like “Well, this sucks,” because I too would have liked to see my characters get together with other characters and it wasn’t possible. Like, I wanted, I think it was my third male lead to get together with Chrom, but all they could be was bros. It was tragic that they could only be bros…

[Both laugh]

Javy: because there was definitely some sexual tension there. And there are scenes of sexual tension in the game between same sex cast members.

Kaitlin: There are! That was something that kind of almost unsettled me a little bit was the tension between Tharja and the woman main character, because Tharja has this almost unhealthy obsession with her and it’s one of the only woman on woman love infatuations that you saw in the game…and it was Tharja being overly creepy and pushing her boundaries, and I didn’t really like what this was saying here.

Javy: What was she doing again? She would just like creep over the main character while she was sleeping or go through her belongings?

Kaitlin: I think she was trying to make potions to make her fall in love with her? Yeah, it was really problematic. And that broke my heart a little bit because I love Tharja; she’s such a good character, and I’m just sad she got painted with that stereotypical brush.

Javy: Yeah, they’ve done some problematic things outside of the game with her character too. Did you ever see that statue…or the figurine of her…the, uh, officially licensed product?

Kaitlin: No.

Javy: Oh, well she’s basically bending over a rock or stone and you can see her ass.

Kaitlin: NO.

Javy: Yeah, yeah.

Kaitlin: Do I wanna know?

Javy: I mean, I’m just kind of confused why Nintendo thinks “okay, this isn’t problematic but non-heterosexual relationships are. This could hurt our brand,” or whatever the line of thinking is there. But yeah, it’s an officially licensed product and there was an article on it on Kotaku where they talked about it. I think it might have been Patricia or Kirk who talked about it. It’s just really interesting, and I want to know the thought process behind it all; I’m sure it’s corporate decisions because I want to believe that developers wanted those relationships in there, but y’know you had the quote-unquote family friendly concern.

Kaitlin: It’s weird to make the statute of Tharja that sexualized when she’s not super-sexualized in the game compared to somebody like Panne who when she transforms goes into downward dog and—

Javy: [laughs] I hadn’t even thought about that! All I remember is her doing that really cool cartwheel, but now that you that, oh wow, yeah.

Kaitlin: It bothered me every time because I loved Panne and I thought she was one of the most interesting characters except for this like one moment where I’m like “godammit” and uncomfortable if people saw me playing it on the bus.

Javy: I really like how the backgrounds of those characters, like Panne, contribute to the story in small ways. Like, getting back to my…not evil, well kind of evil/selfish character who sacrificed people on the battlefield to gain a tactical advantage, one of the people she did that to was Panne, who’s the last of her race! And I didn’t realize that I had done that until afterward and it was such a shocking moment. I honestly thought about resetting the game but decided to press on because of how powerful that moment was. I was actually feeling some guilt.

Kaitlin: Yeah, and what’s interesting about that guilt is that it’s very much your own guilt. It wasn’t a forced moment; you do that, you’re the monster.

Javy: Oh yeah, like point the gun at someone’s face and the game forces you to shoot them. This is you—this is all you. It’s very impressive that a game with probably a miniscule budget compared to a modern Bioware game can do that.

Kaitlin: I was thinking too, one of my favorite…because I spent a really long time making sure that all my women characters developed really good friendships, and one of my favorites was the one with Panne and Cordelia because it’s about…because Panne doesn’t like Cordelia at first, she likes her Pegasus, so Panne becomes friends with her Pegasus first and it’s like “the Pegasus tells me you’re okay” and so they develop this beautiful, trusting relationship because of that. And I just thought it was so interesting and different from a lot of the other women relationships in the game.

Javy: That is interesting, yeah, Nowi—the dragon girl—also has an arc, and I can’t remember if it’s one of the dragon riders or what, and they have a bond that’s made mostly between Nowi and the dragon. It’s interesting that they can pair these characters up—and this is a huge cast of characters, like what? 35, maybe 40.

Kaitlin: Yeah.

Javy: And they all have interactions. You can make them interact with pretty much every character except for a handful of them, like Sumia can only interact with three people.

Kaitlin: Yeah, I think Anna can only interact with two people, I think, too.

Javy: Yeah, but for like the majority of them, I won’t say that it’s like Oscar level writing but to have competent writing that makes these relationships believable between two people amongst this huge cast—that’s a feat. That’s really impressive. That’s kind of more impressive, and I know we keep talking about Bioware but that’s what I compare the game to because it tries so much for the same thing and it’s super impressive to me just how much Intelligent Systems just does a better job, I think.

Kaitlin: I agree, and I think the comparison to Bioware games is apt because when people talk about Mass Effect or Dragon Age they don’t really really….the stories they talk about are of characters and the people that they loved and formed bonds with, so I think that’s why we keep going back—just to defend our constant bringing up of Bioware.

[Both laugh]

Javy: Yeah. Some reader is just gonna shake their head at this. “Fucking Bioware discussions. I didn’t come here for this.” Yeah. Sorry, reader.

Kaitlin: Sorry. [pause] So I had a couple of ‘cause for the most part most of my relationships I developed I had a goal in mind, like I was very meticulous about who I bonded with who. But sometimes I would play without my glasses and I couldn’t tell some of the people apart so for the longest time I thought Lon Qu and Chrom were the same person, so I kept putting them with my main character. And I was like “this is how she got so far with Lon Qu even though she was married to Chrom.”

Javy: Oh, not because it was like some saucy…

[Both chuckle]

Kaitlin: Nope. Just because I didn’t have my glasses on and couldn’t tell the boys apart.

Javy: Lon Qu is probably my favorite character to actually uh just pair up with different people, not even relationships or romance-wise, just because he’s so awkward especially with every single woman and it’s hilarious. My favorite pairing in the game is actually Sully and Lon Qu just because it seems like they’re made for one another. And I think the writers who wrote their pairing knew that.

Kaitlin: Tell me about it because I haven’t gotten them yet and I want to know.

Javy: Kaitlin, I can only describe it as super awkward—but fittingly awkward. Sully is like super “Fight me! Fight me! I want you to fight me. What the fuck are you doing? Stop being a wuss. Touch me. Fight me. You with the sword, me with the spear, c’mon!” And it’s basically four different versions of that where Lon Qu’s just sort of like “Okay, I’m less nervous…” and then he proposes to her out of nowhere just because he can stand next to her.

[Kaitlin laughs]

Kaitlin: Such a big deal.

Javy: Yeah, it is a big deal for him because that’s his whole character for some reason is that he’s just afraid of women. For some reason.

Kaitlin: It’s true! And it’s never given any explanation or backstory. It’s just…even with Nowi, her sheer optimism is at least countered with the fact that she’s reconciling that she’s all alone and she’s lost her parents, but Lon Qu is just like “Nope. Awkward. Can’t do it.”

Javy: Yeah, and that’s something I’ve kind of seen in anime too, I guess, like the limited anime I’ve watched is that you’ll almost always have this dude character who has the same interactions with women, just terrified of them. So I guess it could be part of that? The same culture or tradition that produces that, maybe, but I don’t know. It’s also pretty funny to have this huge badass who’s just terrified of—just the image of it—every single woman he knows. Even like Chrom’s sister…whatever her name is…

Kaitlin: Lissa?

Javy: Yeah, Lissa. Just stuff like that. Just kids, he’s still scared of them, and it’s entertaining, and it’s such a simple thing but it works throughout the game. When you get to the relationship part of Fire Emblem, that pretty much sums it up for me: simple stuff that works.

Kaitlin: I like Lon Qu because he looks like your stereotypical hero. He’s good with a sword, but he just can’t get the love interest because he can’t talk to her, so it kind of subverts…he’s the more loveable Chrom, is how I view it. And not just because I kept confusing them without my glasses.

[Javy laughs]

Javy: And that’s also why he’s a good match for Sully, who’s actually probably…I don’t know, I don’t want to say this definitely but she’s definitely one of my favorite characters, like top 3. Just because she’s so brash and out there and gives no fucks about anything. She will tell you what she thinks immediately.

Kaitlin: She’s the most no-nonsense person ever created.

Javy: She’s just so funny how she interacts with everyone, because I feel like she’s yelling. Most of the dialogue is silent, doesn’t have any audio, but every time I see her I feel like she’s yelling like a drill sergeant at everyone—even when she’s like professing love for someone. It’s like “I LOVE YOU. I DON’T WANT TO BUT I DO.”

Kaitlin: Well, that’s kind of what it is with her and Frederick, right? Because her and Frederick are the only other people I married in my first runthrough and that’s basically what it is when they profess their love. It’s like “I realize why I can’t beat you is because I love you” and they’re like angry about it.

Javy: Yeah, they’re angry.

Kaitlin: Yeah, it was one of my favorites. I feel like they’re a great match too because they’re so confused by their love for each other because they view themselves as these diehard soldiers and they can’t see why they can’t fulfil that identity.

Javy: Yeah, I haven’t explored that particular connection but that makes sense for those two. Like I was saying earlier, I think they’ve written it in such a way for most characters it makes sense for character A to fall in love with character B because of what they emphasize EXCEPT oddly enough, I have never really bought into when it’s a woman main character and Chrom.

Kaitlin: Really?

Javy: Yeah, mostly because of the naked stuff. I feel like it’s kind of creepy and there’s not really any connection between them except “oh man, Chrom saw her naked one time and he really has the hots for her.” Like I feel like that is their whole relationship, and I might be misreading it, but that’s what I got from it.

Kaitlin: It feels exactly like an episode of Friends. He accidently sees her naked; she accidently sees him naked, and then they’re like married.

[Both laugh]

Javy: I mean, I guess some relationships happen like that…in the medieval fantasy times when dragons were flying around—

Kaitlin: It’s historically accurate!

Javy: It just struck me as so odd because literally every other character combination makes more sense to me than those two characters, even Suima and Chrom, which..I hate.

Kaitlin: It’s disgusting to you, I know.

Javy: I’m gonna be honest: I tried to King David her and send her to her demise one time…

[both laugh]

Javy: but she’s still there. She’s like one of the five characters that just can’t die.

Kaitlin: That’s amazing. It’s funny too because the very first interaction between Chrom and the main character is him saying he doesn’t think she’s a lady, and she’s like “What the fuck does that mean?” And he’s like “You’re cool!” And she’s like “What does that mean!?” Chrom…is not coherent around the woman main character.

Javy: Chrom is many things. He is not a ladies man, at least in manner.

Kaitlin: No. It makes sense narratively, like within the larger structure of the Fire Emblem world for them to be what they are but…

Javy: Which is unfortunate because that’s least interesting part of the narrative. It’s more about the characters.

Kaitlin: Absolutely. Trying to remember who else I really loved. There’s just so many great characters.

Javy: Yeah, and there aren’t that many duds uh except maybe Ricken. I have sacrificed poor Ricken, I have led poor wizard Ricken to his demise so many times. Maribelle too. Actually, this last time I left Maribelle to a worse fate. I let her marry the archer.

Kaitlin: Virion?

Javy: No no no, what’s his name? The dude. The noble who’s like so full of himself.

Kaitlin: Yeah, Virion!

Javy: Oh yeah, like you said, Virion. I misheard you. Thought you were saying Mirel, like that random spellcastor that they just stick at the beginning of the game.

Kaitlin: With the witch’s hat?

Javy: Yeah. She’s never made it. I haven’t tried to kill her or anything. She just hasn’t ever made it past stage 5. It’s like “ I need bait! You’re good bait!”

Kaitlin: Is it…like a compliment when you try to kill a character? Is it worse not to be killed?

Javy : I don’t even know. It’s…it’s a character by character basis. Let’s say that.

Kaitlin: Mirel is actually someone else I haven’t played with, so I’m going to try and keep her in this second playthrough. I just don’t know if that’s gonna happen.

Javy: She just grates. There are certain characters that just grate on me in the game. Like the kid characters, there are a lot of them that do that. In my third time through, I rescued my main character’s kids and then left everyone else in the time warp because pretty much the main character’s kids and Lucina are the only worthwhile ones. Lucina is so awesome.

Kaitlin: I love Lucina.

Javy: And I was kind of disappointed, but it may still come to pass, when people were talking…y’know how Marth, who’s basically Chrom’s ancestor, was in Super Smash Brothers? So they were talking about how cool it would be for Lucina to show up in the new Smash Brothers. And it looks like that hasn’t happened yet, but that would be really cool. And I could see it happening too with E3…’cause they had a huge focus on women characters

Kaitlin: Yeah.

Javy: Like Hyrule Warriors and stuff like that.  So Kaitlin, before the cast you were telling me about how you had a presentation on, was it gender in games?

Kaitlin: Yeah, it was representation of gender in video games for a grade 7-8 class in Toronto, and it was part of a wider, one month long unit on stereotypes. And so the teacher wanted me to come in and talk about my experiences with gender and games—talk about like major misconceptions with women gamers and things like that. And so I had put up a bunch of character portraits of women from Fire Emblem to show a game that was doing it if not the best, because one of my biggest faults with Fire Emblem is that all of the characters are white and there’s no real racial diversity, and so while it was failing in that aspect, at least it had dynamic and diverse women characters, which a lot of games can’t say. So I had put up a whole bunch of portraits of my favorite characters, and Cordelia was one of them, and I saw this little girl in the front row just light up. They’re all just sitting on the ground and she just jumped up, and she was like “Oh my god! That’s Cordelia! I love Cordelia so much!” And I was like “Yeah, she’s really great isn’t she? What do you love about her?”

Javy: So she had played Fire Emblem?

Kaitlin: Yeah!

Javy: Okay, cool cool.

Kaitlin: They had played like a whole ton of games. They had played Mass Effect, they had already played all the Gears of War, and sometimes the teacher was like “you guys shouldn’t be playing these games.”

Javy: [sad chuckle] Aw.

Kaitlin: And so I asked her “What do you like about Cordelia?” And she said “I like that she’s strong, I like that she has feelings but that doesn’t like make her worse,” because Cordelia’s whole storyline is about how her Pegasus riders die so that she could go help the Shepherds. So it’s a sore spot for Cordelia but she’s still able to laugh and have fun. So, she was like “ I just like that she’s a person…and also that her armor was feasible. Like her armor looked like real armor.”

[Both laugh]

Javy: It wasn’t boob armor.

Kaitlin: Exactly. So I just thought it was so cool that these girls—they were 11, 12—responded to this and saw this, and a couple of the boys in the class were like “oh I didn’t even think about this,” and the girls were like “that’s why I love the game is because I could play with more woman characters than boy characters if I wanted.” And it was so cool to see…and also sad because there’s so few games where girls can have this experience. But it was wonderful that Fire Emblem could do that for her, and she felt like it was a game for her and her friends, that her and her girlfriends could do and act like and they weren’t excluded.

Javy: Yeah, and I think that’s becoming more of a focus in game criticism that’s hopefully like encouraging that sort of thing to happen in AAA games AND indie games, uh, y’know where you have the ability to play as a woman, and often I find it more interesting to play as a woman than as a dude, especially when it comes down to voice-acting. I think that women are better voice actors than men.

Kaitlin: Yeah.

Javy: Especially when you get down to like Mass Effect. It’s just different. I like it when games make an effort to make the experience between genders different; I like in Mass Effect that there is a clear difference between playing as a dude as far as romances go—and even some NPC interactions. There’s one guy in Mass Effect 2 when you’re playing as woman Shepard…he calls you a stripper or something, and you can just get in his face about it and say “whatever, my gun is bigger than yours, fuck off! Just fuck off!” And I like that there are more games that try and do that now and hopefully that becomes more of a thing even though right now we’re bogged down with, uh, ShootDudes 2014, ShootDudes 2015.

Kaitlin: And 2016 is WhiteManFeels

Javy: Yeah, WhiteManFeels. That’s pretty much what The Last of Us is; it’s WhiteManDaddyFeels, the critically acclaimed game of this generation.

Kaitlin: I couldn’t understand it! I believe we’ve talked extensively about this.

[Javy laughs]

Kaitlin: How in the first *five* minutes they fridge a girl for the white dude storyline, and I’m just like “you’ve got to be kidding me” and I quit shortly after because it’s just so bad and over the top…and just shit.

 Javy: Yeah, I think…well, we should probably talk about The Last of Us another time, like have a whole thing built around it. I feel like we could have a good discussion come out of that, ‘cause I have mixed feelings about that game. So, uh, Fire Emblem.

Kaitlin: Fire Emblem. And so with the recent Ubisoft disaster, where they said it was double the resources to include a woman character, and people would be like “Why does it matter? It could be a guy, why does it have to be a woman?” Because I met 10, 11, 12 year old girls where it matters, where it changes their lives, where this one girl’s like “Cordelia showed me that I could this and be all these different things” and that matters in kids’ lives. We need better representation and that’s one of the things I do love about Fire Emblem is that it offers more woman characters for girls to identify with.

Javy: Yeah, and I honestly can’t really think of, again AAA games that allow for that to happen outside of Bioware games, outside of Fire Emblem games. I really can’t. There are games now, the ShootDudes 2014 games that allow you to play as a woman in multiplayer, which I think is kind of cool that they do that, but the campaign is still ArmyDudeFeels. It’s usually not even interesting ArmyDudeFeels, it’s not dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, it’s just FOR THE NATION! FOR AMERICA! For god and country and whatever bullshit is interesting to the people they’re trying to appeal to. But yeah, I wish it’s something we’d see more of and I hope we do see more of going forward. But y’know, Ubi has made it clear that they’re not interested in that.

Kaitlin: Yeah.

Javy: Yeah, so yay Fire Emblem!

Kaitlin: Yayyy Fire Emblem!

Javy: And I think that does it for us unless Kaitlin, do you have anything else to add?

Kaitlin: No! That’s it.

Javy: All right, well we’ll talk to you next time…reader. It’s gonna get weird getting used to that, but it’ll be fine.  All right, goodbye everyone!

Kaitlin: Goodbye!

3 thoughts on “Track 1: Fire Emblem: Awakening

  1. It’s good to see Fire Emblem really discussed in depth. The gameplay is so delightfully difficult, but fun. I always felt like a general. And the relationships in the game… the last character I cared about as much as this cast was my starter Pokemon. Great article guys. Do you plan on sticking to Nintendo, or are you moving around?

  2. So the one issue I could see being logical with the pairings in Fire Emblem not allowing homosexual relations (and you two are right, some of those scenes had some definite homoerotic undertones) is that all of the marriages are about producing kids. And in a medieval setting, without getting into some weird magical territory, I think most same-sex relationships would not produce biological children. And since the kids are usually stronger units than the parents (especially depending on what traits the parents have when the kids get recruited), you could really handicap yourself if you paired up a lot of same-sex characters and thus didn’t get their kids.

    Of course, having said that, they could still adopt, so…yeah. It’s not as strong a rationale as it might sound if you really think it through.

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