Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is overflowing with bisexual energy – and that makes it a uniquely captivating RPG

PLEASE NOTE: This article was written after a preview playthrough of the first third of Fire Emblem: Three Houses – before S-Rank romance options became clear and certain in-game content was revealed. Now the game has been released, we’re hugely disappointed by the way the game eventually deals with M/M relationships despite such an initial positive opening – original author Dom Peppiatt refers to that in his full review here.

Nintendo is set to launch Fire Emblem: Three Houses later this month, and the newest instalment in the 28-year old franchise might also be its most queer-friendly.

For a Nintendo-published series hailing from Japan, Fire Emblem has become surprisingly progressive in the past few releases when it comes to romance options – since Fire Emblem: Conquest, players have finally been allowed to engage in same-sex relationships. Granted, all your characters are still cis-gendered and the romances you can engage in are binary as hell, but progress is progress, right?

The last game released in the SRPG mainstay felt like it was making a concession to the LGBTQ+ community – there was one same-sex relationship you could engage in per gender for the main character. Now, in Three Houses, Nintendo has thrown caution to the wind and made a more robust roster of characters for you to flirt with, fight with and (presumably) be filthy with.

Fire Emblem has always had a system that allows you to increase ‘Support’ with your allies – ranging from C Rank through to S Rank, the better you know your comrades, the more buffs you might get in battle when fighting alongside them.

In a series (in)famous for including permadeath and potentially killing off your characters for good, this mechanic is a double whammy of poignant. Firstly, the more you get to know a character, the more emotionally devastating it is when they’re killed off for good, and secondly; seeing a lover can jump in and protect you from a potentially fatal attack is exhilarating and dumps dopamine into your brain like nothing else in gaming. 

Seriously – Fire Emblem titles are fun to play, but they can be emotionally exhausting.

And that’s why I love Three Houses so much – even at this early stage. At roughly 30 hours into the full release of the game, I can’t think of a strategy game that does queer romance anywhere near as well as Nintendo’s latest.

Giving you the choice to play as either a female or male main character, and then letting you flirt with the entire supporting cast, no matter what your gender, is the bisexual fantasy I’ve been waiting for in gaming for years (who says we’re greedy…) It doesn’t help that every single one of them has been designed to appeal to you – yes, you – directly, no matter what your type: shy girl, bear guy, assertive domme, academic older gentleman, posh snob, dirty commoner… there’s a lot of specific types catered for in this game.

The context for this is a little contrived – this is a JRPG after all. You are a mercenary that happens upon a bandit ambush. You and your legendary merc father save the day, and the victims of the attack thank you, revealing they’re all from a monastary-cum-academy where the military elite of the nation all go to train up. Think of it as a Tolkien-esque Eton (with just as many political undercurrents in force, too).

One thing leads to another and you’re hired to become a professor of, well, war. You get to choose one of the eponymous Houses to instruct, and from then on you can form relationships with more or less any of the students in the academy, or the faculty that instructs them. Now, if you ignore the flagrant power abuse dynamics at play here, the queer focus comes into play: the supporting characters will treat you the same (for the most part) irrespective of your chosen gender. 

That means that I, playing as a male protagonist, can get very friendly with the perpetually winking, laid-back House leader Claude. Or maybe I want to cosy up to the assertive, jodhpur-wearing, asymmetrical haircut-sporting member of rival House, Petra. The choice is mine – no matter what gender configuration the role-playing game serves me – until I decide to commit to one ‘S Rank’ relationship. 

NDAs and time limitations prevent me from disclosing too much information about how romances work out, but from my initial experiments it seems female main characters have more same-sex options than male ones. But, in terms of representation, we’ll take it: gay and bisexual characters are distressingly rare in games (and games of Japanese origin, specifically) so the care Nintendo has taken to include and do justice to these romances is noteworthy – even if the most ‘action’ you get is in the form of some intense blushing at a tea ceremony.

Even if the dirtiest elements are taking place off-screen (this is a Nintendo game, after all), I’m floored by just how in-depth the relationship-building in Fire Emblem: Three Houses is. The series has always been known for its great writing and character depth, and it feels like the generation jump from 3DS to Switch has allowed the development team even more space to flesh this aspect of the game out.

For that reason alone, if you’re into math-based battles, stat-driven gameplay and chaotic bisexual energy, I find it hard not to recommend Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses releases on July 26th for Nintendo Switch

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25 thoughts on “Fire Emblem: Three Houses is overflowing with bisexual energy – and that makes it a uniquely captivating RPG

    • Can I flirt with Dimitri?

  • I won’t spoil things for people, Even though Nintendo did reveal it in a trailer, but the Iffy-power-dynamics and age issues won’t entirely be a problem for long.

    Just thought it should be mentioned before people got too hung up on. But I’m glad theres more options, hopefully their better done than Fates which was… ehhhhhh-level rep.

  • I’m sorry, I didn’t get it, will we be able to marry everyone regardless of our gender or will there be limited “gay options” ? I really want to marry Dimitri or Felix and I don’t want to play as female Byleth…

    • Hey Ritsu

      Sorry if anything in the article was unclear. The crux is: you can have pretty flirty conversations with most of the characters (I guess they’re written to interact with either gender protag the same), and there will be romances/S Rank status with a few opposite gender and a few same-gender characters per protag.

      I hope that clarifies things for you!

      • Oh, okay, I get it now ! Thank you !

  • Okay, I’m somewhat confused. At one point in the article, it is stated that you can flirt with everyone regardless of gender. However, at another point it says that there are more wlw options than mlm, implying that you can’t S support everyone regardless of gender.

    Now, does this mean that everyone is bi, aka it’s possible to achieve an S support with any character of your choosing, or does it mean that there’s still a select amount of mlm/wlw options and some characters are explicitly straight?

    • Everyone talks to you with a flirty vibe, regardless of your protagonist’s sex, since those are neutral dialogues meant to be used for either Male-Byleth or Female-Byleth. When it comes to who you can S-Rank in the actual Supports, it seems Female-Byleth has more options than Male-Byleth.

      Hope that cleared things a bit better.

    • Yes, I want to ask the same question too since the leak from Thanibomb mentions that there’s only one male same-sex option available, which is Linhardt. But there’s at least 5 lesbian options.

  • I am curious given the comments how many straight options (as compaired to the gay options) are there? Like is every bisexual character datable for the MC as both genders? I assume some characters are like not datable at all no matter what?

  • So does this game handle same-sex romance options like Bioware did? I.e. pander super hard toward the straig-I mean lesbo playerbase while giving the guy side basically nothing (think of Mass Effect/Dragon Age to get what I mean)? You can be honest with me since I already figured that type of scenario would most likely happen.

    I can put up with it as long as I can still m/m marry either: Claude, Casper, Raph, or just about any gay buff dude the game has pls.

  • Can I romance Dimitri?

    • No, unfortunately. There’s a screenshot around E3 that shows all the support list on the blue lions for male Byleth. only female blue lions can get S-ranked, none of the males.

  • If Claude isn’t really bisexual I’m going to be seriously disappointed after reading this article. So if he’s not you might want to reword the article.

  • This entire article is incredibly misleading. It leads the reader to assume that a particular character Claude is a same sex romance option even though that has been proven false

    • You have a source to backup that statemate?

  • yay, for mlm its two old men who both have children (one who VERY MUCH LOVES HIS WIFE AND KID) and one irrelevant twink. not that wlw get much better, but they get at least relevant character? this was clearly based on the balance of how to get praised for lgbt rep while still making homophobes feel good. and fetishization of lesbians.
    I do sincererily hope there is MORE choices that what was teased so far, because this is extremely weak for a **representation**, i am fucking tired being happy for breadcrumbs.
    I really would consider a change of article title. It is extremely misleading and slightly queerbaiting.

    • Could this article be amended at all now that it’s been revealed that there’s only one M/M option (not Claude, a minor character with an androgynous design) vs five F/F options in the game, that the two other male characters that can S support with M!Byleth happen to be the only S supports to end up platonic, and that one of said S supports ends with the player being forced into marrying a nameless woman instead?
      No hard feelings toward the author, but this article paints a very inaccurate picture of how friendly this game is towards mlm players.

      • Honestly this whole article needs to be taken down bc its nothing but shameless queerbait & I’m surprised to see that theres supposed Gayming journalist here whose willing to sellout

  • Forrest from FE Fates was non binary…he identified as male and presented feminine…and female Corrin could marry him. Although, Forrest and Soleil were made for each other.

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