Fire Emblem Awakening celebrates its tenth anniversary today. The beloved JRPG came to the Nintendo 3DS back in 2013 and changed the series forever, catapulting it into the mainstream and redefining the Western market’s attitude to strategy games. Turns out they aren’t just about fighting wars, but growing close to your anime homies and even giving them a kiss goodnight when the time is right. That’s what this genre is all about, baby.
Before Awakening, the series was relatively niche outside of Japan, with physical copies still going for small riches online until Nintendo gets around to remaking or remastering them. That time will come one day, but for now we’re stuck in an increasingly anime-induced stupor of cute girls, hot guys, silly archetypes, and lots of melodrama to move things along. The formula is incredible, and to see it mature and evolve since the splash of Awakening has been a rare treat, even if Engage isn’t my cup of tea.
Awakening was also a wake-up call for Nintendo which saw the family friendly company embrace the joy of being deliriously thirsty for getting down to funky town. Much of this game is littered with romantic and sexual chemistry in cutscenes and support conversations, with the player encouraged to build relationships and play favourites with whomever they choose. Don’t worry about that scantily clad little girl dressed like a dragon, she’s 9,000 years old.
The main narrative might have centred around an epic global conflict and plenty of religious shenanigans, but there is always time to hit the barracks and have a nice chat, flirt, or begin to figure out exactly where your own bloodline is going to progress further into the campaign. You can get married and do the nasty, resulting in a big range of playable children you can also flirt with which is kinda weird and over the line now I think back on it.
Fire Emblem is really horny. It always has been, and the continued evolution of anime, JRPGs, and use of fan service has resulted in more risqué character designs and writing that lean into all manner or archetypes the fans find either appealing or attractive. It was a common gripe at the time amidst otherwise glowing reviews, how awkward stylistic choices clashed with an otherwise very serious approach to storytelling. The series has come to strike a middle ground nowadays, albeit still going much further than Awakening did back then.
Games that followed were even more so. The Fates games (Birthright and Conquest) lent further into the idea of building up a bloodline by having romantic relationships and children with certain characters, skills and characteristics always carrying over to any potential offspring. There was a very incesty vibe to it all thinking back, especially with women like Camila who simultaneously wanted to treat us like babies and ride us until the sun went down. Steady on.
We also need to talk about the face touching minigame edited out of the Western release for seeming a bit too unusual for non-Japanese audiences. It veers too far into owning a body pillow territory for me, preferring to get my rocks off through meaningful conversation along with the occasional smooch instead of face rubbing an underaged girl on a screen until she moans for me. It sounds even worse now I’m trying to explain it. Engage sees the return of this mechanic but in a slightly different and somehow even weirder form. Instead of rubbing the faces of real people, you’re polishing the rings of ghosts until they either praise you or scold you for being a little too rough. I didn’t know this was a thing until recently, and it blows my mind why it’s here in the first place. I want a word with whoever thought this up.
Nintendo remains a wholesome company with a family image, although nowadays, it’s far less afraid of releasing products or toying with characters and narrative serving more adult audiences, even if such things are done with some subtlety. Tokyo Mirage Sessions came exclusively to the Wii U in 2015 and was shunned for its apparently woke censorship. Fans were quick to discover that certain outfits had been made more modest when localised for the West, while some storylines were altered or rewritten to avoid public outcry. You likely remember the day of infamy when Nintendo took away a girl’s vagina bones. Putting aside this big change though, the game was still pretty damn horny.
Then you have Xenoblade Chronicles 2, a game so weeby and sexualised that I can still hardly believe it's a first-party Nintendo game. Nearly every female character design in that game is catering to some manner or archetype, fetish, or exaggerated body type – guest artists brought in to really emphasise the horny factor wherever possible. Not to mention that the main protagonist who looks no older than a teenager is crushed on by most of the main female cast purely because he’s so powerful, righteous, and nice. I love this game so much, but I’d never be caught playing it in front of someone I don’t want to think less of me as a human being. I swear Pyra is meant to be dressed like that for important plot reasons!
Mario, Link, and all the other mascots are still lovely and innocent – depending on where you look – so Nintendo isn’t going to suddenly fall into the inescapable depths of human depravity, but Fire Emblem Awakening felt like a catalyst for more adult storytelling and a keen eye for flirting, relationships, and risqué attitudes across its portfolio. Engage is clear proof of that trajectory, doubling down on the fairly serious yarn of its predecessor to initially focus on sweating dragons and simping allies. This stuff sells for a reason, I just didn’t expect Nintendo to lean into it so much. Thanks for that, Awakening.
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