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Did Animal Crossing Introduce Nintendo's First Gay Character?

May fans of the newly-released Animal Crossing: New Horizons are finding multiple reasons to love this new game. Not only does it allow you to craft your own adorable little island into a tropical paradise, but it may be the series' most inclusive installment yet. That's right; fans believe that a couple of the new  game's characters may be the first openly gay characters in Nintendo history.

The theory seems to come from fans on ResetEra's message boards, who are putting together a few different hints from the game's dialogue. The theory concerns the character C.J., the host of the game's fishing tournaments, and Flick, the host of the game's big-catching competitions. There are multiple instances in the game where C.J. refers to Flick as his "partner." Though it has been pointed out that C.J. could simply mean this in terms of Flick being his business partner, the subjects being discussed would seem to hint otherwise. None of the dialogue is referring to anything business related. It just comes across like C.J. is telling sweet stories about Flick's hobbies and interests, the way one would tell a friend about their significant other.

Some fans aren't quite so convinced, citing the same argument that the word "partner" is still rather ambiguous. As one ResetEra user mentions, "Also why couldn't the devs use the word 'boyfriend' to erase all ambiguity?"

This apparently wasn't the intention of the original Japanese release of the game (in which C.J. calls Flick his "friend," instead), but rather a creative decision made by Nintendo of America's localization team. Like another user says, "This wouldn't be the first time the localization has changed stuff around with Animal Crossing NPCs. Since they're already diverged I guess there's no harm in NoA being more inclusive."

Even if C.J. and Flick aren't meant to be gay, the game does actually acknowledge same sex couples in another way via dialogue. Other players have latched onto the fact that there's an entirely unambiguous same-sex couple referenced in the game's lore. One of the characters, Merry, will discuss her favorite comic books with the player. What she talks about will depend on which comic book genre the player asks her about. When asked about her favorite romantic comedies, Merry will describe her favorite series, which is "about the shred-tastic Princess of Rocketboarding and her true love, the Princess of Explosions." Which, let's be real: where's that comic book movie?

There's also the long-standing theory that Isabelle from the Animal Crossing game is either bisexual or pansexual. This theory stems from the fact that she will hint at having a crush on the player character in previous games, regardless of the gender the player has chosen for their character. In other words, Animal Crossing: New Horizons may just be making a formerly ambiguous character detail into more than subtext with these new additions.

Nintendo has actually removed quite a bit of controversial content from games in the past. In fact, Nintendo of America has made some LGBT-friendly edits to games during localization, as well. For example, Nintendo removed a controversial story path from Fire Emblem Echoes that seemingly encouraged gay conversion. A scene in which a lesbian woman was drugged and convinced to marry a man was removed for the version of Fire Emblem Echoes that was released in North America and Europe.

It should be noted that this does not necessarily mean that there have never been gay characters represented in a Nintendo game. Way back in 1994, the classic game Earthbound (a.k.a. Mother 2) featured the character Tony. While Tony is never explicitly referred to as gay through dialogue, there do seem to be some strong hints that he is either attracted to or even in love with his best friend and roommate Jeff. 

This was seemingly confirmed in an interview with Mother series creator Shigesato Itoi, who explained, "there's a gay person in Mother 2. A really passionate friend who lives in an England-like place. I designed him to be a gay child. In a normal, real-life society, there are gay children, and I have many gay friends as well. So I thought it would be nice to add one in the game, too." Though he didn't refer to the character by name, there's really only one person in Mother 2/Earthbound who fits that description.

So, yes, Nintendo has featured at least one confirmed gay character in a video game before. However, the real qualifier here is that there has seemingly never been any openly gay character featured in a Nintendo title. Maybe that has all changed with the arrival of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and these new characters.