There were good reasons for the Fear Effect games to catch your eye during the PlayStation era, including the stylish art and the mature (for the time, anyway!) storytelling. But what most remember is the crass marketing campaign that exaggerated a relationship between the two female leads.
The original Fear Effect was released in 2000, a time when it was still novel for a game to have a woman as the main character. It may be revived as a strategy game, thanks to Kickstarter and Square Enix’s Collective program.
The sequel, Fear Effect: Double Helix, was meant to delve into the history of the series’ central protagonist, Hana Tsu-Vachel, and her partner, Rain Gin. Romance wasn’t at the heart of the game’s story, yet the advertisements grossly focused on the titillation of two women having sex.
Yes, that actually happened.
If it was uncommon for a game to have a leading lady, introducing a gay relationship was the equivalent of finding a unicorn. It just didn’t happen.
“The relationship between Hana and Rain was not my main focus when I wrote the story for Retro Helix,” said Kronos president and CEO Stan Liu in an interview with GameCritics from 2001. “I think it just got blown out of proportion due to the ads and the media coverage.”
If you were to watch the trailer for Fear Effect 2, you’d get the sense it was a Resident Evil-inspired action game about a group of people, lead by a woman, shooting guns at evil things. (That’s what the original was, too.)
But when publisher Eidos Interactive was coming up with its ad campaign for Fear Effect 2, it decided to really push the idea of a girl-on-girl fantasy.
“Let me say that I am extremely happy we got any kind of marketing at all for a game that came out at the end of the PlayStation’s glorious lifespan (thank you Eidos),” said Liu. “My opinion is that I didn’t mind the T&A [tits & arse] ads in the beginning to stir up controversy or what not, I just wished that they would have followed up with ads that portray the actual game itself.”
It’s not like Eidos pulled this angle out of nowhere, though; Liu acknowledged there was a physical relationship between the two characters. How that manifested itself within the game, however, was both tame and brief; it only showed up in a short cutscene set in an elevator:
Furthermore, Kronos was responsible for the original image of Hana and Rain straddling one another, which Liu said was “done in house for… inspiration purposes”. Eidos reportedly found the image and ran with it.
The game was full of other kinds of sexually-charged imagery, including an alien bug that was attached to Rain’s crotch doing… well, something.
Liu claims “the story behind that scene is whatever you wanted it to be”.
Or the various moments where Hana and Rain constantly changed their clothing in front of the camera, for no good reason whatsoever:
Liu claims the sexuality in Double Helix was blown out of proportion.
“She [Hana] likes men… and she likes women,” said Liu. “Who she chooses to go to bed with at the end of the day IS NOT A BIG DEAL! We are living in the 21st century, this kind of thing happens all the time! Get over it people!! The only reason I wanted Hana to have a female companion this time around is because it gives me the ability to create an extremely interesting love triangle further down the road.”
The series would never got to explore the “love triangle”, as the third Fear Effect game was cancelled.