flamboyant fierceness

This RPG might not have a secret gay bathhouse, but it does have a very queer-coded storyline

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Sylvando and his merry darlings want to throw a smile parade

Queer fans of role-playing games (RPGs) may already know about the secret gay bathhouse in Final Fantasy 7, but while that’s a missable side quest in the larger game, there’s a more recent RPG that has a very gay-coded storyline about a son coming out to his father through a joyous parade… and it’s part of the main quest, something all players need to see to beat the game.

This is the amazing tale of Sylvando, the flamboyant traveling performer from Dragon Quest XI. Although he doesn’t express a romantic interest in men during the game, he is definitely gay-coded.

Sylvando has a flamboyant style befitting his work as a circus entertainer: He’s slender with pronounced eyelashes. He wears stud earrings, meggings, and a jester’s tunic with collar poofs and bells. He has a lisp, regularly strikes poses, cracks jokes, and conversationally refers to others as “darlings” and “lover boy.”

He also has several magical dancing moves and special abilities with names like “Kiss Me Deadly,” “Hot Lick,” and “Sobering Slap” which can wake up affected allies.

His dream is to spread across the land by opening his own theater and holding a mirthful cross-country parade, led by his band of younger fey men who joyously dance while waving fans and playing instruments. But when he first joins the party’s quest against villainous sorcerers, he’s tight-lipped about his childhood growing up in the Latino region of Puerto Valor (a place whose name sounds like the gay beach destination Puerto Vallarta).

As the action progresses, Sylvando appears on his parade float — it’s decorated like a feathered fan, with light-up bulbs, stars, and prancing carousel horses. There, he announces to his teary-eyed boys that he cannot lead a parade to make people smile until the land’s evil sorcerers are defeated. However, he promises to ask his father to look after the young men while he finishes his quest.

It’s at this point that Sylvando reveals he’s actually the son of Don Rodrigo, “the noblest and most revered of all knights” in the region. Don Rodrigo raised Sylvando to also be a knight, but his dad got upset and smashed dishes when Sylvando told him that he literally wanted to run off and join the circus.

“From the second I walked into that tent that I’d found my calling,” Sylando says of the circus, in a dramatic cutscene. “It was so fabulous … It was love at first sight!… Getting up on that stage and making people happy? That was the life for me!”

Sylvando admits that he and his father haven’t spoken since then. Any kid who has ever worried about disappointing their parents by coming out can possibly relate. But Sylvando still agrees to meet with his dad.

When Sylvando first appears in his old man’s bedroom, his stern father says, “You dare to show your face in my presence? Then you have come to tell me something, si?”

Scared and ashamed, Sylvando covers his face and repeatedly says “sorry” to his “Papi.”

But his father asks, “‘Sorry?’ Jeh! What are you apologizing for, foolish boy?” He asks whether Sylvando has succeeded in his dream of making the world smile.

When Sylvando responds, “Not yet,” his father angrily says, “You said you would do it!… I did not raise you to be a failure!… If I were younger, I would put you over my knee! What kind of knight makes an oath and does not fulfill it?”

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Sylvando’s stern father, Don Rodrigo, isn’t a fan of his new outfit

Sylvando thanks his father for still thinking of him as a knight, and then explains his plan to first defeat Mordegan, the Lord of Shadows, in order to “make all people of the world smile again!” His father urges him to keep his word, and Sylvando agrees.

However, Sylvando then tells his dad, “There’s just one teensy-teensy little thing I need to ask you to do to help.” His “young and innocent” friends need a “role model” while he’s away, and his dad is the perfect choice. When Don Rodrigo agrees, Sylvando clasps his hands and says, “Oooh! Aren’t you just the sweetest, kindest father a boy could hope to have!”

Sylvando then calls for his “darliiings” to come say hello to their new “Tio Rodriiigooo!” The young men — all wearing bright red vests, tights, and feather tailpieces — come bounding into the room. One remarks how big Don Rodrigo’s bedroom is and then, laying eyes upon the dad, proclaims, “He’s awfully manly! I’ll feel safe with [him] looking after me!”

The boys then prance around the room, examining it, while Sylvando dresses his father in a feathery parade outfit. His dad angrily growls while everyone else in the room giggles at his new costume.

Before Sylvando departs, his band of boys wails and weeps outside. However, he chides them, “Listen to me, Soldiers of Smile! You serve my papi now — you must do as he says! Do not fail me!” The performer then leaves to continue his heroic quest.

While this heartwarming tale of parental reconciliation is the queerest thing in Dragon Quest XI, fans of the ongoing series could be soon surprised with possibly more gay content in the upcoming Dragon Quest XII: The Flames of Fate.

While the game isn’t expected to come out until 2023 at the earliest, its developers say it’ll have a more “adult” feel, which could finally give RPG lovers some overt LGBTQ representation in the long-beloved series.