Posts Tagged ‘Game Heroines’

First appearance – Tekken, 1994, Namco

Ah, the Williams Sisters… Cain and Abel in stilettos! This grudge match has lasted for decades and whenever they weren’t at each other’s throats it’s only because they’d been cryogenically frozen.

Nina and Anna

Why do they fight? Nobody knows – it’s just what sisters do. There’s no scratching or hair pulling either, only gut punching and bone breaking. Now THAT’S sisterhood, or at least it is in my experience. But as all sibling rivals know, there’s a fine line between love and hate. Families often fight because they’re so close and the Williams family is no exception.

Nina’s a Tekken veteran, having been in every game to date plus her origin story in Death By Degrees. Her career as an assassin keeps bringing her to the Iron Fist tournament as there’s always a juicy contract on at least one contender. Anna is her younger sister, primary antagonist and sub-boss. Often she finds herself recruited as bodyguard to Nina’s latest target. When she wins, she adds insult to injury with a celebratory bum waggle. Both are skilled in Aikido and Koppo (or “Bone”) martial arts. With the right button combinations they can trap opponents in a series of locks, breaking their limbs with enjoyable crunchy sound effects. They’re Irish according to the manuals, but after Namco introduced dialogue into the game I wasn’t so sure…

COULD YOU SPEAK UP THERE GIRLS? I CAN’T UNDERSTAND YOU WITH THOSE THICK OIRISH ACCENTS!

That’s a MINOR deviation compared to the Tekken movies. In the live action film, the sisters played Kazuya Mishima’s hit squad/concubines. Typical of most video game movie adaptations, they pretty much got the costumes right and nothing else. Earlier on, in the 1997 Tekken anime, Anna was killed by a dinosaur. No, I didn’t make that up.

Just like the game... except for the part where it's NOT.

Just like the game… except for the part where it isn’t.

Can one sister live without the other? The backstory to Tekken 3 tells me that they can’t. After failing to assassinate Kazuya, Nina is forced to become a test subject for Mishima cryogenic labs; hence she is the only recurring character who hasn’t aged physically. So, what becomes of Anna? Funnily enough, she actually volunteers for the same procedure.

Her reasons for doing this are a mystery. Maybe the threat of a rival who could awaken anytime – fit, healthy and murderous as ever – made her paranoid. The shallowest explanation is that she couldn’t stand the thought of ageing while her older sister remained fresh and youthful. Yes, Anna loves being glamorous but that’s one hell of a step to avoid wrinkles! For whatever reason, it seems that Nina’s absence would prove unbearable to Anna, to the point that she’d rather freeze herself than live without big sis.

I like to think that they care for each other deep down but just have a funny way of showing it. Both mourn their father, as evidenced by the graveside scenes where the occasional truce occurs. They have no living family (besides Nina’s biological son Steve Fox – even then, her maternal instincts only go as far as ‘not killing him’) so this loss is something that only they share. Maybe seeing each other reminds them of this pain. Maybe lashing out at one another is the only way they know how to deal. Or maybe once again I’m reading way too much into the backstories of fictional characters from old Beat ’em Up games… who can say?

(Quick sidenote: Nina’s theme in Tekken 3 has a totally sweet bassline and you should give it a listen. I’ll just leave it here.)

In any case, their feud never amounts to much. If it were simply a matter of bumping each other off, surely someone would’ve succeeded by now. There’s been a number of twist endings where one sister sneaks up on the other, only to play a silly prank. Plus Nina was defenceless in that cryochamber – if Anna truly wanted her dead, she only had to pull the plug. But she doesn’t – instead she joins her sister in cryosleep and they live to battle another day.

Besides, these women are warriors. Offing each other in anything short of a fair fight would be bad form. Not only that, it would deprive the victor of their only worthy adversary. Sibling rivalry is their driving force – it’s what they live for. Well, that and tasteful PS1 sideboob…

I don’t normally do this, but massive shout-out to my sister Jen – ace Nina-player and brilliant person altogether. Thanks for all the support and I’m glad we managed to get past all the childhood punch-ups!

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Chun Li
First appearance – Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, 1991, Capcom

Chun Li profile

While the first Street Fighter game came and went without much notice Street Fighter II: The World Warrior rewrote the book on beat ‘em ups and revived the fading arcade scene. However it wasn’t just the stunning graphics, fluid controls and introduction of combos that were revolutionary. The game introduced a new challenger to its then impressive eight player roster, Chun Li, who became an instant idol in gaming. Capcom’s bold move challenged many preconceptions – boys would not play as a female character, girls would have no interest in fighting games or that it would be too uncomfortable for players to see a lady getting punched in the face. Their risky venture was a complete success and Chun Li would go on to appear in almost every subsequent instalment and media spin off. Several dozen street fighting girls have appeared since and virtually every tournament fighter that followed SFII included at least one woman, though few could hope to rival Ms Li’s popularity. She not only made her mark on the Street Fighter franchise, she kicked open the doors for countless other game heroines.

Chun Li kikoken

Chun Li (‘Spring Beauty’ in Mandarin) went through several drafts following Capcom’s decision to include a female fighter. She began as a small, cute girl in traditional Chinese dress as a sharp contrast to the beefy street brawlers she’d be up against. Later the designers experimented with a wholly different direction, showing a distinctly ‘harder’ character in militia garb. (Did Capcom recall this concept when they created Jill Valentine of Resident Evil? Just a thought.) Eventually the original design was revisited with the all-important addition of combat boots, wrist spikes and modifications to the dress to allow for her trademark kick moves. The result was one of the most iconic characters in the fighting genre.

Chun Li ending 1

Chun Li’s tale was one of loss, vengeance and justice. Her father (an Interpol agent, like herself) was murdered by M. Bison, leader of the crime syndicate Shadaloo. Distraught but determined, she tracks Bison down to the tournament and enters undercover in a bid to face her father’s killer, avenge his death and finish the job of taking down Shadaloo. It’s a far richer back story than most of her tournament rivals, out “to show the world that [insert fighting style here] is the greatest”. Beat the game and you’ll see her take an emotional moment at her father’s graveside, acknowledging that her mission was a success and laying his memory to rest. The glory of winning the tournament doesn’t affect or corrupt her at all – instead she makes a well earned return to the carefree life of a young, single woman. It’s a satisfying and uplifting ending to her story.

Chun Li ending 2

Getting there is no easy ride. To truly harness Ms Li’s power, namely her speed and agility, requires nerves of steel and the reflexes of a cat. Considerably outweighed by her opponents (well, we think so – her profile stats usually list ‘Weight’ as ‘She won’t tell’), one heavy punch to the gut can do critical damage to her energy bar. Winning a round as Chun Li takes time and patience as you’ll spend as much time dodging attacks as landing your own. In the end it’s about outwitting the foe and there are few things in this life more enjoyable than a David vs. Goliath style victory as you knock another lumbering juggernaught to the ground. She’ll celebrate the win with a dignified bow or by jumping up and down and laughing ecstatically. Copying the latter in the arcade was fun but not so good for your street cred.

character_header_chunli

Sadly, the big screen has not been kind to Chun Li. There was the laughably bad live action movie released in 1993, which changed her from an Interpol agent to a television news reporter and at one point got her dressed up in a pretty Chinese dress for no good reason whatsoever. It made about as much sense as the decision to cast Jean Claude Van Damme as the all-American Guile. While this film avoids harsh criticism on the grounds of sheer silliness, there’s absolutely no excusing the shambolic effort that is Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li. Why they would attempt to reboot a movie franchise that bombed fifteen years previously is baffling enough, how they could screw it up so badly is beyond human comprehension. It took itself seriously as one of those dark, gritty origin stories that everyone tried to do afterBatman Begins. Although it kept in the dead Dad stuff (sort of), Chun Li became a Chinese-American concert pianist (was the Interpol work really too dull?) up against an Irish M. Bison and his dastardly property development scheme. It’s every bit as bad as it sounds. Chuck in some appalling special effects (particularly the Spinning Bird Kick) add a cringeworthy sub plot with Chris Klein (who DOES get to be an Interpol agent) and throw in fleeting references to Ryu and the forthcoming tournament after she kills all the bosses – seriously, she actually snaps Bison’s neck – and that’s the supposed “Legend” of one of the greatest women in gaming history. Utter nonsense.

Chun-Li_animated_movie

Chun Li is unimpressed with these live action Street Fighter movies

Thankfully Chun Li has been better represented through anime. Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie stayed faithful to her original back story and teamed her up with Guile, which made sense as he shared her vendetta against Bison following the murder of his war buddy Charlie. Despite the cheap effort at fan service in a gratuitously long shower scene, the movie does a far better portrayal of her character and is one of the better adaptations of the game. She also appears in the Alpha series, set prior to the events of World Warrior, and her sixteen year old self features as one of the main protagonists in the Street Fighter II V series, along with her teenage buddies Ken and Ryu. While not strictly canon – this time she’s a tour guide as well as a martial arts student – it’s still an entertaining series and she’s fun to watch, particularly when she’s being chastised during training for booting her opponent in the nads.

Chun Li kick

What was great about Chun Li was that she was all things to all players – she had a serious mission, was tough as any other fighter but was still ultimately likable. She managed to be feminine without being overly girly and took her lumps in battle as one of the guys. Nobody has since managed to take her crown, not Ryu’s fangirl Sakura or Cammy, the brainwashed blonde with her swimsuit permanently wedged up her backside. Twenty years later and there’s no question, she’s still the strongest woman in the world.