Monday, January 17, 2011

Ten female videogame characters who put the menfolk to shame

Okay, so about a week ago I read this bullshit article on that talked about the unfair portrayal of women in videogames. The author described the majority of female characters as “vapid scenery with a mouth” or “objects that need saving,” and goes on to use poor examples, over-simplify key characters, and conveniently neglect mentioning a plethora of awesome protagonists in order to make his argument seem more valid than it really is. So, I started this big, elaborate post detailing all of the fuckery, but I got smacked with the writer’s block from hell, and then Midget contracted the goddamn flu, so… yeah. 

Anyway, I probably should have focused my attention to something else, but that editorial made me mad, goddamnit! Getting back on track, the article’s author was somehow unable to think of ten strong, fully fleshed out, non-sexualized female videogame characters: he struggled to name five, and of them, two weren’t really women – they were Artificial Intelligence. When I was asked to name ten lovely ladies, I was able to do so off of the top of my head with no problem. With that said, I’m going to venture into some really dangerous nerd territory here and present you, the lucky reader, with my spur of the moment list. (Key phrase, you guys: spur of the moment. This isn't a top ten by any means.) You know you’ve been waiting all your life to read this.

(Side note: I went ahead and provided links to a good deal of things throughout this entry mostly for your convenience =D )



Tina Branford – Final Fantasy VI 

Before I talk about Tina (aka Terra – her name was changed in all US releases for some bizarre reason about needing her to sound more "exotic"), I need to say right off the bat that I absolutely can't stand her in the Dissidia: Final Fantasy games. They made her really ugly and really annoying; needless to say, seeing one of my favorite characters in anything ever get turned into a useless twat is disappointing on so many levels! (And yet, when I play Dissidia, I always pick her anyway… go figure.)
Anyhow, Tina's awesome (outside of Dissidia) for several reasons: First off, she was the first main female protagonist in a Final Fantasy game. Second, she was the strongest character in the entire roster (Give her a Magic Box relic, the Ultima Weapon, and make sure she learns the Ultima spell. UNF). Third, she was born with the unique ability to use magic, which is a bit of a big deal, and fourth, she has green hair (a decision that was made last minute in order to differentiate her from the other characters, thus explaining why she appears blonde in most images). Because of her uncanny abilities she is enslaved by the evil Gestahlian Empire (via a hella creepy mind-control apparatus called a Slave Crown) and used as a killing machine in a war for world domination. When her Slave Crown is forcibly removed it results in total memory loss and an inability to properly express and even understand emotions, so naturally, she's scared shitless (who wouldn't be?!). As luck would have it, she meets the ever-chivalrous Locke Cole, and with his help, joins up with a rebel organization called the Returners in order to take down the Empire that destroyed her life. Even though Locke helps her get out of a pretty tough spot, she never truly falls into the damsel in distress category: she can kill with the snap of her fingers or a sword -- whichever is more convenient. Although Tina struggles with her emotions -- particularly her understanding of love -- she never jumps into the arms of any of the supporting beefcake (not even Edgar, who hits on her the second they become acquainted). Instead, she goes on to recover her memory, become a surrogate mother to a village full of orphaned children (maternal love FTW), and fight to save the world, fully aware that there’s a very good chance that she'll die as a result of her half-breed heritage. HOLLA.

Celes Chere – Final Fantasy VI

I once saw an amateur translator say that Celes “rocks the motherfucking house.” Evidently, several aspects of her personality were somewhat lost in the American translation, which is a damn shame – and possibly a reason why she’s so often overlooked when people talk about badass bitches with swords. Or badass bitches, period. As an infant, Celes was artificially infused with magic similar to Tina's and brought up to be a Magitek Knight in the previously mentioned Gestahlian Empire. By eighteen she had become its youngest general, cutting her way through her battles. Yes, cutting. With a sword. However, since mind-control and genocide were nowhere on her To-Do List, she was imprisoned for an unspecified act of treason: When the player first meets her, she is chained up and being beaten by a couple of guards (a scene that was severely watered down in the GBA re-release due to a rash of kidnappings that took place overseas during development or something? What?*), but somehow, she never comes across as somebody who needs to be rescued. When the oh-so-lovable Locke swoops in to save the day, she’s completely baffled and only goes with him because he’s persistent as fuck.

(Yes, this is a pattern -- Locke has a habit of helping ladies in need because of some serious baggage.) Even though an unspoken romantic bond eventually forms between the two, it is far from what motivates Celes, probably because she’s too busy learning how to deal with life outside of a military setting while trying to save the world from one of the most psychotic villains ever.

*EDIT -- so, that kidnapping thing was a load of bollocks, and the real reason for the censorship was the Japanese ratings system that is in place. Violence against a restrained person is a bit of a problem when going for certain ratings.

Lucca Ashtear – Chrono Trigger

ZOMG Chrono Trigger!!! That game is the SHIT and I can't help thinking that whenever somebody mentions it because zomg so many fond memories and where the hell is my copy on the DS?!!

Okay, now that I got that out of my system, let’s take a quick look at Lucca: This girl is so far from the vapid scenery category that it’s unreal. Are you looking at her? She’s not all that cute. And what the hell with that helmet, right? But, hey, there’s a fine line between genius and insanity, and Lucca falls in the category of somewhat dorky super-genius. As the best friend of CT's spiky-headed swordsman, Crono, Lucca leads a pretty normal life: she loves science and machinery (her father is an inventor) and loves making new and technologically advanced gadgets. After all, it's her teleportation device that ultimately sets the events of Chrono Trigger into motion by inadvertently opening a wormhole through time. On the surface, Lucca seems boastful and brash, touting her scientific knowledge as the best thing since sliced bread, but in reality she has poured herself into learning as much about science and machines as possible because of an accident in which one of her father's inventions mangled her mother's legs, leaving her confined to a wheelchair. In fact, Lucca, who was about ten at the time, witnessed the gruesome scene and carries a crushing guilt for not being able to stop it. The horror of this event (holy shit, the side-quest where you see it happen if you fail is extremely unnerving), as well as having to see the consequences daily help set Lucca apart from the rest of the CT cast. Also, she's the only playable character that has a gun. Hells yeah.

Jill Valentine – Resident Evil Series
If you have seen the Resident Evil movies, I want you to purge Sienna Guillory from your memory this instant. The Jill I’m talking about here isn’t the bizarre, I’m-trying-too-hard-to-be-tough oddity that we got in the cinema (I should mention that I have nothing against Guillory -- I'm sure that she's a lovely person). No, I’m talking about the Master of Unlocking here! Okay, seriously though, game Jill is infinitely superior to movie Jill. Before joining S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics And Rescue Service) and becoming Chris Redfield’s partner, she was in the US Army’s Delta Force training program, learning how to do things like disarm bombs, use different types of firearms, and pick something like sixty types of locks. Then there was that whole Mansion Incident that brought in those pesky zombies (and other B.O.W.'s), which she has been killing with finesse since 1998. 1998, son! During that time she was trapped in Raccoon City during the massive T-Virus outbreak, where she was not only stalked by the gruesome Nemesis T-type , but infected with the virus as she tried to make her escape. Clearly, she survived, since she went on to help Chris finally take down Umbrella and co-found the BSAA (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance). Sadly, she was killed in action three years prior to the start of Resident Evil 5. But, you know what? She didn't go out like a punk.

On a side note, when I found out that Jill would be in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 I about peed my pants. Yes, I am THAT lame.

*Update: I had not played through RE5 when I first wrote this, but now I have, thus making me love this bitch EVEN MORE.

Claire Redfield – Resident Evil Series
Another one from Resident Evil – and this time, it’s Chris Redfield’s baby sister. Before I go on, purge the movie version of Claire from your minds as well, okay? Because just like Jill, movie Claire and game Claire are two different people. Game Claire just seems like your all around normal chick: She’s good with kids, rides motorcycles, and knows how to rock a good pair of jeans. When Raccoon City went to shit, she got with it and used the skills she learned from her brother to start taking down hoards of zombies left and right (after getting over that initial “what the fuck was THAT” hump that anybody facing a zombie outbreak would run into). In fact, the only reason she was even in Raccoon City to begin with was because of a self-initiated search for Chris, who had gone M.I.A. trying to put an end to Umbrella Corp. She eventually ends up in Paris before being shipped off to a creepy-ass place called Rockfort Island where she gets into some even crazier shenanigans that involve zombies, mutants, and this horrifying puzzle involving a crystal ball and a slab of concrete that left me traumatized for months after I played Code: Veronica. (However, that puzzle was actually in Antarctica...)She also had one of the neatest game moments ever during the game's intro movie – a moment that was so cool that Milla Jovovich HAD to replicate it on the big screen in Resident Evil: Apocalypse (It’s that one where she drops the gun and then immediately drops down so that she can catch and fire it right before it hits the floor – about 45 seconds in, and hella sick!). Mad props to Jovovich, who practiced until she was really able to do that shit -- in one take, from what I understand.

Juri Han – Super Street Fighter IV
The article that spawned this list mentioned that there aren’t too many good female villains in videogames, and while that may be true, I think that Juri was sorely overlooked. She isn’t one of those useless background characters like Rufus, who’s there simply because the developers wanted a silly fat guy in their game; Juri is a central part of the Street Fighter IV story and the first(?) true villainess in the series, which earns her some massive points. Even though she has some somewhat suggestive lines here and there, Juri isn’t oozing with sex like your typical female fighting game character. She is realistically proportioned, muscular, and wears a mostly full set of pants. She's also pretty fucking twisted. Her parents were killed while she was young and she sustained serious injuries as it all went down (loss of an entire eye, anyone?). However, instead of getting in touch with some great deal of moral fiber because of how fucked up her experience was, she became totally fucked up by her experience. Juri is sadistic and cruel; she will kill somebody slowly and painfully just because she feels like it. Also, that new eye of hers (not prominently pictured) is a bit creepy.

Yuna – Final Fantasy X, X-2
It’s strange that IGN called out the Final Fantasy games for having weak, sexualized heroines when only two or three of them really fit into that category (over the course of, what, fourteen games, mind you). Yuna is definitely not on the useless, eye-candy side of the spectrum in the least. (Okay, so maybe she's a little useless in battle until you really level her up.) She’s quiet and reserved, yet embarks on a pilgrimage to stop a horrifying monster called Sin in order to bring temporary peace to the world, knowing full well that she must die in order to accomplish this. Despite that, her resolve never waivers – even when she finds out that everything she thought she knew about her pilgrimage has been a lie. Never once is she put in a position where she HAS to be bailed out by Tidus or any of her other companions; I mean, she can conjure magical creatures from thin air. Who needs a basket-case with daddy-issues and a sword when they can call upon motherfucking BAHAMUT? Let’s also keep in mind that FFX was the first in the franchise to spawn a legitimate sequel – starring Yuna, because she was infinitely more interesting and likable than that whiny asshole, Tidus, ever was.

Brigid Tenenbaum – BioShock, BioShock 2
Even though the player only catches a few glimpses of Tenenbaum during the BioShock games, she’s an important ally who has much more to offer than either Jack or Subject Delta, and I think that says a lot. She’s probably the most important character in the entire series up to this point, seeing as how she created ADAM and the iconic Little Sisters that run around Rapture. Her back-story involves surviving life in a German prison camp only because of her scientific prowess and being forced to assist the Nazis in their infamous medical experiments, which is equal parts crazy, interesting, and disturbing. Hearing her talk about Rapture, ADAM, and her sordid past not only gives the player a better idea of who this woman really is, but we also gain a better understanding of the insanity that ultimately IS Rapture.

Samus Aran – Metroid Series

When the first Metroid game dropped in ’86, people were all over that shit. Here you were, playing as this bad-ass space bounty hunter that made every major action star at the time look like cute little poodles (not that poodles are cute -- they're actually kind of gross). Then the end of the game came, Samus took the suit off, and gamers everywhere shat themselves when they saw that the bad motherfucker who was destroying the shit out of aliens was, in fact, a woman. Despite that whole X chromosome thing, we barely ever see Samus without her full armor, or hell, even without her helmet. She doesn't really talk a whole lot, and she doesn't have to -- her arm cannon and missiles say plenty. She has been referred to as the least sexualized videogame character of all time, which makes IGN’s article that much more baffling, as she is specifically called out for being “porno” underneath her armor – presumably because she has a pretty face and a nice rack. If being pretty and/or having nice boobs automatically makes somebody slutty, well…I know a lot of sluts.

Edit: From what I understand, Metroid: Other M really did a number on poor Samus, reducing her to some sort of simpering idiot. That's really unfortunate, but it doesn't negate any of the above statements. One shitty story can't erase 25 years of badassery.

Elika – Prince of Persia (2008)
Last, but certainly not least is my creepy girl-crush, Elika. Despite being considered a supporting character, Elika was really the heart of PoP’s story: Gorgeous, smart, charming, and fully-clothed (except for her feet, but whatever), this priestess is seriously made of win, I tell you! By talking to her at every opportunity, the player is given massive amounts of background information about her, her family, the scenery, and the villains you face off against throughout the game. Another nice touch is the role-reversal that goes on in PoP: more often than not, Elika is the one doing all of the saving, because her magical powers give her one hell of an advantage over the sword-wielding Prince, who is just sort of along for the ride. I wish Ubisoft would release the next installment in this particular Prince of Persia series simply so I can swoon over this chick some more. Okay, well, that, and I really, really want to know what happens next! Stupid cliff-hanger endings...

I'm sure that I'm supposed to say something well thought-out to bring this to a close, but that doesn't seem to be my strong suit lately. Instead, I'm going to grab a nap and hope that there aren't too many cursors hovering over that "unfollow" button over there...

3 comments (+add yours?)

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Metroid needs to be bumped up, and where's Anya????

thelexhex said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Oh, these are in no particular order; also, this is the list that I compiled off the top of my head the moment I was asked to name the ten characters. Anya is one of many who also deserves some recognition (especially since she'll be manning up for Gears 3).

sketchingdragon said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I really like what you wrote here. I think more people should play more video games like you do! lol
Another character that would fit the bill here would be Aya Brea from Parasite Eve, or even Rutee from Tales of Destiny.
And hey, even Gwendolyn from Odin Sphere makes a good strong woman too!

Btw, I'm glad I'm not the only that doesn't like Dissidia's version of Tina. >=T

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