Monthly Archives: May 2012

Skullgirls (Part 4 of 4)

We’re writing a second post this week because we fell a bit behind last weekend and we’d like to catch up. First, since we finished the last post a little bit ago, our wife got a Major Award from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Library and Information Science! She received the Valmai Fenster Award for Outstanding Promise of Exceptional Scholarly Contribution to the Profession for a paper she wrote called Wisconsin School for Girls Inmate Record Books: Trust in Custodianship through Redacted Digitization of Records and User Agreement Forms. That is the longest award name/paper name combination in history. Good work sweetheart!

Onward to the last of the Skullgirls:

Peacock: Murder-Go-Round

Peacock is another character like Parasoul who seems to be a female character’s body with lots of masculine traits in, although in Peacock’s case it was drilled into when she received her bizarre exoskeleton the anti-Skullgirl lab. Those things on her arms are her eyes, and the two holes in her head are just expressionless pits. When you know that, her 1920’s style is suddenly less cute.

Back to masculine things about Peacock, let’s list them:

  • Her name, Peacock, is the male of the species known as peafowl. The female is the peahen. When they have relations, they create peachicks. Our wife’s aunt and uncle had several peafowl on their farm a couple of years ago. They all wandered into death at the hands of various predators and things. So that’s a nice story about peafowl.
  • One of her blockbusters actually turns her into Argus, the Laser Death Ray Peacock.
  • She commands a gang of sentient male bombs, anvils, and knives to kill her opponents.
  • She has a stereotypically male need to get back to watching her television throughout her story.
  • One of her moves has her grounding a cigar on her opponent. Her victory pose has her puffing a cigar. Cigars are usually manly in popular media.
  • Her teeth are a bear trap, just like Jaws of James Bond fame. I like Moonraker because he hooks up with a homicidal girl scout. Maybe he didn’t have a bear trap for teeth, but close enough.
  • She’s wearing a top hat.

Top hats are gentlemanly unless you’re a lady in a cabaret. Peacock is not a lady in a cabaret.

So really, the only things that are remotely feminine about Peacock are her nondescript bow/dress combo. If we had to argue with anyone about how the creators of Skullgirls are pervy because their cast is all girls, we could legitimately argue that Peacock may as well be the one male member of the cast.

Valentine: Bloody Romantic

In the interest of full disclosure, we would like to say that Valentine is the character that we use when we play Skullgirls. We would like to say that it is because of her phenomenal mobility and rush down skills (which it was in part), but we can’t go around saying that the boobs and the hack saw had nothing to do with it.

We’re not going to spend any time arguing that Valentine is not a sex object. She clearly is! Just look at this ridiculous cut scene pose she uses:

The spriter’s resource has this jpg listed as “sexy-seductive”. The spriter’s resource is not a place where the words “sexy” and “seductive” are often used. The fact that she is a sexy fetish nurse with a hacksaw and a habit of saying things like “Tell me where it hurts” could have derailed our entire argument that Skullgirls is not sexist-awful-time. Jeez louise, when she wins, she bends over and a thermometer tips out of her cleavage and explodes. So allow us to list off a few reasons that we don’t see her as a problem and then tie them together:

  • She is Absurdly Sexualized to a degree that the other characters don’t even begin to approach. This, combined with her constant innuendos and that silly exploding thermometer, leads us to believe that she was made the way she is very purposefully. Tiny nurse outfit and all.
  • She borrows her fighting stance and run animation from one of the most overtly sexual fighting game characters in history, Mai Shiranui of the King of Fighters. That includes the rhythmic boob jiggle.
  • She is one of the two “evil” characters in the game, the other being Double, the sexy nun/tentacle monster. As we all know from horror movies, sex will get you killed.
  • Valentine is a Sexy Nurse Ninja. You might remember from our blog about Rachel’s anti-sex status in NGS that distraction in a fast paced video game kills people. Again, sex will get you killed.

So to wrap up, Valentine is a commentary on modern sexuality in fighting games just like Double was. She is sexual to the point of parody to point out the absurdity of this kind of sexuality in a game like this. She’s simply ridiculous, and her obvious influence from Mai shows that Valentine’s creation was very self aware. In other words, sex in the fighting game genre is silly, and everyone should be aware of this.

The alignment of overt sexuality with evil hails back to the femme fatales of Classical Hollywood cinema, which is of course a strong reference point for Skullgirls as a whole. Outrageous sex was objectionable in culture in the 40s and 50s, and it’s bad in this game as part of it’s homage to film noir. Where Rita Hayworth’s performance in Gilda would be pretty tame today, it was blush-worthy in the 40’s. In that vein, Valentine is here to make you feel uncomfortable with her boobs and then cut you up with her hacksaw.

So that’s all 8 characters!

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Skullgirls (Part 3 of 4)

Friends, this has been a terrible week for video game playing. We have played one hour of Ninja Gaiden Sigma missions and that’s it. However, we did watch most of Death Wish 4: The Crackdown and Death Wish 5: The Face of Death with our sister, so there’s that. Both of those movies star Charles Bronson, and he is just great.

Charles Bronson doesn’t mess.

On to the Skullgirls characters:

Painwheel: Not Quite Condemned

We’re not going to spend any time here wondering about whether Painwheel is a sex object. If she is a sex object for you, you are in to some pretty heavy BDSM type fun, and our paltry blog post won’t change your mind about things. Instead, let’s talk about what she is:

She is the other in this game. You might think that Double would be another other *ha*, but as we went through a couple of weeks ago, we contend that she is an amalgamation of all of the time males spend watching the cartoon boobs in this game rather than playing. Painwheel is an other in the spirit of Blanka from the Street Fighter series, a “monstrous” character who doesn’t really register on a feminine/masculine spectrum.

That is to say, her body isn’t remotely sexual in a traditional sense. For heaven’s sake, she has nails sticking out. No one should be having relations if they’re stuck with nails.

Let’s say for a moment that you are playing Skullgirls and you are a person who picks their character based on how you feel you relate to them. If you don’t feel comfortable with the feminine Parasoul or Valentine or the (about as) masculine (as it gets in this game) Cerebella or Peacock, you rip people apart with Painwheel. She fills an asexual spot right in the middle, where no one has relations with you because you have nails in. Or the spot where a girl in a rape-revenge movie might occupy.

In terms of her storyline, she is a fairly typical rape-revenge female character. She’s kidnapped and experimented on and then she escapes to turn around and kill her captors. Also, they nailed those nails into her, so there’s the implications that arise from that. There’s more to her story, but those are the important bits. Further, like any rape-revenge protagonist, she has to adopt some masculine traits to exact her vengeance. Those masculine traits manifest themselves in how she fights, so let’s look at that.

Painwheel stabs and cuts her opponents with her various knives and retractable fingernails. Like Cerebella’s horns, this is some serious acquired masculinity. With all of her moves, she penetrates her opponents like her captors penetrated her body with those nails that she still has sticking out. Here’s a combo video so you can see all the slashing and stabbing:

In our view, it’s a very clever bit of character design to have slid this homage to 70’s horror into this game so subtly. That’s something we can appreciate.

Laurie Strode! She acquires a coat hanger and a knife to fend off Michael Meyers.

Parasoul: Crown Princess

We adore Parasouls flats. Let’s get that out of the way first so we don’t get distracted later.

Parasoul is another character in this game who is really good looking in a traditional cartoon character sort of way. Her sweater can hardly hold her enormous rack in place and the player gets quite a few panty shots thanks to her impractically short skirt. So her character design doesn’t do much for her lady empowerment skills, but let’s look at the rest of her parts.

In the story, she is a princess and the commander of an elite military squad called the Black Egrets. She has inputs that have the Egrets drag her enemies around with a motorcycle, jump in front of enemy projectiles, and mow her enemies down in a hail of deadly gunfire.

When she is actually doing the fighting, she exudes class. That’s because she fences with her sentient umbrella, and that is classy. We would like to share a one sentence story with a two sentence reflection now:

A relation of ours once showed us a piece from her walking cane collection that was actually a sword. Ever since then, people who fight with umbrellas and canes have been the epitome of class for us. So we might personally biased in writing about classiness, and we’ll just throw the classiness argument out so that we don’t lose our credibility.

Back to Parasoul, she fences with a living umbrella, commands an army, shoots a luger, and throws napalm bombs at her opponents. In other words, she’s a 40’s gentleman fighting with a dash of 60’s technology in a busty teenage girl’s body. We would like to compare this situation to The Hot Chick starring Rob Schneider. Did you ever see The Hot Chick starring Rob Schneider? Nothing about that movie was sexy.

SO BAD. We actually had to watch it for a film class in college.

Skullgirls (Part 2 of 4)

We shall continue with our look at the characters of Skullgirls in a few ticks, but first, three things of import:

  1. We have defeated Ninja Gaiden Sigma on Hard Mode this week and are now working on a Very Hard Mode run, a Hard Mode no-potions-or-Ninpo run and getting through all of the Missions on Hard Mode. We have found that this is the best way to get through really hard things in video games. Having several projects going concurrently allows one to try something else if a task is proving to be too frustrating.
  2. We had a terribly embarrassing episode on the third of May. After fighting through a particularly difficult portion of Ninja Gaiden Sigma, we navigated our avatar right off the edge of the play area into a pit. He just walked right off! We watched as it happened, and it made us very sad. Then, we had to go make SIX ATTEMPTS before we finally got through the enemy infested area outside of the Vigoor Emperor’s palace again. We suppose it was worse if you were there in the stuffy little bedroom where we sleep at night, but it was SO FRUSTRATING AND SWEATY IN THERE.
  3. We watched a movie called Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade on Netflix last night about the video game championship at the the Twin Galaxies arcade in Ottumwa, IA in 1982. It did not paint a good picture of people who play video games. All of the participants have turned into middle aged video game player stereotypes. There was a good deal of negative-commentary-through-editing-techniques.  One of them runs a shitty little strip club/gambling den out of his neon lit apartment. Also, they’re all either cat or tarantula people. So there’s that. If you enjoy playing video games and you want to give yourself a reason to eat a Kentucky Fried Chicken Famous Bowl and stare into the middle distance, watch this movie. Maybe we’ll go into more depth on this at a later time.

Now on to Skullgirls. Once again, clicking on the character name will take you to the official character trailer which will give you a bit of an idea of how the character plays. Two-more-characters-awesome-time:

Filia: Femme Fatale

Filia

Filia is a pixie-type character who’s strength is rushing down opponents and using her hair to create mix-ups and cross-ups to make the opponent guess how to block. She is an amnesiac school girl who has a parasite named Samson for hair. You know, like the strong hair guy in the Bible. Like with Cerebella, it’s easy to see how you could assume that she’s just another sex object with her school girl uniform and supple thigh combination. However, these are directly contrasted by her shoes (So blocky!), her hands (Such man hands! We’d hate to see her eat lobster.) and her hair. Let’s talk about her hair and why it’s important:

If you choose Filia as your character, you will quickly discover that you are actually playing as Samson, her hair. He’s a stringy little black fellow who eats people. All of Filia’s attacks, which have adorable names like Chompadour and Hair Ball, are Samson turning into some barber shop implement and stabbing, cutting, or eating the opponent.

Apart from attacking, Samson also does almost all of the in-fight-talking for Filia in contrast to the other characters who do their own talking. They just say cutesy little things when they block or get hit, but it’s definitely noticeable the first time you use her. Finally, when Filia strikes her win pose, Samson goes into a humanoid form and stands with his arms crossed while Filia flaps in the wind as though she is his hair.

We can see an argument that Filia is a sexist character since she doesn’t do her own fighting, but we think that’s stretching things pretty thin. Filia still plays an important part in battle because she is Samson’s means of movement around the screen with the exception of their forward dash. So really, we would make the argument that they’re more of a team. Men and women working together for the Greater Good and all that. In a world obsessed with fixing a gender to everything, Filia breaks the mold and lets the player to engage in a fluid sexuality as they move around the screen as Filia and attack as Samson.

In conclusion, if you play as Filia, you’re not just playing as an adorable little school girl. You’re playing as an adorable little school girl and a carnivorous hair monster. That’s not sexy.

Ms. Fortune: Purrfect Treasure

Ms. Fortune (HA! This makes us smile every time) is a cat girl with underboob and a collar, so she has several sexismdar strikes against her right off the bat. Once again, it’s her gimmick that sets her apart and saves her from pure sex objectdom. She is actually undead and  has been chopped into several pieces. This allows her to remove her head and use it as a second character with it’s own set of attacks and movement options. It even has it’s own adorable command grab!

She’s a really fun and silly character, yet you really can’t pick her up and play with her without knowing what you’re getting into. Controlling the head and body at the same time requires some advanced techniques like negative edging that take some time in the training room to perfect.

It is her character design’s fusion of popular culture tropes that save her from being a sex object. She’s undead AND her head comes off AND she’s a cat girl AND she has underboob, which pushes her into a realm of pop culture ridiculosity that negates a lot of her sex appeal. More than any other character, she’s a parody of the problems that video game developers seem to have with creating credible female fighting game characters. The developer’s apparent self awareness with Ms. Fortune’s design does a lot to legitimize her.

Also, she yells out Furserker Purrage during one of her Blockbuster moves, which is just the cutest.

So that’s part two of our Skullgirls series thing. Come back later for the third part!

Further Reading:
Wikipedia’s fighting game glossary