Soulcalibur IV – A tale of blades and boobs eternally retold

As a brief prelude, I dont have a huge problem with arguably sexualised videogame characters, especially when it comes to fighters. Both the men and women tend to be scantily clad and in perfect physical condition and thats largely fine with me, though some games are a little too prurient for my liking e.g. Rumble Roses XX. When the characters are sexualised too a point thats distracting to the gameplay or in place of the gameplay then I have a problem (also I spent fucking ages uploading all the various images to imageshack through its shitty interface so click on the links you ungrateful bastards). Anyway on with the show.

So Soulcalibur IV is out in two months, well technically three months as europe gets it August 1st as opposed to July 29th. So far Ive been largely ignoring all leaked media and news about it. Way back at the beginning when it was announced that Yoda would be in the 360 version and Vader in the PS3 version I figured I had all the information I needed. But it has reached my delicate little earlobes that more new characters are being added, and as I do like the new characters I decided to check it out.

What I found out was pretty exciting (to me anyway) there are nine new characters in total (eight per platform due to the yoda/vader split) and of these seven new characters five have been designed by famous mangaka. The first of the new characters is Angol Fear, designed by Mine Yoshizaki most famous for Sgt. Frog. The second is Ashlotte designed by Oh! Great, famous for Air Gear and Tenjho Tenge. Two series which I enjoyed in both manga and anime form, I really like his design work and I like the looks of Ashlotte. Third is Scheherazade designed by Yutaka Izubuchi, most famous for his mechanical designs and as the creator of the excellent RahXephon (and the Protect-Gear from Jin-Roh). I have to say I would have much preferred something akin to the protect-gear. Fourth is Shura designed by Hiroya Oku, most famous for creating Gantz (which I have just read 272 chapters off), I like the design even if I find her thong distracting. The last of the bonus characters is Kamikirimusi, designed by Hirokazu Hisayuki who’s worked as a character designer on stuff like My-Otome,My-Hime and Queens Blade as well as doing animation direction for the likes of Escaflowne and Outlaw Star. She’s probably my favourite of the lot and looks the coolest in game. Then we have Hilde, designed in house and possibly the most sensibly dressed Soulcalibur female character ever. The other “proper” addition to the series is Algol, who is posing pouch-tastic. The remaining three “Guest Characters” are the aforementioned Darth Vader and Yoda along with The Apprentice.

Now what my more astute readers may have realised is that the majority of these ladies are “well developed” in the chest region, and also clearly not shy about revealing their flesh. Possibly not a huge problem, but it does seem a little much to me, let me provide some evidence via screen-shot – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. This was meant to be the end of this “Brief thought’s on soulcalibur IV”, but tragically it spurred me on to examine the history of the Soul-series’ treatment and design of female characters. This follows below, preceded by a paragraph containing my thoughts on Soulcalibur IV’s gameplay.

From a gameplay perspective things look interesting for Soulcalibur IV, theres an armour break system, which also appears to have bits actually break off the models (god help the scantily dressed women, shades of Battle Raper II there). There’s also new “Critical Strike” moves added which seem reminiscent of Guitly Gear’s Instant Kill’s, though not quite as bizzare or difficult to pull off. Basically uber-unblockable from the look of it, hopefully there as easy to dodge as unblockables. On the downside create a character mode returns, it was complete balls in Soulcalibur III so Im leery of how its going to work in four. Hopefully its not the unbalanced mess it once was. There’s also the issue of Vader and Yoda who have their own special force powers and Namco have basically said that they wont be balanced with the rest of the cast, which makes them ok for very basic casual play only. Bit of a waste perhaps.

I suppose the female character design mentioned above is nothing really new from the Soulcalibur franchise as even back in the very first game (Soulblade/edge) we had the well endowed Taki (and from the front) in her skin tight clothes, Sophitia in her mini-skirt and Seung-Mina in her little two piece. Actually the hardest secret character to unlock in that game was Sophitia in a swimsuit. The first game had a 8:3 Male:Female ratio. Soulcalibur added ten new characters, brining the ratio up to 14:5 and adding the extremely scantily clad Ivy and the more modestly clothed Xianghua. It was also the game where Taki’s nipples became more obvious, a trend that continues through the rest of the games. Soulcalibur also had an “easter egg” whereby one could determine the colour of Sophitia’s and Seung Mina’s panties depending on what button combination was used during character selection.

Soulcalibur II began the practice of platform exclusive special characters, Heihachi Mishima for the PS2, Link for the Gamecube and Spawn for the Xbox. It also added Cassandra, Talim, Yunsung and Raphael which brought the Male:Female ratio to 16:7. Soulcalbiur II also saw a huge increase in breast size for Taki and Ivy, as well as large nipples in both concpet art and in game models (Taki’s P1 costume was also left little to the imagination in the area of her nether regions). Soulcalibur III added Setsuka, Tira, Amy and Zasalamel. It also had a huge pile of “bonus characters” the majority of whom were unbalanced shite. All together it brings the ratio to 26:16, again in favour of Male:Female. Apart from Amy being of creepily indeterminate age, the only “fan-service” new female character would be Tira (well her and the sexy fighting maid bonus characters Valeria and Lynette). Ivy’s breast’s got even bigger in SC III, though her costume was slightly more concealing.

Soulcalibur IV adds new characters as mentioned above, altogether it brings the Male:Female ratio to 18:16 or 17:16 if you only count one of the platform exclusives. This is the first Soulcalibur game in which the ratio has been in anyway close. Obviously feeling the pressure of this the designers decided that all the ladies needed another round of breast enlargements. First on the surgeon’s table was Sophitia, here’s her SC III design and now she’s back in SC IV with an impressive increase in cup size and an arguably more revealing costume. Despite the claims of medical science that it was impossible both Taki (SC III / SC IV) and Ivy (SC III / SC IV) are sporting larger breasts than their SC III counterparts (and Ivy has even less clothing). Setsuka probably “enjoys” the largest breast transformation, going from this in SC III to this (variation of her old P2 costume) in SC IV. The rest of the female cast have to satisfy themselves with similar sized breasts and costume changes. Cassandra trades in her tights and skirt (here) for thigh length leather boots and black panties (here). Xinaghua gets rid of those constricting clothes (here), opting instead for tiny skin tight shorts and a belly top (here). In a move designed to please paedophiles (and Matt) Talim goes from being actually clothed (here) to wearing a bra and see-through trousers (here) and also getting magically younger. Seong Mi-na decides that she needs to show a little more flesh and add’s a bizzare cut to her top (SC III / SC IV). Amy get’s more goth lolita but no less dodgy and Tira gets a new dye-job and bra. Oh and if anyone’s thinking “Well its just concept art its not representative of whats going to be in the game”, here’s a comparison between Ivy’s concept art and her cg art.

I suppose there should be some kind of conclusion here, but I’ll leave that up to the reader. I was personally a little surprised at the design trends in the Soul franchise but what I feel is more remarkable is that it is not commonly derided for being all about the “hawt chickz”, which say, the Dead or Alive franchise usually is. This may be down to the fact that the Soulcalibur games are generally decent enough fighters while the DOA games are often not, it may also be down to the fact that until the most recent games female characters have been in the minority so people didnt notice. It will be interesting after the game comes out to see what kind of commentary the female character designs will generate.

Listening to: Christy Moore - Vive La Quinte Brigada

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