Girl in the Machine
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
The Scale of RPG Heroines II

Part Two

Welcome to a special three part series on heroines in role playing games. We’ll be exploring the high and low points together, hopefully appreciating the humor and seriousness that each candidate has to offer. Keep in mind that this is a scale, not a “top ten” list. For example, Yuna's place in the ten spot indicates that she’s not exactly our role model here. Our mysterious woman in the number one spot is, by contrast, a video game messiah and everything you could ever hope your children might be.

Let’s not take ourselves too seriously, okay?

7. Karin
Karin may not be the lead character of Shadow Hearts: Covenant, but you do begin the game playing as her (Yuri doesn’t even appear until after an hour or so of game play!). From the beginning, we become aware of Karin’s most noteworthy accomplishment; she has risen in the ranks of the German army during 1915—not an easy task for a woman in any era! She is also the only female leader we see in the game (Veronica serves Rasputin, Anastasia is too young to lead Russia). She is a competent fighter wielding her rapier in battle, and she utilizes crest graphs with equal ease.

Sadly, like many of her fellow heroines, Karin falls victim to “I’m in love with the hero” syndrome. She’s hooked on Yuri. Never mind that the ambiguous ending suggests incest… it just leaves me wondering if she would have been as dedicated to saving the world if, say, Gepetto were the leading male. Also, Karin seems to lose it at inappropriate times, especially considering her status within the German military. That and her teeny-tiny refurbished puppet cloths are not “adventure appropriate.” Don’t even get me started on her bonus costume, which is actually even less than she normally wears. Damn micro-miniskirts.

6. Peach
Peach appears in multiple games, series, and genres—we’ve seen her in side-scrollers, RPGs, sports games, racing games, and fighters. She can play tennis, golf, drive a go-kart, fight with a frying pan, levitate in midair, and all sorts of wondrous things.

With her collection of games comes a vast array of portrayals. For example, the competent princess in Super Mario RPG stands in stark contrast to the bimbo from Super Smash Bros. Melee—I can hear her voice ascending in pitch with every word as she gasps, screeching, “Did I… wiiin?” Moments like these present a degree of saccharine sweetness that could kill diabetic players. It’s not the sweetness and niceness that’s the problem; however, hyper-sweetness contributes to fluffy, empty-headed stereotypes which rarely become applied to males.

Of course, being burdened with the princess archetype, Peach gets captured a little too often and usually has to be rescued by Mario. At the same time, during other games she offers invaluable aid to Mario throughout his quests.

Peach represents the standard because of all the different portrayals of her. She’s a fulcrum for the scale because we can’t point to a single game and say, “This is Peach.”

5. Lin
A competent officer within the rebellious Trinity organization, Lin was trusted with mission to obtain Nina from the BioCorp labs. She represents a well rounded character with a sense of loyalty to her organization, a realistic fear that the sky no longer exists, and compassion for genics like Nina. She aids Ryu in taking Nina to the surface world, opening access to a place those in the underground considered a mere myth.

For me, Lin has no particularly bad points. Her placement here in the middle of the scale is largely due to the nature of Breath of Fire IV: Dragon Quarter and her supporting role within the game. Because character development is spread out between occasional cut scenes at the beginning and end of the dungeons, we only have a few glimpses of Lin and her hopes, fears, and motivations. This problem is compounded by the fact that Dragon Quarter has a huge cast of characters. While we simply don’t know Lin that well, she still represent a balanced character with the potential to become someone great.

4. Koudelka

Koudelka may present a hardened exterior to her allies, but she began her adventure in response to the call of a stranger in need. During her quest through the Nematon Monastary, she liberates the souls of the damned and puts angry spirits to rest. Even after her story is completed, she aids Yuri from a distance throughout the majority of Shadow Hearts. Particularly strong willed and independent for a woman in 1898, she is also the active leader of her group of adventurers.

One strike against Koudelka comes from looking like goth Karin… Just kidding! But it’s eerie, isn’t it? Just like Karin, though, Koudelka is dressed poorly for an adventure with her short leather skirt and lacy bustier. Bad choices, Koudelka.

Also, I feel as though in an effort to make a strong lead female, the game designers wanted to move away from a hyper-feminine heroine, resulting in an occasionally angry, heartless Koudelka. For me, the upside is that it’s refreshing to see a heroine stepping out of her usual roles.

Each woman’s placement on this list was a collaboration between BomberGirl, PlasmaRit, and me. The highly subjective opinions, however, are mine alone. If you just can’t accept what I said about your precious idol, I regret to inform you that my opinion probably won’t change. Sorry. But feel free to defend your favorites or bring up points I forgot in the comments section! See you next week to discuss our top three!

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