Girl in the Machine
Monday, April 14, 2008
The Horror Heroine Effectiveness Scale, Part 2

(Check out Part 1 of the scale! Do it now!)

How it works: For the next few weeks, I'll be serving up two rankings every Monday. Since this is a scale, we'll be going from number 10 -- the absolutely least effective Survival Horror heroine out there -- all the way to number 1 -- the greatest of the great.

8. Alyssa Hamilton

Appears In: Clock Tower 3 (PS2, 2003)
Horror Effectiveness: Hysterically Inept
Rationale: It was difficult picking among the various and sundry Clock Tower protagonists, but in the end I felt that Ms. Hamilton was a little more deserving. Alyssa's stupidity may perhaps be best defined by her very first action of the game: while away at boarding school, she receives a letter from her mother warning her to stay away from the family mansion. Apparently, her mother's aim was to send her away until after her fifteenth birthday to keep her out of harm. Now that Mom's missing and it's mere days before Alyssa's fifteenth birthday, our plucky heroine decides it's time . . . to return to the family mansion. By herself. Days before her fifteenth birthday. Way to score those intelligence points, champ.

From there, Alyssa's time-traveling, ghost-pacifying, and Magical Girl archery exploits more than showcase what she's truly made of. A cornerstone of Clock Tower gameplay is squealingly running away from big dudes who want to kill you, and Alyssa does mostly this, and if she's so much as lightly breathed upon by one of her adversaries she undergoes Panic Mode. In this state of mind, our brave protagonist goes into utter hysterics, flailing about this way and that with blurry vision, stumbling all over the place on rubbery legs, and crashing into shit. It's a wonder she stays alive at all.

But stay alive she does. I have to give her credit here for being able to fight back. Her pursuers are about thirty times as incompetent as she is. You'd think charging around and hauling huge weapons of bloody annihilation would give them the edge, but, time and time again, this skinny little teenager bests them in what could be best described as wacky pranks. For example, there's a puddle on the ground. Alyssa flips a switch. A bumbling serial killer steps in said puddle and gets a nasty little shock. Congratulations, you're in a Looney Tunes short!

And while I'm glad that Alyssa can more or less hold her own in boss fights, the Magical Girl archery aspect of it leaves much to be desired.

The Bottom Line: If you were carousing through the bombed streets of London with her, you'd be better off wrestling the disgruntled ghosts with your bare hands.

7. Miku Hinasaki

Appears In: Fatal Frame (PS2, 2001), Fatal Frame III (PS2, 2005)
Horror Effectiveness: Understandably Petrified
Rationale: Due to the cookie-cutter nature of Fatal Frame protagonists, it's safe to say that Miku represents her fellow spectral photographers as a whole. The Fatal Frame series has been a favorite of mine for years now, and I still think that the first game ranks as one of the most terrifying gaming experiences of all time. Fatal Frame's success rests in its skin-crawling atmosphere, part of which owes a lot to protagonist Miku's scared-stiff countenance throughout. She's understandably petrified, navigating the bloody halls of the Himuro Mansion with nothing but a spectral camera to defend her, whimpering and trembling through every cutscene, and all the while as the player you know that, even though you're low on film and there's three ghosts chasing you and they have gouged-out eyes and they're screaming, "My eeeyeees, my eeeeyyeeees," you can't. Run. Away. The fuckers will chase you all over the mansion.

Ooh, goosebumps! That's the core of it, though. I like Miku. She has a lot going for her that many female horror protagonists don't: she went to the mansion intentionally to rescue her missing brother instead of just tripping upon it or getting kidnapped; despite being scared out of her wits she has the capability and the willpower to fight back; and she never crumbles in shuffling panic when things get out of hand.

Miku rounds off the "Incompetent to Not-as-Skilled" end of our scale quite nicely. Though she does fight back, she finds the Camera Obscura completely by accident, rendering her completely helpless if otherwise. And though she takes up much of her time in the game whimpering and quaking in her schoolgirl skirt, it feels realistic rather than comical and degrading (see also: Panic Mode).

The Bottom Line: If you were exploring the gory underbelly of a haunted old mansion with her, you'd best stick close and ask for doubles of the cool pictures she takes.

That's all for now! Please check back next Monday for part 3 of the Horror Heroine Effectiveness Scale!

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