Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Pixelated Boob by Any Other Name

A preface: This does start out being just about video games, but eventually I get to boobs. Video game boobs, to be specific, but boobs all the same.

Way back when, I put up a post here on name oddities in video games. No, not that one. I mean the one about how three of the bosses from Street Fighter II exchanged names when Capcom translated the game for English-speaking audiences. It’s never been explained officially, as far as I know, but I agree with the notion that Capcom wanted to avoid possible lawsuits resulting from similarities between one of these boss characters, an African-American boxer named M. Bison, and the real-life African-American boxer Mike Tyson. (Really, would you want to enrage the guy?) Given that the original Japanese version had already recorded the voice samples — particularly those of the announcer, who would say things like “M. Bison wins!” or “Such and Such a Character versus M. Bison!” — it was easier to just shift the names so that M. Bison became Balrog (appropriate for a bruiser), Balrog became Vega (appropriate for the guy from Spain), and Vega became M. Bison (kind of a lame name, really, for the game’s big bad).

Back in the day, Street Fighter II “inspired” a whole host of similar games featuring combatants from many lands competing in globe-crossing martial arts tournaments. One of these has been rattling around in my memory for years, only vaguely recalled from the days little me used to play it at a pizza place where I grew up. This game was one of the paler Street Fighter II imitations, to be sure. The only clear memory I had of it was the presence of a scantily clad female fighter from Egypt stuck with the odd name Chaos. I finally Googled her and found that the title of the game was Martial Champion, which, it should be noted, is a pretty lame title for anything. Chaos, however, was there — indeed looking petty darn Egyptian, if because she was wearing a sexy Halloween version of a pharaoh costume instead of anything an actual Egyptian person would wear.

image credit: system 16

And here she is taking on the other female fighter, Rachael, your all-American girl-next-door who also happens to be ninja.

image credit: system 16

In the above image, they’re fighting on Chaos’s stage, which like Chaos herself looks stereotypically Egyptian. Why then, I wondered as a kid and wondered again now, is her name Chaos? Reading the Wikipedia page for Marital Champion, however, I found out. And the reasoning is similar to what prompted Capcom to switch around its Street Fighter II character names. What I didn’t remember about the game’s line-up of playable characters is that it also included a Chinese fighter — that special kind of hopping Chinese vampire, it turns out, even though I wouldn’t have known what one was at the time — who was saddled with the equally improbable name of Titi. In the Japanese version of the game, Chaos and Titi’s names were reversed, with Titi being a very sensible name for an Egyptian princess whose full name might be Nefertiti. and Chaos befitting the evil dude. But why the stateside switch? I presume the names ended up how they did in the international versions of Martial Champion simply because they didn’t want a lady fighter to have a name that would read similar to titty. Thus, the Egyptian princess got stuck with the name Chaos, for no apparent reason, and the freaky chaotic vampire got Titi. I suppose the vampire should have been happy that Titi wasn’t named Melonie, Busomania, or Princess Sweatercows.

So that theoretically explains that. But odd, isn’t it, that a scantily clad character can show her assets but not have a name that reflects those assets? I’d say that titty is an inappropriate enough word that the company that created this game, Konami, would have wanted to avoid the association, even if the name still does exist in the game, now attached to a male character. Still, it’s an odd notion that the mention of a slang term for breasts would somehow be worse than, say, the expanse of cleavage being revealed by Martial Champion’s other female character, Rachael. Practically no one remembers this game and the characters therein, so any strangeness perceived in Chaos, Titi and Rachael is pretty much a moot point. However, these are issues that persist in video games even today: the seemingly inexplicable name change thing, sure, but more importantly the odd issues of censorship, the whole “You thought this had to be removed but you let this slide?” thing.

One more bit about Martial Champion before I never mention it again: Aside from the Chaos/Titi confusion, the game’s English version seems to have been further doomed by a terrible U.S. marketing campaign. How unappealing — much less inappropriate to the look of the game — is the Martial Champion arcade flyer?

Holy Christ, that’s awful — as seemingly trying to piggyback on the success of Mortal Kombat, with its digitized life action fighters. Way to make a rip-off even more derivative, Konami.

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