To answer a question from yesterday’s comments section, I never did get around to playing Blazblue. I really need to rectify that. So if there’s anything on the list you completely disagree with, pretend that if I were to get around to playing through Blazblue, I’d put it in that spot instead. Everybody’s happy.
Now back to the list.
10) Lee Chaolan: The Good Son
Tekken’s core storyline is about the world’s most dysfunctional family. Four generations of the Mishima clan beating the shit out of each other. It mainly started with Heihachi Mishima throwing his son Kazuya off a cliff as a training exercise. Kazuya survived by allowing his body to become host to a demonic entity and returned years later to exact his revenge. While the CGI endings for the first Tekken are hilariously dated in appearance, I always enjoyed the big twist in Kazuya’s. By all means, he should be the hero in this situation. He’s a pretty generic design and his father is evil and wronged him, so he should in response be a good guy. So he picks up his father, carries him in his arms while walking forward… then drops him off a cliff before giving an evil smile to the camera. Love it.
At the same time, if Kazuya was to come off as a hero on paper, Lee Chaolan should have been a villain (and he was in the anime, but that’s neither here nor there). Lee was adopted by Heihachi for the intent purpose of making Kazuya jealous and driving him to be better. After the first game, Kazuya takes over Heihachi’s criminal organization, the Tekken Zaibatsu, and makes Lee his underling. Lee hates what his life had become, forced to work for his despised brother and realizes that all his life, he’s been used as nothing but a pawn. After Heihachi comes back to retake the throne, Lee slips away and lays low for several decades. During this time, it’s speculated that the Tekken 3 boss Ogre found and killed him. Luckily, that wasn’t the case.
The fourth tournament is headed by Heihachi once again and a mysterious entrant named Violet shows up. Late into the tournament, he reveals himself to be Lee. Over the years, he decided to let his grievances be, since Heihachi’s old and near death anyway. He moved on to starting up his own robotics company and became a genius in the field. His entry into the tournament is more of a public relations ploy to show off his new Combot invention, albeit the idea of going after Heihachi is a plus. With the fifth tournament, he figures Kazuya to be behind it all, but it’s really put together by Heihachi’s father Jinpachi Mishima. Since Lee has no beef with Jinpache, he quits the tournament and gets on with his life.
Lee becomes a supporting character in Tekken 6′s campaign mode, an adventure that features a new hero Lars (yet another son of Heihachi) and his robot girl sidekick Alisa. Lee ends up helping out Lars, becoming one of the only characters who doesn’t take a swing at him. It makes sense when you consider that the two of them are sort of brothers and the two members of the family willing to righteously rebel against their father and the corrupt bloodline. He helps take down Kazuya and Jin Kazama’s organizations and promises to repay Lars by rebuilding the broken Alisa.
While Lee was a bit on the uninteresting side in the early games, his return to action led to him becoming one of the better comedy characters when need be. His endings for the last three games are all based on him casually demeaning Heihachi in humorous ways. He’ll also randomly appear in the background of other endings – usually the comedic ones – just to react with a smile and a thumbs up. He even gets a role in the newer animated Tekken: Blood Vengeance movie, where he plays an overly-optimistic goofball.
They really should just make the series about him.
9) The Death and Return of Zasalamel
The Soul Edge/Soul Calibur series started out well enough, but has fallen into a trap of spinning its wheels and not being able to come up with anything new. Every game is about how the Soul Edge sword was destroyed in the last game, only it’s still around for some reason and there appears to be more pieces of it somehow, so people start wandering around some more to either destroy it again or take all the power for themselves. Hell, Voldo’s been doing the same “leaves his home because his master’s ghost commands him to get the sword” thing since the first game.
Zasalamel has only been in two games so far, so his story hasn’t been so diluted. The scythe-wielding Zasalamel belonged to a tribe charged with protecting the enchanted sword Soul Calibur. One of the rules was that they were never to use the sword, even to protect it from invaders. Zasalamel thought this was dumb and his attitude got him kicked out. He dabbled in magic and mastered a spell that gave him immortality. Even when he dies, he’s simply reborn (rather painfully) and continues his existence. This started out pretty cool, but after untold years of life, he’s grown pretty damn tired of it and just wants it to end. Unfortunately, even getting killed by the Soul Edge wasn’t enough and he’s still kicking.
He acts as the puppet master of Soul Calibur 3, setting things up so he can gather the Soul Edge and Soul Calibur in one place and see if maybe the two of them together can fix his problem. He has two possible endings. One has him discover that even the two swords can’t help him and he almost deliriously becomes resigned to his pointless eternal existence. The other has him succeed, leading to him spending the rest of his life writing giant stacks of his memoirs. Neither of those endings occurred in-story, though. Instead, the power of the swords turns him into some kind of demonic entity called Abyss and he’s defeated by… whoever.
The release of energy that turns him back to normal causes him to glimpse the distant future – our present. He becomes intrigued and for the first time in years, wishes to see things through. His quest changes a complete 180. Instead of wanting the two swords to kill himself, he wants to keep others from gathering the power as it’s the only threat against him. While that’s the last we’ve heard from him, his Soul Calibur 4 ending shows him in wearing a suit and sunglasses, staring at the beauty of the modern horizon as a helicopter awaits behind him. We discover that he’s a billionaire businessman of some sort and has successfully led mankind to thrive, as is his destiny.
Would it kill to put Zasalamel in a Tekken game?
8) Mace: That Soul Edge Knockoff
Mace: The Dark Age
There’s a good chance the mention of Mace: The Dark Age has you scratching your head. If you happen to recognize it, chances are you owned a Nintendo 64 back when there existed little-to-no fighters for it. That’s my story, at least. Mace is a rather mediocre game from the 90′s that acts like a mix between Soul Calibur and Mortal Kombat. Like Soul Calibur, it’s a medieval setting dealing with a supreme weapon powered by Hell with everyone wanting a piece. It just happens to be a more metal version of the story. See, whenever anyone has the Soul Edge, they’re always just kind of wandering around, aimlessly smashing stuff until someone slays them. In Mace, the bad guy’s already won.
The Mace is possessed by Asmodeus, a big, red demon that rules Eurasia with an iron fist. For some reason he doesn’t actually WIELD the Mace, but he’s a huge sumbitch and looks pretty damn impressive for 1996, so I’ll let that slide. He feeds on suffering, so he makes sure there’s plenty going around the continents to spare. Answering to him is the Covenant of Seven, a grouping of corrupt leaders spread across the land. He plans to expand his rule more towards the orient and by this point, everyone is plotting against him. Most of the Covenant of Seven plan to move against Asmodeus to steal the Mace, whether it be by their own hands or the hands of hired assassins. Meanwhile, some heroic characters rise up against the oppression and there’s even a couple wild cards tossed in there.
The character designs are all over the place. Some are what you’d expect, like a sorceress, an evil knight (basically Sauron from Lord of the Rings), an Arabian assassin, samurais, ninja girl, a warrior monk and so on. Then you get stuff like a stone gargoyle, a hooded executioner with a rusty axe, a zombie crusader knight, a knight from Hell that looks like something Todd McFarlane cooked up, a dwarf in a steam-powered barrel mech and a giant chicken.
Each character has their own decent backstory to set them up. The endings, which are in text form, are just as strongly-written, but that’s not all we get. Getting a game over screen isn’t enough. We get a text ending based on your character’s utter failure. Instead of a simple “he lost and died”, pretty much everyone gets their own scenario where death probably would have been more welcome. Some face lifetime imprisonment. Some are tortured. Some are transformed in terrible ways. Some live out their lives in shame and hardship.
For instance, here’s Mordos Kull, a mercenary hired to take out Asmodeus. He also carries a morning star, which is like the best weapon ever. When he loses, this happens.
Defeated at his chosen profession, Mordos Kull leaves the battlefield with his confidence badly shaken and his morning star destroyed. No longer dependable in battle, Mordos attempts to find another means of support by working as a farmhand back in the hills of Italy. He soon discovers that Asmoedeus has fouled the soil so badly that the already poor farmers cannot give him food and shelter for the work he offers. Soon, the once great mercenary Mordos Kull is found staggering through the streets, begging for coins, a mere shell of his former self.
And when he wins, this happens.
Mordos has finally achieved his goal – destroying Asmodeus and the power structure that has ravaged the land for centuries. His parents were killed by Sir Dregan, one of the Covenant of Seven, when Kull was just a boy. He was taken in by a gypsy clan, who were then killed by Deimos’ mercenaries.
Hating the Seven and all they stood for, Kull realized the only way he could beat them was from the inside, gaining their trust as a mercenary until he could bring them down one by one.
Kull will now wield the Mace with wisdom, to rebuild the land to its former glory, and cast down the Seven and their despotic rule. In the hands of this wise and virtuous king, the Mace will be a powerful tool for good. Heroes are indeed found in the most unlikely places.
Also worth noting is that Pojo, the giant chicken, turns giant and bloodthirsty in her ending. She proceeds to tear apart villages in the dead of night and since nobody is able to get a good look at her, the tales of destruction lead to the creation of the dragon myth. How great is that?
7) Kim Kaphwan Has a Posse
King of Fighters
Kim Kaphwan was introduced in Fatal Fury 2, fitting in with the rest of the uninspired minor characters. Though fun to play as and with a good look and nice smile, Kim didn’t really have much going for him early on. His traits were that he was a good guy who really enjoyed taekwondo and had a family. Yeah, that was it. It wasn’t until King of Fighters ’94 that they started giving him some real personality.
Being that the game is about teams of three, they decided to make Kim the star of his. Rather than use existing Fatal Fury characters, they introduced the John Tenta-looking Chang Koehan and his midget Freddy Krueger buddy Choi Bounge. Chang and Choi were criminals, making names for themselves in the Korea underworld when Kim – lover of all that is justice – tracked them down and beat them to a pulp by himself. Rather than hand them over to the police, he decided that he’d take them under his wing as students. He’d train them in taekwondo and rehabilitate them whether they wanted it or not.
They enter many King of Fighters tournaments and there’s a funny evolution to it all. In the beginning, Chang and Choi absolutely hate Kim and what he stands for and are only in it for the prize money. Then it becomes a thing where all they want is to prove that they’re good so that he’ll let them free, as they’ve failed to escape many times over. Whenever Kim does let them go, they end up opening their big mouths about going back to crime and get reined in yet again.
By ’99, the two become resigned to the realization that they’ve actually become soft. Even if they were capable of killing Kim, it just isn’t in them anymore. Their release from Kim’s clutches doesn’t happen, though, as they aren’t the only ones who have changed. Kim has sort of gone off the deep end over time. Part of it is the inclusion of his longtime taekwondo rival Jhun Hoon – who Kim has gone on record in the latest game as saying is NOT his friend and he can’t understand why anyone would think of him as such. Kim’s become pretty petulant about his ideals to the point that it’s comedic and just a little disturbing. He went from warning bad guys that evil must be punished and getting into his fighting stance to instead leaning back and creepily pointing at them while his eyes glow and his face is covered in shadow. He’s started literal fights with Jhun over disagreements.
This comes to a head in King of Fighters XI (they dropped the yearly moniker by this point). Kim is on a team with Terry Bogard and a wacky breakdancer Duck King. During their ending, we see them in a bar with Kim angrily ranting about training and justice to anyone who will listen while Chang and Choi are embarrassed in the background. Some of Terry’s friends show up and with Chang and Choi joining them, they walk off to pain the town red… as they leave Kim alone by himself. Hours later, Kim’s still at it with many finished beers in front of him and a very annoyed bartender trying to get him to leave.
The Team Korea saga takes a rather inspired turn in King of Fighters XIII. Back in the early Fatal Fury games, they had a masked wrestler named Raiden (or Big Bear when he isn’t wearing a mask) and a Muay Thai expert Hwa Jai. They used to work for Geese Howard back in the day, but have long since gone straight. The problem is, they really want to enter the King of Fighters tournament, but don’t exactly rank high enough to qualify. Raiden wants to rebuild his rep and Hwa Jai wants a piece of the Muay Thai world champion Joe Higashi. Since they can’t get in the tournament themselves, they come up with a plan.
“Hey, Kim Kaphwan? We’ve been working for Geese Howard again. We’re kind of evil now.”
“What?! Unacceptable! I’m going to train you, rehabilitate you and force you to enter this year’s King of Fighters until you learn your lesson!”
By the time the tournament is ended, the two play up how much Kim’s taught them as he assesses how much they’ve changed. They cheese it and Kim takes out his frustrations on Chang and Choi – two guys who have long paid for their crimes – because they don’t compare to his model now-former students.
6) Akuma: Master of Fist
Starting out as a more mysterious figure in his early appearances, Akuma became a bit more fleshed out once Capcom started doing the Street Fighter Alpha series. His identity became more realized as a Darth Vader figure to Ryu.
Akuma is brother to Gouken, trained under the same master in Shotokan karate. The two had a falling out due to their respective beliefs on what makes a true warrior. Gouken believed in the purity of their style, but Akuma found that to be nothing more than weakness. It’s all about the power within one’s fist and if darkness and a lack of humanity is what it means to become stronger, then so be it, as one’s own strength is more important than anything else. Years later, Akuma would kill his own brother with the body discovered by Gouken’s student Ryu.
Akuma is inspired purely by his own drive for perfection and a mix between proving himself to be the most powerful fighter on Earth and the suicidal wish that someone would best him in battle. This is why he’s set his sights on Ryu, wishing to corrupt him so that he would follow in his footsteps instead of Gouken’s. The weird thing is, despite being one of the two main antagonists in the Street Fighter series, Akuma isn’t exactly evil. At least, not in the sense that we’d usually recognize. While he’s certainly not good, he’s more of a chaotic neutral character, having transcended the good vs. evil mentality.
He’s an outsider to society who lives under his own rules. He isn’t out for world domination or annihilation or anything like that and even though he’s killed many, he doesn’t do it purely out of spite and bloodlust. As part of his personal code, Akuma will only kill someone under three scenarios:
1) They’ve accepted his challenge to a fight, which means accepting that losing will likely lead to their death. Gouken, apparently, fell into this category. Coincidentally, Akuma recognizes that the old man Oro is on his level, but doesn’t go any further than sparring with him to test his ability as he knows that he would never get a true death match out of him.
2) They outright go after him, such as M. Bison trying to draw him out for sake of capture and getting killed because of it.
3) They happen to be a casualty from his destructive training. Then again, if you’re trying to have a picnic on a mountain that Akuma is currently exploding into pebbles with a headbutt and a boulder falls on you, it’s kind of your fault anyway.
A great example of Akuma in motion is this scene from the Street Fighter 2 comic by Udon. Akuma’s only known loss is against the assassin Gen, but that was back when Akuma was inexperienced. Now that he’s reaching his peak, he’s disappointed to find that Gen’s health is failing him. Ryu seeks out Gen for advice on how to take on Akuma and takes his leave.
So yeah, even though he’s constantly insulting everyone in earshot about being weak, he’s less of a monster and more of a guy who just gives no shit. Hell, he comes off looking better for originally being credited as the guy who not only killed M. Bison during the end of the Street Fighter 2 tournament, but destroyed his soul for good. Both because Bison wanted to use him as a pawn and because Akuma is revolted by the source of Bison’s power. While he may be in the same ballpark in terms of threat level, Bison’s strengths come from outside technology instead of from within, which is ridiculous in Akuma’s eyes.
The unfortunate thing with Akuma is how neutered he got by the time Street Fighter 4 came to be. The guy had a pretty impressive list of victims over the series. He took out Gouken, M. Bison, Gen and supposedly Adon. Now they’re all back and Akuma kind of looks like a punk in retrospect.
The best depiction of Akuma is in the manga Ryu Final, which is in the realm of “so official that you might as well call it canon”. Akuma gets two moments to truly shine here. First, we see the origins of how Ryu became Gouken’s student. Gouken didn’t want to take in a student and told young Ryu to prove himself by killing a bear. He figured that Ryu would be too scared off, but the kid went into a bear cave with intent to do just that. The huge grizzly bear mauled Ryu nearly to death when all of the sudden, a long-haired, pre-topknot Akuma saved Ryu’s life. He saved his life by IMPALING THE BEAR THROUGH THE BACK OF THE SKULL WITH HIS FIST SO IT CAME OUT THE BEAR’S MOUTH INCHES FROM RYU’S FACE. Then he was like, “This dark karate shit is awesome, you should try it sometime,” until Gouken appeared and scooted him off.
Then the two have their big final battle around the point of Street Fighter 3. Ryu no longer hates Akuma for killing Gouken and even admits respecting him for his stubbornness, causing the two to start laughing ala Killing Joke. The fight is mostly Akuma’s until he goes for his Raging Demon attack. In the manga, the true form of this usually unseen attack is depicted as a series of rapid-fire punches that turn into one-handed Hadokens when his arms are fully outstretched. Ryu counters this by ALLOWING AKUMA TO IMPALE HIM WITH HIS FIST.
Akuma is taken aback by this brilliant strategy, as not only does Ryu not get hit with the fireball, but Ryu is now in prime position to counter-attack. Akuma grabs Ryu by the wrist, holds his hand up to Akuma’s own chest and yells, “DO IT!” Ryu lets loose a massive one-handed Hadoken that blows a hole through Akuma’s torso and shatters his beaded necklace.
Ryu refuses to take advantage and kill Akuma, saying that he’d rather fight him again someday. Akuma accepts what Ryu himself has had trouble accepting throughout the entire story: it isn’t Ryu’s destiny to be the best fighter in the world. It’s his destiny to make everyone he comes across a better fighter through their interactions. Akuma tells Ryu to nurture his “children” and they prepare to end the fight. They each punch each other as hard as they can in the face and once they’re done, Ryu falls to one knee. With a gaping hole in his chest, Akuma looks down at Ryu, spares his life and walks off to disappear into some nearby flames.
“Heh heh… What pitiful little creatures we are… Someday… I hope to be challenged by one of your children… Goodbye, Ryu!”
Tomorrow I have This Week in Panels to do, but the day after that I’ll finish the list, which will include the never-ending hilarity of a certain god’s ineptitude.