Thursday, July 16, 2015

Those Tits Won't be Necessary Pt IV: An Impurrrfect Copy




[This is part 4 of an 8 part series. For parts 3, 2, and 1 click on the respective number Or if you want more in depth discussion, try the bonus chapters: The Myth of  Selective DiversityThe Fat the Lean and Everything in between and Lingerie may not be armor (but it's as thin as your arguments)]

In the last chapter of "Those tits", we tried to figure out the reasoning behind covering up a succubus. Today, We will be still sticking to the Darkstalkers universe, however, we're going to move from succubi to a member of the feline persuasion. Yes, reader. We're going to get full-on furry up-in-here, as we begin our task of uncovering Felicia!!


Once again, let's take a trip back to that Swampvicket article to see what the writer says about Felicia's redesign.

More Darkstalkers, and this was the most difficult of the eight. I dislike general animal characters, whether they are uncomfortable over sexy or dumbed down gullifierade and Felicia succeed in some strange way be both. For tell me, how do you get an fur-stripes that looks to have been spun on the bare skin? There are some safe bets when it comes to making characters more tasteful, and one of them is to think retro and pick inspiration from bygone eras. So Felicia got a weak seventy fragrant disco look that could still retain some of her most important attribute, but toned down the "I'm-your-sexy-kitten-and-I-want-to-play-with-your-ball of yarn" thing .
While It is very difficult to work on designing characters that you have little interest in, You would wonder if maybe a little bit of research into the background of those characters would give a boost of inspiration as well as insight into why these designs exist in the first place?

The research we have performed so far, has not only given insight into why these characters look the way they do, but also a deeper look into the mind of their creators. This is why deconstruction is an important part of the design process. It explains things like "how do you get fur-stripes that look to have been spun on bare skin" or explains the origins of the  "mystical creature assuming human form" that the writer ignorantly conflates as "I'm your sexy kitten and I want to play with your ball of yarn".

Well, to be fair, we can attribute this conflation and assumption as Hanlon's Razor in full effect, with the stupidity placed on the person making the assumption. 

Before we move on to the origins of Felicia, let's take a quick look at her original character design.



The first thing we notice is that she has abnormally large hands and feet, which are indicators of hard hitting fist and kick strikes (indicators we've seen before in other fighting game characters). Much like Morrigan, she has long flowy hair which symbolizes magical power and instinct, however unlike Morrigan, she is definitely less dressed. It is to be pointed out, however that the majority of official artwork from Capcom shows her in more playful and cat-like poses than the sensual poses that appear in fan art and Cosplay images. Those "fur stripes" are obviously there as a means of design as well as covering what needs to be covered without the use of a swimsuit or leotard.

While anyone can easily attribute her look to being hyper sexualized, they would only be doing it out of their own subjectivity, and not because the character is intentionally being pushed as a character of lascivious intentions. Felicia's look, in fact while being misconstrued as erotic due to being close to nudity has much more to do with the horror aspect; which happens to be the fact that instead of full human features - she is sporting enormous animal paws. In any instance, seeing someone with these attributes in real life, should be enough of an indication that something is not right, here. It's the same line of logic that could be attributed to encountering a succubus (in the traditional sense with claws and wings, not the more sexy modern-day "trap" version) or the mythological Harpy, which has bare breasts and a human face but has wings talons and is covered in feathers. Most would turn tail and run in situations like this, however as the caption says...

There are guys out there who would most likely still want to hit that...

Felicia's basic color scheme is Blue, white and pink. Blue is a color of tranquility, and also symbolizes the "helper" or "rescuer" who's success is defined by the quality and quantity of it's relationships (Strangely enough this works considering the amount of friends she has helping her in her attack and win animations, as well as her desire to help orphans in her ending in Vampire Savior). The color white symbolizes purity and innocence, as well as cleanliness (surprise, cats are quite keen on their grooming) and a sense of protection and encouragement. The color pink is associated with giving and receiving care (This also ties into her Vampire Savior ending ) as well as a sign of hope (as in the old saying "everything is rosy"). On the negative aspects of the color Pink we can also find that it represents a lack of willpower, self reliance or self-worth, and indicate an overly emotional or overly cautious nature. In one of her win animations she can be seen breaking away from the fight to chase butterflies around the stage despite the present danger she was just in. This is also shown in the "Please help me" Super where she comically cries and her friends (assist characters) come in to beat up her opponent.

I'm half waiting for Whoopie Goldberg to pop in and start singing...

While we can say much more to the latter part of her statement, we'll just hold on to that until we get to the side-by-side comparison, later.


The Purr-suit of Happiness (cringe)

Felicia, for those of you who aren't in the know (Or ignored the entire first part of this article, you cheeky sod!), is a character from the fighting game Darkstalkers, who's popularity is only second to her succubus counterpart. Often, she's referred to as a "Catgirl" by classification, but her origins actually are much deeper rooted in Japanese folklore than standard furry admiration.

To get a better idea of how Felicia came to be let's go on a short history trip. Now, it's said that cats were first introduced to Japan sometime between 538 and 552 A.D. around the same time as the introduction of Buddhism. Cats were originally intended to be a means of pest control. Japanese culture site, Nipponia also states that the first recorded instance of a cat as a domesticated pet had been presented in a diary entry by Emperor Uda (who's rule lasted from May of 867 to July of 931). The cat itself was black and brought from China in 884 A.D.

According to Hyakumonogatari.com, Cats were normally fed the leftover scraps of rice and grain from their owners, despite their dietary habit of ingesting meats. This often left the average cat with a severe protein deficiency which lead them to seek sustenance elsewhere. I'll let the site fill in the blanks, here.

Oil lamps as the time often used rendered fish oil as fuel. To a protein-starved cat this was exactly what they needed, and they would stand on their hind legs to reach up to the lamp to lick out the fish oil. Frightened pet owners looking at the lamplight-cast shadows would see their tiny cat suddenly elongate and stand on two legs as if transforming into a human. Thus was established the connection between bakeneko and shadows.

The cries of cats have also been known to mimic human words and sounds. To an ear already disposed to think their little tabby is shape-shifting at night, imaginations were allowed to run wild and people heard their cats speaking Japanese.

And as you guessed it, these actions teamed with the superstitious nature of people created the legend of the Bakeneko, or "Changing cat".

The word bakeneko (化け猫) consist of two kanji; “Bake-“(化け) means to change form, to transform. The kanji is often used with yokai, and indeed a general term for monster in Japanese is obake (御化け) meaning “changer.” “-neko” (猫), of course, just means “cat.”

The word bakeneko is often used as a catch-all term for the mysterious and magical cats of Japan. Nekomata in particular are sometimes called a type of bakeneko. But this is a misuse of the name. Kaibyo(怪猫) is the general term for paranormal cats in Japanese. Bakeneko, just as their name implies, are defined by their ability to transform.

Specifically, bakeneko are able to take human shape, or near-human shape. Some bakeneko maintain a cat form, but they are able to speak human language and wear human clothes. Some legends say that these cat-shaped bakeneko put towels on their heads and dance on their hind legs. Much, much rarer legends are humans who change shape into cats, but which are also called bakeneko.

Because of their shape-shifting abilities, bakeneko belong to a class of yokai called henge (変化), or changing yokai. This includes other shape-shifters such as tanuki and kitsune.

Like most of Japan’s magical cats, bakeneko are said to be cats who have lived a long time. There are stories of split-tailed bakeneko, who appear similar to nekomata. The primary difference between the two is the bakeneko’s ability to adopt human shape. Also like other magical cats, there are stories of bakeneko manipulating the dead, or cursing humans.

And they think they're the best dancers, too!

Not all Bakeneko are full of malice, there are quite a few stories of Bakeneko who are benevolent and willing to help their masters, or kind strangers who helped them.

Yet another story tells of an poor old couple who kept a small cat. Since they were unable to bear children, they came to treat the cat as their child. After the old man fell sick, a mysterious woman appeared on their doorstep, claiming to be the cat and swearing she would repay their kindness. She brought the couple much wealth; in some versions they were happy just to have a daughter. One of her admirers happened to see her in her true form so she pleaded that he not tell anyone. A few weeks later he broke his promise telling a fisherman and passengers on a ship what he’d seen. A vicious storm arose and the woman appeared in the clouds overhead. She grew into a large cat and killed him.

Okay so it didn't end well for that guy, but at least the couple got a daughter and wealth out of the deal.
With the history lesson out of the way, let's talk a bit about Felicia's creation. Wikipedia can take this one from here.. 

The character was originally envisioned by Capcom producer and Darkstalkers original creator Alex Jimenez as a beautiful long-legged African vampiress.[1] Early in the development of Darkstalkers, the team decided to have two female characters: a catgirl and a vampiress, characters who would eventually become Felicia and Morrigan, respectively. Initially, Morrigan was to be the "cute" female character of the title, while Felicia would be the "sexy" female character. However, as Morrigan's character developed into that of a succubus she was made to be far more sexually appealing, and the roles of the two characters were reversed.

Felicia is a cute-faced, curvaceous "bakeneko". As such, she has cat ears, pointed teeth, a tail, and oversized hands and feet that resemble a cat's paws, complete with sharp claws that she uses in battle. She also has a heavy mane of long blue hair, blue eyes, and an "outfit" that consists entirely of thin strips of skimpy white fur. The fur leaves her technically nude except for that which partially covers her breasts, portions of her stomach and hips, and forms panty-like bottoms, as well as covering her arms and legs. Her name is adapted from Latin Felicity ("happy" or "happiness").

Gameplay-wise, Felicia is similar to Street Fighter's Chun-Li but with some major differences. She uses quick nimble attacks and has particularly long combos.

To further elaborate on the above quote, Alex Jimenez states in the "Pop facts" video, that he intended for her to originally look like a large beautiful Maasai woman with long legs who would leap into her opponent, and morph into a panther to maul them. Unfortunately, Capcom of Japan pushed the idea for Felicia to be more of a "cute kitty", and that's ultimately how she came to be in her proper form.

Purrfect strangers
(yes, i know it's bad..)

So let's compare the two, together, along with the writer's explanation.

"More Darkstalkers, and this was the most difficult of the eight. I dislike general animal characters, whether they are uncomfortable over sexy or dumbed down gullifierade and Felicia succeed in some strange way be both. For tell me, how do you get an fur-stripes that looks to have been spun on the bare skin? There are some safe bets when it comes to making characters more tasteful, and one of them is to think retro and pick inspiration from bygone eras. So Felicia got a weak seventy fragrant disco look that could still retain some of her most important attribute, but toned down the "I'm-your-sexy-kitten-and-I-want-to-play-with-your-ball of yarn" thing ."



Well this time, the character looks like she could have a full range of movement, which is better than the previous entries. Exaggerated hands are still intact which are good. as are the tail and the leg fur. The feet are smaller for some reason. The color scheme is completely changed around to suit the design, and not the character, so now there's a strange semblance there. The design seems not really consistent with the overall universe that this character exists in (Austin Powers: The Night Warriors, anyone?). If one were to take a glance at the character they probably would assume that she is going to a party in the Height-Ash bury district, and not a feral Bakeneko, with an equally feral fighting style waging a battle against otherworldly forces for her own survival, and the lives of those she cares about.

Now getting back to that comment about going retro and picking inspiration from bygone eras in order to find tasteful "safe" designs. If there were any eras you could have dipped into, why the 70's? Why the era that had the most daring choices of design? The 70's were smack dab in the middle of the Sexual Revolution; a time where traditional patterns of behavior in sexuality and interpersonal relationships were being challenged, and things such as public nudity or more revealing dress were more prevalent in social circles. This era also saw a rise in pornography normalization as well as Explicit sexual situations in mainstream films. In fact, Ingmar Bergman and Vilgot Sjoman contributed largely to these things, and aren't these directors from Sweden? So again, why this era? Ignorance of the symbolism? A surface level understanding of history? Just thought that it would look "cute", while covering up a few naughty bits that bother you?

Above: Not extras from an Austin Powers film
The main problem with this design is that it's trendy design proceeds to lock an otherwise timelessly designed character into a particular time period in a means of trying to make Felicia appear trendy. If we were to view her on a character select screen she'd stick out like an archaic sore thumb with the other designs, over time. Once again Mex with the explanation.

It is a tough thing for an artist to hear that a great character doesn't "fit" into Street Fighter, but there was actually a lot of precedence for the SF Style. There were dozens upon dozens of concept character that ended up in the trash bin for every one character placed in the game. This is something that the entire series has been trying to highlight. Sometimes the "cool" and "stylish" designs were not meant for the series. Sometimes the plain and simplest designs worked best. This was because tastes of popular culture changed from day-to-day. A "cool" design might become dated within six months whereas a clean and solid look would retain Timeless Design forever.

In most games, Timeless design works to give characters a lasting appeal that can be revisited time and time again and still feel relevant to the player. Remember in part III, where we explained that trading a design that's more telling of the character's personality for something more visually appealing only works to muddle any information the player may need to better understand who that character is? We can clearly apply the same theory here.

When trying to design characters for fighting games ask yourselves these simple questions:
  • Does he/she seem as if they would legitimately kick someone's butt if threatened?
  • Does his/her appearance give off visual cues into their personality or fighting style? (show don't tell!)
  • Is the color scheme simple yet powerful?
  • Would the character be consistent with the cast and the world this takes place in?
  • Is the costume simple and not linked with any particular time, trend or fad?
  • Does this character have any sort of exaggeration, or elements of reinforcement of ability ( enlarged hands,  feet, emphasis on abilities ect.)

When we look at Felicia, we know we're getting someone who's agile and has powerful kicks and punches, and that she has a ton of cat-like attributes for someone who is shown in a humanoid form. This re-design tells us that this character could possibly be capable of fighting (weaker kicks strong claws or punches), and has elements that would prove to be distracting to the overall intention of protecting or defending herself from would-be attackers. Needless to say, if the two were to fight, right now, it would be a sure thing to put all of your money on original Felicia.

Be sure to join us next time for more "Those Tits won't be necessary!". We still have four more characters to go, but rest assured, there is much more information to learn and knowledge to pass on.

-Game On!


Artists Featured
- Bengus

Big Mex references
- How to design a Street Fighter Character Pt. 18

1 comment:

  1. Thanks very much for the shout-out and links on the blogs. This is some great stuff here and I'm glad you took the time to take a second look at the costumes on the Capcom females. I'm sure you've got lots on your mind for the new Street Fighter V reveals.
    Take Care!
    Noe V. aka BigMex

    ReplyDelete