Sunday, July 19, 2015

The return of Charlie Nash, or how zombies make the best fighters...

Of the characters announced so far for Street Fighter V I think the most interesting was the return of Charlie Nash. I thought he was a great character in the Street Fighter Zero / Alpha series. I liked him partially because he wore glasses. For those that didn't get a chance to play as the soldier he was essentially the American representative for the series. He was created the person whose death Guile was avenging during Street Fighter II. What was most interesting was that this character did not have a face, only a name when Street Fighter II came out. In fact even the developers at Capcom didn't know what Charlie looked like originally. In some unused art by Bengus the only picture that Guile had of his friend had the face burned out. Making him the original gaming unknown soldier.


Audiences didn't know if Charlie was a friend or family member killed in the line of duty. Guile would hoist his dog tags in the air in some victory animations. The myth behind Charlie grew as the endings in the Street Fighter II were changed and new details were added. At first Guile would threaten the Dictator and in other versions Guile would visit the grave of his friend. Guile was a visually unique character, with his military look and odd haircut, but he became interesting thanks to his ending. He attacked the Dictator after his defeat, grabbing him by the collar. It was a palpable rage when he brought up the names of Charlie and Cambodia. Audiences didn't know quite what happened but it sounded like something serious went down. When Charlie Nash was killed Guile was younger, considered a runt, Only Guile's wife and daughter were able to talk him out of killing the Dictator. Some of the endings in the game were silly but most were played out like a dramatic movie, Guile's ending was no exception. He had abandoned his family in the pursuit of revenge and was reunited once his vendetta was completed.


Charlie Nash died officially during the events of the Street Fighter Zero / Alpha series. What was unique was how differently he died during each release of the game. In one version he had found a hideout for Shadowlaw and was radioing home base for reinforcement. The Dictator snuck up behind him and attacked him. All that was left was a bloody dog tag. It didn't really look like Cambodia but more like the US Southwest.


In the second release of the game Nash had the Dictator on the ropes, somewhere in Brazil, possibly the Iguazu Falls, when he was shot in the back by a Shadowlaw helicopter and fell to his presumed death. When the Shadowlaw soldier asked the Dictator if he wanted to confirm the kill the Dictator said that no one could have survived the fall. Again, all that was left of Nash were some dog tags. By the third release of the game Nash was flying a jet and had blown up the base of operations for Shadowlaw but was still on the hunt for the Dictator. So in one out of the three endings he did not die.

It was an interesting contrast from the previous game and this was something that the Street Fighter series had become known for. There were multiple endings in the games yet each ending did not necessarily work with every other one. There were even endings that contradicted the ending of a previous game. Sure the Dictator could have captured Nash and turned him into one of his brainwashed soldiers. He had done this before to soldiers and special agents the world over, including his prized subject the Delta Red agent known as Cammy. 

Then again Nash could have been captured and brainwashed by a different group. In Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter the Shadow version of Nash made his debut. He even popped up in X-Men vs Street Fighter. During the crossover games it was hinted that some mysterious group was responsible for his new form. Were these mad scientists, or cultists of some sort? All gamers could do was speculate as to the "true" fate of Charlie.


The dark Shadow version was literally a sprite of Charlie from the Zero series that had been discolored to make him look as if he were in a perpetual shadow. His eyes glowed and his attacks took on a blue hue. He had the same basic attacks and audiences began wondering if the character had returned from the dead. It did not become official until Udon began writing about the character and his history and of course when Street Fighter V was announced, almost 20 years since the character had debuted.


Of course many eagle-eyed Capcom fans said that the new Charlie Nash looked an awful lot like Dave. He was one of the alien henchmen characters from Cyberbots: Full Metal Madness. He served under Princess Devilotte de Deathsatan IX, an over-the-top lolita-dressed alien bent on universal domination. I could see where people would see the same hair and glasses on both characters. Dave debuted a few months before Charlie Nash, it's entirely possible that the artists liked the look of the character and incorporated some of his visual cues on Charlie as well.


When I saw Charlie back from the dead, complete with stapled and stitched body parts, I was reminded of a different fighting game character. Preston Ajax was a sub-boss character from the game Fighting Layer. The character was a mercenary that had been mortally wounded in a bomb attack. He was pieced together with the remains of his brother, who was a fellow mercenary. The discolored portions of his skin were like dead tissue, very macabre. I got the same feeling while looking at Charlie. Ajax was actually inspired by the manga character Black Jack. He was injured when he stepped on a land mine as a young man. His only friend, a young black boy named Kuro, donated his skin for a transplant. This contrast made him one of the most memorable manga heroes ever created. Black Jack went on to inspire the creation of the Tekken series as well, but I digress...


Preston was created by ARIKA, the studio that was founded by many Street Fighter II members. The game Fighting Layer that Ajax appeared in could be considered a revisit to the original plans for Street Fighter II. I wonder if it was a coincidence that two military characters with similar "back from the dead" origin stories ended up in fighting games or if it was an idea that the SF II team had kicked around before they split up. I guess the world may never know.

But there was more to the character than a cool background and a connection to one of the Street Fighter II characters. The series had always been about combining a great fighting game engine with characters that could perform amazing moves. Ken and Ryu had the Shoryuken or "Fireball" attack. In the original game only they and Sagat could perform the move. In the sequel it was the same thing but Guile was one of the new characters that could also perform a ranged attack. Guile's version was called a Sonic Boom. When Charlie appeared as a playable character a few years later he too was given the Sonic Boom attack. However there were nuances that separated Guile from Charlie.


It was assumed that Nash had taught Guile the special attacks. As a master of these unknown fighting arts Nash was able to perform the same moves with a little more ease. For example he would perform his Sonic Boom attack with one hand while Guile used both. That was not the only special move that Guile possessed. He also had a Flash Kick, which was a backflip and kick combined into one. Nash also had a version of this move except he did it with his back turned to his opponent. Again the move looked a little bit easier for Nash to perform.


Both moves happened so fast that audiences didn't always catch the frames of animation that Capcom placed on them. There was a tremendous amount of forethought that went into how each fighter tumbled in the air. Each actually led with the opposite kicking leg in order to create the momentum for the attack. Since Charlie had his back to opponents he needed to be able to kick as well as twist in the air, this translated to him leaping cross legged. He would kick his back leg out and then tuck it in as his other leg created the arc for the Flash Kick. Then just before he landed he would complete the twist and land facing his opponent.


Both moves looked fantastic even if audiences didn't spend the time dissecting how each was performed. If assigning special attacks was all it took to make a character memorable in the genre then it would apply to any new character introduced. Right? Capcom pushed their luck in Street Fighter III 3rd Strike with a new character called Remy. This character had all of the moves of Guile and Nash and could perform them with even greater ease than the military fighters.

This character didn't have a fraction of the forethought that went into the design of Guile or Nash. It was a bit insulting to the legacy character that some skinny Frenchman with no build for fighting or no interesting origin would have the same techniques. Not only that he could also throw Sonic Boom attacks while crouching which was something that neither Charlie nor Guile could do. Audiences wondered why put in a character with all of Guile's attacks in Street Fighter III rather than just return Guile. After all the studio had brought back Chun-Li in the series as well. Remy was one of the more forgettable characters that the studio produced and had not been brought up since.

The physical appearance of Charlie was not the only thing that had changed with his return. The Flash Kick was gone, in it's place were two new special kicks, the Sonic Scythe and the Moonsault Slash. Nash now performed the trademark kick with one wide arcing leg movement. It was reminiscent of the special attacks of Rugal Bernstein, a boss character from the King of Fighters series. I kind of miss his original backwards flip.

The other kick was a front tumbling heel strike. It was very similar to the Jaguar Kick pioneered by Adon. Charlie's super attacks had been changed as well. The character not only looked new but played new. What do you think about the return of Charlie? What do you think of the changes of his strikes and abilities? Are you a fan of the new look? Who do you want to see in the new lineup?


  1. Charlie's fine, i justwish Sean is included as a respectable character.

  2. Charlie's original FlashKick was my all time favorite move. I also like the original fighting style (same as Guile) more than the new one. I respect the need to change people's fighting styles and try new things. However, it is super frustrating to have my favorite moves erased. I wish they could have included it even as an EX move or part of an alternate super or something.

    1. I don't understand why they feel the need to redo the moves for some but not other characters. The new move set didn't work for Birdie either.