Sunday, August 13, 2017

Speculation on ARIKA's unnamed Street Fighter EX successor, part 2...

The Street Fighter EX series had always had a more spiritual tone compared to the other Street Fighter titles. In fact the same thing could be said about ARIKA's other game Fighting Layer. Many of the characters, good and bad, were inspired by regional mythology. The religious or spiritual practices of different Japanese cultures had an influence on the design behind Kairi, Garuda, Vold Ignitio and several other characters in both games. Kairi was a melancholy character who was tortured by his powers. Unlike Ken and Ryu who were able to harness their chi in energy wave attacks, or fireballs, every time Kairi used his energy attacks it took a toll on his spirit. His style of fighting may have been similar to Ken and Ryu’s but the origins were even older. His body was covered in scars and he was missing an eye. There was something terrible in his past that seemed to haunt him. He was suffering from amnesia and had no idea who he was or where he came from. During the events of the Street Fighter EX series was on a path looking to fight the greatest warriors or die in the process. Kairi's sister Hokuto, was tasked with bringing him back to the Mizugami clan, or killing him if she couldn't.


Hokuto looked like a kyudoka, a practitioner of traditional archery. She dressed very conservatively, wearing a costume that would have fit right into feudal Japan. It made sense given that she was responsible for the fate of her brother. Despite her uniform and archery glove she did not actually carry a bow and arrows. Instead she shot bolts of spiritual energy from her hands. Hokuto was also well versed in tessenjutsu, the fighting art of the war fan. People often mistook Hokuto as an akido practitioner considering how many of her moves were counters to traditional attacks. Hokuto had the ability to perform energy wave attacks but they did not harm her as they did her brother. Whether it was because of her training or something else was not explained at first. She was actually harboring a few secrets of her own, these were revealed over the course of the series.


Hokuto came from the same cursed blood as Kairi. She actually had a seal placed on her that prevented her from succumbing to the same killer instincts of her brother. There was a variation of the character that could be unlocked in Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha. This evil version was known as Bloody Hokuto. Her uniform was a stark black in this form. She even had a slightly darker skin tone. Darker colored characters usually denoted a hint of evil. This was a tradition observed in many different cultures and story telling techniques. It was one of the reasons why Gouki had skin that appeared dark red like clay. But I digress. A mark of evil was visible on her forehead. Her attacks were more aggressive and she even had the ability to perform the Renbu, or “death touch” attack. Bloody Hokuto even had her own unique stage and ending in the game.


If Bloody Hokuto defeated all of the opponents in the EX tournament she was seen standing on top of a temple. The blood moon was in the background. All of the other rivals were dead on the floor. The whole nocturnal scene, twisted background and use of moon and darkness was the same symbolism featured with Kyo and Iori from the King of Fighters series. There was a reason for this. The mythology behind the orochi, an ancient demon that was bound to the moon was also loosely tied into the EX mythos. The Hayate clan had locked away the demon and was responsible for keeping it locked away. A character named Hayate appeared only once in the series, in Street Fighter EX2. He dressed like a samurai and was a sort of fighting priest. His special attacks allowed him to materialize swords out of thin air before dissipating as energy from his hands. It was a refined version of the same attacks Garuda used. Except that Garuda made spikes appear from his flesh, all over his body and even head. It turned out that the demon Garuda had escaped and was following Kairi. Whether Hayate was scheduled to be in the new game was unknown as of this writing.


Garuda was a mighty warrior that became possessed. He actually fed off the spirits of people that were defeated in battle. Since Kairi was destroying people left and right all Garuda had to do was follow behind and steal their essence, growing stronger along the way. I had talked about spirits possessing human bodies previously on this blog. In the Street Fighter EX series Kairi was on the path of being consumed by the energy within. A possessed person was known as a yorimashi. Gouki / Akuma for example could be considered a yorimashi. He was consumed by the evil energy or Dark Hadou. He kept this energy under his control as symbolized by the prayer beads he wore around his neck. Garuda was another such yorimashi, the person that he possessed probably died a long time ago. There was probably a reckoning between Kairi and Garuda planned for the climax of this game. How Hokuto would figure into the story was an important piece of the story.


After 21 years since the debut of the EX series ARIKA had a confession to make. Hokuto was not the character’s real name. In fact she was an assassin that had been programmed to kill Kairi. Her real name was Shirase. About the only thing in her history that was true was that they were related. However Hokuto was only the half-sister of Kairi. Whether she was under the employment of the Mizugami, Hayate or other family had yet to be revealed. Then there was the question of the youngest member of the family, the little sister known as Nanase. Well she was in fact Kairi’s actual sister and Shirase’s half-sister. When her programming was revealed Shirase did something drastic, she wiped Nanase’s memory of her. How much remains of the family, and relationships between the three will hopefully be revealed in the game. There was no word on whether Nanase would return to the series. It would be interesting to see how the story progresses because of these developments.


ARIKA was no stranger to supernatural character designs. When the studio created Fighting Layer they had heroes and villains with supernatural powers or supernatural origins. It was unknown (as of this writing) whether Shirase would have the full library of moves of Hokuto and Bloody Hokuto, or if there was a version of Bloody Shirase yet to be revealed. The characters in this game also had something called Gouji that they could tap into. The name of this game mechanic was based on a fruit called gouji, aka wolf berries in the west. These berries were said to be highly medicinal in value, they inspired the Senzu Beans in the Dragon Ball series. In the ARIKA game players wouldn’t take berries in the middle of a match but instead choose from a stack of five different gouji, little symbols that appeared next to the energy bar. They granted attributes that they could activate in battle. It could make attacks stronger, help buff defenses or maintain a high special meter. When this mechanic was unveiled at the EVO tournament many likened it to the Infinity Gems that players could use in Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite. It created an entirely new way to play and no two matches could even be similar with the number of different combinations players could use.


Gouji was the reason that Darun Mister survived his encounter with Garuda. He must have been superhumanly tough to have lived through the ordeal. Then after he recovered he wanted a rematch. The studio had roughly another seven months of development and there was plenty of time to balance the Gouji mechanic as well as expand the library of characters. One of the recently announced returning characters was another fan-favorite. He inspired me to talk a little bit more about what made the EX characters so memorable. We’ll take a look at this character in the next blog. As always if you enjoyed this blog and would like to sponsor me please visit my Patreon page and consider donating each month, even as little as $1 would help make better blogs and even podcasts!

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