Friday, December 16, 2022

The Street Fighter 6 pre-order trailer, a look at Marisa, the modern gladiator

One of the things that I despised in SFIV, and SFV were over-the-top characters, moves, and animations. They often broke the fourth wall, and turned the fighting game into a series of sight gags. The way that Abel would spin opponents over his head with ease was one example. But also the way Rufus would bounce, or F.A.N.G. would flap his arms, and fly all over the stage. These silly animations took me out of the game. In the previous blog I mentioned that Marisa was a second take on one of the cringiest characters in the franchise. I honestly believe that she was a way to make up for Hakan, the Turkish oil wrestler. Let’s examine the roots of both characters.

Yağlı güreş is an actual form of wrestling from Turkey. It’s among one of the oldest forms of wrestling in the world, and certainly deserves some respect. In Street Fighter IV any appreciation of the art was thrown out the door. Making a joke character out of Hakan was more than likely a call from Producer Yoshinori Ono. His sense of humor colored both SFIV, and SFV. I think it was unnecessary what the studio did with Hakan. If you have a moment I want you to review the idiotic special moves given to the character. Hakan would slather himself in oil, and slide across the screen. He would squeeze opponents until they slipped out of his arms, or roll with them on the ground with the frenetic energy of a Beyblade. Remember the amount of detail that I mentioned went into the judo moves of Manon in the previous blog? Well, none of that went into the moves of Hakan. Instead we have a beet-red character with a strange haircut that continuously breaks the fourth wall with his attacks. I believe that the SF6 team wanted to show more respect to the Mediterranean this time around. While at the same time revisiting many of the same elements that worked for Hakan.

The obvious connection between the two is the area of the world that they inhabit. Turkey, Greece, and Italy share a long history in the grappling arts, we are talking about thousands of years of cross-pollination with the wrestling arts of the East, and West. Their respective cultures helped plant the seeds of modern wrestling, boxing, and even MMA. From a storytelling perspective their body types have to show what type of fighter they are. Both Hakan, and Marisa are very muscular. They do not wear boxing gloves, or boots. So we can tell they are likely very powerful grapplers, with some striking thrown into the mix. Both also have odd hair styles, which are reminiscent of ancient warrior helmets. They also each share a golden lion motif in their design. There is a lion in the decorations of Marisa’s stage, as an actual lion parades in the background while wearing a golden mask. Hakan wore a gold lion on his belt, and his brand of oil featured a lion as well. The ways that each character was presented demonstrated the new direction that the franchise was taking.

Everything related to SF6 shown so far was a love-letter to the series, and the genre as a whole. The developers were not trying to make gag characters, or special attacks this time around. They respected the martial arts that they were trying to capture. At no point were any of the SF6 cast revealed to be joke characters, with silly styles. Yes they could be carefree like Dee Jay, energetic like Kimberly, or flamboyant like Juri, but they were all serious about their craft. Audiences can tell by looking at Marisa that she is heavy hitter. However she is also a multidimensional character whose background shapes her appearance. According to the official bio she is “An up-and-coming jewelry designer from Italy who claims ancestry to ancient Greek warriors. As a child, she was inspired by a vision of the Colosseum in its prime. Today, she seeks glory with a smile—and an eye for beauty.“

In my first take on the character I called Marisa a gladiator. All of the superficial elements placed on her told a story. The cut of her hair, the plates on her shorts, even the sword jewelry all spoke of Ancient Rome. Seeing her in action in the SF6 trailer shows that the team wanted to make her an awe-inspiring fighter. Several of her poses are taken right out of the history books. Her step over grab into a punch was immortalized in Greek statues that highlighted the roots of Greco-Roman wrestling. These were not the only things that we could make out in the pre-order trailer. Marisa is very tall, not as tall as Zangief, but still a titan in build. She’s actually shown picking up an adult African male lion in the footage. These lions weigh over 400 lbs. and are nowhere near as docile as a house cat.

The mythological figure Hercules, father of pankration the original form of MMA, was said to have wrestled the Nemean Lion, the Erymanthean Boar, and the Cretan Bull during his famous labors. These wild animals were bigger, more ferocious, and stronger than their regular counterparts. Marisa is a callback to the Greek hero, and moreover is making the lion motif part of her identity. It makes more sense in her context than as a mascot on a bottle of olive oil, wouldn’t you agree? In her stage we see other warriors, possibly actors, wearing costumes reminiscent of ancient soldiers. The blade logo featured on their shields, as well as the jewelry piece hanging around the neck of Marisa is reminiscent of the Lambda symbol found on some Spartan shields.

I think that part of the reason that the SF6 team went so deep in the creation, and details of Marisa was because of an earlier Capcom game. Shadow of Rome was a title from 2005, that believe it or not was produced by Yoshinori Ono. It centered around gladiatorial combat in the ancient Roman era. It was violent, barbaric, and played very much like a spin-off of Monster Hunter. Both of which I assume shared the same engine. The sights, and sounds of the old world were faithfully captured. The fashion, armor, weapons, and combat of the title were fairly accurate. There was a lot of creative license with many of the encounters, but as a whole it did a good job of turning the brutality of gladiator battles into a fun game. It was forgotten, partly because the original God of War did a better job at recreating the mythical era that same year.

Marisa is a very interesting character that seems to maintain the same level of care that the other new faces in SF6 have. She doesn’t seem to be a joke character, nor does she have any silly moves like Hakan. A bit of planning, and some respect for the subject matter is what it takes to make a good character design, into a great one. These are the things that I believe Mr. Ono was lacking in SFIV, and SFV. As of this moment I will probably main Zangief in the game, but as I did with Alex in Street Fighter III, I will be looking at Marisa to act as my secondary heavy hitter. What do you think of the character reveal? What do you think of the new characters revealed so far? Who are you eager to see, and what are you eager to try in the game? Let me know in the comments section please. As always if you 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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  1. In regards to her stage, I'm beginning to think that some characters stages are, like...visualizations.

    I seem to remember in an earlier trailer there was a scene where you were with Chun Li, and the scene sort of...transformed, from being the street to being a Chun Li-like stage.

    My theory is the entire game takes place in Metro City, but characters can, like, create projections of their own stages. Either purely metaphorically, or with some Yugioh Battle City hologram shit.

    So Marisa's stage isn't REAL. It's just either a manifestation of her personality, or something she just chose based on her own preferences.

  2. I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but I thought I wanted to say it here too.

    I think Ono's role in the character design compartment is really massively overstated. He's not a character designer and as a producer he couldn't have spent his time telling the designers how to do their job, just like you don't see his supposedly "silly" style in Shadow of Rome, another game he produced.

    At the end of the day, Ikeno was the biggest name among the character designers in IV, and in the recent book "how to make capcom fighting characters" that's about SFV design you read about Nakayama's role in the design, Akiman's role, and how the team as a whole made up themes and tried to make designs that would fit what they wanted to make. In Abigail's section of that book they talk about how the artist department and the gameplay department started a little dispute with the latter wanting to shrink Abigail to make him fit better in the gameplay, and the former being more interested in making the biggest fighting game character ever. Ono wasn't around to tell Ikeno how to draw or to dictate all those teams how to do their job, and it's clear to me that design in Street Fighter games is a collective process that passes through many hands, and Ono was just a figurehead that got to receive the blames and merits of many other people.

    Also, I really like Hakan and his design because I think gag characters are good and important to keep diversity in a game's roster. These designs aren't disrespectful to the martial arts they're based on, they're just designs going their own way, and Street Fighter always had them. Even in VI the vanilla "gag character" is going to be Blanka who is doubling down on the Blanka-Chan thing from V.

    Still, I enjoyed reading the blog and thought it was interesting, don't take it the wrong way.