Storytelling is not exactly a strong suit of the fighting game genre. Yes, some fans do enjoy over-analyzing the lengthy, ongoing backstories of King of Fighters and Soul Calibur – and all the more power to you guys. Still, you have to admit, the motivations of most fighting game characters to step into the ring and wail on a rogue’s gallery of competitors, no matter how lengthily elaborated upon can be generally summarized in one- and two-word descriptions: “revenge,” “protection,” “self-fulfillment,” “pride,” “greed,” “ambition,” and so forth.
Still, there are a few characters whose origins and incentives are considerably more bizarre than the stereotypical martial-arts warriors searching to find true strength and fulfillment. This is Topless Robot‘s list of seven fighters whose motivations for battle – and reasons for simply existing – are utterly absurd.
7) Skullomania from Street Fighter EX
So you know how the Street Fighter series is filled with threatening warriors? I mean, you’ve got a bunch of highly-trained martial artists, but you’ve also got a few law enforcement officers, evil psychic-power wielding dictators, electric beast-men, and terrifyingly huge Soviets who wrestle bears. All the sorts of people who could take you down for the count without a second thought. Would any normal person off the streets be stupid enough to just up and decide to try and take these guys on? ?
Skullomania is a typical overworked Japanese salesman by the name of Saburo Nishikoyama. He’s not very good at what he does: his sales results suck and his superiors aren’t especially fond of him. In an attempt to endear himself to his managers, Saburo volunteered one day to dress up as a tokusatsu-style superhero for a promotional event at his company’s department store. It turned out that the crowd loved his performance. Bolstered by the warm reception, Saburo opted to give up his day job filing papers to fight for truth, love, and justice as the costumed crimefighter Skullomania. Despite, you know, having absolutely nothing in the way of any sort of fighting training. But somehow, he manages to take on the Street Fighter gang with his own set of skills, including the very bizarre Skullo Dream super move.
Still, there’s a pretty unique charm to Skullomania, and out of everyone on this list he’s probably the most generally well-liked. Remember, folks – there’s a fine line between ridiculous and totally awesome, and Skullomania’s heroic ambitions sit right on that border.
6) Earthquake from Samurai Shodown
Apparently the minds behind SNK’s Samurai Shodown series took the phrase “everything’s bigger in Texas” to heart, because when it came time to design one of the token American characters for the game, they went big. Really big. ? Samurai Shodown wound up becoming the first real “killer app” for SNK’s incredibly expensive AES hardware. Earthquake’s huge character sprite was a showcase of the technical prowess of the Neo Geo AES over its 16-bit competition, something you’d lord over your poor friends who couldn’t afford $200 cartridges. He’s also a bit of token comic relief, as he uses special attacks that involve belching and farting toxic gas at the opponent. But here’s the kicker, guys: Earthquake is actually a ninja.
For some unexplained reason, Earthquake wound up training under the same female ninja master, Ayame, as Samurai Shodown‘s other white-guy ninja, Galford. I’d have to think that she had to be absolutely sloshed on sake at the time — most sane ninja masters would take one look at Earthquake’s bodytype and offer to refer him for some training sessions under Sensei Jenny Craig instead. Earthquake eventually quit before his training was over, leaving to become… a 1,380-pound ninjutsu-using bandito that terrorizes the wild frontiers of Texas with ninja teleportation, sneak attacks, and the legendary Pants-Shitting no Jutsu. Even by video game standards, that’s a tough tale to take at face value.
5) Johnny Maximum from World Heroes
World Heroes came into being when fighting games pretty much cloned SF2 wholesale. World Heroes took its collection of ethnic fighting stereotypes from real and mythological historical fighting figures, though not without many amusing liberties applied. World Heroes 2 introduced new characters to the roster. Among them: the ship-shaped projectile-tossing Captain Kidd, a hammer-bashing Eric the Red, a Pacific Islander caricature named Mudman, and Johnny Maximum, a representative of what foreign countries perceive to be America’s favorite pastimes – football and murder. ?
Now, we’ve certainly seen real-life football players that are prone to violence, but Johnny Maximum was apparently spawned from the depths of Pigskin Hell to revel in unnecessary roughness and the bloodshed of his foes. His means of murder are various football-related techniques, including ghost football projectiles, tackling, and intercepting and throwing back his opponents’ attacks. He fights with a single goal in mind: Tearing his opponents to pieces.
But perhaps what’s weirdest is that, despite Johnny’s self-proclaimed reputation as a “Killing Machine,” he’s actually a family man! Yes, Johnny Maximum has an adorable kid… and Dad is none too pleased that Johnny Junior wants to follow in his footsteps.
4) Kinta/Pochi from Power Instinct
It didn’t take long after SF2 hit the scene for fighting game genre conventions to become established — and be ripe for lampooning. The Goketsuji Ichizoku series (often titled “Power Instinct” in the West) was perhaps the first full-blown parody of fighting game concepts. It says a lot about a fighting game series when its most visible characters are sinister old ladies that throw denture projectiles. But even among Goketsuji Ichizoku‘s cast of crazies, there are some exceptionally bizarre standouts – perhaps the most memorable is Kinta, introduced in the second game. What at first looks like an adolescent boy who refuses to wear either pants or underpants is actually something even more disturbing. ?
You see, Kinta is a horribly misbehaved kindergartener based on the design of Japanese mythological child hero Kintarou. Much like his namesake, Kinta loves animals, as calls upon some of his nature pals to aid him over the course of combat. Among his precious pets was a recently deceased, exceptionally loyal dog that he loved dearly. By fulfilling certain conditions in combat, Kinta can actually summon and merge with the spirit of the passed-on pup to transform into Pochi, a muscular, heroic… uh…man-dog. ? Pochi attacks with his big floppy ears and digs up bones to lob at the opposition. However, Pochi can’t talk – he can only make dog noises at the opponent – so how can you tell it’s Kinta? Well, Pochi’s got the “Kin” kanji from Kinta’s apron… emblazoned over his crotch. Yeah. I’ve heard of people doing strange things to try and keep the memory of deceased pets, but Pochi is so wrong in so many ways.
3) Jeffry McWild from Virtua Fighter 5
Judgment 6 is the large shadow organization in the Virtua Fighter canon that does all manner of nasty things – assassination, experimentation, development of living weapons, and government corruption. They also conveniently run the whole World Fighting Tournament everyone is participating in. Things they’ve done to various characters in the storyline range from transforming Kage’s mother into a cyborg murder machine to, at one point, convincing Sarah to assassinate her brother Jacky. But their dastardly deeds don’t stop at genocide!
Jeffry’s story up until VF5 is actually fairly sane. He’s something of a Captain Ahab figure – he might be good and pounding opponents into the pavement, but his real passion is hunting the legendary Devil Shark. He’s been fighting in various World Fighting Tournaments in order to get prize money and build a totally kick-ass shark-killin’ rig. As valid a reason as any to punch a bunch of guys in the face, right? Apparently towards the end of VF4, Jeff’s finally managed to save up enough money to take that great white bastard down, except there’s one little problem: J6 up and decided to kidnap the shark.
Nobody knows what a massive criminal organization with assassins and science and weapons development needs a shark for (besides, perhaps, aiding in dominating the underground market on shark fin soup). Jeffry, however, takes this news exceptionally badly, swearing that NOBODY but him can ever lay their hands on his precious Devil Shark, and starts researching J6 in order to get the fishy fiend back. With that level of obsession, it would appear that there are some Troy McClure-esque issues under the surface here.
2) The Mishima Critter Commandos from Tekken
Virtua Fighter and Tekken fans often remain at odds with each other, even thought their games now release on the same platforms and their respective development teams are buddy-buddy. During arguments, Tekken fans will often throw the barb that their characters simply have slicker, cooler designs, to which the VF faithful retort that hey, at least their character lineup doesn’t have furries on the roster. ?
Kuma the bear, Roger the Kangaroo (and his offspring), and Alex the Dromaeosaurid were likely initially devised to bring the title some comic relief. What they actually do is make the epic struggle of the King of Iron Fist tournament and the Mishima lineage into a rumble at the petting zoo. There are actually been two Kumas (the original died after Tekken 2), both possessing a rather disturbing amount of cognition. The current Kuma has had a fierce rivalry with Paul Phoenix, attempted to recover the Mishima conglomerate on his own for his beloved Heihachi, and is now going through a sort of ursine mid-life crisis, struggling to find its purpose in life since Jin took over the firm.
Alex and Roger were genetic modification experiments by Tekken‘s resident mad scientist Dr. Boskonovitch, and were set free in the wilds of Australia at the end of Tekken 2 by Jun Kazama. Alex’s legacy gave us perhaps the only thing worth watching the Tekken anime for (invisible dinosaur attack!), but Roger would reappear in Tekken 5. Roger’s son learns that his dad has been kidnapped, and sets out to rescue him with the aid of his mother, only to find that… well, dad’s a deadbeat.
As of Tekken 6, Roger’s wife filed for divorce.
1) Karla Keller from Tattoo Assassins
Perhaps the best thing that can be said about Tattoo Assassins was that it didn’t get a chance to be inflicted on the public in a wide release – it was mercifully cancelled near its completion, though a few near-finished prototypes were eventually dumped for use in MAME.
So hey, how many of you remember the saga of Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding? It’s pretty hard to forget entirely, considering it was one of the biggest entertainment scandals of 1994. But for the benefit of some of our non-US readers, a quick summary: Kerrigan and Harding were contemporaries in the Olympic figure skating arena. Harding, with the aid of her ex-husband and bodyguard, hired a thug to run by and smash Kerrigan’s kneecap during the 1994 US Figure Skating Championships, thus setting off an unprecedented media frenzy (until OJ Simpson stole the spotlight later in the year). The designers of Tattoo Assassins took one look at the sordid saga and said to themselves, “Hey, let’s make our game look even more tacky and hideously dated!” And thus was born the most hilariously awful character out of a whole festering crew of ugly, completely unlikable tattooed assholes: Karla Keller. Rather than expound upon her background, let’s have the game’s attract mode do the work for me:
Data East even made sure that the media was well aware of the blindingly obvious reference, as ex-Flux magazine editorial (and current World of Warcraft magazine EIC) Dan Amrich points out:
You’ll note that her name is crossed out in red ink; this is one of the scans from a color photo print, and the Data East person scribbled “Nancy” on the border above. Were they planning on changing the character’s name to Nancy so there’d be no chance of anybody even remotely misunderstanding who she was supposed to be? Dunno.
Topping it all off, after you’ve suffered through the game as Karla, everything about her background gets thrown out the window in one exceptionally lazy ending scene. ?
Did they really expect to get this past the notoriously litigious Disney without protest? What’s particularly pathetic is that the whole concept and story of the character – not to mention her in-game implementation – wouldn’t even have been particularly funny or “edgy” at the time, either, considering any sort of scandal jokes had been beaten to death mere weeks after the story broke. Looking back on things, it’s rather sad that Kerrigan’s talent has mostly been overshadowed by the scandal, as her legacy in pop culture consists mainly of awful caricatures like Karla here.
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.