Okay, NaNoWriMo done for another year. Back to business as usual!
I guess it would have been summer of ’91 or ’92, I was at a Pizza Hut with my brothers and some cousins, watching the arcade machines while our parents ordered pizza (none of us thought to bring quarters). A game called Street Fighter II was running on auto-play, and I remember watching this little Chinese girl kicking the crap out of some big sumo-wrestler dude. We all thought this was pretty cool to watch, and we rooted for this cutie every time she came on screen. While I probably didn’t think anything of it at the time, I don’t recall that I’d ever seen a female playable character in an arcade game before.
I’ll admit that I know pretty much squat about the in-game lore for the Street Fighter series. I might be able to name most of the twelve characters from Street Fighter II, and I think I played it, Street Fighter II: Turbo, and maybe one or two of the Street Fighter versus Marvel-related games. I’ve seen bits of the 1994 Street Fighter movie and don’t really desire to see more. I’ve never watched The Legend of Chun Li, nor have I read the comics or other material for the franchise. So admittedly, my knowledge of her background is patchy.
What I do know about Chun Li is that she’s a woman on a mission. In SF2, her primary goal was avenging her father’s death at the hands of generic 90’s villain M Bison. Her ending where she avenges her father and decides to go back to being a normal girl again is the only ending I ever saw for the game (I was at the neighbors and he had to beat a few of the fights for me). A quick Wikipedia search was a bit more informative, showing that she was also an agent for Interpol throughout the series. I like that she’s a character with a strong sense of justice and a desire to protect the innocent.
Though her outfit varies from game to game, Chun Li’s primary garment in Tim’s depiction is a qipao or cheongsam, a traditional early 20th century Chinese dress. Though sports modified for a freer range of movement, I worry that the flappy dress parts might be a hindrance in high-speed, high-impact fighting. The sleeves are short and loose for unhindered arm movements and quick punches. Her abdominal wrap helps keep her dress in place during a street fight and likely provides additional padding against knocks to the belly.
For arm protection, she wears spiked bracelets for brutal stiff-arm attacks and for punishing her opponents when she blocks their attacks. For pants she wears simple tights that don’t hinder her overall flexibility. She wears white leather combat boots to protect her feet and for high kicks to the head. But perhaps the most iconic part of her outfit is the “ox-horn” hairdo with ribbons and silk brocades to keep her hair out of the way during a rumble. If I were to make one suggestion about her outfit, I’d recommend a sports bra for balance and comfort to accommodate her high-speed, acrobatic fighting style.
From what I understand, her fighting style varies from game to game, but is intended as a highly acrobatic mixed martial arts, adapting fighting styles from all over the world. From kempo and judo to hard-hitting TaeKwonDo to the more dance-like capoeria, her style offers a multinational butt-whooping that should keep her opponents guessing as to what she’ll do next.
I’ve heard several people point this out, but one of the most impressive aspects of Chun Li’s character is that she’s one of the first non-damsel-in-distress lady characters in video games. She’s technically the first fighting-game heroine, and she came at a time when video games were first becoming a mainstay in home entertainment. She got people’s attention and immediately joined Samus Aran, the Princess of Moonbrooke, the White Mage, Link, and Ms Pac-Man on what at the time was a tragically short list of strong, interesting video-game heroines.
Huge thanks to Tim for his terrific portrait of our heroine. Feel free to check out his work on ArtStation and Facebook as well. Character property of Capcom. Thanks as always for reading, folks! Take care and stay awesome!