Powered Akira (Rival Schools)
Evil characters are rampant in the genre, but you don’t always have to sacrifice your virtues to improve yourself. In order to convince the delinquent students of Gedo High to help her find her brainwashed brother, Akira pulls a Samus Aran and disguises herself as a masked biker. It’s only after the game is over that we see the modest tomboy underneath. While Powered Akira is the default form in the original, in the sequel she starts out unmasked, and you can unlock her helmeted form through the story mode. The two both have a hard-hitting close-range combat style, but Powered Akira’s strikes have the extra gusto that sends her fellow classmates flying.
Hall of Lame: Armored Ralf (The King of Fighters 2006)
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Model: Ralf Jones
This mercenary is always ready for a fight in The King of Fighters series, but him and his teammate/fellow headswap Clark seem underpowered compared to the martial arts legends, psychics, and demon hosts they run into. Maybe that’s why SNK gave Ralf this spike-fisted suit for its short-lived Maximum Impact line of 3D brawlers. Too bad it wasn’t worth it: Not only does Armored Ralf look like a dollar-store GI Joe, but he’s also overpowered since he is unthrowable and shrugs off many attacks.
‘Passing the Torch’
Hall of Fame: Jin Kazama (Tekken 3)
Model: Kazuya Mishima
Tekken understood from the beginning how easy it is to re-use 3D models and animations to create “new” warriors like Armor King and Prototype Jack. No one thought back then, however, that one of them would become the face of the franchise. After the “death” of series star Kazuya in Tekken 2, the timeline jumped several years to when his son, Jin, could replace him. With his cooler design, Jin led a youth movement that made Tekken 3 the most successful fighter on the PlayStation 1. While Jin originally used the Mishima-style karate of his father’s family, after Kazuya made his comeback, Namco overhauled the son’s fighting style and explained it in-game as Jin wanting to remove any ties to his lineage. That doesn’t keep him from returning to it, however, after he gets his own clone in Devil Jin.
Hall of Lame: Alpha Patroklos
For Soul Calibur V, Namco emulated the success of Tekken 3 with a timeskip that saw new warriors take up familiar blades. Patroklos inherits the sword and shield of his mother, Sophitia, but as part of the plot he eventually abandons them in favor of the powerful Soul Calibur. He also switches his combat style to that of Setsuka, an European geisha from earlier entries who used a blade hidden inside an umbrella. She was the one who taught Patroklos swordsmanship, but it seems wrong to replace someone who is visually dynamic for a guy who never stops being a tool. It’s not like Setsuka would be too old to compete — if anything, it would make her even more interesting!
Next: Any excuse for a new character…