A Special Kind of Sexy: Hello, Zafina

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  Sexuality in games comes in all sorts  of forms.  Sometimes its rammed down your throat, pronouncing and presenting like its in heat.  Huge breasts, revealing outfits, obvious allusions to domination and submission, like Ivy and Voldo in Soul Calibur. There's the more subtle sexy, like an Alyx Vance.  There's honesty and sincerity, but at the same time, a gaping vulnerability that' maybe even a little creepy in that uncanny valley sort of way.  There's even plain-faced cosmetic sexuality.  Street corner whores and NPC hookers, allowing no ambiguity to their programmed purpose and offering no more or less than the basic perception of illicit sexual connection.  

Sex has been covered several ways in games already and its easy not to expect much from the industry.   Games about sex have skewed heavily toward primal/functional.  While games that want to include sexuality fall hamfistedly into basic movie tropes and well trod gender assignments.  Morrigan's the evil witch, Leiliana's the God-fearing sweetheart and Bayonetta's Hard-Sexy with a slice of "Oh yeah, I've also got some legitimate and separate backstory, should you want to argue your way around my bitchin' curves and into some serious conversation about my character.  Silly boy."

By Tea
By Tea
But this is still basic surface sexuality.  But in a medium that ends up retreading themes about repetition and interaction and even, violence, can't we do something a little more interesting?   Until I met Zafina, I didn't think so.

Getting back to my 3D fighting roots, I'd picked up Tekken 6 from GameFly and started in on catching up with years of not paying attention to the series by running a few arcade matches. There's always been a healthy dose of sexy in Tekken.  Military-sexy Nina, the generic- slutty Anna.  A good smattering of Japan-model barely-legal sexy in Xiayou and the robotic Alisa.  And of course, as with all modern fighters, there's the rote exotic sexy of Christie.  Its become pretty textbook for a fighting game to throw in some sort of tanned and sexual fighter by the third installment or so.   Elena, Christie, Juri, Tanya, Jade, La Mariposa and Vanessa Lewis say "Hi".  So naturally, when Zafina appeared, I was immediately underwhelmed and a little dismissive.  Not white, check. Showing plenty of skin, check.  Dressed in some sort of "ethic" costume, mmhmm.  At first sight, nothing new.

Then I watched her fight.  I as I watched her move and emote, I was literally turned on and aroused in a way I hadn't been by a video game character since Chun Li, and even way back then, I had no idea what I actually got me hot under the collar. Now, a grown up adult person, with a wealth of sexual awareness and reference, I'm getting sprung by a mashup of polygons.  What the heck was going on?

It wasn't just her body.  To be honest, Zafina's frame isn't the exaggerated sexy that's supposed to do it for me.  I'm a hip man, and Zafina doesn't fit the bill of super sexy dimensions.  Bayonetta, by the numbers, fits right in there for me.  I've seen the Cherokee D'ass and Darlene/Delanie's of the world (Adult film actresses kids:  Do not Google!), with intense but real dimensions.  I'm definitely into strong legs, and she's got them, for sure.  But none of her outfits really accentuate them, save for her default highline gyspy skirt.  But overall, she's not all that hyper-sexual.  Why's she got me sprung like this?
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I had to figure this one out, so Zafina quickly became my main this weekend.  I got down to the business of figuring out how Zafina works.   I started to study her moves list and began figuring out how to manage her stances.  Her fighting style is very unique, very unconventional.  To look at her approach, the direction of her attacks is rarely telegraphed in the lead up animation.  She shifts position and stance erratically.  A bit like Voldo, which conjurs a whole different type of sexy... that really doesn't do anything for me.  I've made a female Voldo before in the Soul Calibur character create, and it just looked weird.  Not at all hot.

As I kept at it though, I started to get it.  I'm a hip man, and that's a big part of what was getting me.  Nearly every Tekken character has kicks, but each one has a specific style. When Zafina kicks, there's a lot of hip movement.  More than anyone else, there's a alot of power coming from her hips.  Its not just that she's gyrating or showing of physics.  The character is moving in a way that she dances and twists and bends.  The fight is a dance and a full body extension.  Her movements feel very strong if only for how open her moveset should be leaving her.  Thankfully, she defends about as well as anyone else, but the fight style comes out as passionate.  

By 1041
By 1041
It feels absurd to say a punch is more than a punch, but Zafina's style feels very sexual.  Or at least, she expresses her sexuality in her fightstyle.  This doesn't feel too off base, considering the rest of her characterization.  The character whispers most of her lines.  One of her victory sequences has her sitting next to her opponent, closely.  Her posture implies a nurturing intent.  What's really sexy is having a lover that would whisper to you afterwards, or one that I would, at least.

Its not any one thing that makes Zafina anymore sexy than countless other "sexy" female characters.  To have screenshots of her alone is underwhelming, I think.  And similarly, if all you had was the static character emotes without the fighting, she's easily dismissible as shallow game characterization.  But in combination, Zafina becomes more than the sum of her attributes to be this wildly attractive virtual woman.  In the act of appreciating her in this interactive space, I perceived a total package of a woman that, more than I realized, pushes all of my buttons correctly.  

There's a great potential in this interactive medium, and we've only scratched the surface.  If so much attention to character can produce a powerfully attractive character like Zafina, can't we realize this sort of sexy in other genre?  Who's really sexy for you? 

Bootleg Preview: Why You Must Play Way of the Samurai 3 This Fall

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There are plenty of game s coming out this Fall that are undoubtedly alrea dy installed into your theoretical year end gaming budget.  Scribblenauts, Brutal Legend, Mass Effect 2 and Night Goggles + Modern Warfare will probably be enough to fill most of your game cards thro ugh to November alone.   However, I must advise you to clear an extra $50 for the most lo w-key blockbuster set to hit at the tail end of this year.

Way of the Samurai 3 is coming to North A merica on Xbox360 (trom UFO Interactive) and Playstation3 (via Agetec), and you need to get in on this.

I've no access to provide a genuine hands on preview.  However, I've gone ahead and hobbled together some details about this game that you should consider before writing off this niche import.

Stick to the Code

Aside from a heaping handful of changes a nd improvements, this looks to be the same Way of Samurai that players experienced in 2 prior iterations, and that's phenominal.   You're still a ronin Samurai without any especially magical powers.  You still find your way to a regional conflict between two warring samurai factions.  And there's still a group of villagers caught in the middle.

Further, you're still following a "morality" scoring system that rewards you for following the virtues of Bushido as you cut whatever path you see fit through the game's branching story system.  WOTS3 is built around the idea that you will play through multiple times, and will have around 20 different endings depending both on the path you've chosen, as well as how respected or honorable your ronin has been.  If you've ever had any interest in the code of Bushido, Way of the Samurai puts your adherence to the code to task in a Japan beginning to touch with feudal and isolationist values.

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What, Then, is Time?

Unlike previous entries to the series, WOTS3 moves to a continuous time clock.  Where before, events and actions were set into distinct Morning/Noon/Afternoon/Nighttime epochs, the storyline runs at 1 in game minute per real life second.  This promises to provide a more steady access to the story, and hopefully, adds to the immersive nature of playing through the world.  Further, the events of this game are not limited to a set number of days.  A play through could take days or weeks of in game time.  Its up to you now.

OK, so open world games have been doing this for a while.  But in the context of Way of the Samurai, this opens up the flow of things.  Instead of waiting for that ultimate evening event that always happens on the third day, you are able to access "quest givers" and key events at your own pace, over any number of days in a single playthrough.  While the game will lose some of its "Groundhog Day" quality, this could potentially streamline the play experience.    Since every subsequent play through of Way of the Samurai allows you to retain the weapons and skills from previous runs, you're now open to farm weapons and weapon parts.

This is My Katana. There are Many Like it, but This One is Mine.

Yep, weapon parts.  In an exciting new feature, players can now collect blades, handles, handguards, caps and other parts to create your very own custom blade.  You can then assign moves and give your sword a name.  There will be around 200 unique parts and more than 750 moves to assign.

Yes.  This is really happening.

While the battle system generally relies on unlocking moves from swords that you collect from defeated opponents. you will now be allowed to set your own moves and design a personalized blade.  I had to re-write this fact because, as a Star Wars and Samurai fan, I can't let you read through this article and not unde rstand that you can assemble your own blade, from cap to blade.

Can. Not. Wait.

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Buddy System

Also, to make your way a little less lonely, you can now hire a partner to fight by your side.  Most are women, and one of them happens to be a ghostly widow.  But that doesn't matter really.  You get to have Dona Dona.  Yes. Dona Dona. The gaijin samurai from Way of the Samurai 1.

I needn't say anymore.  You're sold.  I know.

The Original Publisher says so

Look here  This is the greatest samurai game every made.

Its on the internet.  Believe it.

Trailers, it has them.


Revel in the epic mediocrity!  Its not the prettiest game.  They never have been.  But if you can shush your inner graphics whore, you will be rewarded with gaming bliss.

Where do I sign up?

Way of the Samurai 3 is set to drop sometime in October for 360 and PS3.  What's still unclear to me is how the localization process is going to work out.   While Agetec and UFO Interactive are subs of the same distribution company, its unclear whether or not there's collaboration on the re-dub, or if the two console versions will have different localization teams.  The release is split between the two companies as neither studio has both a PS3 and 360 license.

Also, the 360 version in Japan contained DLC, including new, wacky costumes, like cardboard box armor.  There have been no details on if this DLC will make it to the ports, or if it will remain specific to the Xbox release.

You've got your guns. You've got your axes.  You'll have spaceships and scribbles in infinite supply.  Isn't it time you took up the sword and walked the path of the samurai?

Wikipedia played a large role in informing this article. Originally posted in the community blogs of Destructoid.com