Street Fighter's Chun-Li
Street Fighter's Chun-Li, the first lady of fighting games, is a world class ass kicker.
Fighting games have a long legacy in the world of video games. They paved the way for character based stories and, in many ways, can be credited for the rise of the video game industry via the arcades. Few will ever underestimate the influence of fighting games on the video game industry, but did you know that Street Fighter has a wholly unique claim to fame? Street Fighter pioneered feminism in the video game industry through the character of Chun-Li.
Video games as a whole were relatively sparse on female characters, and they still are to this day. Much like every other entertainment industry, the main roles are primarily dominated by male, white characters. Chun-Li was the exception to this rule, and started the move towards a more diverse line of characters. Chinese and a woman, she was perhaps one of the greatest first female characters of all time.
Street Fighter was released in 1987 designed by Takashi Nishiyama and Hiroshi Matsumoto. It made its debut in arcades in 1987. The game followed the martial artist Ryu, who competes in a worldwide martial arts tournament in order to prove themselves to be the greatest martial arts master in the world. A player could at any point take control of Ryu’s American counterpart, Ken as a second controllable player. Performing punches, kicks, and special moves including the famous Hadouken, Shoryuken, and Tatsumaki Senpukyaku. These moves tested a player’s skill and only special button combinations can activate them.
Birth of a Legend
Street Fighter was a derivative video game, but it proved to be a great hit in American and Japanese arcades and turned out to be a major quarter muncher. A sequel wasn’t just desired, it was expected. And so with Street Fighter II, Nishiyama and Matsumoto faced the uniquely daunting challenge of following up one of the greatest arcade hits of all time. Instead of a brawler, Street Fighter II reverted to a one on one fighter and became what many fighting enthusiasts would call the greatest video game of all time.
First Lady of Fighting
Chun-Li was a distinctive departure from the character norms. Most of the characters in Street Fighter had, until this point, been focused on brawn. Chun-Li was instead depicted as a slender woman in a qipao. Many female characters in the early days of fighting games differed from their male counterparts in that they focused on speed and dexterity as opposed to raw power. In the midst of the critical and commercial acclaim that Street Fighter II received, the character of Chun Li was introduced among the core line up beside Ryu and Ken. The first major female character in the series, and a soon to be fan favorite.
Chun-Li became famous for her unique kicking move Hyakuretsukyaku, otherwise known as the Lightning Kick. She is able to throw multiple kicks in one easy move. It became known for its easy accessibility (slamming the kick button as fast as possible) and has become just as distinctive as her costume, if not more so.
One interesting detail to note the change in her qipao as time goes on. What initially was an opaque trouser legging eventually turned into dark tights, and then seemed to disappear entirely. This was likely done for a multitude of reasons, and many have criticized the developers for over sexualizing her, but strangely enough, despite her unique move set and gaming symbol status, perhaps the most pervading aspect of Chun-Li is her thighs. Over the years, and especially due to the use of the move Hyakuretsukyaku, many have noticed that her thighs are abnormally large, especially in comparison with her slender frame as a whole. I don’t know whether to be happy or sad about this, but one thing is for certain. Gaming is one hell of a unique medium when a character’s defining feature is their thighs.
Chun-Li has arguably become the face of Street Fighter, despite what Ryu lovers may tell you. It’s fair to say that she has been able to invade normal pop culture to the greatest degree for a multitude of reasons and every so often you will see her pop up in places you’d never expect. But Street Fighter has had several attempts at films and animations to varying successes. How can you translate one of gaming’s most iconic characters into live action?
The answer is mixed. The Street Fighter movie from 1994 is universally panned in terms of its raw quality, but some have jumped to its defense for its loyal depiction of the source material. In the film, Chun-Li is a news reporter as opposed to an Interpol agent, but with the exception of her profession, much of her personality remains the same. Fun fact, the actress that played her (Ming-Na Wen) went on to voice Mulan!
Chun-Li on Film
The next Street Fighter film actually vouched to solely focus on Chun-Li as a character, making it very much her story. However, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, much like the original film, was savaged by both audiences and critics alike and didn’t do particularly well at the box office. There was also controversy around the casting of a Caucasian woman as Chun-Li. It seems the film was doomed from the start.
However, Chun-Li has remained one of the most recognizable characters in Street Fighter. She has appeared in almost every manga and animation about the source material and even made a cameo appearance in Disney’s Wreck-It-Ralph. Few gaming franchises have a woman as the main figurehead of the intellectual property, but Street Fighter should stand proud as being one of the few that would openly champion their female character. Some would say that she has been over sexualized. Some say that the fact that her thighs are the most defining characteristic tells you all you need to know about the character. No matter what you believe, it’s hard to deny that in a medium that is dominated by white male protagonists, Chun-Li remains a refreshing breath of fresh air.
Collect Street Fighter
The Street Fighter name has continued to grow since Chun-Li's creation in Street Fighter II. Explore the franchise that created Chun-Li and has continued to rule the fighting game industry with the Collector's Edition of Street Fighter V.
The epic fighting franchise continues in Street Fighter V. The game brings nthe next generation of World Warriors to life in stunning detail with incredible new visuals. Compete with friends online or on the Capcom Pro Tour with the deepest online competitive community in all of gaming.