Representation: Mixed Heritage Fighting Game Characters Part 1
Video gaming is one of the biggest universal languages that reach out to everyone across the globe regardless of ethnicity, heritage, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation, religious views, and more.
Fighting games, one of the genres of fighting games, are no exception.
One of the attractive things about fighting games is the diversity of the character roster and the best example is Capcom's Street Fighter series. You have fighters representing countries like USA, Japan, China, Hong Kong (before it got returned back to China), South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, and more.
Representation is everything in media and that includes fighting games.
Developers and designers add many details to a character, though there are details that have no bearing on the actual gameplay, to get players interested in picking them. If players show little to no interest in a certain character, developers will do a redesign of that character or scrap that character.
One example of character-scrapping would be Hsu Hao from Mortal Kombat.
The developers of Mortal Kombat, especially Ed Boon, decided to snuff Hsu Hao out for good and it is highly doubtful that he will appear in a future installment.
You can see the details by reading the character biographies where you can see them such as their ages, likes, dislikes, favorite foods, and more.
When it comes to representation, developers can choose to get descriptive with the characters' heritages.
That includes if the fighting characters have mixed heritage and this Hub is dedicated to all the fighters of mixed heritage.
Number #1 – Sub-Zero, Mortal Kombat
There are two incarnations of Sub-Zero in the popular Mortal Kombat series as the two are brothers born from a Chinese father (descended from an Edenian race called Cryomancers) and an American mother.
As the name states, the brothers have the ability to use ice.
In the original timeline, from Mortal Kombat to Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, the brothers were taken back to China by their father, a member of the Lin Kuei, and began their training as professional assassins.
The changed timeline, from Mortal Kombat 9 to the present title, their father chose to remain in the United States and build a life with his wife. The Lin Kuei responded by kidnapping the brothers and initiating them into the ranks of the Lin Kuei.
Bi-Han, the first Sub-Zero, was introduced in the first Mortal Kombat title as the archrival and archenemy of Hanzo Hisashi aka Scorpion who came back from the dead to exact his revenge. This Sub-Zero was under direct orders of the Lin Kuei to participate in the eradication of Hisashi's Shirai Ryu Clan which served as an important subplot throughout the series.
That story is covered in the side-scrolling title Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero which ties in with the critically panned Mortal Kombat 4, where Bi-Han got manipulated by Quan Chi into killing Scorpion and his family.
In the first tournament, in both timelines, Bi-Han met a toasty fate at the hands of a vengeful Scorpion.
In Mortal Kombat II, Kuai Liang takes up the mantle of Sub-Zero in order to investigate his brother's death and seek revenge on Scorpion. Since the events of Mortal Kombat II, Kuai Liang remained Sub-Zero.
From Mortal Kombat 3 and onward, with the exception of MK4, this Sub-Zero retains his unmasked appearance along with a scar on the side of his face. After the events of MKII, Sub-Zero deserted the clan after the grandmaster decreed that all members undergo the cyberization process.
In MK9, Kuai Liang's codename was “Tundra” before he took the Sub-Zero mantle.
In the changed timeline, Kuai Liang gets captured instead of Smoke and made into a cyborg before getting killed by Sindel.
Kuai Liang doesn't remain a cyborg forever as he reappears in Mortal Kombat X as a revenant who retains his original human form.
The prequel comic covers how Sub-Zero changed back from cyborg to human.
After being brought back to life, Sub-Zero focused his efforts on rebuilding the Lin Kuei and using it as a force of good instead of a force for evil.
Kuai Liang and Hanzo Hasashi receive closure after learning the entire truth, they become close friends & allies. Mortal Kombat 11's story mode portrays Hanzo as being more of a brother to Kuai Liang than Bi-Han ever was.
He took it really hard when Hanzo got killed near the end of the story mode.
Given how this version of Sub-Zero has resonated with fans, we can count on him returning for future installments of Mortal Kombat.
Number #2 – Noob Saibot, Mortal Kombat
Noob Saibot, a completely pitch black palette swap of Scorpion and Sub-Zero, debuted in Mortal Kombat II as one of the three secret characters (Smoke and Jade being the other two). Like Smoke in MK2, Noob Saibot had Scorpion's moves set.
The namesake comes from the nameplay itself as Noob Saibot is spelled “Boon” and “Tobias” backward. This is a direct reference to MK co-creators Ed Boon and Noob Saibot.
Noob Saibot would remain an unplayable secret character until the console port of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, an enhanced port of Mortal Kombat 3, where human ninjas were brought back again. He would be part of the selectable roster in Mortal Kombat Trilogy.
Instead of being a carbon copy of Scorpion, Noob Saibot had his own unique set of moves that focused on darkness manipulation.
Midway, the developers at the time, actually introduced a backstory for Noob Saibot.
Noob Saibot was revealed to be a wraith from the Netherrealm which was glossed upon in his character bio.
MK4 focused on Netherrealm and established that Noob Saibot served under Shinnok, an evil fallen Elder God, the game's main antagonist.
Noob Saibot would make another playable appearance in Mortal Kombat: Deception where he pairs up with Smoke as “Noob-Smoke.” Playing as Noob-Smoke meant switching between characters when changing fighting styles (a mechanic introduced in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance and used until Mortal Kombat: Armageddon).
Time wasn't friendly to Smoke as his cyborg body was deactivated and kept as a trophy by Shao Kahn but this isn't about him, it's about Noob Saibot.
Midway went further with Noob Saibot's backstory and revealed that he is Bi-Han, the original Sub-Zero.
Bi-Han, because of his misdeeds in the Lin Kuei that included murdering Scorpion's family, had his soul banished to the Netherrealm and became Noob Saibot.
In the changed timeline via MK9, Raiden tried to avert Bi-Han's fate by pleading Scorpion to grant mercy along with a warning that killing Bi-Han would create a great evil as a consequence. Raiden would have succeeded if Quan Chi didn't interfere.
Bi-Han would have his reunion with Kuai Liang, respectively wraith and cyborg, but it isn't a happy one as Bi-Han proclaims that they are not brothers even though they are the same blood. The ties have forever been severed between the two since the events of MK9 and continue to be severed throughout MK11.
Number #3 – Jun Shiratori The Swan, Tatsunoko
Jun Shiratori aka Jun the Swan is famously known from the anime series Space Ninja Team Gatchaman which was produced by Tatsunoko Productions. Of Japanese and American heritage, Jin serves as a part of the five-member Gatchaman Team as the electronics and demolitions expert.
Her first fighting game appearance was in 2000 title Tatusnoko Fight for Sony Playstation with the title only being available in Japan.
Her second appearance was in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Cross-Generation of Heroes which came out in 2008 only in Japan.
Jun would return for the enhanced port of the game, titled TvC: Ultimate All-Stars, which came out in 2010 and available outside of Japan.
In Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, Jun gains a friendly rival in Chun-Li.
Jun, in fact, uses Chun-Li's signature “Spinning Bird Kick” in her TvC ending.
Unless Tatsunoko creates or collaborates on another fighting game title, we won't see Jun appear in a long while.
Number #4 – Benimaru Nikaido, King of Fighters
Benimaru Nikaido, born to a Japanese father and an American mother, is a fashion model and professional fighter who made his fighting game debut in The King of Fighters '94 serving as a rival to the series' main hero Kyo Kusanagi.
Appearance-wise, he's memorable for his long spiky hair which is inspired by Jean-Pierre Polnareff from Hirohito Araki's ongoing manga JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.
Originally a rival to Kyo, Benimaru becomes one of his good friends throughout the KOF series.
More times than not, Benimaru and Kyo are often teammates.
Even though they are often teammates, Benimaru refuses to be denigrated to a mere sidekick or companion.
In King of Fighters '99, Benimaru and Shingo Yabuki (Kyo's “pupil”) are placed in a special team with K' (a “clone” of Kyo) and Maxima where they cross paths with the villainous NESTS Cartel who wishes to create an army of super-soldiers with Kyo's DNA.
With Kyo still MIA, Benimaru and Shingo once again continue their search in King of Fighters 2000 where they join forces with Seth and Lin.
Finally reunited with Kyo in King of Fighters 2001, Benimaru and Shingo bring back the Japan Team with Kyo and Goro.
Separated from Kyo again in King of Fighters 2003, Benimaru rejoins Shingo and Goro as they represent the Japan Team but fighting against a new threat.
Still separated from Kyo in King of Fighters XI, Benimaru joins forces with Duo Lon and Elisabeth Blanctorche to thwart Ash Crimson's quest of stealing Kyo's powers.
Reunited with Kyo in King of Fighters XIII, they reform the Japan Team again with Goro.
Once again he works with Kyo and Goro in King of Fighters XIV under the request of Saisyu Kusanagi and Tung Fu Rue to investigate the host of the new tournament, Antonov.
We can expect to see Benimaru appear in future installments of KOF.
Number #5 – Ryo Sakazaki, Art of Fighting/King of Fighters
Ryo Sakazaki, debuting in Art of Fighting, is the son of a Japanese father named Takuma and an American mother named Ronnet. He serves as one of the main stars of Art of Fighting which got absorbed into the larger King of Fighters series.
He was created as a homage to Ryu who is the main star of Capcom's popular Street Fighter franchise.
With Robert Garcia being created to serve as the Ken to Ryo's Ryu, Capcom responded by creating Dan Hibiki who was introduced in Street Fighter Alpha.
Before Art of Fighting's storyline got retconned and absorbed into King of Fighters, the story took place roughly a decade or two before the events of Fatal Fury.
Ryo and his best friend, Robert Garcia, traverse the fictional US city of Southtown to clues to the whereabouts of his kidnapped younger sister, Yuri.
Ryo is ultimately reunited with Yuri and their missing father, Takuma, who was missing for many years.
He has appeared in almost all of the AOF, King of Fighters, and crossover fighting titles.
In the KOF series, Ryo represents the Art of Fighting Team.
Even though Ryo serves as SNK's equivalent to Ryu, there are many things that set them apart such as Ryo making ends meet as a martial arts instructor versus Ryu traveling the world to fight the best.
He eventually inherits the mantle of “Mr. Karate” which was used by Takuma but without the tengu mask.
Number #6 – Yuri Sakazaki, Art of Fighting/King of Fighters
Yuri Sakazaki is the younger sister to AOF co-protagonist Ryo Sakazaki and her abduction at the hands of Mr. Big, under orders of Geese Howard, triggers the start of the AOF series. She's ultimately rescued at the end and has served as a playable character in most of SNK's fighting game titles.
Since being rescued, Yuri has been a regular part of the AOF and KOF rosters.
Art of Fighting 2, which ultimately sets up Geese Howard's reign over Southtown, would be Yuri's debut as a playable character and not an NPC damsel-in-distress.
Against Ryo and Robert's objections, Yuri begins her Kyokugenryu Karate training directly under Takuma.
She learns enough to effectively protect herself but nowhere near Ryo and Robert's level.
Balancing honoring her father's wishes and struggling to find independence, Yuri constantly switches back and forth between teams in the KOF series. The journey from independence originates from Yuri solely dependent on Ryo as he was the provider and caretaker in Takuma's absence as daddy dearest had to go into hiding to protect his kids.
She is usually either a member of the AOF team or the Women's Team where she strikes a strong friendship with Mai Shiranui from the Fatal Fury series.
When Capcom vs. SNK was created, Yuri found a rival in Sakura Kasugano.
Come KOF 2001, Yuri's move set received an overhaul making her a parody of a parody which is SNK's response to the creation of Dan Hibiki in Street Fighter.
Yuri would be presented with with her rival with newcomer Malin in King of Fighters XI.
She is currently preoccupied with helping manage the Kyokugenryu dojo and their new yakiniku restaurant with the latter to Ryo's chagrin (shown in the AOF Team's ending in KOFXIV).
Even though Yuri is supposed to be in a romantic relationship with Robert, they still haven't tied the knot as Yuri remains “single” in the events of Buriki One.
Her latest playing in-game appearance was in the recently released SNK Heroines: Tag Team Battle.
Number #7 – Blue Mary, Fatal Fury/King of Fighters
Mary Ryan, best known as Blue Mary, made her fighting game debut in Fatal Fury 3: Road to the Final Victory and becoming a popular character in KOF. She's brought into the KOF universe as a private detective who has been hired to investigate a case pertaining to the Jin Scrolls which serve as the catalyst to FF3's plot.
She is instructed to work with Billy Kane and Ryuji Yamazaki under orders from a secret client who is ultimately revealed to be Geese Howard.
Since then Blue Mary has been an important part of the KOF series.
Like Yuri Sakazaki, Blue Mary has floated from one team to another.
As for heritage, she is half-Japanese.
Blue Mary comes from a Japanese mother and an American, likely Irish-American, father. Her maternal grandfather is a Japanese martial arts master named Tatsumi Suo who was one of Geese Howard's martial arts instructors.
Blue Mary's latest playable appearance was in SNK's recent installment, KOF XIV, as DLC.
Number #8 – Michelle Chang, Tekken
Michelle Chang, whose appearance is likely inspired by Joan Chen's appearance in the Steven Seagal film On Deadly Ground, made her fighting game debut in Namco's Tekken. She is unique in terms of mixed heritage, compared to many mixed heritage characters who are classified as “hapa,” having both Native American and Chinese heritage.
Before the events of Tekken, Michelle's father left Hong Kong for a contracted job by the Mishima Zaibatsu and headed to the United States where he met and fell in love with Michelle's mother.
Failing his mission of finding a treasure, Michelle's father was executed under orders of Heihachi.
That triggered Michelle's appearance in Tekken.
In Tekken 2, Michelle's mother is kidnapped by the Mishima Zaibatsu (under Kazuya's leadership) to gain access to her special amulet.
She found a one-sided love interest in Ganryu (Ganryu was in love with Michelle after setting his eyes on her) and a rival in Kunimitsu who obviously wanted to use the treasure to gain an advantage over Yoshimitsu.
The amulet remained safe after the events of Tekken 2 but would play a crucial role in Tekken 3.
Starting with Tekken 3, Michelle's role has changed from an active player role to an NPC support role as her legacy has been passed onto her adopted daughter Julia. Michelle gets kidnapped by the Mishima Zaibatsu, again under Heihachi's leadership, was the amulet plays a crucial role in awakening Ogre who is Tekken 3's main antagonist.
Michelle has since then faded into obscurity but made playable appearances in the non-canonical Tekken Tag Tournament and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 titles.
In Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Michelle learns that Julia has been moonlighting as the luchadora known as Jaycee who joins Armor King. Seeing the fun and excitement of professional wrestling, Michelle also grabs a mask and joins her daughter.
Will Michelle make another playable appearance in the future? Who knows?
Number #9 – Sean Matsuda, Street Fighter
Sean Matsuda who is one-quarter Japanese made his debut in Street Fighter III: The Next Generation and would appear in the extended ports SFIII: 2nd Impact and SFIII: 3rd Strike. He is introduced as Ken's protege though easily loses to Ryu in the story.
Prior to being Ken's disciple, Sean studied the martial arts under his grandfather, Kinchiro Matsuda, the founder of Matsuda Jiu-Jitsu which is inspired by Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
There is a recurring in-story gag where Sean is constantly compared to Dan.
On the same note, Sean is like Sakura Kasugano as they are respectively fans of Ken & Ryu and want to be their disciples.
Even though Sean is a “shotoclone” he does have a few original moves of his own like the “Sean Tackle” and “Ryubi Kyaku.”
According to Sean's entry in the Street Fighter Fandom, he was originally intended to be the only “shoto” in the game similar to how Marco Rodriguez is the only Kyokugenryu user in Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves.
It is highly likely that the creation of Marco Rodriguez for FF: MOTW was inspired by Sean's creation for SFIII.
Since the SFIII series, Sean hasn't made any further playable appearances.
He and Ken appear during Ryu's fight intro in Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Heroes.
Sean appears as an NPC in A Shadow Falls, Street Fighter V's story mode, supporting newcomer and older sister Laura.
It is unknown if or when he'll make another playable appearance.
Number #10 – Laura Matsuda, Street Fighter
The older sister to Sean from SFIII, Laura made her debut in Street Fighter V which serves as a prequel to the former.
Unlike Sean who seeks to study under someone, Laura looks for her own path while promoting Matsuda Jiu-Jitsu.
Even though Laura is Sean's sister, she is not a “shotoclone.”
In contrast to Sean's “shoto-centric” fighting style, Laura's fighting style is a mix of Jiu-Jitsu and Capoeira.
As Sean is focused on being Ken's student, Laura is set to be the future successor of Matsuda Jiu-Jitsu similar to Guy being the current successor of Bushinryu Ninjutsu.
Since SFV is the most recent installment out of the series, it's unknown if she'll appear in another game.
These are just ten of the characters out of the many other fighting game characters who are of mixed heritage.