The other day, when playing Under Night In-Birth a friend of mine commented on Hilda’s character design. “I like her” he said. “She’s sexy but not in an exploitative way.” He went on to explain how she is in this full body dress that makes her look like she is rich, and powerful, and that she can totally kick your ass, but it’s not showing off her ass, or boobs, or panty shots or anything like that. She is just sexy.
That got me thinking, what about Under Night In-Birth’s other character designs. Are they progressive? Is anyone particularly exploitative or sexist? I started going down the roster, girls first of course. There’s Linne, who is just dressed in shorts and a hoodie; Nanase, who is just dressed in a schoolgirl’s uniform and for the FIRST TIME EVER is not subject to crazy amounts of panty shots; Orie, who is dressed in a full body covering dress and leggings; Vatista, who is kind of a gothic Lolita stereotype but is still completely covered; and Hilda, who I previously discussed. The most scandalous characters are Yuzuriha, who is really just wearing jeans and high heels and otherwise is dressed pretty normally, and Eltnum, who is wearing a pretty short skirt and is subject to some panty shots, but since she is a guest character from Melty Blood I don’t particularly count her. Overall, that’s a pretty good track record for a genre that is known for characters like Ivy and Mai Shiranui.
I then looked down the male side of the roster, just to be sure the game wasn’t exploting pecs and crotch budges as well. Hyde wears a schoolboy’s outfit, Carmine looks like a punk rocker, Merkava is a… bat… thing, Seth wears a badass trenchcoat, Akatsuki is fully clothed and a guest character, once again nothing is really exploitative here. The barest chested people are Gordeau, who doesn’t wear a t-shirt underneath his badass trenchcoat, and Waldstein, who is a heavily muscled grappler but looks more like a monster than a person. So yes, there are no Zangief thongs here either.
Frankly, I was kind of surprised. Usually I can find something to complain about here and I just didn’t. The character designs here are all very tasteful and yet they were still awesome and several were still attractive. This is a perfect example of good balanced non-exploitative character design.
I’m not saying that these character designs are trying to make a point. I’m not saying that they are trying to change the world of gaming as we know it. What I am saying, is that female characters do not have to be reduced to tits and ass in order to be appealing. Under Night In-Birth isn’t a worse game because its characters aren’t sexualized. It’s a great game nonetheless, and you should all give it a shot.
… also it would be really creepy if the characters here were sexualized as most of them are under age so… yeah.
Senior Contributing Writer