The girl issue
She should be offensive. The star of Bayonetta 2 (p36) takes the phrase ‘hypersexualised’ to ludicrous new heights: she sashays about the place with a physically implausible wiggle, and strips down to nothing more than her high heels at the end of a combo. The cutscene camera is obsessed with the curve of her buttocks and her provocative sucks on an endless supply of lollipops. Bayonetta 2 should be gross.
Instead she might just be the strongest female lead in games, comfortable in her skin and her sex, proving herself the most powerful being on the planet and all its spectral planes. She does not exist to be ogled: during combat, it’s all but impossible to anyway, since her naked form is typically obscured by the gigantic hell-demon she’s just summoned for the sole purpose of chomping a god into oblivion.
Also coming soon to Wii U, Hyrule Warriors (p48) may be wedded enough to tradition to make sure you start the game playing as Link, but the character-select screen features more female fighters than male ones by the end of our time with it. It shows that, in fact, this most storied of series has long been about more than just the boy with the sword, and it says much that sticking to tradition and playing as Link proves the least interesting way to play the game.
And heartening as it is to see Japan begin to cast off the shackles of 30 years of abysmally lascivious character designs – although Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate’s Bath And Bedtime DLC shows it still has a way left to go – the western game industry also has woman trouble. With the big boys such as Ubisoft continuing to get it wrong, it’s up to the indies to show the way. The developers of Virginia (p50) might name check the likes of Twin Peaks and The X Files, but here the women are the stars, not sidekicks or murder victims. These games may still be the exception rather than the rule, but they suggest that this most blokey of industries may finally be getting somewhere.