Thursday, September 29, 2011

City of Heroes Issue 21 Review Part 1 - The Sad State of Sister Psyche

This isn't really how I wanted to start my series of reviews of the latest expansion to City of Heroes, and it's unfortunate that I even have this much material to work with. But I do, so here it goes. 


It's no secret that someone at Paragon Studios thinks Sister Psyche is a moron. It all started back in 2006 with the addition of the Lord Recluse Strike Force. During the fourth mission, players are subjected to the second worst cut scene in the entire game (the first is Statesman Explains It All at the end of the VEAT arc). It's a painfully embarrassing dialogue between Manticore (real name Justine Sinclair) and Sister Psyche (real name Shalice Tillman), with bits by Back Alley Brawler and Numina thrown in so we don't forget they exist. During the scene, Manticore is blindly shooting arrows into the ether while Sister Psyche stands around wringing her hands and trying not to piss her pants. This is the actual dialogue: 
Manticore: Keep fighting! We need to survive!
Sister Psyche: Manticore, we can't hold out much longer!
Manticore: I know, Sister Psyche. We're out of H-Boosters, and they're the only reason we've held out this far.
Sister Psyche: Justin, how did it come to this? Statesman dead, Synapse and Citadel missing, Positron powering Lord Recluse's ultimate weapon...
Manticore: It doesn't matter now, Shalice. All that matters is we survive and keep fighting...
Back Alley Brawler: Stay frosty, folks. We got some trouble.
Numina: It looks like more of Recluse's villains!
Manticore: Great. Just what we need.
Sister Psyche: Will they ever stop?
Manticore: Keep it together, Shalice! The Freedom Phalanx is not about to let the world fall to these scum!
Yeah I know. It still makes me squirm too. And what makes it even harder to swallow is that the rest of the content that came out in that time period was well written. It's like the good writers had the day off when this went to story board and they were like "That's good enough." Either that or someone really hates Sister Psyche. Or a third thing. 

So back in August, I wrote a piece on my disgust over the splash page for the new tutorial, Galaxy's Last Stand. As I stated back then, it's hard to find the original art without the layout markings on it. Sister Psyche's face in that shot now looks like this:
In the original, her eyes were much rounder which gave them a child-like quality. She didn't look prepared or ready for battle; she looked like she was going to shit her pants. This version isn't a whole lot better, but at least the enfantilization factor is gone. She still looks inept, is still making a stupid sex doll face, but at least her hair looks nice. 

My annoyance over this was put on the back burner by what is otherwise a great issue. As I have said before, this free expansion has as much if not more content in it as a paid expansion. And that's really awesome. But, and there's always a but, my rage came back in full force when I saw the splash screen for part one of the seven part VIP arc "Who Will Die?" Yes, they're going to kill off one of the Surviving 8. Yes, I think that's a stupid idea and reeks of a desperate attention grab. Which is sad, because the new content is strong enough to bring new life to the game without having to resort to this tactic. But I digress. This is the splash screen:
Pardon my task bar. Cropping is hard. 
Take a look at everyone. Everyone, but two, are geared up, ready to fight, ready to face down death itself which lurks behind them like a necrotic peeping Tom. And the two that aren't? Manticore and Sister Psyche. Before we get to her, let's talk about him. What the hell is going on with his body? No person would turn and contort themselves that way. In fact, I'm not convinced it's even possible. Is Rob Liefield now drawing for Paragon Studios? 

But moving beyond that, there is Sister Psyche once again sporting the stupid sex doll face, scared out of her high heels because the bad guys are mean and she needs her husband to protect her. It's rage-inducing. 

In game lore, Sister Psyche was thought of as the most powerful psychic in the world. The story has now shifted a bit, and one who is just as powerful (or maybe even more so) has been discovered. That's not really the point, though. Point is, Sister Psyche is fierce. When taking her on in a mission, she is always the first one a team targets. She will kick your ass 32 ways before you can even blink if you aren't on guard. She does a damage type that isn't widely resisted, and can stack holds like a mofo. 

Her husband, on the other hand, has a bow and arrow. And stupid hair. 

So why is it then that someone at Paragon Studios decided that in art she's going to be depicted as this feeble little girl who needs her big strong no-super-powers-having man to protect her? 

"But they're a couple!" you may wail (and if so, this probably isn't the blog for you). And I may give you that, to a point. They're also professional super heroes who need to be able to put that aside in times of crisis. Also, recent game lore is moving toward Positron and Numina hooking up (even though she's a ghost, and that's in no way creepy), but they're still each ready to go face whatever danger lurks off screen. 

I will also point out that no other female super hero in game is depicted like this. Just Sister Psyche. And I have no idea why. Out of all of them, she's arguably the most deadly. 

If this is going to be the way they continue with her, I hope she's the one killed off in the end. Cause seriously, we get enough sexism out in the real world. We don't need it in our entertainment. 

3 comments:

  1. Sister Psyche IS a moron. This was established long ago, in the CoH comic, where Sister Psyche (while dressed in transparent spandex) flips out at a teenage kid when she reads his mind (without permission, of course) and realize he was checking her out.

    She was never a good character after scene.

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  2. The tutorial splash screen is a great example of why artists have to be *super* careful when drawing faces, as the most subtle of changes can drastically change the emotion you are trying to convey to your viewer.

    With just with a little extra shading (and hair positioning) to make her right eye look less wide, a slight shift of her eyebrows downward and making her mouth a little less wide, Psyche goes from paralyzed with fear in the old version to shocked (but still ready to throw down with her mental mojo) in the new.

    Also, thank goodness they got rid of those stupid shards pointing at her boobs and crotch.

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  3. That second pic super bothers me too. Someone is targeting the Phalanx...why the hell are two of the team members not ready for battle? If I were Statesman, I'd be ready to kick the two deadweights from the team and throw out a "Level 50 team LF 2 members" in global! ;)

    I get that they want to convey the romantic connection between the two married members of the Phalanx, but it could have been done so much better (without drastically changing Psyche and Manti's poses even) so they look like they're competent members of the team.

    My solution: Shift Manti's body position so it's pointing forward (and is not in an awkward, impossible to achieve angle) and put his bow in his hands ready to fire. Shift Psyche slightly to the left (so she's not covered completely by Manti's new pose), put her right arm out in a protective (yet powerful) stance so it looks like she's ready to throw down and put her left arm on his shoulder or hip (hey, now they're connected and romantical!). There, romance *and* competence!

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