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There's More to Pyra—and Xenoblade Chronicles 2—than a Sexy Fanservice Outfit

Yes, there's a problem with how female game characters are designed. Don't take it all out on Pyra or her game, though.

Opinion by Nadia Oxford, .

Being a life-long female fan of video games, especially RPGs, makes for a lot of awkward interactions. Imagine: your mom walks into your bedroom and sees you playing Final Fantasy VII as Tifa. She jabs her finger in the general direction of Tifa's party balloon-sized breasts and says "What the hell is that?" while you stammer something about how Tifa is a strong and cool character.

And, honestly? She is. Tifa's the top student of a martial arts master. She works as a guide on the treacherous mountain path bordering her home town. She attempts to murder Sephiroth (without much success, but she gave it a good try). Still, she's allowed to have serious flaws: Her enablement of Cloud's identity crisis demonstrates her fears and weaknesses.

But that's all difficult to explain to someone outside the pastime when their eyes are locked on Tifa's impossible chest.

"It's not stupid, mom. You don't get it."

What's to be done when a game trots out a silly anime trope like gravity-resistant breasts on a scantily-dressed woman? Do we put our foot down and refuse to play the game until Japan "learns its lesson?" Do we bristle and fight anyone who criticizes Japan's cultural norms? Most of us do what we've been doing for a long time now: We take the bad with the good.

Tifa is just one example. Another example is Ace Attorney's Mia Fey, who bears Grand Canyon-length cleavage whenever she shows up in a court of law, but is a fearsome lawyer. Then there's Fran from Final Fantasy XII. She's a literal bunny girl who runs around in high heels, but damn, I kind of love her. Cutting off ties with her forest home caused her mental anguish, but when there's a job that needs to be done, she gets it done.

Fran can wear whatever the hell she wants, is what I'm saying.

Now we have Pyra from Xenoblade Chronicles 2, a living weapon who tucks her ample chest into a skin-tight top and walks around in booty shorts (and accessorizes with an inexplicable forked scarf-thing that trails behind her). Pyra is voiced by 22-year-old Skye Bennet, and her words and deeds have a certain maturity I appreciate in JRPG women. She doesn't flop around, fall all over the place, and squeal about Rex being her "big brother." Granted, her calm demeanor makes her silly clothing seem even more ridiculous and out-of-place, but I've been compromising on female game characters for decades, and I didn't expect Pyra to change that. Simply put, I can overlook obvious fan service if the character I'm spending time with is good company. Hence why I like Tifa, Mia Fey, and Fran. I like Pyra, too.

Do I wish game developers (and Japan in particular) would give me more characters who are properly-dressed for their jobs and have complicated personalities? I sure do. Here's a secret, though: There are a couple of women characters like that in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, but they've been overshadowed by the uproar over Pyra. Nia is a fully-clothed cat lady (there's a nice change right there) who's best pals with a white tiger. I want to be friends with a white tiger. Morag is a highly respected and feared officer of the Empire who never drops her professional demeanor. I think Nia and Morag are cool, but I also hear and see a lot of people saying they won't play Xenoblade Chronicles 2 because they're too "grossed out" by Pyra and some of the designs for the other female blades (who are bestowed upon you via a random bonding process, and therefore may never even enter your line of vision). It's a shame to see people toss out the baby with the bathwater.

"If you don't like living weapons in hot pants, we also have a girl who rides a tiger."

It's also a little bemusing. Pyra's design isn't necessarily appealing, but I find it much more generic than offensive. Again, I've been "making do" with JRPG heroines for ages, and learning to look past their cheesy physical quirks. It's saccharine to say, "I like these women, Pyra included, for who they are inside," but here we are. Pyra's only sin is her dumb costume, but as far as I know, she made it herself. She made the choice to wear it. And, to be honest, seeing that costume on the body of a woman with an adult voice is almost a relief given how fanservice usually goes.

I'm not excusing Monolith Soft's design for Pyra. I think Xenoblade Chronicles 2 should've had a single character artist over its decision to utilize designs from dozens of anime artists and manga-ka (I still can't get over Tetsuya Nomura's design for one of the games' bad guys, Jin, who is essentially Cecil from Final Fantasy Dissidia wearing a mask). I'm just saying Pyra is more than her cut-off bicycle shorts, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is more than Pyra, and the reasons why the industry still struggles to create strong female characters add up to something bigger than either of those things.

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Comments 47

  • Avatar for VotesForCows #1 VotesForCows 14 days ago
    Good stuff Nadia. Also - some of the comments you've received on this issue have been pretty stupid!
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  • Avatar for camchow #2 camchow 14 days ago
    The previous 2 Xeno games had customizable outfits in the sense of you wear a new armor and that new armor appears on your character, has that been thrown out in this game? That could lessen the outlash so it'd be a shame if that just isn't the case anymore.
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #3 nadiaoxford 14 days ago
    @camchow Yeah, that's unfortunately been removed since you don't equip armour and weapons the old way this time around. Too bad, Naked Dunban was a great equalizer.
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  • Avatar for Podunkus #4 Podunkus 14 days ago
    I think you make some good points. The game is surely more than its character designs.

    I imagine some reaction against the character isn't just the belief that it's a sexist design, but that characters dressed in ridiculous outfits like that are a warning sign that there are other problems with the game. For me it suggests that the game probably has some other terrible anime tropes (e.g. a horribly annoying fuzzy animal character), is probably way too long, has a thousand fetch quests, etc. Does the good balance out that stuff? Judging from your review it did for you. But for me I doubt it: JRPGs used to be one of my favorite genres, but I just can't stomach them anymore, at least not ones in this traditional vein.

    But even by itself, don't outfits like Pyra's only serve to undermine the game? (And that could be said for characters across all genres.) It might work in certain specific situations, like if the character is trying to be sexy or something, but going into battle like that is just silly, and being an ancient fantasy-genre trope doesn't justify it. And then there are scenes that are supposed to be moving, which are totally undermined by the ridiculous look. E.g. this moving scene.

    Fran can certainly wear whatever the hell she wants. Pyra can "make" whatever outfit she wants for herself. But neither Fran nor Pyra exist. Rather, is it ok for a designer to dress them that way? What does that say about how they view women and how they want the player to view women? Does it help make the game or story better in any way?

    To me it's a bit sad that, as you point out, designs like Prya's are so ubiquitous that they are seen as generic. And even sadder that it could be, as you point out, much worse.
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  • Avatar for DrCorndog #5 DrCorndog 14 days ago
    I'm glad Pyra is an otherwise strong character. But, Nadia, your argument is essentially "Ignore the bad stuff, because there's good stuff, too." That by itself isn't a very strong argument.
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  • Avatar for benjaminlu86 #6 benjaminlu86 14 days ago
    @Podunkus Basically this. Pyra or Fran or Tifa didn't "choose" to wear anything because they're not real people with agency. A character designer (usually male, although female designers certainly do this too, chasing sales) deliberately put them in that outfit. That, or a (usually male) marketing person requested a more racy outfit because "that's what the otaku want $$$".

    Pyra is not an adult with confidence in her body image and positive, possibly admirable personality traits. Pyra is a collection of design decisions with an agenda, consciously or unconsciously. "How much ass should she kick in order to offset the amount of boob jiggle we want to add?" "What tragic backstory should she have to justify her wardrobe choice?" "How much of a Strong Female Character(tm) does she have to be in order to make up for her regressive female design tropes?" This isn't feminism. It's capitalism.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #7 MetManMas 14 days ago
    @Podunkus Oh yes. The jRPG genre has never been a stranger to ridiculous outfits, but more than ever these days busty ladies and skeevy fashion often tends to coincide with increasingly insufferable anime tropes like swimsuit and hot springs episodes, exploding clothes, hands-on size comparisons, the perverted jackass friend who would be one panty sniffing incident away from a restraining order and prison sentence in the real world, and so on.

    Me, I don't have a problem with Pyra's design. The camera may focus on her cleavage too much, but she's tame compared to, say, Fiore in Star Ocean: Integrity & Faitlessness. Some of the Blades, on the other hand...

    Ridiculous female character designs on their own are rarely a deal breaker for me, but they can make me reluctant to bite until I learn more about the game.Edited 2 weeks ago by MetManMas
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #8 NiceGuyNeon 14 days ago
    Listen, I don't wanna be that guy. But I'm gonna be that guy. When Tokyo Mirage Sessions and Xenoblade Chronicles X were censored on Wii U people lost their minds. When Xenoblade Chronicles 2 wasn't censored people... lost their minds? You can't make everyone happy, and that's fine. I get it, someone is complaining about something all the time. The question I guess for Nintendo is which complaint is less likely to effect sales? They're a big company they'll figure it out but based on all the memes about Zelda's butt, Twintelle's butt, Pauline's butt, topless Link and topless Mario, I think they're fine.

    There's nothing overtly offensive here to me, if there is to you then fine, but I'd wonder why these same complaints aren't thrown at games like Nier which are basically universally beloved this year but also have ladies in short dresses and heels jumping around everywhere. I'm not saying Nier deserves bad attention (I'm going to play it myself very soon because I expect it to be excellent coming from Platinum) for short skirts on combat androids with the only justification being "because I like that" from Yoko Taro (at least he's honest). I'm just wondering why Xeno 2 is given a hard time over a fairly generic character design for whatever reason and the other game is a front-runner for GotY without any controversy.

    If you want to boycott Xeno 2 for whatever reason, that's your choice and you're entitled to make it because it's your cash, your time, and your enjoyment. But I'll tell you what, I'm happy it's reviewed well, I'm eager to play it, and I hope Monolith keep making excellent RPGs because they've been doing very well for themselves since the first Xenoblade! I do hope that they improve their character designs for whatever the next game will be though. While I don't get the controversy here, I do think the character designs are very bland and generic looking for Xeno 2, but that's seemed to be a complaint people had since the game was revealed.
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  • Avatar for sleepiest #9 sleepiest 14 days ago
    @NiceGuyNeon There was a whole "discourse" about Nier on twitter. I managed to miss most of it, thank god, but the defense to complaints about 2B boiled down to "there's nothing wrong with making a horny game and the sexiness doesn't detract from the game". I haven't played Automata yet, though I bought it black fri and plan to play soon, so I won't try to pass judgement yet.

    I will say, though, that a lot of these ani-boob designs have the effect of making the women look like helpless children + huge breasts which just feels gross. So, for me, it's about helplessness (independence?) and age, and how that reflects on the character.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #10 NiceGuyNeon 14 days ago
    @sleepiest Oh I agree with you 100%, it definitely is gross. I dislike the look of big-boobed helpless child-women. I just don't get why this is the one that's being whipped by people when there have been others. Is it because it's Nintendo and people maybe expect more from them?
    I dunno.

    I've also avoided almost all of Nier's discourse since I haven't played it yet and I've heard it's best to go into it knowing as little as possible. Maybe in December though. I don't think the designs are great in that game either from what I've seen, but I know I love Platinum and I've heard good stuff about it. I'm willing to put up with designs of things that are ridiculous if the experience at hand is worthwhile and to me it sounds like Nier is very much so worthwhile, and based on some of the reviews of Xeno 2, it's also probably worth my time too.
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  • Avatar for NotCarolKaye #11 NotCarolKaye 14 days ago
    People think boycotting this game will help women. Meanwhile there's still a world full of Harvey Weinsteins and Matt Lauers out there.

    I like some sexy in games. I don't want stuff like this to go away. That doesn't make me a sexual predator any more than liking shooters makes me the next Columbine turd and I'm fucking sick of the insulting insinuation. I am attracted to women and I respect them. There's no contradiction in that.

    Also, it's not like the guys in JRPGs look like Dennis Franz and Paul Giamatti. But nobody seems to think it's meaningful that Balthier is very good looking.
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  • Avatar for StonedCrows #12 StonedCrows 14 days ago
    Even as a conventionally attractive, white woman, Nadia, you're bound to have seen some of the toxic attitudes this kind of behaviour normalises. I wrote a post about this on the review, and I stand by what I said, there. It's not just about the character, it's about how people react to the character and what attitudes are validated by its existence. If you're not (as a base value) offering skimpy and non-skimpy outfits for all genders, what message does that send to the misogynists out there who berate, belittle, and dehumanise women for little more than being a little overweight? Or the ones who say 'she was asking for it' about a woman in a raunchy outfit if she was raped? This is the kind of thing we're dealing with, and why the video games industry (along with every other medium) needs to be much more responsible.

    Sure, Japan will always be Japan. That doesn't mean that it can't be the job of localisation teams to create a more healthy environment to educate the West on what should be taboos. Anything that validates a person's opinion of a woman as an object should be questioned, I feel. as a person who has a partner who's a little overweight, and has been mocked for it all of her life, I feel a great deal of empathy for what women go through. I guess it's less if you are fortunate enough to be conventionally attractive, white, healthy, and well off... But not all are, and there are things that those who aren't have to deal with on a day to day basis.

    I'd really ask you, Nadia, and anyone else to read the post I made on the review and give it fair consideration. Especially the part where I talk about autism and how this kind of behaviour has affected me with ableist attitudes are normalised whenever a video game shows an autistic person being abused.

    Consider this: In the game, Pyra is portrayed as Rex's slave. I've played it, so I know this is true. She's submissive, secondary to the male (Rex), and willing to do whatever he wants. She's dressed in bondage/harem gear and ready to follow him to the ends of the earth, ready to die for him. She's Rex's property, as his sword. And this is considered desirable? This is a good thing to normalise? Like I said, the onus should be on the localisation teams to fix these problems before the game even makes it to market. The more you normalise these problems, the worse they're going to get.

    So, my partner is told, by toxic males, that she's ugly and fat. And then they point at examples of submissive, slim, seen-but-not-heard women as examples of how she should be. When this has happened all of her life, this becomes a really scarring, tragic thing. What happens then is that examples of women like this are hurtful to her, because they're the tools used to attack her. As such, she could never enjoy a game like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 because it embodies, represents, and further normalises the kind of hate she's had to endure.

    There's a video I'm going to link again, too. I hope that's okay.



    I think that's worth watching and understanding. As a person who's conventionally attractive, Nadia, you might not have experienced men telling you what you should be as much as my partner has. I don't know. I'm getting that impression a little, though. However, I think it's very important to have empathy for the women who have endured that, it's important to be united behind this cause so that they won't need to be hurt like this again. There's no reason for a game like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 to reinforce these damaging things.

    And like I said in my other post, it's a few hours work per character to add the outfits necessary. This is why outfit DLC is so common. There is the argument made, of course, that this takes resources away from other parts of the game but that's simply not true. You don't have one guy who's working on programming, gameplay design, landscaping design, sound design, sound effects, musical tracks, et cetera. You have different people for different roles. Monolith Soft and Nintendo likely have lots of talented outfit designers just sitting around whose talents they could've pulled in on to add options when they localised Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

    I'm not attacking anyone here. I'm just saying that it's easy to ignore the people who're hurt by this. It's easy to dehumanise them and blame the victim. It's easy to just look at my partner who's dealt with this kind of thing all of her life and tell her to grow a thicker skin. You could say the same to me for all the bigoted hatred I've experienced. It doesn't work that way. If so many people are always telling you these things, it does get to you, it scars you, and eventually it can break you. If you've never experienced that kind of hatred? Lucky! But you are lucky. You're incredibly fortunate and privileged. That's fine.

    Does that make it okay that others have suffered to such an extreme degree, though? Would you stand by and allow someone to feel suicidal because of these kinds of attacks? Then why do we allow for entertainment that normalises, reinforces, and validates how these toxic people (groups like the Alt-Right, for example) view the world?

    Yes, it was always like that. I know.

    Should it be, now?

    Now we've got better localisation teams. Now the climate has changed and women are dealing with so much hate in both the real world and on the Internet that it's resulting in higher suicide rates. And now we have the power to do something about it. IT feels cowardly, to me, to just 'accept the bad' when other people are suffering.

    There's more I could say about this, but it'd just be retreading what I said in the review article. So you can read my post there for further thoughts I have about this and how I'd go about fixing it.

    Thanks for reading.

    - StonedCrowsEdited 2 weeks ago by StonedCrows
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  • Avatar for RxMxG #13 RxMxG 14 days ago
    For me, I'm tired looking at these "fantasy design" and it feels unnecessarily lewd. Overall it makes a game looks cheap. That kind of design exist almost on most anime styled game and other media, and I'm tired.

    The most glaring problem is the developer / designer won't acknowledge that they honestly want to create a self concious sexy female character from the start.

    I love Bayonetta, her costume compliment her character very well, a naughty seductive witch. I got very little problem with that.

    I hate Dragon's Crown, because... I don't know where to start with that game. I won't touch that game, ever.

    I love Senran Kagura series, they know they are a full blown fan service and I can approach that game with better view (hehehe).

    But Imagine Aerith wear skimpy dress and have massive cleavage. That will feel cheap, right? Because it really clash with her character story and make you think "why the hell she wear that dress!?"

    Don't get me wrong, I 100% disagree with censorship. Why Tokyo Mirage Sessions censored and got T rating? Why it can't be a M rated game? Maybe M rated game won't generate a lot of money. Just don't ask GTA5 sales number.

    My suggested solution is Just give me not revealing costume version from the get go. I breathed a sigh of relieve when I finally can use military costume on MGSV's Quiet instead of her war bikini. Why I need to unlock that costume?Edited 2 weeks ago by RxMxG
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #14 nadiaoxford 14 days ago
    @StonedCrows I very much appreciate the time and effort you took to type all this out (and your response on my review). Thank you! However, I have to say three things here:

    1) Please don't assume that, despite being a "conventionally attractive white woman," I haven't endured a lot of hurtful remarks about what I look like, what I sound like, etc. I've been called a whale, fat, ugly, a man trying to disguise herself as a woman -- the gamut, really. Since I'm relatively open about being Jewish, I've endured a big helping of slurs, too. This isn't just on the internet, either: At my first job, my boss told me daily how unfeminine I am (I was 17 at the time). To be honest, it's one reason why I think I've earned the "right" to enjoy a character like Pyra and / or criticize her as I see fit.

    2) I say several times in this piece that I'd like to see game developers do better. Want to include sliders that determine how much a woman exposes / covers up? Sure! I love that idea!

    3) I don't see Pyra and Rex as a slave / master relationship. I just don't. I know you've provided examples here, but I'm afraid they just don't gel with me. I definitely don't see Pyra as a "young girl," which is something you said in my review. As I state here, she's voiced by a 22-year-old woman, and outside of her outfit, she doesn't subscribe to the tropes that make me uncomfortable with some female anime and game leads (e.g. high-pitched squealing about Rex being her big brother and whatnot). I won't get too far into the story, but it's not a spoiler to say Pyra saved Rex's life, and she did so out of her own will. As the story progresses, we learn why. However you may feel about her bond with Rex, there's nothing about Pyra that tells me she's a mindless doll following Rex out of some kind dog-like loyalty.
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #15 nadiaoxford 14 days ago
    @RxMxG Yeah I definitely agree that I have an easier time swallowing sexy costumes when the game isn't shy about them being fanservice of some kind. Then again, Pyra not explaining her fashion choices preferable to an excuse like "she, uh, breathes through her skin! Yeah!"
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  • Avatar for NightingaleXP #16 NightingaleXP 14 days ago
    Honestly, after putting up with the costume design in Tales of Berseria, my reaction to Pyra has mostly been "what, that's it?"

    I think that's more a case of me being utterly desensitized to the problem by repeated, endless exposure to awful examples of it, though.

    I've found her characterization remarkably mature and solid so far, though, which was the main aspect I was worried about; I can tolerate the sexualized costumes a lot better than I can the constant infantilization that is apparently meant to tittilate.
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  • Avatar for StonedCrows #17 StonedCrows 14 days ago
    @nadiaoxford

    1) I never did. As I said in my opening statement, despite these factors I'm sure you've still experienced prejudice. Which is why I was confused by your opinion. Not hat I think ou haven't experienced prejudice, but rather that you'd have this opinion in spite of it. That's unusual to me. If you have experienced such prejudice then certainly you'd be in a poistion to empathise?

    2) I had no issue with the body of your article. It was more the conclusion of it all that seemed to be unfortunate.

    3) This is a multifaceted response, I only know how to deal with that by segmenting it in order to deal with each point individually. I hope you can bear with me.

    "I don't see Pyra and Rex as a slave / master relationship. I just don't. I know you've provided examples here, but I'm afraid they just don't gel with me."

    That's fine. It's all a matter of perspective. My point is is that if I can perceive that, and others on other forums have perceived that, then there's something in the game that's conveying that. The concept of "waifu" is applied to Pyra for a reason. It might not gel with you, because you're invested in the game and you haven't thought about it that way, but that doesn't mean that it cannot be perceived that way. If the game is conveying this to enough people, though, there is a problem there.

    Why would we want to bury that problem? We could face that it is an issue and deal with the underlying problems. We could offer Pyra more agency to choose things for herself. We could change the story so that Rex doesn't effectively own her. There's a lot of approaches we could take to reduce the feeling of Pyra as a subservient object to Rex. Even in combat she fulfils a subservient role, being a background support character, supporting Rex as he fights rather than fighting with him. There are a lot of aspects that offer credence and weight to my perspective. And as I said, it's not just my perspective.

    You can find a lot of threads online (GameFAQs was rife with this at one point) talking about how much they love that Pyra is a submissive "waifu."

    " I definitely don't see Pyra as a "young girl," which is something you said in my review."

    That's a matter of opinion, again. It's a subjective factor. I think you're pulaying the dubbed version, yes? In the Japanese voiced version, she sounds extremely young. That's the version that most fans will be playing with, judging from the sentiment around numerous forums, along with how utterly disliked the Western voice acting is.

    "[...] outside of her outfit, she doesn't subscribe to the tropes that make me uncomfortable with some female anime and game leads (e.g. high-pitched squealing about Rex being her big brother and whatnot)."

    Again, this is present in the Japanese dialogue. Which Nintendo made a big deal about including. Also, there was that scene where Rex comments on how 'heavy' she is and the camera zooms right in on her breasts as she flinches, just to have them wobble. There are a lot of moments like that. And have you seen those breast physics in combat? It's... not great. i'd say that the tropes are there en force.

    "I won't get too far into the story, but it's not a spoiler to say Pyra saved Rex's life [...]"

    Yes, but this just fits into the trope of the submissive healer. Another really questionable trope that's well known. She didn't do it by taking charge, marching out into the battlefield, and saving his butt by being a competent fighter where he was not.

    "[...] there's nothing about Pyra that tells me she's a mindless doll following Rex out of some kind dog-like loyalty."

    That's exactly the impression I got, sorry. We'll just have to agree to disagree, here. Though I am raising an eyebrow at how you're ignoring the various camera zoom-ins on her thighs, breasts, and so on. Those are tropes that don't make you uncomfortable? It might just be that you aren't uncomfortable with this topic, so whilst you may have experienced prejudice, you might be fortunate enough to have avoided the kind of hatred my partner has faced.

    And that was my point.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and reply.

    -- StonedCrowsEdited 2 weeks ago by StonedCrows
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  • Avatar for Snake- #18 Snake- 14 days ago
    I really don't know how u ppl think , criticising a game Bec they focused the camera on some character cleavage , or some dumb outfit or whatever , I'm not saying I like it it's just normal this days , everything is changing from the way they were in the past for example music videos / movies , like almost every music video in the U.S have butts in it but no one criticise that !!! And Xenoblade Chronicles 2 have less fan service than most of the music videos out there , and u should really learn to live with it because I don't think it's going anywhere in the near future
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  • Avatar for NightingaleXP #19 NightingaleXP 14 days ago
    @Snake- I don't think the solution to things you don't like is "just don't say anything about it and deal."

    I'm not saying anything is changing overnight, but I don't at all subscribe to the notion that nothing can ever change for the better.
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #20 nadiaoxford 14 days ago
    @StonedCrows "If you have experienced such prejudice then certainly you'd be in a poistion to empathise? / so whilst you may have experienced prejudice, you might be fortunate enough to have avoided the kind of hatred my partner has faced."

    In one of your posts, you mention how the abuse your partner has suffered means you emphasize with what women go through. I'm honestly glad to hear that; I think empathy will fix these problems games have with representation (and most of the world's ills, tbh).

    But your words also lead me to believe you're likely a cis man. If that's not the case, I apologize for my presumption, and rescind the following:

    Your empathy is, again, very much appreciated, and your girlfriend is lucky to have someone so supportive beside her. However, I *am* a woman. I *have* directly suffered the abuse that you (again, being presumptuous) imply you're privileged enough to avoid.

    I have the right to an opinion about characters like Pyra, and say what I think about her. So do you, of course. But I don't much appreciate having a man talk over me and suggest I'm cold and unsympathetic in matters pertaining to female representation in the media. However you feel about my opinion, I am here on the front lines -- but men who claim to love feminism talk over me every single day.

    As for the rest ... yeah, definitely going to have to agree to disagree.

    ("you might be fortunate enough to have avoided the kind of hatred my partner has faced" - I dunno, I've been called a fat ugly Jewess / Kike for disagreeing with people about video games, how does that rank?)Edited 2 weeks ago by nadiaoxford
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  • Avatar for Snake- #21 Snake- 13 days ago
    @NightingaleXP well I appreciate the time u took to respond ,and I might be wrong Bec i don't wanna try to change it ,too many horny ppl out there hard to compete against that , we can still try .
    And I just denied my whole argument ^^' , sorry for wasting ur time .
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #22 UnskippableCutscene 13 days ago
    Xenoblade has never shied away from the fanservice on either gender. It's kind of hard for me to complain too loudly about this outfit when I loved bathing suit Shulk.

    Coming from a queer male perspective, tackling this is weird. Video game people, cartoon people, etc are fictional and I admit I sometimes like to ogle them! There's definitely a double-standard in play, but the proposed solution of "no more ogling" just... I dunno. It's awkward? I'm the guy who plays Overwatch with the bare-chested Baywatch McCree cosmetic enabled, as well as the young/handsome 76. I really, really don't have room to complain about a straight man picking butt-floss Sombra.

    Someone posted a really long screed that I think unfairly attacks people because it aligns them with some really terrible values for something as innocuous as liking some cheeky video game outfits. I don't know where we went from something as simple as "my nine-year-old daughter would like to play Super Mario with Peach or another girl character" when talking about games, to reading so far between the lines about the hidden meanings and implied beliefs in the outfit of a character in a T-rated JRPG. Please don't assume so much of the players. Please stop suggesting that just because a majority of Internet Nazis have a common opinion about video game heroes, that everyone who has such opinion is an Internet Nazi (I can't stand cigarettes, and reportedly neither could Hitler, therefore...)

    Here's the alternative of the Tifa example: You know who is, narratively speaking, a really cool character? Kid from Chrono Cross. You know who dresses really skimpy? Kid from Chrono Cross. Is some of that for fan appeal? I guess. Is it some sickening plot to turn more players into abusing girls in the real world? Not intentionally, no. So why is it? Some of it is also established as A Thief Thing, to be honest. Because although her outfit is skimpy, it's really not out of the ordinary for JRPG Thief-class characters regardless of gender. I swear, I think she and Vaan must have bought their little vests from the same tailor.

    (Also, one last thing: I talk to plenty of other gay guys who like games in Discord and other social spaces, and from what I can tell Gerudo Link is basically our spirit animal this year. And bodybuilder King Dedede(?!) was well-received, too. So again, if anything Nintendo seems to be hitting it out of the park lately on being inclusive with this stuff.)Edited 3 times. Last edited 2 weeks ago by UnskippableCutscene
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  • Avatar for StonedCrows #23 StonedCrows 13 days ago
    @UnskippableCutscene

    Thanks for the Godwin fallacy. I know you're having a go at me and that's not what I said t all. What I did say is that it's the responsibility of developers to not normalise the hatred that groups like the Alt-Right spew. Are you a developer? Are you of the Alt-Right? No? Then I wasn't talking about you.

    I don't actually talk up much. As an autistic person, I'm used to just being shunned, silenced, and dehumanised anyway. So that's nothing new. I figured I'd speak up on a few sites, just to see what the reactions were like...

    That'll teach me for posting outside of Kotaku, Polygon, and ResetEra I guess. Can't say I didn't try. Empathy is just a rare commodity, these days. Sociopathy is so much more popular.

    -- StonedCrows
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #24 UnskippableCutscene 13 days ago
    @StonedCrows
    What I'm trying to say is it's about context and perspective. A woman may not like Pyra's dress. That's their right. I'm also trying to say, it's not like Nintendo has held women to a double standard here. Women and queer men alike have gotten plenty of opportunities to dress down male characters as well.

    I don't have any desire to, but for goodness sakes I can play an entire Super Mario game with Mario nearly naked.
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  • Avatar for Minkukel #25 Minkukel 13 days ago
    It's kind of weird to me there is so much (well, relatively, because I personally haven't seen that much uproar) focus on Pyra in a game where there are lots of fanservice characters, some of which are much more fanservice-y than her.
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  • Avatar for jeffcorry #26 jeffcorry 13 days ago
    While I can definitely appreciate a great character with stupid clothing, this game went a bit over the line for me personally, and it's too bad. Because this game looks really great. My problem, really, my main problem, besides the ridiculous outfits, was that my kids LOVE to watch me play games. So, with an eleven year old in the house and me being fairly conservative when it comes to our video game content (we try to keep things T and below...even then sometimes I don't get a game for reasons like this game.), this game had to be passed by for now.
    If other people are enjoying it, and the costumes don't bother them, that's great. I know I am ultra sensitive to this kind of thing. I love Final Fantasy XII and even X is okay but Lulu and Fran were designed a bit beyond my comfort zone. I really love both games quite a bit for different reasons, so I can understand what Nadia is saying here.
    My main problem here is that it seems to be a CONSTANT flow of fan service throughout the game. It's not just Pyra, I probably could have overlooked that (maybe) because I do believe that there is usually good or positive messages mixed in with the stuff I don't like. My MAIN problem is that it seems that the 'fan-service' is CONSTANT. It was the other characters that convinced me I needed to pass this over. I kept thinking about my kids...and as a parent, it was just too much. Plus there's all the news lately with sexual harassment. It would probably be better to have them play a game that doesn't objectify women so much. In the end that's what I feel like this game is doing: making women objects despite their great characterization. It's too bad really, because there probably are some really great, strong female characters I have passed by because of their clothes...or...lack of...Edited 2 weeks ago by jeffcorry
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  • Avatar for shurn #27 shurn 13 days ago
    A reasonable opinion I can agree with.
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  • Avatar for kantaroo3 #28 kantaroo3 13 days ago
    @nadiaoxford Thank you for tackling this issue head-on in this article. It is a complicated topic which can also get emotive, and you open yourself to attack by covering it, so thanks for opening this for discussion.

    However I am not convinced by the arguments you put forward here, for the reasons already set out by@DrCorndog @benjaminlu86. But I can see where you are coming from.

    I have already given my thoughts in the review article so I won’t go into it much more here, but I agree with your comment that it is a shame that they removed the character customization options that existed in previous games in the series.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #29 SatelliteOfLove 13 days ago
    It's less the outfit and more along the lines of you have this ingenue who dresses like she's hot to trot.

    This has become LEGION in Japanese video games, and undercuts tough ol' gals what wanna show off the goods and is just generally creepy in general, like they don't have a "choice" in attire.
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #30 UnskippableCutscene 13 days ago
    @jeffcorry I get your position. You're a parent with young kids, so it's different for you. There was probably a game or something your parents didn't want you to touch at that age as well. My Dad was never going to watch Heavy Metal when I was around.
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  • Avatar for acrowatz #31 acrowatz 13 days ago
    I miss the customization from the previous games. At the very least I wish Pyra could get a different outfit, not because I've a problem with the way she looks (though her floaters do look a bit weird, must be lack of a dedicated physics engine) bu she looks so darn cute in that ....erg, spoilers?
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  • Avatar for jeffcorry #32 jeffcorry 13 days ago
    @UnskippableCutscene Being a parent was definitely part of the equation with it. I'm still a bit bummed because I am always up for a fun fantasy world jaunt.
    Funny story though, my mother-in-law saw me playing Final Fantasy X many years ago and had to make some crack about that lady needing a wheelbarrow for those things. I was grateful she joked about it, but it was a bit embarrassing. I get that it's all fantasy and such, but attractive character design can be conservative and actually, in my opinion, can actually increase my ability to care about the character.
    To each their own though!
    Thanks for your open-mindedness on my comment.Edited 2 weeks ago by jeffcorry
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #33 Roto13 13 days ago
    @StonedCrows Poor, poor you. People being so mean to you for talking down to a woman about feminism. You have it so rough.
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  • Avatar for Iliya-Moroumetz #34 Iliya-Moroumetz 13 days ago
    I've figured out why it's so frustrating whenever Japan does this. The trifecta of the animu design paradigm; underage, conventionally attractive, and virginal, completely undermines any sort of redeeming value for what could have been an otherwise great character.

    Velvet Crowe from Tales of Berseria for instance. She's a great character with a fantastic arc, the ending notwithstanding, but the fact that she's got an atrocious outfit and is supposed to be only nineteen is really off putting.

    So, yes, we may be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but it's not our fault that so many Japanese designers are creatively bankrupt.Edited 2 weeks ago by Iliya-Moroumetz
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  • Avatar for link6616 #35 link6616 13 days ago
    I feel like these costumes/designs are Japan's version of the terrible Dlc practices.

    With Otaku friendly designs they can likely make more money, and big jrpgs that are already niche lobby won't lose as many sales as they gain from this.

    But... I like a lot of Pyra's design in practice. A few changes would go a long way such as pants and something for her back.

    But I was surprised that so far (5 hours in) I actually quite like Pyra, more than i expected at least.
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  • Avatar for Modern-Clix #36 Modern-Clix 12 days ago
    @Podunkus I see what you’re saying and where you are coming from, even if I don’t agree with all your points since the things you list as being things you don’t like are the exact things I love about Japanese rpgs not named Final Fantasy.

    Now, to your question. Is it okay for the designer to do that? The answer is yes. The moment we start saying it’s not okay for an artist to do create something how they wish to do so, is the moment a slippery slope starts. That to me is what is not okay.

    Would you say it’s not okay for all these talented artists who did those gorgeous illustrations for Heavy Metal to do the art that they do?

    What is okay is for an individual to look at something and say, no, that is not for me. That is perfectly okay.

    Another thing too is that making art that is sexy does not mean it’s sexist. Just as how specialization and objectification are not mutually exclusive.

    There are so many talented female artists who also do sexualized art; of women and men. The problem is that you don’t see enough of them, and that goes back to the age old problem of diversity and representation.

    Why do both men and women do sexy design pieces? The answer sometimes is the simplest one. Human beings are sexual creatures. Women are just as sexual as men. But again, they have a lack of representation outside of independent comics and counter culture magazines like Heavyweight Metal, which yes, many of those artists were women.

    I’ll be honest. I love sexualize designs too. Not because I’m sexist or see women as an object. So when I see a sexualized design I judge it against other sexualized art.

    That being said, I also accept the that not anyone does. And that’s also okay. Not everything has to be fore everyone.

    As for Pyra. I actually like her outfit fine. My only issue with her design is that I’ve seen better outfits if that nature from other designers.
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  • Avatar for Modern-Clix #37 Modern-Clix 12 days ago
    @DrCorndog You May feel it’s not a strong argument is because there is no objective good or bad here. As ususl, these types of things are on the eye of the beholder like any artistic medium.
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  • Avatar for Vonlenska #38 Vonlenska 12 days ago
    I guess I'm increasingly tired of compromising when I have increasingly more games like Life is Strange or Oxenfree that don't ask me to at all, let alone games like Persona 5 that ask me to compromise a little but offer rad as heck designs in exchange. Games that ask me to compromise more than titles 20 years ago... well.

    I just dock points for it, now. Especially since designs like this weren't the norm in the JRPGs I grew up with. Tifa's character design is one that, taken alone, doesn't bother me that much, for instance. Her outfit clashes with her personality pretty hard, but it's not out of place in an urban environment like Midgar and the game doesn't have a huge problem with using sexualized women as props that symbolize how "gritty" and "mature" it is. There's a variety of designs for women in FF7, in fact! Most of whom aren't sexualized nearly as much. At the end of the day, I feel like Tifa's design was something Nomura thought about - it makes some sense in context, and isn't ever really focused on in a way that feels excessively sexualized. Some women like revealing clothes. Some women have large breasts. It'd be cool if the two weren't hand in hand here, but sexualization by fans aside, Tifa's presentation in the original game is only a little questionable, but overall pretty neutral. I can roll with that.

    Fran, though. Man. Fran doesn't make any sense. She's straight up wearing lingerie for absolutely no reason. The camera lingers on her butt. I don't feel like Yoshida thought about her design at all beyond "sexy bunny lady." It's jarring and out of place. You could argue that's intentional for all the viera in XII, but I consider their presence incongruent in a way that takes me out of the game. By contrast, I love FFTA's viera. Bunny people? I am so in. Bunny girls who only wear lingerie? Even when going to war? Are you sure you're not projecting some cultural baggage here?

    Speaking of, sexualized female bodies carry loads more weight and cultural baggage than sexualized male bodies - it's difficult to even get away with doing the latter at all without facing enormous backlash because the majority of scantily clad dude designs are still power fantasies for straight men rather than sexual fantasies for straight women. Sexualized designs for female characters are so common they're normalized; and increasing the degree of sexualization alongside graphical fidelity just results in extra cringe. Worst case, ahoy:



    With stuff like that floating around, I just... yeah. I have to dock multiple points. That's just bad design that makes me uncomfortable playing. Acknowledging that doesn't take away from the game's stronger areas, but it does diminish the whole a little for me, personally.
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  • Avatar for NightingaleXP #39 NightingaleXP 12 days ago
    @Vonlenska That one is straight up indefensible, good god.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #40 Roto13 12 days ago
    @Vonlenska I feel like that one should have a second set of legs coming out of her belly.
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  • Avatar for Wellman2nd #41 Wellman2nd 11 days ago
    I get why some are upset but as a long time fighting game and JRPG fan I am used to this issue. Although it is funny there is a scene where she wears something to cover herself up as a disguise , would this game had more time I wonder if a clothing mechanic like XCX had been available?
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  • Avatar for jred250 #42 jred250 11 days ago
    Nadia comes through with a thoughtful article. This is a well-written piece and echoes some of my own feelings on Pyra. I wonder how much of the backlash could have been avoided if Monolith Soft just provided some different costume options for Rex and Pyra?

    I wish that one of these ambitious companies could find the middle ground between pandering to the worst anime sterotypes and making characters too bland. Xenoblade goes too far in one direction, FF15 with the all-black wearing dudes goes too far in the other direction.

    Ultimately, the character design is just one of many examples of missed opportunities in Xenoblade. Performance issues, some baffling character designs, poorly explained mechanics and one of the absolute worst map systems I've ever seen keep Xenoblade from living up to its potential.
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #43 Flipsider99 11 days ago
    I always get bothered with the premise "what do I say if my mom sees me playing this!" Just tell her truth, it's fan service and there's nothing wrong with it. There's nothing to be ashamed about.

    I'm really hoping we can someday live in a future where people stop being ashamed about sex.
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  • Avatar for discohospital #44 discohospital 9 days ago
    I'm late, but thanks for writing this. Very good points, and well-reasoned.

    Just some brief, rough comments based on more general observations:

    There’s a reason I will advocate for more progressive, nuanced, varied, and genuine depictions of women in video games, but that I’m absolutely not willing to condemn things like this.

    The bottom line is that art should be defended, even if there’s no direct or immediate threat of censorship, or if you think corporate or industry self-censorship doesn’t qualify or can’t cause effectively the same harm (it can - look at Hollywood’s Hays Production Code era, and then look, for example, at how much more progressive portrayals of women frequently were in films made in the years preceding the code).

    Even art, as Neil Gaiman put it, that you find “icky”.

    There are much deeper, systemic issues with video games and the culture surrounding them which something like this is only one symptom of, and which aren’t going to be fixed simply by putting more clothes on each female character deemed not to have enough coverage. The rote and doctrinaire way in which these issues are often pursued risks prompting companies to simply replace objectification with a commodified “representation”, as empty as the former.

    Additionally, I’d point out that satire is a very effective tool for dealing with issues such as this one, regardless of how you feel about them - and it’s less likely to send the kind of message to companies like Nintendo that results in a straightjacketed puritanism rather than the sort of freedom that allowed for such progressivism to thrive in Hollywood’s pre-code years.

    Let’s also (continue to) liberate male characters designed for sex appeal from ghettoization into the realm of otome games and the like. Would this not be a very effective means of combating the myth of the predominance of straight male tastes in the gaming market? When you see characters like NieR:Automata’s Adam and Eve, don’t let the silhouette of 2B’s butt eclipse them - talk about them and their sex appeal.

    And whatever you do, as others have said: please don’t be ashamed or shame anyone, directly or indirectly.Edited 2 weeks ago by discohospital
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  • Avatar for William190 #45 William190 9 days ago
    Thanks for a great review like always. I always follow your site for great gaming reviews. Terrarium Tv Review
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #46 Flipsider99 9 days ago
    @discohospital This is the best response in this entire comments thread, you said all the things I wanted to say. Well done!
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  • Avatar for Fiercedeity124 #47 Fiercedeity124 9 days ago
    @StonedCrows
    Wow, playing the victim card here? Very cute seeing you here talking about "empathy" when I just saw you on Twitter basically treating everyone who likes this game like less than s***.

    Saying things such as "every person who likes this game is an Alt-Right and a pedophile, jobless, lonely loser", and "this game should be banned" (promoting censorship, adorable). You must be one of the most hypocrital, self-righteous persons i've seen in a long time on Internet.

    But, what else could I expect from someone who unironically defines himself as a "SJW"?Edited 3 times. Last edited 2 weeks ago by Fiercedeity124
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