It takes a lot to make a good fighting game. You need a balanced roster, engaging graphics, and a style that is both fun to pick up and play, yet rewards dedication and practice. But, most importantly, you need one Native American stereotype. No more, no less. Here's our tribute to the characters that filled that mandatory diversity spot on their respective rosters.
7. Julia / Michelle Chang, Tekken
Reason for entering tournament: Everyone wants their tribe's magic amulet.
Special Moves: Twin Arrow, Snake Step
Michelle discovered Julia as a baby, though if you were just judging on strategy guides you'd swear they were related by blood. They have the same fighting style, combos, and special moves. Michelle starred in the first two Tekken games, but was replaced by her daughter because Tekken actually has a timeline that moves forward and it would be completely unrealistic if an older woman was competing in the Tekken tournament. How would she ever stand a chance against the android Jack or the boxing kangaroo Roger?
6. Wolf Hawkfield, Virtua Fighter
Reason for entering tournament: Ominous prophecy
Special moves: Nothing funny, but Virtua Fighter doesn't really have special moves anyway
There was a lot that set the first Virtua Fighter apart a simple three-button control scheme, the most virtua graphics of the era, and character movesets based on real life fighting styles. Nobody in this game was fueled by psycho energy, mystic yoga, or hell. Everyone in Virtua Fighter could be a real person, with the notable exception of the cyborg big boss Dural (and science is working on that). Wolf Hawkfield employed the fighting style most familiar to the game's target audience, professional wrestling. While not technically Native American, he was a First Nations woodsman who achieved fame as a pro-wrestler, somewhat like a Canadian Tatanka). The only difference? Tatanka never had to compete against ninjas, women, and old men. He was also significantly less Virtua.
5. Black Hawk, Samurai Shodown
Reason for entering tournament: Shaman told him to.
Special Moves: Tomahawk Swing, Double Tomahawk, Hawk Dive
The bar for Native American costume design in fighting games has been set so embarrassingly low, the first one that shows up wearing a shirt will probably win some kind of humanitarian prize. That winner will not be Black Hawk, from Samurai Shodown. Granted, Samurai Shodown is set in the 18th century, so his dress is period-appropriate, even though science tells us that shirt technology existed back then. But "Black Hawk"? When you're naming your token Native American character, why are "hawk" and "wolf" the only animals that come to mind? What about the pugnacious beaver, or the persistent salmon? Don't these spirit animals deserve representation?
4. Rick Strowd, Fatal Fury
Reason for entering tournament: Heard the call of the wind.
Special Moves: Blazing Sun Burst, Machine-Gun Wolf
Welcome to Videogame Cultural Sensitivity Training. Pop Quiz: If you were a young, athletic, Native American man with a forte for boxing, where would you naturally make your living?
If you said a casino, then shame on you, we expected better. Also, congratulations! You're exactly right according to Real Bout Fatal Fury 2. Rick Strowd spent ten years as a casino show boxer until "nature's voice" called him away to become an unpopular bit character in a difficult-to-follow fighting game franchise. It was good advice: Rick had everything a Native American needs to win a fictional multinational fighting tournament: a deep-yet-undefined spiritual connection with nature, gratuitous body paint, and a coupon for discount crab legs at the casino buffet. Unfortunately, he was bumped out of the next game and hasn't appeared in a mainstream title since. The Japanese developers said it was because Rick wasn't "interesting" enough, which, oddly, is the same excuse American frontiersmen used whenever they poured concrete over an Indian burial ground to make room for a new whorehouse.