Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wizards that manage Awesome: Xavier Pendragon

One of the early wizards I actually enjoyed was from a fighting game of all things.  Eternal Champions was a fighting game released in 1993 on the Sega system.  It was never in arcades being designed for the Sega home system and I enjoyed it greatly despite the fact that it was too hard by half.  Along with Zombies Ate My Neighbors it remains one of the few Sega titles I would still play today.  At the time of its release fighting games were en vogue so any new title was guaranteed to at least get a rental if not a sale.  Eternal Champions did well enough, it would seem, to warrant an expanded edition on Sega CD format with extra characters.  I never played it, but I assume it was just as hard.  This was the dawn of the gore era of fighting games thanks to the runaway success of Midway's Mortal Kombat and its much loved/reviled fatalities.  Eternal Champions attempted to go MK one better with Overkills and being a fully rendered game, as opposed to MK's digitized actors the gore could be over-the-top such as being eaten by a dinosaur.

Fighting games often have storylines, some complex, some not.  Eternal Champions had a fairly involved storyline wherein the competitors were all killed prior to the tournament at a crux in their lives when they would have changed history but for their deaths.  Pulled out of the time stream just before death they were given the opportunity to fight to win the ultimate prize: being sent back to the moment of their death, seconds before the key event, with foreknowledge and a chance to change their futures.  Pretty deep, yeah?  Each character came from a different time and place and their fighting stages were based on those eras and settings.  It was pretty good game from that point if nothing else.  Among the characters (which included a cat burglar from 1920s Chicago, a futuristic bounty hunter from 2030 and a caveman from 50,000 B.C.) was an alchemist/warlock from 17th century Salem, Mass by the name of Xavier.  Since wizards are not often featured in fighting games as playable characters this instantly caught my attention and Xavier became my favorite character to play.  The vast historical inaccuracies (such as the martial arts styles employed by the fighters that more often than not had not been invented when they were alive) are easily forgivable to me. That's saying a lot, you know.
A wizard in a martial arts fighting game?
Why not?
Most fighting games employ a set of special moves for the characters, often involving seemingly magical abilities.  You can say that the martial artists use Chi or some similar psionic ability, but no amount of Chi is going to produce a ball of fire so why not a straight up wizard...even a wizard who gets his powers from Clarke's Third Law.

Full Name: Xavier Pendragon (good start)
Occupation: Warlock/Alchemist (actually his bio says he had failed at many jobs before taking up the study of alchemy, including being a blacksmith/farrier)
Time Zone: 1692 A.D. (you will no doubt instantly recognize that as the year that the Salem Witch Trials began)
Stage Location: Salem (stage location being where he was from and where his fighting stage is; note Time Zone above)
Fighting Style: Hapkido Cane Fighting (One of these things is not like the others...not only is Hapkido a Korean martial art and so unlikely to be known by an Anglo living in Puritan Salem, it was not yet developed, as we know it, when Xavier was alive)

Bio in Brief: After failing at being a blacksmith, drastically, Xavier turned to his original love: science.  He began experimenting with alchemy and rather than finding a way to turn lead into gold he discovered a way to create a source of cheap, clean-burning energy.  This discovery also fundamentally changed him giving him some powers which seemed like magic, but were completely scientific (the instruction manual claimed).  Unfortunately the people of Salem didn't like hippies back then any more than they liked witches and he was seized and burned at the stake for being a warlock before he could reveal his OPEC wrecking secrets to the world.

In game he fights with kicks and cane strikes making use of his "dragon staff" (because a wizard has to have a staff doesn't he?).  His special moves include a teleportation ability that allows him to switch places with his opponent; the ability to convert his dragon staff into a glowing green energy snake and have it coil around the foe, doing damage and holding them in place; and the ability to turn his enemy into gold for a brief time, allowing complete and total freedom to beat them silly.  Like all the Eternal Champions he has a taunt to lower his enemy's fighting abilities, his being "Simpleton" in a somewhat haughty and creepy voice.
Xavier became suddenly aware of his poor choice in attire during the early days of the Witch Trials in Salem.
I like his look.  It is iconic wizard, which might be how he got found out by the good people of Salem.  If you are running around in 17th century Puritan Salem where the people wear shirts, short pants, hose, low-cut shoes, neck cloths and disdain jewelry looking like a wizard with your big foldy boots, cloak and amulet, not to mention your Satanic dragon-headed cane, you are just asking to be burnt, mate.

I also like that he is in a fighting game, beating arse with a stick.  As I've noted before, many, many, many times the lack of physical martial abilities in wizards is a major annoyance of mine.  Old Xavier may disdain the hands-on approach but he has no problem with the foot to the balls and stick upside the head route.

Unfortunately his appearances outside of the game proper, in comic form no less, made him into some sort of jerk-off who looks down on everyone and has an irrational fear of horses.  I get it.  Trying to keep it canon.  Stupid.
Coincidental fashion template or victim of an outright rip-off; you decide.
As far as look goes, I have noticed a more than passing resemblance to the Marvel Comics character Modred the Mystic who first saw the four-color inked light of day in 1975 in Marvel Chillers #1.  Modred, who really deserves his own article, is a wizardly anti-hero/villain possessed by the Elder God Chthon who was so damned while trying to use a book of ultimate evil for the purposes of good.  You know, that old tale.

Xavier Pendragon, one of the Wizards I Do Not Hate.

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