Nintendo’s Selective Memory

Nintendo sent out a press release a few days ago celebrating Women’s History Month with homages to the “Rosie the Riveter” posters, except with their own female characters and boasting about those characters’ strengths and history. After doing some digging, I finally came across a website that seems to have posted the press release in its entirety. I would expect Nintendo to have posted this thing on their own website, but they haven’t, and most of the sites that have bothered to cover it are just summary, small notes, ridicule, or criticism.

Honestly, I agree with the criticism. I’ll give them points for trying, but I can’t believe whoever put this together honestly thought, “yes, this totally proves Nintendo is conscious of and respects the accomplishments of women.”

For one thing, there’s the fact that Nintendo claims it has been “paving the way for diverse and interesting female protagonists in video games, [and] has picked a few of their popular leading ladies that merit this recognition for the month that honors outstanding women.” This is only true if you engage in massive selective memory and focus only on certain characters at certain points of their history. Unsurprisingly, this is exactly what Nintendo did. The seven characters they show off are Tetra, Toadette, Bayonetta, Rosalina, Lucina, Samus Aran, and Bombette. Oh, I’m sorry. You don’t know who some of those are?

Let’s start with the comedy: Toadette and Bombette. Bombette only appears in one game: Paper Mario, from 2000. I had no memory of her and had to read the press release to recall such a minor character. Toadette, on the other hand, I do remember… as a female version of Toad introduced in the multiplayer Mario games (I want to say Mario Kart Double Dash) in order to pad out the roster, much like Waluigi. Do either of these characters actually have distinct personalities?

What about Rosalina and Lucina? I haven’t played the Mario Galaxy or Fire Emblem games yet, but I can’t really object to these two. I know Rosalina is becoming a fan-favorite over Princess Peach, which is not a difficult feat by any means since Rosalina actually does stuff. It’s quite amusing that Peach is missing from the roster here, most likely because she’s the quintessential damsel-in-distress and therefore diametrically opposed to the entire point of Women’s History Month. As for Lucina, apparently she’s a strong-willed heroine of Fire Emblem: Awakening, so kudos to these two then.

Then we come to Bayonetta and Samus Aran, the two characters on this list who wear the skin-tight, curve-accentuating outfits. Bayonetta isn’t even a Nintendo character; she was the star of a PlayStation 3 game and when the developer wanted to make a sequel Nintendo ponied up the publishing money to make that game exclusive to the Wii U. Why exactly is Nintendo throwing a third-party character on their list? As for Samus, yes Nintendo can brag that she was one of the first female protagonists in video games. However, the number of Metroid titles is rather small, especially when compared to Mario or Zelda. Then there’s the whole male-authority controversy with Metroid: Other M, which came out five years ago, and there hasn’t been another Metroid game since. So, good start, sure, but… since then?

Then there’s Tetra. Of all the iterations of Princess Zelda that Nintendo could choose from, they went with Tetra. In Wind Waker, she is a spunky, no-nonsense pirate captain, totally awesome, until you make the horrible mistake of putting together the Triforce of Wisdom, at which point she morphs (literally) into an apologizing do-nothing-but-sleep-when-Ganondorf-kidnaps-her princess-in-distress. But at least she joins the final battle. In Phantom Hourglass, she’s even worse! Kidnapped straight away, begs Link to rescue her, turned to stone. This is the Zelda Nintendo selected for this? Not Zelda from Ocarina of Time, who evaded Ganondorf for seven years and guided Link through his quest in the disguise of Sheik. Not Zelda from Skyward Sword, who accomplished her quest with help from Impa, a badass woman, while Link is always three or four steps behind. Not Zelda from Hyrule Warriors, who is able to demolish hordes of enemies with devastating attacks. Nope! Tetra was the obvious choice here.

And ultimately, that’s what makes no sense about this press release. Yes, Nintendo has had way more misses than hits when it comes to their depictions of female characters, but now and then they do a passable, if not decent job. So where is Hyrule Warriors Zelda in this list? Where is Sheik? Skyward Sword Impa? What about Cremia from Majora’s Mask, who runs a cow ranch by herself with her little sister? Getting off of Zelda for a moment, why not Donkey Kong Country’s Dixie Kong? Or Tiny Kong? Where’s… um… May from Pokemon? Or… um… let’s see… the Wii Fit Trainer since she qualified for Smash Brothers so why not? And………………. oh! That girl from Drill Dozer on the Game Boy Advance! And….. yeah, now I’m at a loss.

Nintendo, bit of advice: when you don’t have a good track record on something, it’s really smart to not call attention to that.

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