Okay, so maybe that's a little unfair: as we will see, Brazilian fighters seem to be split into two categories, only one of which is "feral, jungle-dwelling beastmen". So, why Brazil? Because a far higher proportion of beat-em-up characters than you might think hail from Brazil. In fact, I'm fairly certain there're more Brazilian fighters than fighters from the rest of South America put together. I reckon there are three main reasons for this: one, Brazil has certain attributes that are more easily recognised than those of other South American countries; things like the rainforests and carnivals that seem to be associated much more with Brazil than with, say, Argentina. Secondly, they have their own specifically Brazilian martial art in capoiera, which is always a selling point in a videogame about clobbering people. Thirdly, there's a long (and interesting, if you're into that kind of thing) history of immigration between Japan and Brazil, which must have left an impression on the developers of the almost-exclusively Japanese game shown here. Sorry, Venuzuela, but you just don't have that kind of clout.
Let's begin with Brazilian gaming's most famous son...
Blanka, Street Fighter IIWell, he's Blanka, isn't he? What more can you say? Possibly the most famous Brazilian who isn't a world-class footballer, Blanka sets the standard for Brazilian fighters, as well as being the main inspiration for all the subsequent beastman-type characters from the Amazon basin. Sure, he's a wild man from out of the rainforest, but he wasn't always that way: he was once a young man called Jimmy whose plane crashed into the jungle. Now, we all know Blanka has the power of electricity, but how did he gain this power?
Well, one explanation given is that the electrical storm that caused his plane to crash also gave him the power of a thousand Duracells. YAWN. This is an incredibly dull explanation, something you might expect to see in any given Hollywood blockbuster about some guy who gets electrocuted and gains super powers. Like Short Circuit, but with a lingering smell of burning hair. BORING. No, you should all stick to the story as it is given in the Street Fighter II instruction manual: after crashing in the jungle, Blanka was raised by electric eels. As a child, he received parental care from a creature that shows no signs of affection, could not possibly provide food or shelter and lives underwater. Blanka not only survived all that but also somehow learned how to shoot electricity from his skin. I don't know what he's doing entering the World Warrior tournament in the first place: he's already shown that he's is the most colossal of badasses. What do you have left to prove, Blanka? Nothing, that's what.
In the end, it all works out nicely for Blanka, as his SFII ending shows him reunited with his mother:
Aww. His mother recognises him by the anklet she gave him as a child, which he's still wearing to this day. That shows some real foresight from Momma Blanka, buying her son an anklet that will still fit him when he's a fully-grown, mutated beastman. And they all lived happily ever after, with Blanka even becoming good friends with Dan Hibiki and turning out to be the best character in Super Street Fighter IV (prove me wrong!). God speed you, you big green freak.
Liza, Kaiser KnuckleNo, not Minelli, but another jungle warrior. This one's from Taito's 1994 fighter Kaiser Knuckle, and true to her jungle heritage she has a monkey and a parrot. A parrot wearing a feathered headdress, which seems a little redundant. Well, I say her jungle heritage, but maybe not:
She's looking rather masculine there, I must say, but living in the jungle probably affords you very little opportunity for self-beautification. It's hard to find time to exfoliate when you're being chased by a jaguar.
It doesn't matter what gender Liza is, though, because she can throw a parrot or a monkey at you as a special attack. I can't think of many things worse than an enraged parrot being thrown into my face, apart from an enraged monkey being thrown into my groin.
Not a problem you've ever had, huh Liza?
Rila, BreakersFrom Visco's surprisingly good 1996 fighter Breakers, Rila is another wild woman with terrible rending claws and the hair of glam metal guitarist. As with several Brazilian characters, she's like a disturbing "sexy" version of Blanka:
Creepy. Actually, she plays a lot differently than Blanka, and is probably my favourite characters in Breakers. Breakers also contains a French pirate who attacks by throwing roses, so being my favourite in that line-up is high praise indeed, Rila.
It's true: I tried living in the forest once. Drinking your own piss isn't nearly as easy as Bear Grylls makes it look.
Golrio, Fight FeverUp next is Golrio from Viccom's terrible 1994 offering Fight Fever (my recommendation would be to take two aspirins and lie down in a darkened room). He looks like he's from one of Brazil's indigenous tribes, albeit a tribe that founded its society on a brief glimpse of someone playing Street Fighter II. In the vast morass of one-on-one fighters that appeared trying to ape SFII's success, Fight Fever is both one of the worst, gameplay-wise, and one of the ones that ripped SFII off the most. How much did it rip off from Capcom's magnum opus? Well, here's Blanka's jumping medium kick:
And here's Golrio's.
I rest my case. Other than that, the odd thing about Golrio is that he fights like a sumo wrestler. I guess to try and save time the just crammed E. Honda and Blanka into the same rip-off character. Golrio, you suck and I hate you.
Claudia Silva, Knuckle HeadsIn that situation - you know, standing in a ceaseless, raging inferno - that kind of costume seems appropriate for the first time ever.
I'm sure you can see a pattern forming here: she's a bit of a wild woman, fighting with claws to protect the rainforest she calls home. She looks a little like a Fist of the North Star character, but the way her sprite is standing makes her look more like a T-Rex that needs its fingernails cutting.
Claudia's goal is to win the Knuckle Heads tournament and claim the prize money. But what can she spend her vast fortune on?
She buys the entire Amazon rainforest. That must have been some cash prize: the logging rights alone must run into billions of dollars! Oh, I get it now; you're going to hang onto the rainforest until the rest of the Earth's natural resources have been depleted and then sell it off for a vastly increased sum. You're a crafty one Claudia.
Oh, I've just noticed the pun in her name. Claudia. Clawdia. Claws. Well played, Namco, well played.
Eddie Gordo, TekkenAt the start of the article I said that there are two types of fighter from Brazil. Well, I've covered the beastman types, and they're by far the most interesting fighters. I find it's hard to remain uninterested when an angry green man is trying to electrocute me.
The other set of fighters from Brazil are the capoeria masters. The most famous capoeira fighter in videogames is probably (sigh) Eddie goddamn Gordo.
What can I say about this button-masher's dream that hasn't been said already. I hate you, Eddie, I hate your tumbling, cartwheeling bullshit. I know what you're thinking, if you can't beat a button-mashing Eddie player, then you're just shit at Tekken. Well, you got me. I am shit at Tekken. There! I admit it. My brain just can't handle the extra dimension, and I hate juggling, but most of all I hate you, Eddie, you festering pustule of a man. I was happy when you got replaced by Christie! HAPPY!
Richard Meyer, Fatal FuryHere's a capoeira fighter who's much better than Eddie: Richard Meyer from Fatal Fury. Richard has the distinction of being the first character in a fighting game to use capoeira, although a fat lot of good it did him as after Fatal Fury he had to wait until KoF Maximum Impact 2 for another playable role.
My favourite thing about Meyer is that he received a name change in the Portuguese version, from Richard Meyer to Ricardo Maia. I'd like to have been at the meeting for that one. "So this guy's Brazilian? And they called him... Richard Meyer? He sounds like an English bank manager. Tell you what, we'll just change it to Ricardo Maia". Honestly though, I think it's a nice solution.
Khushnood Butt / Marco Rodriguez, Garou: Mark of the Wolves.Yes yes, his name is Butt. That's only because it was changed from the more normal-sounding (and much more Brazilian-sounding) Marco Rodriguez, apparently to avoid confusion with mixed martial artist Ricco Rodriguez.
Khushnood is the odd-one-out in this list: neither a beastman nor a capoeira fighter, he practices Kyokugenryu Karate, most famously used by Ryo and Robert from Fatal Fury. So congratulations to Butt for breaking out of the Brazilian stereotype and overcoming his deepy unfortunate name. I just wish I was as cool as this guy.
So, Brazil, then. Feral, jungle-dwelling beastmen? Sure, there are plenty of those, along with capoeira fighters and the occasional karate badass. Frankly, it's a more diverse bunch than the previous countries I've looked at, so congratulations to Brazil for being less easily pigeonholed than France and Russia. Now I'm off to create my own Brazilian character based on British stereotypes of Brazil. She's going to be a passionate, thong-wearing, beach volleyball-playing supermodel, and her game will sell millions.