Thrilling Tales of Old Video Games:
The Real-Life Revolutionaries Behind Charlotte From Samurai Shodown
A sort of period piece Street Fighter with swords, Samurai Shodown is a fighting game series whose characters draw from a variety of real-life sources. Some of the inspirations make perfect sense for a series set in Edo era Japan. For example, Jubei Yagyu, a swordsman sporting an eyepatch, is based on the seventeenth-century samurai of the same name, and Hattori Hanzo, a ninja, is based on the sixteenth-century ninja leader of the same name.
Of course, countless video games mine Japanese history for inspiration, and there was actually another fighting game released around the same time — World Heroes, released for the Neo Geo system, just like Samurai Shodown was — that not only did this but also featured a playable character named Hattori Hanzo. This got ten-year-old me thinking about what video games might be based on, where creators might be finding ideas and how similar, presumably related things might end up in two different titles. What you’re reading now is the result of that kid trying to figure all this out, decades later.
In the same way that Samurai Shodown plays fast and loose with time periods, it also brings in non-Japanese characters. Among those in the inaugural 1993 game are Galford, a blue-eyed, English-speaking American ninja who hails from a version of San Francisco that didn’t really exist in 1788, the year the first game takes place; Earthquake, a gargantuan bandit from Texas, which at this point in time was a province of New Spain; and Charlotte, a French fencer whose stage is the palace at Versailles.