Xianghua in Soulcalibur IV
|First game||Soulcalibur (1998)|
|Designed by||Various artists, including Falcoon|
|Voiced by||English |
Wendee Lee (Soulcalibur II)
Aya Hisakawa (Soulcalibur I-III)
Ryōko Shintani (Soulcalibur IV)
Aya Suzaki (Soulcalibur VI)
|Birthplace||Peking, Ming Empire|
Chai Xianghua (Japanese: チャイ・シャンファ Hepburn: Chai Shanfa, Chinese: 柴香華), better known as just Xianghua, is a fictional character and jianke in the Soulcalibur series of historical fantasy fighting games by Namco who was introduced in Soulcalibur in 1998.
For generations, Xianghua's ancestors of the Chai family have groomed men and women into seasoned warriors of China. A woman named Xiangfei was sent to the prestigious Ling-Sheng Su Temple to learn the swordplay with the jian. Following her father's passing, Xiangfei forged a forbidden romance with Kong Xiuqiang, a monk who was to inherit of the holy bo staff, the Kali-Yuga. After their illegitimate first daughter, Xianglian, was taken from her parents on her second birthday, Xiangfei became too wrought with grief to remain at the temple. Han Dongxiu, their sworn brother, helped Xiuqiang sneak the holy Krita-Yuga sword to his lover, to serve as a promise the two would one day meet again. Xiangfei, pregnant with a second child, secretly left the temple to became a member of the Ming Dynasty secret Imperial Guard, the Jinyiwei. Months later, she gave birth to her second daughter, Xianghua, but never revealed anything about the girl's father or his lineage to her. By this time, the temple had found that Xiuqiang had stolen the Krita-Yuga and he was exiled, but Xianglian was to remain there to be trained as an orphan. Xiuqiang eventually discovered Xiangfei's whereabouts, but the Chai family asked him to leave her alone. As time passed, Xianghua had learned to use the Krita-Yuga just as well as her mother, and Xiangfei died after her 11th birthday. Five years afterward, Xianghua herself became a member of the Imperial Guard.
Prior to the events of Soulcalibur, the Emperor became displeased with the search for the legendary "Hero's Sword" (really Soul Edge), so he sent members of his Guard to help the quest advance. The guards would travel undercover under the guise of a traveling opera troupe, with Xianghua to be the main attraction. As Xianghua prepares for her journey, she recalls her mother's dying words that she was born to complete an important task and cut a path through an uncertain future. With her mother's keepsake jian, Xianghua left on her own after cutting her hair short. On her journey, she encounters a Ling-Sheng Su member Kilik and a Ryūkyū pirate Maxi. Told of the sword's true evil nature by Kilik, she agrees to aid both of them in their quest to destroy it, not knowing that her long-lost older sister Xianglian had been accidentally killed by Kilik when he was consumed by a berserker-style rage. Together, they storm the evil-infested Ostrheinsburg Castle in Europe as Maxi stays behind and defeats Astaroth, disappearing soon after, while Kilik and Xianghua slay the demon hordes and reach Soul Edge. Kilik uses his Kali-Yuga to defeat Nightmare, but immediately afterward, Xianghua is pulled into an ethereal void to face Inferno. Her weapon unveils herself as the holy sword and Xianghua defeats Inferno after a fierce struggle. As the void started to collapse, she carries Kilik out of it, though her sword is left behind. A mysterious man awards her with an unnamed jian in return for the great deed she has done. Xianghua keeps her role in Soul Edge's destruction secret and never reports it, but is stripped of her rank and reassigned to a menial position for her failure to retrieve the "Hero's Sword".
Four years later (the timeline of Soulcalibur II, Soulcalibur III and Soulcalibur IV), news reach her that the Emperor destroyed and massacred Xiwei, the center of government in the Empire's western territory under the public justification of a revolt, believing that the fortress had been withholding Soul Edge from him. He asks Xianghua to investigate the ruins as her experience could be useful in locating the sword. Though she believed that she had destroyed Soul Edge, pieces of it are rumored to exist in this place and so Xianghua decides to find every fragment and destroy them. She left on a second journey alone, convinced that this was a burden she has to bear after she failed to destroy Soul Edge completely the first time. During her adventure, Xianghua is reunited with Kilik, who is attacked and gravely injured by Zasalamel. Xianghua takes him back to his home and, after leaving a letter for him, she departs seeking an old general whom Edge Master has arranged for her to meet. Training with the general, Xianghua's skills improve significantly but she is unable to shake off an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy due to her failure to help Kilik. On the general's sage advice, she then begins to train her mind to become more fluid and allow her heart to filter in both the good and the bad. After months of training, she feels that she was ready and bid farewell to the general, beginning her journey anew to fight by herself. While traveling west on the Silk Road, she reunites with Kilik. Together they travel to India to find Maxi, but he does not join them. Xianghua swears to destroy the Soul Edge properly and once and for all.
A few years later, Xianghua again reunites and connects with Kilik, but he considers this the result of an unfortunate destiny, and eventually disappears. Returning to her homeland with a broken heart, Xianghua realizes she is pregnant. However, her grandfather and patriarch of the Chai house is furious at this, as Xianghua is the second generation of women from such a distinguished family to bear the child of an unknown man, and she is ordered to kill the child and marry into another family. Xianghua is rescued by the heir of the Yan family, Yan Wujin, who issues a condition for marrying Xianghua and not revealing the scandal, to allow the child, a boy named Xiba, to live (Xiba was then raised by Kong Xiuqiang). She later gave Wujin a daughter named Leixia (a Soulcalibur V character).
A young Xianghua returns in the reboot game Soulcalibur VI.
In the Soulcalibur manga adaptation, Xianghua meets Edge Master in the middle of her journey. Later, Xianghua and Li Long's sister Meimei are forced to fight through a Lizardmen invasion of an Indian town and Meimei is killed in battle. Xianghua is rescued by Kilik and Maxi in their first meeting, and her Krita-Yuga suddenly transforms into the Soul Calibur, destroying the Lizardmen.
During Xianghua's early design phase, several concepts were considered for her attire, before settling upon a light and oriental appearance for her. Additionally it was considered to have her appear as a young girl instead, or alternatively for her to fight unarmed using martial arts, an idea later put to effect through Tekken character Heihachi Mishima in his guest appearance in Soulcalibur II. Xianghua would become more feminized in her clothing over the course of the series.
Xiānghuà means "fragrant flower" in Chinese if each character is taken literally. She is officially described as "Flower in the Breeze" and uses an elegant fighting moves based on a nimble footwork.
As a tribute for the acclaimed Soulcalibur player Kayane, whose favourite character (and even a role model) was Xianghua, Namco created a tribute AI named "Kayane" in Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny, imitating her playing style. Xianghua's fighting style was eventually given to her teenage daughter Yan Leixia in Soulcalibur V. (Comparing the two characters, Kayane opined that while Leixia seems unfinished, she displays some individual characteristics and is not merely "a simple copy" of Xianghua.)
Gameplay-wise, Xianghua is regarded as one of the better characters in Soulcalibur II. GamePro guide to Soulcalibur II lists her strong points as having "excellent speed and evasive characteristics" and "a solid 8-way run offensive" even as she "can often rely too heavily on specific moves." In Andrew Alfonso's GameSpy guide, she is described as a character "that can win without too much effort. Xianghua is definitely not a hard character to learn, and a lot of her strengths come through poking and landing launchers for combos." Similarly, Eurogamer's Matt Edwards opined that Xianghua in this game "trounces most of the competition thanks to her safe pressure and decent combos." BradyGames' official guide also noted that, unlike a fellow "up-close fighter" Talim, "Xianghua can deal a nice bit of damage" with her attacks. According to Hardcore Gamer, while Xianghua in Soulcalibur IV "is still unpredictable and juggle-happy, and does more damage than she used to—in exchange, she’s been given more recovery time on her moves (...) and her old juggle tactics are tougher to pull off."
The character has been mostly very well received by game critics and has been noted for her sex appeal. Both David Rakoff of The New York Times and Darek Pasturczak of Wirtualna Polska called her "beautiful but deadly." Dreamcast Magazine ranked her as the seventh top "girl on the Dreamcast" in 2000, commenting: "With an oriental flavour to her moves and style, Xianghua is a bit of a minx even though she looks sweet and innocent." GameSpy's Dave Kosak joked that a better translation of Xianghua's victory one-liner could be "Don't you want to just lick me up and down like a popsicle?" and GamesRadar's Shane Petterson described her official artwork for Soulcalibur IV as "screwing you with her eyes." Arcade Sushi's John Llewellyn Martin called Xianghua one of the series' "most beloved characters" and Kotaku's Alex Jaffe listed her among "the world's best fighting characters".
According to IGN's Jesse Schedeen "Xianghua may be traditional in some ways, but she certainly doesn't dress like it. She has one of the more unique costumes in Soulcalibur IV, a hodgepodge of different Oriental fashions that come together in one sexy look. Never before has a kung fu hero been such a babe." In 2014, Julia Cook of Paste ranked Xianghua as the second "best dressed lady" in all video games for her collection of varied "tight outfits with flowy, feminine accoutrements" from "brightly colored capris under dresses or robes, sometimes with a sleek tiara" in early games to "a more masculine blazer and shorts combination for Soul Calibur IV."
GamePro, on the other hand, criticized her looks that "can't kill" as compared to the designs of the other female characters of Soulcalibur II. Some like GameSpy's Kosak as well as Crunchyroll's Nate Ming also expressed annoyance of Wendee Lee's "barely-repressed Flatbush accent" in the English voice track versions.
Soulcalibur V was widely criticized for removing several fan-favourite classic characters, including Xianghua. Nevetheless, Thomas Nickel of Eurogamer Germany opined Leixia "represent[s] an equivalent replacement of Xianghua."
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