Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Heart-Melters #6 - Sheena Fuijibayashi


Who is she?
Sheena Fujibayashi (known in Japan as Shihna or Shiina) is a character in Namco's epic RPG, Tales of Symphonia. She hails from the mysterious ninja village of Mizuho in Tethe'alla. As the granddaughter of the chief, she was trained from an early age to become a Summoner, but for her final exam she had to make a pact with Volt. The mission ended in a failure, and Volt killed off half of the village to punish their insolence, and her grandfather ended up in a coma. This spectacular failure had haunted her for the next several years until she befriended a Summon Spirit by the name of Corrine. With Corrine at her side, Sheena was slowly able to turn her life around. She was later hired by the king to murder Sylvarant's Chosen, Colette, to preserve Tethe'alla's prosperity. By then, Sheena had put the failure behind her and assumed a tough, no-nonsense personality, although there is still a tender side underneath. She had kept it up fairly well, but her insecurities began to resurface when she failed to accomplish her task. However, she joined forces with her former enemies and helped them achieve their goal of world regeneraton, making use of her perfected summoning skills. Sheena is also cursed by her attractive appearance. Most people tend to notice her body instead of her mind, especially the Chosen of Tethe'alla. Needless to say, the two don't get along too well. However, she does seem to have something for Lloyd, because he may be the first person outside of Mizuho to respect her as a human being.

Sheena's Influence (June 2006 - September 2006)
I must admit that I'm not much of an RPG fan. Sure, I like Pokemon Blue, but I've never been a major fan of RPG games, as I was not a major fan of leveling up. I don't remember when I had first heard of Tales of Symphonia, but one thing I do remember is that I wasn't really interested in it. I didn't get the game when it was released in the summer of 2004. While other people in the #nintendo chat room were talking about the game, I ignored them and talked about other things. Even though I had no interest in the game, my sister was very interested. She constantly listed Tales of Symphonia as one game she wanted to try out, but she never wanted to spend $20 to get the game. However, one of our gamer friends at college agreed to lend us a copy of ToS, and we started playing the game in late June 2006.

While my sister enjoyed the game, my initial reactions were not so positive. The real-time multiplayer battle system allowed me to join my sisters while playing, but I just couldn't get into the game. Playing the game just wasn't a very fun experience in the beginning, but the game started to appeal to me after playng it a few more times. Why? It wasn't because of the storyline, because I'm usually doing my own thing whenever a major cutscene happens. It wasn't because of the battles, because even though the battle system is nice, the repetitiveness of battles makes it extremely monotonous. My change of heart most likely came about because of the characters. ToS has pretty strong character development, and each of them slowly began to appeal to me, even the annoying Zelos (whom my sister despises.) Sheena quickly became my favorite for a variety of reasons. At any rate, she undoubtedly became a Heart-Melter by the end of the summer.

The Age of Sheena
There are many reasons why I like Sheena. I liked using her in battle, especially her balance between A-attacks and techs such as "Demon Seal" and "Life Seal." I like her no-nonsense personality; how she is tough yet tender. I like her looks, even if she looks as though she just rolled out of bed in the Z-cutscenes. I like her costumes, including how her bow floats due to Bernoulli's Principle as she runs along the world map. (I was a bit disappointed with her formal dress. I was hoping it would be more of an actual dress, but oh well.) I even like the voice acting by Jennifer Hale, even though I'm not normally a very fan of dubs. One thing I don't really like is that Sheena doesn't look too good in the actual official art. Nevertheless, Sheena is one of the biggest reasons why I quickly grew to enjoy ToS.

Unfortunately, this Age of Sheena couldn't have come at a worse time. Summer 2006 was supposed to be the season where I dedicated all of my time and energy into studying for the MCAT. (That turned out to be summer 2008.) I was fairly diligent early in the summer, but once I finished reviewing all the basic information, the only thing I could do was practice problems and more reviewing. I was a bit too lazy to do all of that. In the end I spent most of the summer doing practice problems in the morning, and so I can play as Sheena at nights. In the end my scores on practice tests dropped precariously until my real score was pretty terrible. And the worst thing is that in the end, I felt as though it was worth it.

Perhaps I spent so much time playing Tales of Symphonia because I didn't think I had much of a chance to play it much anymore. My sister and I were were back at college once the MCATs were over. We had our own copy of the game, but no system to play it on. My sister decided not to bring the Gamecube since we have another sister that may have wanted to play it. And yet even this predicament was only temporary. Two months into the school year, the friend who lent us ToS in the first place let us borrow her Gamecube. Nevertheless, considering most Heart-Melter ages last for two to four months, two months is an extremely long time to go without doing anything to prolong an age. I was able to extend the ages of some of the other Heart-Melters a large number of pictures that I was able to save, but most Sheena pictures I could find are official art. And as I said before, I'm not a fan of the official art. We eventually got the chance to play Tales of Symphonia to our hearts content in a few more playthroughs of the US GCN version plus the Japanese GCN and PS2 versions, but by then Sheena had lost the Heart-Melter status. She still made 2006 a summer to remember.

Strength: 6 - I never regarded Sheena as a very strong Heart-Melter, since there's a massive drop-off in this category from #5, but it was a stronger age than I remembered. I willingly played hours of Tales of Symphonia when I should have been studying for the MCAT, and continued to do so even well into 2009. And it was all for seeing Sheena. She was a special part of my life for a period of time, even if she never quite reached the level of obsession.

Duration: 7 - Sheena's prime period as a Heart-Melter started in late June and faded pretty quickly after going back to college, meaning it lasted pretty much only a summer, or in other words, just about two to three months. That's about the same length as Tomo, but Sheena has the advantage for one crucial reason, which follows.

Recurrence: 4 - Sheena may have never regained her status in the two and a half years following her period as a Heart-Melter, but I have certainly not lost any of my admiration towards her. I have continued to enjoy Tales of Symphonia just so I can play as Sheena, first in a second and third playthrough of the US version, and then in the Japanese Gamecube version and finally in the PS2 version (where unfortunately we haven't seen her yet.)

Overall: 17 - As I mentioned earlier, I never really took much notice of Sheena's Heart-Melter status when it was going on. The age fizzled up shortly after reaching college, and it was blocked by my later Azumanga obsession. But Sheena helped to turn a game that I can't say I really enjoyed into a major part of my gaming life. Seriously, I've never had as much discussion with my sisters regarding any other game than Tales of Symphonia. And it's all thanks to Sheena. Thank you, Sheena. We have to do something special for you. (Okay, I'm clearly quoting Super Mario 64 by now.) Putting her at the sixth rank is pretty darned special.

Next Up: A princess of a sister

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