Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Heart-Melters #3 - Seung Mina


Who is she?
Soul Calibur is perhaps one of the more historically inaccurate game set in a historical time period, but that's probably because Namco only came up with the individual storylines as a secondary thing to complement its deep fighting gameplay. Seung Mina (now known as Seong Mi-na) was one of the characters that came over from the prequel, Soul Blade. She was the 19-year-old daughter of Seung Han Myong, one of the greatest teachers of martial arts in Korea. Under her father's guidance, Seung Mina becomes well-trained in martial arts. With her Zamba-toh in hand, Seung Mina left to track down the Soul Edge, which she believes just may save Korea. Yet instead of finding the Soul Edge, her suitor Hwang Seung Gyung found her instead and brought her back home. When Seung Mina runs away again, she fights a mysterious enemy (then-Soul series newbie Ivy) and loses badly. Ashamed, she ends up training under a new master and learns a new set of fighting moves (similar to Kilik, another person in the Soul realm). After many years of fighting and other events in Soul Calibur sequels I rarely played, she came to realize that the Soul Edge was an evil sword, and played the role Hwang once played with another, newer character.

Seung Mina's Influence (July 2001 - Winter 2001)
My love life was in a bit of a turmoil between February 2000 and July 2001. During those 17 months, I was largely obsessing over a memory while getting somewhat attracted to most of my real-life classmates and then doing nothing about it. Perhaps it was a period of tremendous opportunity, but I saw it as a rather lackluster period. (The 22 months between the beginning of the Heart-Melter Era and the beginning of the Age of Seung Mina is the second longest period between new Heart-Melters. Interestingly enough, the longest period is the 28 months between the beginning of the Age of Tomo and now.) Anyways, the period soon came to an end thanks to my sister.

My sister had always been a fan of fighting games. She purchased a Dreamcast in early 2001 (for The Typing of the Dead), but quickly realized she'd be able to enjoy games like Shenmue and of course...Soul Calibur. She received the game as a birthday present in July of 2001. I feel that Soul Calibur is starting to gain a reputation of having sexy, busty female characters to go along with its deep fighting system, but all I knew about the game back then was that it received perfect scores from virtually every publication one can think of: IGN, Gamespot, Famitsu, EGM etc. Of course, I learned really early on that it had cute females. I took a liking to Xianghua (as opposed to fan favorites Taki and Ivy), even if she didn't look like somebody from Ming China. However, I remembered that the IGN reviewer for Soul Calibur had praised Seung Mina countless times in his review. I was curious as to what was so great about her, but I hadn't started using Google Images, so I did not find out what Seung Mina looked like until I had unlocked her. However, I was instantly blown away by her gentle features and silky smile. I hadn't come up with the idea of Heart-Melters in 2001, but I knew at the time Seung Mina was something special.

The Age of Seung Mina
Once I unlocked Seung Mina, she became the only thing that I really cared for in Soul Calibur. Sure, Seung Mina never really took over my thoughts like some of the other Heart-Melters had, but for a lonely and desperate 16-year-old that was more attracted to fictional characters than real ones, Seung Mina was as good as it gets. Seung Mina may be a lower ranked character in the Soul Calibur hiearchy, but I liked playing as her nonetheless. I did so originally because she was so cute, and I liked playing just to see her, but the more I played, the better I became at using her. Sure, it's just another example of practice makes perfect, but I achieved my fastest Arcade time using Seung Mina (I remember it was below 3:30) and I used her on the difficult challenges in Mission Mode. I even unlocked everything in the Art Gallery just for pictures of Seung Mina. Unfortunately, there weren't too many of those. (Heck, the Soul Calibur Wiki has a Seung Mina picture from Soul Calibur that I've never seen previously.)

And in the end, Seung Mina was not strong enough to overcome the natural force of change. While I ended up playing Soul Calibur more often than my sister (she didn't have anything to draw her back to the game like I did), it still didn't erase the fact that I was not really a fan of fighters, especially ones that relied on life bars of certain sort. The release of the Gamecube in December of 2001 led to the phasing out of the Dreamcast, and I eventually found myself playing Super Smash Bros. Melee, a fighting game that was more my style. My attraction to Seung Mina was largely tied to the game, and my attraction to her eventually faded by the winter of 2001-2002.

However, while Seung Mina may no longer be at Heart-Melter status, her role as the second Heart-Melter chronologically still makes her quite significant. While I rarely think about the other Heart-Melters after my attraction towards them faded, I still go back to Seung Mina quite often. I still check out pictures of Seung Mina whenever a new Soul Calibur game is released, but I usually end up getting disappointed. Her concept art portraits have been quite cute, but her in-game renders usually leave more to be desired. Ironically, it was it was her in-game beauty that really endeared me to her in the first Soul Calibur game. Needless to say, I didn't play much Soul Calibur II and was never really interested in III and IV. And since it was the first Soul Calibur game that made Seung Mina a Heart-Melter, I'll continue to spell her name the way it was spelled in the first game rather than use the updated spelling in III and IV. I am stubborn like that.

Strength: 5 - Seung Mina may have been the person that jolted me out of a period of attraction towards real females (and started a string of seven Heart-Melters in three short years), but now that I think of it, I didn't really fawn over her as I did over Kaho and Shiori. Sure, I played Soul Calibur a lot more than I would have if I wasn't attracted to Seung Mina, but I didn't obsessively hoard pictures of her or dream about her at nights.

Duration: 4 - The Age of Seung Mina lasted from late July 2001, when I first unlocked her, to around December of 2001, a period of between four and five months. That may not be a very long time, especially now that I'm 24 years old, but the median length of Heart-Melters Ages is three and a half to four months. It sure feels a lot longer in the middle of an Age.

Recurrence: 2 - This is where Seung Mina shines as a Heart-Melter. She may not have had the strongest Age, but I can't quite forget her. I was still eager for new pictures of her even years after she lot the status as a Heart-Melter. In fact, I first found Shiori Fujisaki when I was trying to look for pictures of Seung Mina in April of 2002, a full four months after the end of the Age. I've had somebody comment that my #1 Heart-Melter would become upset by my "two-timing" after posting a picture of Seung Mina on the UVA Gamers message board. This was June of 2008, six and a half years after the end of the Age. She may not have had a second Age like Mona, but Seung Mina's persistence after all these years is enough for earn her the #2 spot.

Overall: 11 - Seung Mina's rankings within the Heart-Melters Gallery has shifted over the year. My initial ranking back in 2005 was chronologically, and Seung Mina ended up in the #2 spot. My next attempt to rank them came in 2006, and that was by strength alone. Seung Mina fell to #3, ahead of even Shiori and Kaho. When I ranked by three qualifications last year, I kept Seung Mina at #3, but I also realized that what made her such a high-ranking Heart-Melter wasn't because my attraction towards her was terribly strong, but incredibly enduring.

Next Up: Lizardbreath

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