The Nintendo Gender Bender Before Bowsette
With all the talk about Bowsette lately, as well as other characters across the Nintendo universe which have been subjected to the 63rd rule of the internet, I remembered the best gender bender series, and how the Super Nintendo became host to one of the strangest fighting games of all time: Ranma ½: Hard Battle.
For those who are unfamiliar, Ranma ½ was a manga series created by Rumiko Takahashi which was eventually turned into an anime series, and it had tons of merchandise in Japan, including a few video games. Rumiko Takahashi might be most famous in America for Inu-Yasha, which gained popularity when it aired on Cartoon Network's late night Adult Swim segment beginning in 2002. At the time Ranma ½: Hard Battle came to America though, comics and manga publisher Viz had just barely released a few comics of the series.
The series of Ranma ½ follows the misadventures of Ranma Saotome, who's a martial artist, trying to become the strongest fighter in the world, when he and his selfish father Genma travel to China to train at the cursed springs of Jusenkyo. After falling into the 'Spring of Drowned Woman,' Ranma henceforth turns into a female version of himself every single time he's splashed with cold water, and will only turn back once he's been splashed with hot water. All the while, Ranma is forced to be engaged to the daughter of his father's best friend, and battle against an ever increasing menagerie of wacky foes, as he grows ever closer to the girl he’s engaged to.
Unlike the game Street Combat on the Super Nintendo, which was a Ranma ½ game in Japan, before being butchered and Americanized; Ranma ½: Hard Battle truly captures the spirit of the series with it's cast of characters, special moves, and music that was inspired by the anime. Each character has their own story, being driven into combat against the other fighters by the sly Principal Kuno; the game's story is lighthearted and captures the feel of the series. While the controls are a little clunky, for fans of the series, it's a ton of fun to pull off special moves from the anime, and see a game that was translated surprisingly accurately, given the era it came out.
While Ranma ½: Hard Battle isn't exactly the most stellar fighting game on the Super Nintendo, it deserves credit for being one of the few games based an anime, to come to America and be localized true to the series it's based on. Perhaps the publishers felt that manga was going to become more popular, and decided to capitalize on it, just as it was coming to the west. While it didn't become popular when it the game was released in 1993, years later anime and manga would become a huge hit in America. Perhaps the most interesting thing though, was that Ranma ½, the greatest gender bender series of all time, found a home in the game library of the ultra conservative Nintendo library of the early 90's.