Isabella Valentine (イザベラ・バレンタイン), commonly called Ivy (アイヴィー), is a fictional character in the Soul series of video games. Created by Namco's Project Soul division, she first appeared in the original Soulcalibur and its subsequent sequels, later appearing in various merchandise related to the series. She was voiced in Japanese by Yumi Tōma until replaced by Kanako Tōjo starting with Soulcalibur Legends; in English, she was voiced by Renee Hewitt in Soulcalibur II and Lani Minella for the remainder of the series.
Since her introduction she has been noted both for her appeal as a character and sex appeal.
Conception and history
As a character introduced in Soulcalibur, Ivy's weapon, a "snake sword" designed to be unique amongst the other weapons in the game, was selected before other elements of the character. Her design and concept were then built to revolve around it, starting with gender, then physical measurements, and lastly background details. After her appearance and movement were fleshed out by a concept artist, her character was rendered as a 3D model by a design team that worked solely on her, and then animated mostly by Naotake Hirata using motion capture to create her in-game movements, with Yasushi Shibue designing the animations for her throws. During this phase the team additionally worked with the Soulcalibur story creators, refining the character's own role in the plot as needed throughout development.
During development many alternatives for Ivy's design were considered, including a male ninja, a mummy, and a little girl armed with different sized swords of the same kind. With Soulcalibur II, the development team chose her as their favorite character from the previous title. Producer Hiroaki Yotoriyama felt that her fighting style was not perfectly expressed in Soulcalibur, and focused on Ivy from the start of the project to make her more "uniquely lethal."
Ivy's left shoulder pauldron incorporates the Tudor Rose, a traditional heraldic symbol of England.
Ivy's secondary outfits in the games are contrast to her primary outfits.
In video games
According to the official Soulcalibur background story, Ivy was raised in the home of the Valentines, prominent nobles in London, England. Ivy's biological father was the notorious privateer Cervantes de Leon, who had appeared in earlier installments of the series. Ivy's adoptive father was driven to insanity amidst his obsessive pursuit of power, and her adoptive mother died soon thereafter. Ivy became an alchemist and attempted to create an animated, segmented sword inspired by ancient Chinese weaponry, but could only bring her new invention to life with the assistance of Soul Edge's current host, Nightmare. Ivy was convinced to become part of Nightmare's entourage of servants, unaware of what he had planned.
Ivy eventually learned of Nightmare's true intentions, and discovered her biological lineage thanks to the ninja Taki. Ivy entered a self-imposed isolation and emerged with a renewed drive to destroy Soul Edge and anything connected to it. Over the course of her journey, Ivy's "snake sword" began to change. Seeing it becoming more unstable than it had ever been, she returned to her family's mansion to investigate. While there, she was confronted by Zasalamel, who destroyed her research and set her mansion on fire. These events led to her participation in Soulcalibur III.
Prior to the release of Soulcalibur IV, the official website of the game confirmed that Ivy was attacked and killed by Cervantes at the end of Soulcalibur III. However, Ivy was able to keep herself from dying by using an artificial soul she had constructed. Merging her corrupted soul with this untainted specimen completely purified Ivy's soul and allowed her to wield Soul Calibur for the first time in the series.
Ivy uses a sword called "Valentine", which she can turn into a chain whip at will but during each development to each Soul Calibur game Ivy's moves change quite frequently prior to her storyline such as in Soul Calibur 2 Ivy had a powerful stance where she can swing her whip sword around and preform powerful attacks but however in Soul Calibur 3 the move was absent until the Arcade edition was released. In Soul Calibur IV Ivy was given a new "state" just like her sword changing into her whip where it is called "coiled" where she can preform normal attacks while her sword and whip states carry out more powerful attacks.
Some versions of the original Soulcalibur arcade game censored Ivy's default costume by covering her bare skin with a lavender catsuit. With Soulcalibur IV, Ivy's look on the promotional artwork was modified on the English website to hide her undercleavage, leading to suspicion of censorship in the American release of the game. When asked about the censoring, director Katsutoshi Sasaki stated he had heard of nothing of the sort having taken place. When released in North America it was shown that no actual censorship had occurred within the game.
Promotion and merchandising
Ivy was featured amongst other characters for Soulcalibur II's arcade flyer, and has been featured in other printed advertisements for games in the series. She has also appeared on the cover on every Sony-based console game in the series as well as Soulcalibur Legends for the Nintendo Wii. She is also visible on the white Xbox 360 Soul Calibur IV arcade joystick alongside Hilde and Siegfried.
Several action figures and figurines have been made bearing Ivy's likeness. Following the release of Soulcalibur, a resin kit by Kurushima was released, alongside a figurine by Kyosho. Epoch C-Works released a 1/12th scale Ivy action figure of in a set of three for the title as well, featuring equipable weapons. In August 2003, Todd McFarlane Productions released an Ivy sculpture amongst a set of five based on Soulcalibur II. The immobile figure was modeled after her primary outfit and stood six inches tall with a base and retracted sword. Yujin released a four inch tall figurine based upon her Soulcalibur II artwork as part of their "Namco Girls Series #5" line of gashapon figurines. A twelve inch tall immobile PVC figurine modeled after her Soulcalibur III appearance was released by Enterbrain in September 2008, using a white version of her outfit and extended sword; a dark blue outfit for an "international color" version of the sculpture will also be available.
Though commonly cited as one of the most difficult characters to play as in the Soul series, Ivy has received a great deal of positive reception and has been described as one of the series' most "staple" and "stalwart" characters. From her Soulcalibur II appearance, Ivy was nominated in G4's 2004 G-Phoria awards show under "Hottest Character", alongside Vanessa Z. Schneider and Rikku; she was also a character in their 2005 "Video Game Vixens" awards show, winning in the category of "Kinkiest Accessory". Other character "Top Ten" lists have also featured Ivy in similar context, including those by Team Xbox, Virgin Media, Machinima.com, and Spike TV.
Ivy was cited in the book "Disconnected America" as an example of Soulcalibur II's contrast to titles like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter in terms of a comparable real-world experience. She placed second in IGN's "Soulcalibur: The Top Ten Fighters" article, which stated "Few, if any, Soul fighters so aptly sum up what the series is about as Ivy Valentine." IGN also included her in their list of guest characters they would have liked to have seen for Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and in their "Top 50 Chicks Behaving Badly" list, describing her as "a pain in the ass, but she's got a tight one, so she's okay by us". Tom's Games named her one of the fifty greatest female characters in video game history, stating that as "an anti-hero who frequently clashes with other Souls, Ivy is a fascinating character for a fighting game".
Ivy appeared several times in GameDaily's "Babe of the Week" series of articles, including as a stand alone article and at eleventh place in their "Top 50 Hottest Game Babes" article. They later named her amongst other female characters in the Soul series as an example of a strong and iconic female character in video gaming. UGO.com ranked her eighteenth in their "Top 50 Videogame Hotties" article, stating "However much she instills fear in our hearts, we revel in the opportunity to stare at her from the safety of our television sets." In later articles, they named her one of the top eleven girls of gaming at number ten and one of the top eleven video game heroines at number eight, stating "What can you say about a chick that carries a whip? If you're talking about Ivy from the Soul Calibur series, you could say she's pretty intimidating."
As a sex symbol
Ivy's appearance and demeanor have been a focus of discussions, with her commonly compared to or described as a dominatrix, and has been noted both as the series' sexiest female and one of the "most beautiful women in gaming". The mass media and fans alike have regarded her as a sex object, using her likeness in material ranging from magazine swimsuit issue pin-ups and periodicals such as Play's annual publication "Girls of Gaming" issues to pornographic dōjinshi. Advertisements have also focused on her visual appeal, such as Sega's television commercial for Soulcalibur's Dreamcast port. Other media facets have made comparisons between her and Lara Croft in terms of attractiveness, or depicted them as rivals alongside similarly discussed female characters in a similar context. Studies on video games have noted Ivy in the subject of games "growing up", discussing the increasing popularity of "video game babes" and the reactions of men and women towards them.
The book Game On: The History and Culture of Videogames cited Ivy as an example of realistic character design affected by "the Japanese ‘deformed’ aesthetic and the global influence of carton animation", noting she made characters such as Lara Croft look "positively monastic" by comparison. Rachael Hutchinson, Assistant Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Delaware, described her sexualized appearance and behavior as devices used by the developers to emphasize her above-average height compared to other female characters in the title as "deviant", justifying "social and cultural expectation regarding the female form" in the process. In an article on Kotaku, Gamasutra's Leigh Alexander used Ivy as a primary example of video game representations of the ideal male and female versus the real world and the concept that "sex sells", noting the unconscious appeal of such a character to represent oneself as in a game.
Reception to the character's sex appeal has been met with mostly positive reception, though with a share of criticism as well as her design evolved through the series. Joystiq bemoaned her appearance in Soulcalibur IV, describing it as an extreme in lieu of games such as Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball and noting that while a full redesign was unnecessary, "At least [Dead or Alive] keeps its breasts in context." MSNBC described her attire as "the pinnacle of preposterous", noting that while it revolved around her femme fatale design, it appeared physically painful and made little sense to wear into combat. In contrast, British magazine CVG cited her appearance in Soulcalibur IV as appealing, stating "Ivy...we like because she barely wears anything. Yes, we like videogame girls." IGN in their "Babes of Soulcalibur" article noted that while her outfit pushed the line even by game standards, they had no actual complaint towards that aspect of the character. Team Xbox emphasized that while her appearance played a factor in her allure, her fighting skills and unique weapon were significant as well, adding that "Ivy never disappoints in a swordfight". The Escapist noted that the character's behavior and sex appeal defined the character rather than serving as an extraneous aspect, stating "Ivy's oversexed dominatrix demeanor perfectly compliments her confident, punishing move set." UGO.com repeated the sentiment, noting in their "Girls of Gaming" article "Soul Calibur's mega-bombastic whip-wielding hottie isn't the only babe in the game, or even the best-endowed...but her combination of sultry moves and revealing outfits shoots her up the charts."
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