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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 September, 2003, 08:18 GMT 09:18 UK
Cyber heroine rivals Lara Croft
Is Lara Croft about to be deposed from her throne as cyber heroine, asks Daniel Etherington of BBCi Collective in his weekly games column.

Tomb Raider: Lara Croft
Can Lara fight off the competition from Vanessa?
Vanessa Z Schneider. What kind of a name is that?

It does not exactly trip off the tongue. But Vanessa herself, that is a different matter.

She insouciantly trips and skips and shakes her hips while blasting enemies in Capcom's vigorous sci-fi shooter P.N.03, a little something from Shinji Mikami, creator of Resident Evil.

But has she got what it takes to enter the pantheon of memorable video game heroines?

Like it or no, gaming is still male-dominated. The main market is younger males - teens and twentysomethings.

It is not a stereotype. It is simply a fact.

Salacious appeal

In games themselves, the bulk of heroes are traditionally male too. So female characters get a particular sort of attention.

Screenshot from P.N.03
It is too early to say if Vanessa of P.N.03 will achieve a popular iconic status

It may be partly salacious, but there is also the more, wholesome appeal of the strong heroine.

Lara had a pretty good run. Buffy lives on in games, after her six-year TV run. Samus Aran, meanwhile, quietly goes from strength to strength.

Thanks to her asexual suit, she never had a simplistic sex appeal, but for discerning gamers she has long been a cult icon - or iconess.

The women of Resident Evil - Jill Valentine, Claire Redfield, Rebecca Chambers - are having second winds in their GameCube remake and movie incarnations, consolidating their status.

Even long-term damsel in distress, Zelda, had her persona bolstered in The Wind Waker, when she took a more pro-active role in the final boss battle.

Figure-hugging suits

Vanessa Z Schneider has certainly got the moves, performing nifty cartwheels, shimmies and strafes to her personal techno soundtrack.

And with her figure-hugging Aegis suits, she has a certain sex appeal.

But a hectic shoot-em-up with a fiddly control system, appearing only on GameCube, probably will not have mass-market appeal despite its quality.

It is too early to say if Vanessa of P.N.03 will achieve a popular iconic status. It is not like a developer can contrive to create an icon, but there is the definite possibility of cult appeal.

The thing that is puzzling me most, however, is what the Z stands for.

Daniel Etherington writes for BBCi Collective, exchanging views on gaming, music, film and culture.

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