Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition just released three new characters: E. Honda, Lucia and Poison. The latter, of course, has been a favorite of Capcom fans since her introduction in 1989. She has a unique fighting style as well as a provocative look that wasn't common in that era.
However, the defining trait of Poison has always been her controversial origins. So much so that it has affected her design, personality and even her fighting style and move set. Poison's story starts long before her inclusion in the Street Fighter series. So let's go in-depth and cover one of the most controversial characters in the Capcom stable.
Poison was introduced as an enemy belonging to the Mad Gear gang in the arcade brawler, Final Fight. She barely had a personality of her own as she was essentially a palette swap of another enemy, Roxy. She and Roxy were meant to be a change from all of the male enemies in the game.
However, during development, concerns arose about how hitting a woman would be perceived in the United States. Therefore, Poison and Roxy were labeled as "newhalf," derogatory Japanese slang for a transgender or transsexual person. That small change would impact the character for the rest of her existence.
When Final Fight was ported to the Super Nintendo, an American playtester complained that the protagonist was hitting women. The characters were subsequently removed from the game, and replaced with two lanky men named Billy and Sid. To this day, Nintendo adaptations of Final Fight remove Poison and Roxy and replace them with Billy and Sid.
Over the years, Capcom has attempted to rewrite the status of the two women. These include saying Poison had gender-confirmation surgery or was actually a cross-dresser, and both were just women. Currently, Capcom doesn't have a definitive stance on the matter. However, Street Fighter producer Yoshinori Ono says that Poison is a "post-op" trans woman in America. In Japan, she's a "pre-op" trans woman and she just "tucks her business away."
Poison is introduced into the Street Fighter series in Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors' Dreams with a cameo in Sodom's ending. She shows up again in Street Fighter Alpha 2 in the background of Guy's stage. Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact and Street Fighter III: Third Strike give her a bigger cameo as Hugo's manager and appears before every match, with Hugo and her looking for a tag team partner in their wrestling venture as well as fresh talent for their roster.
She appeared in Final Fight Revenge, a fighting game based on the Final Fight characters. This is the first game she is playable in. In this game, she frames Cody Travers from the original Final Fight for her crimes but things get complicated when she develops romantic feelings for him. She would make cameos similar to the one in Street Fighter III: Third Strike in SVC Chaos: SNK vs. Capcom, where her and Hugo are once again scouting for new talent for their wrestling federation as well as a tag team partner.
Street Fighter X Tekken would be the first time she is playable in the Street Fighter series. She and Hugo are hoping them discovering and obtaining Pandora's Box will make them instantly famous. Ultra Street Fighter IV, which takes place before either of the Street Fighter III games, shows her looking to recruit new talent for her wrestling federation. Her ending depicts her, Ryu, Ken, and some Final Fight characters forming a rock band in what is obviously a joke ending.
However, Hugo's ending depicts them teaming up. Finally, she's make some cameos in non-canonical games. In SNK vs Capcom: Card Fighters Clash, she appears on a card as Hugo's manager. In Marvel vs. Capcom 3, she is in the crowd in the Metro City stage.
Poison's design over the numerous games she's been in has mostly been the same. Being that she is initially from the Mad Gear gang, her appearance is meant to evoke a street thug. It was later fleshed out to be more punk-inspired and influenced by S&M, something that likely correlated with the problematic fetishization of trans people.
Starting with her appearance in Final Fight Revenge, the character began to lean more into her feminine identity. As a result of this and her fetish influences, she began to be heavily presented as a sexual being. The S&M correlation was further made with her use of a whip or riding crop in combat.
In her initial design, she is portrayed as wearing a black peak cap with a chain link across the crown on top of her long pink shaggy hair. In Final Fight Revenge, her hair is purple and she sports a white midriff tank top with one of the shoulder straps sometimes fallen off. She wears "Daisy Duke" style short jean shorts with a chain link belt and handcuffs attached. Black high or red high heels have been added in the newer games.
STREET FIGHTER IV DESIGNS
Her standard outfit in Street Fighter IV is the same as her original design. Her first alternate is a jumper suit with the zipper pulled nearly all the way down. She wears a matching elbow length glove on her right hand, thigh high boots and peak cap.
Her second alternate is a pirate themed outfit complete with pirate hat, eye patch, sleeveless blouse with a bustier over it with striped designs, matching striped pants with a loose fitted belt and folded boots with a matching design to her bustier/gloves.
Her other outfits include an evening gown with a flower print, and another with a fishnet top and hat that make her look like a peacock. Her final costume is horror-themed, making her look like a zombie nurse.
STREET FIGHTER V DESIGNS
Her Street Fighter V design has her hair shorter and more of a red than a pink color, and her hat now has a skull on it and has been changed to pink. She now wears a choker, an arm length fingerless glove on her right arm, and a stocking on her left leg.
Her Story costume dresses her in a dress with her hair up but still out, while her Battle outfit makes her look like a '20s gangster. She has on the pork pie hat, gloves, striped dress, fishnet stocking, and high heels.
Her Nostalgia outfit, meanwhile, looks like her original design but without the chain on the front of the hat. Finally, her Swimsuit costume is a sexy police cop outfit, as pictured above.
Poison's fighting style has changed over the years. It is self-taught and based on a mixture of street fighting moves and acrobatic wrestling. She uses a riding crop in Street Fighter X Tekken and Ultra Street Fighter IV. However, she changed to a whip in Final Fight Revenge and Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, which is mostly used as a special move in Final Fight Revenge.
She is a hand-to-hand combatant in Final Fight Revenge, whereas she's a weapons fighter in her other appearances. When using the riding crop, Poison is a zoning character, utilizing projectiles and overhead mixups to get her damage. She tends to be weak defensively and is particularly vulnerable to grappling characters. In SFVAE, her gameplay is much more mix-up heavy with many of her combos involving switching where she'll attack next.
Many of her special weapon techniques tend to evoke her personality, specifically her S&M tendencies. Many of her moves have other meanings or could be interpreted to represent something lewd. For example, her "Love Me Tender" technique has her perform a really high arching kick, which could leave her tenders highly noticeable while performing this move. Crude, yes, but Poison is once again portrayed as liking the attention.
Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition give her brand new attacks for her V-Skill and V-Triggers. Her V-Skill is a swinging strike that has two distances, can be canceled into an attack, and can avoid projectiles. Her first V-Trigger is the Poison Cocktail, which drains life away from the opponent as long as they're in it.
This is great for extending the damage in combos and is also another mix-up tool. It's also a projectile that could extend combos. Her second V-Trigger gives her two new command throws, one up close and one from afar, which can be combo-ed into. These are great for ending combos as well as keeping your opponent off guard.
Numerous games reference to Poison's historically ambiguous gender identity. Decapre in USFIV has a win quote which states, "Numerous irregularities. Data acquisition suspended." Her peacock outfit in USFIV depicts a male peacock as they're the only one with the colorful plumage. When Poison hits the computer in the Lair of the Four Kings stage in SFVAE, her gender is listed as unknown. Poison's story in SFVAE features a scene where it can be implied that she suffers from gender dysphoria.
Poison is the first female LGBTQ character in Street Fighter and the second overall, after Eagle. She's the second female fighter in Street Fighter to come from the United States, after C. Viper. She's 5'9" (175cm) and 115 lbs (52 kg) has turquoise blue eyes, and was born on December 7th in Los Angeles, California. She gets her name from the '80s hair metal band of the same name.
She knows all of the Final Fight characters that have gone on to be included in Street Fighter games and appears to be on good terms with all of them except Rolento.