Isabella Valentine (イザベラ・バレンタイン, Izabera Barentain), commonly called Ivy (アイヴィー, Aivī), 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 between Soulcalibur and Soulcalibur III, Kanako Tōjo between Soulcalibur Legends and Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny, and Miyuki Sawashiro in Soulcalibur V; in English, she was voiced by Renee Hewitt in Soulcalibur II and Lani Minella for the remainder of the series.
The illegitimate daughter of undead pirate Cervantes de Leon, Ivy was raised by a noble family until her father became obsessed with the cursed sword, Soul Edge, leading to his death and later her mother's. Desiring to destroy the sword, she creates a segmented, animated blade, only to become Soul Edge's pawn and learn that it intends to use her as its next host. After an attack by Cervantes results in the loss of her soul, Ivy uses a temporary artificial one to keep herself alive, and continues after the blade.
Since her introduction, Ivy has been well received, considered both an attractive and strong female character by various sources. She has also been included on various countdown lists regarding sexy video game characters. Scholastic studies have examined the character in the context of the series and video games in general, as well as when compared to other video game related sex symbols such as Lara Croft. Her role as a sex symbol has also been discussed by said sources and the media. Some argue that her appearance goes "too far", while others feel it helps to define her character.
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, and several animations created without the use of motion capture for positions difficult for the actors. 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, while the weapon remained constant, varying only in size. 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". Namco has called Ivy one of the three most popular characters in the series in North American markets, alongside Taki and Nightmare. Soulcalibur V producer Hisaharu Tago emphasized this as a reason for the character's inclusion for the game, additionally citing her fighting style and role in the game's storyline.
Ivy appears as a tall, large busted woman with short, white hair. A bluish-purple leotard covers her torso and arms, with patches of the fabric removed to expose her cleavage, buttocks and various parts of her abdomen. Similar leggings cover her legs midway below her thighs, connected to the leotard by garters at golden metal bands at their peak. A sleeve of the same material covers her right arm and hand, while armor covers her left arm, hand, and shoulder. A smaller pauldron covers her right shoulder, while high heels cover her feet, and a white glove covers her right hand. The left shoulder pauldron incorporates the Tudor Rose, a traditional heraldic symbol of England, while the plates of the armor were designed to resemble the links of her sword. A mask covering the right side of her face and eye were also considered but abandoned after the initial character concept. While her design has been altered slightly as the series has progressed, the concept has remained consistent throughout the series, with the exception of the removal of the glove in later designs. Ivy stands 1.79 m (5 ft 10 in) tall, making her the series' tallest female character, and with a bust measurement of 100 cm (39 in) also the bustiest, though this was an aspect that the developers felt they had overdone by her appearance in Soulcalibur IV.
Ivy's alternate character designs in the games are a contrast to her primary designs, with the secondary from Soulcalibur to Soulcalibur III consisting of countess attire of either blue or red pants, vest, and jacket, with white boots covering her feet and her hair combed back. In Soulcalibur II, a tertiary alternate design was added consisting of a red leotard and gloves with gold trimming, with red stockings on her legs; in addition, a fourth design resembling her appearance at the conclusion of Soulcalibur was considered, incorporating a cloak and the symbol of caduceus on the front of her leotard cupping her breasts, but was unused. In Soulcalibur III, a long, rose-themed dress with hat and veil was used as a tertiary alternate, one of several considered designs. For Soulcalibur IV, a similarly themed black dress was used as her sole alternate design for the game.
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.
As introduced in Soulcalibur, Ivy was raised by the Valentines, a noble family in London, England. Ivy's father became obsessed with the cursed sword Soul Edge, and worked himself to death. Her mother died shortly afterward, and revealed to Ivy that she was not their biological daughter. Becoming an alchemist, Ivy learned of her father's obsession and decided to destroy Soul Edge. She created an animated, segmented sword, bringing it to life by unknowingly summoning Soul Edge's current host, Nightmare, and was convinced to become one of his servants without realizing he wielded the blade she sought. After learning the truth, and that her real father was the sword's previous host Cervantes and her to be its next, she departed. Continuing her quest to destroy the sword in later games, Ivy was attacked by Cervantes and her soul consumed in Soulcalibur IV. Using an artificial soul to keep herself alive, she acts as a teacher to younger warriors when the sword re-appears years later.
Ivy also appears in the prequel Soulcalibur Legends, allying herself with the protagonist Siegfried, and shares an understanding with another of his allies, Lloyd Irving. In Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny's "Gauntlet" storyline, a side story set after the events of Soulcalibur IV, Ivy assists the character Hilde and her party develop a cure for her father's ailment. When told that Cervantes' soul would be required as payment, they attempt to renegotiate, only for Ivy to use the protagonist's back as a chair while repeating her terms.
Designed as a weapon with the longest reach in Soulcalibur, Ivy's sword Valentine consists of several smaller blades linked together by a chain, able to take either broadsword or chain whip forms. These forms are represented by different stances Ivy can use in the series, altering many of her attacks for each and applying different uses to either form of the weapon, with some, such as Spiral Lust, a component of an existing attack. In addition to these the sword can also have the segments be split apart, in which case they will attack the opponent in different ways before recombining on the sword's chain. Due to her variety, Ivy has been noted as being able to attack from any range, however she has also been described as difficult to properly use unless utilizing a range the opponent is weakest at. However, attacks such as Ivy Brambler allow her greater variety in range, and allow for chaining into other attacks upon a successful strike. Other attacks, such as Summoning Suffering and Calamity Symphony, involve grappling with the opponent to damage them, though utilize complex controller inputs that require them to be utilized in tandem with other moves. With the Xbox Live release of Soulcalibur, due to its complexity the former was utilized for an achievement.
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 Soulcalibur IV arcade joystick alongside Hilde and Siegfried, and the box art for Korean distributions of the lilac-colored PSP. In addition, the character has been used to demonstrate the graphical features of both Soulcalibur IV and its follow-up title, Broken Destiny in a tech demo and promotional flyer respectively. Ivy was also featured alongside Siegfried in a manga adaptation of Soulcalibur Legends printed in the Japanese shōnen Kerokero Ace; the manga, written in a humorous tone, used a running gag of Siegfried's annoyance that Ivy was significantly taller than he was.
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 1/12 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 was also produced.
Although 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". Several other "Top Ten" lists have also featured Ivy in similar context, including those by Team Xbox, Machinima.com, and Spike TV. In 2009, she was featured on the cover of French magazine Ig alongside other female video game characters as one of the top heroines of gaming.
Ivy was cited in the book "Disconnected America" as an example of Soulcalibur II's contrast to titles including Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter in terms of a comparable real-world experience. Play magazine called her one of the "finest females in all of 3D fighting", adding of the characters in the series she was the one they enjoyed playing as the most. 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". GameSpy named her one of the "25 Extremely Rough Brawlers" in video gaming, praising the brutality of her fighting style and weapon. 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". UGO.com placed her sixteenth on their list of the "Top 50 Evil Women", noting her role as an antagonist in the first Soulcalibur while adding that it could be "difficult to truly appreciate [her] villainy" due to her attractiveness, and adding that her appearance and attitude made her "a feared competitor". In 2013, Complex enlisted the 20 best characters from the series, ranking her the seventh best character.
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. The New York Times felt her appearance came from the same "Goth cyberaesthetic [...] that gave us The Matrix", one they felt was already becoming outdated. 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."
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". She has been displayed in various third-party media, her likeness appearing in material including magazine swimsuit issue pin-ups, periodicals such as Play's annual "Girls of Gaming" series, and 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 other female characters in a similar context. Other sources have used her as a standard for a character archetype, comparing later created female characters to her design and appearance. 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 cartoon animation", noting she made characters such as Lara Croft look "positively monastic" by comparison. Race, Gender, Media: Considering Diversity Across Audiences, Content, and Producers used her as an example of most female characters in video games, describing her body and clothing as being created solely for the viewing pleasure of players, often males. 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 of the character's sex appeal has been mostly positive, 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. Former GameSpot editor Jeff Gerstmann described the alterations to her appearance for Soulcalibur IV as unnecessary, stating "boobs are awesome, but there's a line. Ivy is over this line." GamesRadar content editor David Houghton described her alongside similar characters as "festering adolescent wank-fantasies", adding directly regarding Ivy "[t]his is not female empowerment". The subject was later brought up again at the 2011 PAX East convention, in which an all-female journal panel led by The Escapist's Susan Arendt agreed that while the character was strong and difficult but rewarding to master in the original Soulcalibur, she was reduced to "a nice ass bouncing around the room" in later games.
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". Leigh Alexander in an article for GameSetWatch noted that while characters such as Samus Aran served as "bastions of dignity", characters such as Ivy filled an important role in video games too, stating "[i]t looks like Ivy’s back is set to snap – but she’s a game character; she’ll be fine. Why not just enjoy it?" 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 "Top 11 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." In an examination of feminist viewpoints regarding women in gaming, comedian and writer Liana Kerzner cited Ivy as an example of misperception of an empowered female character, noting that when compared to characters such as Wonder Woman the latter was considered a positive character for being "empowered" despite sharing similar exposing outfits and physical builds. She further went on to state that the character was interesting for having "to fight her own flawed battle with no help from anyone", and that women passionate about gaming had more in common with the character: "aggressive, intimidating, combative, and scrabbling through life by sheer will, armed with homemade weapons".