BEWARE: SPOILERS BELOW!
Jade is easily one of gaming’s finest characters. She’s likable, she has unique abilities, and she has a TON of personality. When you first meet her, you get her. She’s pretty mellow, but strong-willed — which quickly comes to light in the earliest moments of the game during the first battle with the DOMZ, fighting them off with a flaming branch to protect those she loves. She is compassionate to a fault, taking on the many orphans left behind from the DOMZ invasions. And she’s an aspiring journalist, one who wants to uncover the truth behind what exactly the DOMZ are doing with the Hillyan population they’ve stolen.
Once the game kicks into gear, Jade’s personality really begins to shine. You can see that she’s upset over the current situation with the DOMZ, angry at the power company Optima for refusing to protect her lighthouse that was just under siege because she was short on money, doubtful of the protection of the Alpha Sections (the military presence that swarms Hillys), and quite impassioned to save her orphan friends…no matter the cost. It becomes clear from the beginning that she has some unknown connection to the DOMZ, one that will unravel itself as the game goes along. She is also frustrated at her current point in her life — her hovercraft is shot, her lighthouse unprotected, and her life feels like it’s going nowhere fast…it’s a decent mirror to the realities of our lives here on Earth.
She gets a break when she is commissioned to take photos of the many animals of Hillys. Thanks to the Pearl received from the DOMZ who attacked the lighthouse, things begin to look up. However, after the hovercraft is repaired and a chance to prove herself appears via M-Disc, Jade’s confidence is understandably a bit shaky. She’s unsure of the initial mission, and unsure of the future ahead…yet maintains a sort of blind optimism for her work. She enjoys doing photography, made clear from her conversations with Pey’j. She has an amazing depth to her that many video game heroes and heroines aspire to reach, yet fail to do. And it is that depth that makes her so wonderful to play as.
After Jade discovers the beginnings of a conspiracy, we begin to put ourselves more and more into her shoes. Instead of skirting away from the terrors that loom in the shadows of the Alpha Sections, she decides to become an official reporter for the IRIS Network, a group of vigilantes determined to find out the truth about the DOMZ and the Alpha Sections. A risky move, yet one that many of us could face. What would we do in Jade’s position? This game gives you the opportunity to take on the choice many of us would be hesitant to make — taking a stand against tyranny. And it is an enlightening one…one that has influenced me more than any other character’s arc.
Jade’s a wonderful character design. She’s got qualities that stand out, like her green lipstick, her uniquely patterned pants, and her punishing Dai-Jo Stick. Her affinity for greens ties into her name, and her pink tank top completes the look nicely. She looks unique, and is not overtly made sexy (Taki, I’m looking at you) to try to appeal to the male masses. And that is very much appreciated. She may show a bit of skin, but Jade’s not trying to be flirty, a la Mai Shiranui. She’s wearing clothes that the majority of women would actually wear, and it’s refreshing to see that. Kudos to you, Michel Ancel and staff, for helping demolish a horrible game design stereotype that prevails all too often today.
Her photographic talents quickly come into play, and these photos are crucial to Jade. They define who she is: a photographer. She may be able to capably hold her own against the DOMZ and the Alpha Sections, but that’s not who she is. She is not Kratos, who brawls with everything in his way, including himself. Her purpose is to uncover the truth. And that is so refreshing — a character who isn’t about kicking all kinds of ass and taking down names. She may have to fight from time to time to accomplish her goal, but she prefers to avoid confrontation if possible. The game thrives on tricky stealth sections that challenge you to sneak by the Alpha Sections guards without being seen. And Jade is well suited to the task…much like photographers in the real world who do similar feats to record their stories. In short, she isn’t an one trick pony.
I have to say, the actress who provides Jade’s English VO did a spectacular job at developing her complexity. Jodie Forrest is nigh perfect, infusing Jade with a voice that has power and compassion. Jade goes through a lot in this game, and Forrest gives each emotion the charge it needs to be properly conveyed. And the writers behind Forrest’s words did an excellent job, as well. The story is brilliant, and Jade’s passionate desire to be an IRIS reporter is one of the best in all of gaming. It’s gripping — rolling you along like you’re on a roller coaster to the game’s conclusion.
Another factor into Jade’s excellent design is the way she moves. She bounces around as she walks, which is a little different than most characters. It showcases her energy in a clever, subtle way. Her fighting style is effective and smooth, full of acrobatics and grace. It is a joy to engage foes as Jade. Lastly, her stealth options make sense. She can creep around walls, walk while crouched, dive, and fire off discs to distract foes (or, if you’re skilled, disable them!). Her versatility offers the player many ways to engage each situation she’s faced with, and most of them are viable. You can try to ambush the Alpha Sections from behind, sneak around them entirely, snipe them with discs, fight them head-on, or run past them to get by…unless there’s what I refer to as “death cameras” around, which tend to be the more guarded areas. These limit your opinions, but still, there’s more than one way to weave around the sentries. Jade’s large moveset wouldn’t be complete without a mention of her camera, which acts as a first-person view, a way to earn extra money/pearls by catching glimpses of rare animal life, and the defining tool to capture your objectives.
I think that Jade has brought a lot to the table as a gaming heroine. She’s offered us a chance to be a freedom fighter. She’s brought a human touch to gaming. She’s flown over the glut of sexually charged women clothed in barely-there garments. She’s helped open up a new way of presenting games as more than bubbly kiddie fare and gore-drenched bloodbaths. And ultimately, she’s someone you can connect with. You can feel her pain, her triumph, her shock, and her vindication. And that right there is something truly special…special enough to consider her my favorite woman (and character) in all of gaming.