For the previous installment in this series, please go here for Samus Aran:
Chun-Li is possibly the most famous female martial artist character in all of video gaming. She is second only to the likes of flagship characters like Ryu in terms of prominence in the fighting game pantheon, period (for popularity, gamers, not necessarily ranking.) She's been an enduring and almost permanent fixture in the Capcom fighting game universe, and it's easy to see why: she's awesome.
Check out her portion in this video:
Note that outside of Ryu and Ken, Chun-Li is THE headliner. That says a lot about her character given how huge the roster of characters is in the Street Fighter universe.
In addition to being a master of kenpo, Chun-Li is also a crack shot with a pistol (she is a cop, after all!) She also has energy blast abilities like most other characters in the SF universe, but she doesn't need them with her amazing kicking ability.
Chun-Li first appeared as the only female fighting character in the second of the incredibly famous game series, Street Fighter II. She was cast as an Interpol agent seeking to avenge her father's death at the hands of the game's antagonist, M. Bison (or Dictator for you internationally savvy gamers.) She has since then appeared in nearly every single SF game ever made. One notable thing about Chun-Li is that in every game she's been in, she's never been the damsel in distress. She's fighting in these crazy tournaments of her own volition for her own reasons.
Fun fact from SF II: Chun Li's daily training regimen at least during SFII includes 7000 squat repetitions and bench pressing 150 kg. Damn!
Unfortunately, as the character has aged, Capcom has seen fit to increasingly sexualize her appearance. Earlier designs (including for Alpha) had her fairly reasonably proportioned:
Her thousands of squats paid off! And while her outfit has an incredibly high hemline, there's at least an argument for it (can't kick high in a qipao otherwise!) This design isn't any more ridiculous than Blanka being a green... thing, or Dhalsim being able to breathe fire because curry. It's a crazy stereotype of the country of origin like all of the other fighters.
Unfortunately, as games are wont to do with fanboys...
Major boobage! On the bright side, her outfit has otherwise remained mainly reasonable (I'm not counting the secondary outfits, as they're all ridiculous for everyone.) But I have serious criticisms of the design direction that Capcom is moving toward with a character who I think is awesome without being overly sexualized. Hopefully it doesn't get worse with the next installment.
Beyonce Rating (5/5 Rings on It)
Not counting the secondary media (it's only fair), Chun-Li is an entirely self-reliant, independent, self-made character. She has male teachers, sure, but her actions are entirely her own, entirely free of romance, and for one reason only: to kick M. Bison's ass and avenge her father (and be an awesome Interpol agent in the meantime.)
She is a total badass who enters a tournament full of over-muscled men and hangs with them as she fights her way to the top. She's not doing it to please anyone other than herself.
As far as I'm concerned, Chun-Li is THE greatest female video game character of all time. I know, I know, there are so many others, but this is my personal opinion: Chun-Li is my female video game hero. Hands down.
Macklemore Rating (1.5/5 Hamfists)
Capcom has recently used her in a turf battle with the American CIA character C. Viper which is arguably a statement on the CIA's inability to play nice with the international organizations. It's harmless and silly, and barely registers. Otherwise, there's no social statement I can come up with.
Best Game Featuring this Character
Hoooo boooyyy. I'm going to piss off someone, but here we go: Super Street Fighter IV. OHGODDON'THURTME. Yes, I know Alpha is probably more technical, and I know SF IV has its issues, but it's balanced, has great graphics and sound, and... I just like it so damn much.
Worst Game Featuring this Character
This is easy, thankfully: Street Fighter The Movie: The Game. Remember that terrible Street Fighter movie with JCVD and Raul Julia miscast as Bison/Dictator? Yeah... that one. Chun-Li was in it as played by Ming-na Wen:
It's every bit as bad as you'd imagine. It's best to just forget it ever existed and pretend that I never mentioned it. IT'S THAT BAD.
Chun-Li is actually one of the characters that sparked my interests in martial arts (along with my lifelong hero, Ryu.) I always liked playing Chun-Li because she was fast, used kicks to good effect (I'm always liked characters with good kicking), and she seemed like a character with good intentions and a sense of justice. I love Ryu's sense of self-improvement and "climbing the mountain" stuff, but to me Chun-Li was in it for the right reasons: to bring a bad person to justice. She's a great character, and while I know it's often hard to get that there's anything worth getting out of the stories in SF, hers is fun. I'll leave this one with a great video demonstrating why I think she's great: