Charlie Nash: Street Fighter's Most Tragic Character
We dig a little deeper and uncover the depths of the tragedy that is Charlie Nash's story
Charlie Nash is the most tragic character in Street Fighter, don't @ me!
Okay, kidding aside, the story of Nash is incredibly sad, and it makes me wonder if he somehow annoyed someone on the Capcom team to give him such a fate.
Watching the South East Asia leg of the CPT was a lot of fun. But, apart from the incredible performances by Xian and co, what caught my eye was Aron Jonathan Manurung, who boldly proclaimed that he was the 'last Nash.' While he might not be the last player ever to use the character, he is one of only a handful of pro players who use Nash as a main. I think this is sad as Nash is a pretty awesome character with a great fighting style and cool aesthetics. While I pondered the fact that few people use the character, it struck me that this just adds to the tragedy of his storyline. A dedicated and driven officer, Nash is currently an empty husk who consistently sacrifices for his friends.
Nash's story brings a lot of gravity to the Street Fighter story, and it is deep tales like these that really make me hold Street Fighter to such high standards. Nash first appears in Street Fighter Alpha, be we had first heard of him in Street Fighter II.
A profoundly sad story
Charlie Nash is often characterized by his great sense of justice, which, when pushed to the edge, could become a mindless quest for revenge. Charlie was born and raised in the United States, and his sense of morality pushed him over to the military. He was enrolled in University by the US Marines, where he studied psychology. An excellent martial artist, Charlie is credited with winning the Pan American martial arts tournament, which shows his prowess. His fighting style, developed with the help of the military, is obviously similar to that of Guile's, and it is confirmed that he taught Guile how to fight. Charlie considers Guile to be his best friend, and the latter's reverence for The two are incredibly close, and are their character designs show this clearly.
After rising through the ranks, Charlie is sent on various missions, including those that involved the main antagonist of the Street Fighter franchise: M. Bison. After losing out to Bison's psycho power, Charlie became obsessed with investigating the tyrant and bringing him to justice. Unfortunately, Bison's influence was immense, and it even reached the higher echelons of the US military and air force. Nash would go on to face Bison and succeed, but his victory was short-lived as after calling for reinforcements and questioning the villain, he was betrayed by his own men and shot in the back from the backup helicopter that was supposed to come to his aid.
Following Charlie's death, Guile is driven down the path of revenge and relentlessly chases Bison in a bid to bring the criminal to justice and bring peace to his slain friend.
However, the story doesn't end there, as Charlie is revived by a mysterious organization and given another mission to defeat Bison again. This brings him in direct conflict with some of his old friends, including Guile and Chunli. He faces off against them, and it is here he shows off some of his new skills, including his ability to absorb psycho power. However, after being brought back to his senses, he decides to give up on trying to defeat Bison on his own and help his friends pull it off.
When infiltrating the Shadaloo base in the hopes of defeating Bison, Guile and Chunli are overpowered, but Rashid and Charlie come to the rescue. Charlie faces off against Bison again, but he loses. However, he drains Bison of a significant amount of Bison's psycho power, which leaves the tyrant a lot less powerful than he used to be. Unfortunately, the psycho power Charlie absorbs is too much, and he explodes, which seems to show that he is dead.
That said, at the end of his arcade story shows his body intact, which means that Charlie might still be alive.
The power of friendship
Okay, so being an anime fan, the concept of friendship is endlessly fascinating to me. This is a recurring theme in Charlie's story as he is defined by the relationships he has around him. Also, it is because of his friendships that he is able to regain most of his memories after he is resurrected. And finally, it was due to 'Nakama power' that he was able to sacrifice himself in the end. As mentioned before, he was very close to Guile, but he also formed relationships with Chunli, Abel, and to a less extent, Rashid. I mention friendship here because even in Nash's harrowing tale, even after leading a somewhat miserable life, he 'died' with purpose.
In a parallel story, Charlie is captured and brainwashed by Bison. He is then turned into an agent known as Shadow and is made to complete missions on behalf of Shadaloo. In the Marvel v Capcom storyline, fighting for Bison against his friends backfires as he regains his memories and leaves Shadaloo. He is also saddled with a psycho battery, which only lets him have control of his faculties for 48 hours. He appeared in the SFV arcade edition as a secret character.
Why Charlie Nash is SFV's saddest story
So, as I mentioned earlier, I think Charlie is the most tragic character in the SF franchise. This is not only because of people's reluctance to use him or his sad background, but rather the full implications of the life he lived. Charlie was a man who lost everything and never had the chance to enjoy the few things he had. First, he was driven to frustration by his superiors, who did nothing with all the evidence Charlie piled against Bison. This was because his superiors were also on Bison's payroll and were unlikely to ever bring any action against the criminal enterprise. Apart from this, Charlie was betrayed by the very people that were to provide him with help. He was killed by men he had trained with and whom he was supposed to trust with his life. The betrayal was even more painful, considering he was so close to defeating Bison in the end.
I imagine a lot of people will disagree with my take since there is a possibility that he is still alive, but at what cost? I mean, his body has been damaged and stitched together so much that he looks like a monster, so will he be able to experience happiness like that? What's more, he didn't have anyone special in his life (save for Guile), and he was completely consumed by his quest to kill Bison. Even vengeful characters like Guile and Chunli had special others (Guile had a wife, and it has been teased that Chunli and Ryu might have a thing).
Even when Charlie was resurrected, it was at the behest of a secret organization, so even his final mission against Bison wasn't really of his own volition, but rather as an order. Charlie did not ask to be resurrected, and it just pains me that he is a character that perhaps no one cared for, not the US military, nor the secret society that so willingly orders him to do their bidding.
On some level, I wish they would end Charlie and his wretched run. He deserves so much more, but his story is so fascinating that I am interested to see what they do with him in SFVI.
Charlie Nash has my respect, and while Street Fighter Alpha 2 paints him as a tragic character, his run in SFV redeems him as a man who is not afraid to lay it all down for his friends, and such a person deserves unending kudos.