When thinking about the greatest video game characters of all time, I initially thought about Pokémon and Digimon, but there are just too many of them to choose from. I eventually came back, as I always do, to my favorite video game series: Mega Man: Battle Network. And the clear winner in my mind is Serenade EXE from Mega Man: Battle Network 3, released by Capcom in 2003 for the Game Boy Advance.
Serenade EXE is the UnderKing of the Undernet. With the Undernet being the deep web of the Mega Man world, you would think that Serenade would be a powerful tyrant bent on evil. What is so interesting about Serenade, however, is that he is the embodiment of love and mercy. Serenade’s attacks, including his Holy Shock and Saint Light, gain their power from Serenade’s mercy. The love he has for others is what makes him so powerful. This is embodied in-game by the fact that you can only damage Serenade when he is launching an attack; it is Serenade’s decisions that allow you to engage him in combat.
I was immediately obsessed with this character whose power came from his own love and mercy. Many Mega Man villains gain their strength through a desire to gain power, whether it is their own or their creator’s. To see this rival challenge Mega Man to test his worthiness to face the challenges to come was notable to me. There was no arrogance in Serenade’s request to fight Mega Man. but rather, this request came from a genuine place to ensure that Mega Man could achieve what needed to be achieved.
Beyond the role he played in-game, Serenade is just a cool character! His look feels divine, and he stands apart from most other Mega Man characters. The ethereal nature of his design is in stark contrast to the more cyber-inspired designs of characters like Number Man and Elec Man. This design, paired with his unique personality, makes Serenade an important character, not just in Mega Man but in video games as a whole. I replayed Mega Man: Battle Network 3 over and over, trying to get back to this fight with Serenade. One of my biggest faults with the Mega Man: Battle Network series is that Serenade’s only appearance is in this game.
Serenade EXE is an incredibly important character to me. In 2003, there were very few openly queer characters that I could relate to. However, despite not being officially queer, the queer-coded Serenade’s strength powered by his own love and mercy was incredibly influential to me. To see this powerful character engage with the world around him in this way showed me I could also be powered by my love for others. Seeing a sensitive character like Serenade showed that I could be sensitive yet powerful, too. Video games are often thrown to the side as bad influences or even harmful, but some of the greatest video game characters, such as Serenade.EXE, show that video games can be inspiring and beneficial to those that love them.