Chun-Li: “Vega!? Shouldn’t you be dead?”
Vega: “Perhaps I’m a ghost.” – Rival Dialogue between Vega and Chun-Li, Street Fighter IV
Despite what he says here, the truth is Vega isn’t a ghost… but he could be something much worse.
Vega is the narcissistic, mask-wearing, claw-wielding Spanish ninja who, along with M. Bison, F.A.N.G., and Balrog, is one of the Four Kings of Shadaloo. He is known for his obsession with beauty, particularly his own, and hates people and things that he deems ugly to the extent he is willing to kill or destroy those people and things, as he feels they, quite simply, shouldn’t exist. Much of his story has been elaborated on by Capcom, shedding light on his mindset and motivations. However, there is one thing people wonder about Vega, and was brought to my attention by @xocelotyouth: with all of his psychotic narcissism and lust for blood, is he, in fact, a vampire? It’s an interesting question with a lot of complexities behind it. I have elucidated in my past theory, “The Secrets of the Secret Society”, that vampires wouldn’t be too out of the ordinary for the story of Street Fighter (considering that Capcom also released Darkstalkers/Vampire Savior, which stars mythological creatures including a vampire, succubi, a werewolf, a mummy, Frankenstein’s monster (or for you purists, VON GERDENHEIM’S MONSTER), a jiangshi, etc.). You can read that theory here: https://manestreet.home.blog/2019/02/20/the-secrets-of-the-secret-society/
Still, the idea that Vega is canonically a vampire may seem to be too out there for a game based on one-on-one fights. The research I’ve done, however, points in several very interesting directions from a creative standpoint. This theory is going to look at the possible influences of Vega’s creation, and point out several of his attributes which lead back to the idea of the Spanish ninja being a a sanguinarian, and it all starts with his name.
For the one or two people reading this theory who don’t know, there was an infamous name swap when Street Fighter II made it to North America. Due to many reasons, the names of three of the Shadaloo Devas were switched. The dictator character was given the name M. Bison, whose original name, Vega, was given to the Spanish ninja we are talking about here, whose original name, Balrog, was given to the boxer character, whose original name was M. Bison. So, while the name Vega is perfect for our boy Claw due to its Spanish origins, we have to use Vega’s original name, Balrog, for this to make any sense.
The name Balrog first appeared in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” books, describing a creature that was menacing, if ambiguous, in appearance, and used flaming sword, fire whips, and claws to attack all those who oppose it. Since I have never read the books or seen the movies (except for bits and pieces of “The Hobbit”), I can’t go any further into what Balrogs may or may not look like, and I have to rely on what Fandom tells me. https://lotr.fandom.com/wiki/Balrogs
However, for this theory, Tolkien’s version of Balrogs doesn’t matter as much as the origin of the name. True, Tolkien created the term, but was the term derived from a real-life myth? To find that out, I tried looking up other characters also named Balrog in Japan. Only one popped up: Balron Lune from Saint Seiya. https://saintseiya.fandom.com/wiki/Balron_Lune
Since Saint Seiya is another intellectual property I never got into, I had to again rely on Fandom’s wiki; but in doing so, I saw some interesting tidbits that caught my attention. The first was that, like Claw, Balron Lune worked for someone who was the personification of evil, in this case, Dark Lord Hades. He is one of Hades’ 108 Spectres, an army of warriors created to rival Athena’s Gold Saints. Another one was that his power came from the Celestial Wise Star. In the Chinese story “Water Margin”, the Celestial Wise Star, or Hero Star, was attributed to Hua Rong, one of the 108 Stars of Destiny. Vega’s star motif for some of his attacks in SFV (Stardust Drop and Cosmic Heel), while attributed to his American name change, could also be an homage to this character.
But there is one final thing that led me to know that I was on the right path: Balron Lune’s armor, the Balron Surplice. The name and design were directly taken from J.R.R. Tolkien’s creatures.
Following the path, I saw that Balron Lune was from Norway, and so I looked into Nordic mythology to see if there was anything I could find, and sure enough, I found what could possibly be the origin of the name Balrog, the draugr. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draugr
The draugr was a creature with superhuman strength, could increase its size at will, and both looked and smelled like a dead body. It was basically an extremely grotesque zombie that protected the treasures it was buried with when it was human. This would be great for Tolkien’s Balrog, but not Street Fighter’s original Balrog, as Vega is OBSESSED with beauty. If Vega looked anything like his namesake, he would take himself out of the world.
That being said, take a look again at the exchange between Chun-Li and Vega. Vega says, “Perhaps I’m a ghost.” In Norwegian, the word draugr was derived from a word meaning “phantom”; in Old Norse, draugr means “revenant”, and in Icelandic, which has Nordic roots, it means “ghost”. In other words, Vega is alluding to his original namesake – he is calling himself a revenant.
So, Vega considers himself a supernatural being, and superior to “regular” people like Chun-Li. However, is there any evidence that Vega IS a supernatural being? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as clean as I would have liked it to have been. He shows no characteristics that would be considered supernatural… but this doesn’t mean he doesn’t show interest in it, and by researching deeper into his design and possible origins, you begin to understand who, or what, Vega really is.
Vega’s background has some similarities to the Catalan myth of Count Estruch. The count was a 12th-century Spanish noble who lived, as Wikipedia called it, “an un-Christian life.” When he died, he became an incubus-like being, drinking the blood from villagers and seducing and impregnating young women, who would eventually give birth to grotesque stillborns. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conde_Estruch
Wealthy Spanish noble? Blood-drinker? Seducer of women? Check, check, and check. Vega is a modern-day Count Estruch.
The story doesn’t end here, though, because Vega’s background goes even deeper. Let’s look at the snake motif on Vega. He has the snake tattoo on his body and what appears to be the outline of the snake’s mouth on his mask. What do these represent? It was supposed to reflect that Vega was a villain, because tattoos are associated with the Yakuza. Since he’s Spanish, though, the snake symbolism has another meaning. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuélebre
Cuélebre is a serpent-dragon from Asturian and Cantabrian mythology who, like the draugr, guards treasures and, like Count Estruch, has a thing for young women, particularly xanas (the equivalents of the more known lamias of mythology) – so much so that it keeps them as prisoners. The link between Cuélebre and the draugr involving the guarding of treasure is an interesting one. Is Vega guarding a treasure he holds dearly? Yes – his beauty. He conceals his face with his mask to keep it from getting damaged in battle.
In Japan, the snake is symbolic of immortality, and as Vega outright states in his intro in Super Street fighter IV, he wants a way to make himself, and his beauty, immortal:
“I admit I am intrigued by the idea of creating new bodies to inhabit. Too bad not even a god could reproduce a body as beautiful and graceful as my own…. You ugly creature, you. Soon, your power will be mine. Then I can ensure that my beauty will live on forever!” https://youtu.be/y6Env386dHY?t=11
This answers the question of why Vega allies himself with Bison to begin with: he wants Bison’s secrets to eternal life.
We can then conclude that Vega, while not an actual ghost, has a deep fascination with the otherworldly; but there’s one thing left that we haven’t fully covered – his lust for blood.
Vega’s Versus Mode quotes in Street Fighter IV and Street Fighter V say everything you need to know about Vega’s obsession:
IV: “Strange… Everyone’s blood is beautiful, even if its owner is not.”
V: “When all is drenched in blood, I will finally experience bliss…”
Vega loves blood. He loves to look at it, to hear it gush, to touch it, to smell it, and to taste it. There’s a reason why – a real condition called Renfield’s syndrome, also known as clinical vampirism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinical_vampirism
In 2012, a Turkish man with clinical vampirism was studied, and the findings were published. His vampirism was a symptom of both dissociative identity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, caused by the loss of his 4-month-old daughter a few years prior, the murder of his uncle before that, and his witnessing of a murder committed by a friend. https://www.academia.edu/4175773/Vampirism_in_a_case_of_dissociative_identity_disorder_and_post-traumatic_stress_disorder
Was there anything in Vega’s life that could have caused a similar break from reality? Yes – the murder of his mother. Vega’s Fandom wiki says it all:
“The family trauma he experienced molded his fragile mind to perceive physical unattractiveness not only as repulsive, but also as a threat. With his attractive mother murdered at the hands of his unattractive stepfather, ugliness came to represent evil and cowardice, while beauty represented heroism and strength. This also implies that Vega’s hatred of anything “ugly” may actually be a manifestation of post-traumatic stress disorder. It has also been said that Vega’s love of beauty is at least partially rooted in the way he was raised by his mother.” https://streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Vega
With all of this revealed, we can finally answer the question: is Vega a vampire?
The answer: if he isn’t already, he’s trying to become one.