Isabella Valentine, commonly called Ivy, is a fictional character in the Soul series of video games. Created by Namco's Project Soul division, she first appeared in the original Soulcalibur and its subsequent sequels, later appearing in various merchandise related to the series. She was voiced in Japanese by Yumi T?ma until replaced by Kanako T?jo starting with Soulcalibur Legends; in English, she was voiced by Renee Hewitt in Soulcalibur II and Lani Minella for the remainder of the series.
The illegitimate daughter of undead pirate Cervantes de Leon, Ivy was raised by a noble family until her father became obsessed with the cursed sword, Soul Edge, leading to his death and later her mother's. Desiring to destroy the sword, she creates a segmented, animated blade, only to become Soul Edge's pawn and learn that it intends to use her as its next host. After an attack by Cervantes results in the loss of her soul, Ivy uses a temporary artificial one to keep herself alive, and continues after the blade.
Since her introduction, Ivy has been well received, considered both an attractive and strong female character by various sources, and called one of the most beautiful female characters in video games by sources such as IGN. She's also been featured on various top ten lists regarding either subject such as Spike TV and Team Xbox, as well as G4tv's Video Game Vixens. Scholastic studies have examined the character in the context of the series and video games in general, as well as when compared to other video game related sex symbols such as Lara Croft. Her role as a sex symbol has also been discussed by said sources and the media, with something such as MSNBC argue that her appearance is "too far", while others such as The Escapist feel it helps to define her character.
As a character introduced in Soulcalibur, Ivy's weapon, a "snake sword" designed to be unique amongst the other weapons in the game, was selected before other elements of the character. Her design and concept were then built to revolve around it, starting with gender, then physical measurements, and lastly background details. After her appearance and movement were fleshed out by a concept artist, her character was rendered as a 3D model by a design team that worked solely on her, and then animated mostly by Naotake Hirata using motion capture to create her in-game movements, with Yasushi Shibue designing the animations for her throws, and several animations created without the use of motion capture for positions difficult for the actors. During this phase the team additionally worked with the Soulcalibur story creators, refining the character's own role in the plot as needed throughout development.
During development many alternatives for Ivy's design were considered, including a male ninja, a mummy, and a little girl, while the weapon remained constant, varying only in size. With Soulcalibur II, the development team chose her as their favorite character from the previous title. Producer Hiroaki Yotoriyama felt that her fighting style was not perfectly expressed in Soulcalibur, and focused on Ivy from the start of the project to make her more "uniquely lethal". Namco has called Ivy one of the three most popular characters in the series in North American markets, alongside Taki and Nightmare.