The lights are on
A console’s launch day is always an exciting time for gamers, and most purchasers of a new system prefer to go home with a handful of games. When the Dreamcast launched in 1999, I landed on four titles: Sonic Adventure, NFL 2K, Ready 2 Rumble, and Soul Calibur. Despite never having played Soul Edge, I was persuaded to pre-order Soul Calibur thanks to rave reviews from numerous gaming outlets. What started as a blind purchase turned into an obsession that spanned years and hundreds of hours.
Within minutes of booting the game up, I knew I loved the fluid controls. I was new to the series, but every sequence of button presses seemed to produce something that at the very least looked cool. I knew that if I put the hours in and trained with specific characters, the experience would be all the more satisfying. Kilik was the first fighter I trained with, and I learned a large variety of long-range staff attacks that kept opponents at bay. Next up was Mitsurugi, and he quickly became my favorite with his versatile and effective moveset.
After spending hours upon hours learning these early characters, I wanted to master every fighter on the roster. On an almost daily basis, I challenged my friends to 8-on-8 team battles using random character select. I was no fan of Voldo, Rock, or Lizardman, but this random method forced me to become familiar with the entire select screen whether I liked them or not.
These 8-on-8 battles became routine for me for years. I worked at Funcoland/Gamestop from 2000 to 2003, and I’d challenge my manager to matches whenever we didn’t have customers in the store. When I lived in the college dorms, I frequently prepared for nights out with rounds of “Lizardman Shots,” a drinking game I came up with. In this game, for every team battle round your opponent loses to Lizardman, he has to take a shot of whiskey. It led to some rough nights, but there was always a sense of excitement and dread whenever the lizard popped up on random select.
Team battles weren’t confined to nights of drinking, as I constantly challenged others on my dorm floor to matches regardless of what night of the week it was. At one point, I remember boasting about how no one ever beat me in an 8-on-8 team battle for a number of years. Friends of mine were constantly taking shots at my self-proclaimed title, but they failed repeatedly. Finally, my friend Troy beat me and ran up and down the dorm floor screaming in celebration. My undefeated streak ended, but I still spent many more hours with Dreamcast controller in hand and Soul Calibur in the disc tray.
My time with the first game slowed down significantly when its sequel came out in 2003, but my in-game clock showed that I had spent nearly 500 hours with the fighter before I moved on. Even today, I love to randomly boot up the XBLA re-release of the classic and challenge friends to fights. When you’ve spent hundreds of hours with a game, returning to it after a number of years is like riding a bicycle. I can enjoy Soul Calibur in 2013 just as much as I did in 1999, and there’s no game on the planet that I’ve spent more time with.