I hadn’t played a video game in over two weeks.
lordnaff asked if I had been to see a doctor about it.
I was getting concerned that my hands may atrophy without their usual pad/stick exercise.
But mainly I’d just been away from home a lot, busy, addicted to music, and doing lots of other stuff. It’s been.. kinda strange. But fun too. It’s not actually that unusual. There have been entire dead YEARS in terms of video games to me when there’s just been nothing around to my taste. But that isn’t the case (fortunately) right now.
I’ve still been dipping into gaming news etc. I’d been on my 360 just to read the latest news and get a few new games movies etc. I even booted up my old Xboxen last night to have a quick blast on Ninja Gaiden… since NG II is expected out next month. I enjoyed watching the Ninja Where’s-Me-Gaiden movie player again and had a quick run & hack about. I’m in two minds about re-playing it before II comes along. On one hand, it was a fun game, which for a 3d adventure game is high praise from me – as I’ve only ever liked two games like this at all. But even playing it a little while – it just isn’t the kind of game that screams at me to re-play it. I feel restricted by the story and the levels. It there was someway to just play bits of the fighting engine over and over, I’d probably enjoy that a lot more and it would have a lot of re-play value for me. The killer was that I thought I’d give it a try on the 360 gamepads, but my US 360 kicked out my UK copy with a region error. Asshats. So I reckon thats NG done for anyway.
I wouldn’t really class this any of this faffing as playing a game though.
What could really bring me back?…
I looked at my joystick which had quite literally gathered dust on the floor in my front room. It was pretty obvious what needed to be done. Street Fighter. The purist agon was calling me as it so often does. But which one? I went for XBL SF2′ Hyper Fighting as it is the easiest to get an opponent online, and I didn’t want to have to switch my TV back to 4:3 !
For a bit of practice, and cleaning of my joystick, unusually for me, I started on arcade mode. I go until I lose a round, as I still haven’t unlocked the perfect world warrior achievement (complete the game without losing a round). I know its an easy one for CPU AI-learning gurus; but I always have a tendancy to play SF too naturally and not to find tricks that abuse the AI (although playing SF Anniversary Collection too much has started to change that >_< Ouch that AI is a meanspirited cheating beeatch). Many people put the game down to the lowest difficulty to “get the achievement”. For me, that would be no achievement at all. If I can’t get it on default difficulty, it isn’t worth getting! That’s just how I am. Anyway.. into the game: I was playing incredibly loose, but my timing way was way off, especially charge timing, I was whiffing Booms under pressure a lot. And man did it feel fast. Too fast. Blanka and Chun Li both almost got me while I was regathering my skills, but in the end I got to shout “FICK YOU BLINKA!” and “FICK YOU CHIN LU!” at my TV screen so all was good. I lost a round to Gief though as I was playing really wild and didn’t want to just jump up & down for once. 😉 I think I was also distracted by the fact I didn’t really have anything to shout at a potential beaten Zangief and I was wondering if I could come up with something by the end of the match 😉
But, practice over. I knew I was ready enough. To XBox Live!
My first few matches against a fairly new player, who had a few wins under his belt but was low ranked and hadn’t played much online by his record. He could do all the moves, but really clearly wasn’t playing the same game that I was. I even switched down to Honda and was about to go to Ryu to give him a chance, and to give me more of a challenge. But this was a good practice for me too as it got me used to the feel of slight lag. I got him a couple of times in a row though, and I couldn’t find any one else to challenge on the games list, which told me hardly anyone was playing Hyper at this time. So I sat waiting for a challenger again, but this time, thankfully, it was someone new. A 200-300 rating points above me. Top 3000 ranked. The kind of rating that normally means I am in for a whupping! He picks Guile. I stick my mic on to comment “uh oooh” as I too pick Guile of course. Guile v Guile is a matchup I’ve gotten more and more used to on XBL, but it is one I had never played until this last year, so it’s not one where I really feel I know what I am doing. But often it comes down to horrific tick fests, turtling, mind games, and the slightest ranging mistake can cost you the fight.. in fact, in retrospect it is actually an awesome matchup really 😀 I was dismayed I was relegated to the filthy GREEN Guile, as he had selected blue first. Especially against a player of this calibre, I knew that the colour of my outfit could be the difference. :S
But despite his ranking, and the fact I was green – I beat him solidly the first time. It was like he was quite new to the Guile v Guile matchup too, or was out of practice himself. But the lifebars-at-end didn’t really tell the story as it was a LOT closer than would have been realised by any non-officianado of the series. I switched on my mic to say “bloody good game mate”, and I really meant it. You know the difference when you are really playing against someone at Street Fighter. Even a “perfect” may have been an incredibly close win against someone good. The game is like that sometimes. I could feel my adrenalin pumping again. My heart pounding. This is what Live is all about! This is what gaming is all about for me! I could feel myself ‘come down’ as the game ended. Right back to Create Game screen – FIERO! I need that rush again. And I get the same opponent, again. And again. And again! He switched to Ken once, but obviously I was Guile-Guile-Guile-Guile all the way. But every time the story was the same, an exceedingly tough fight where I just narrowly won at the end. I won one game where both of us couldn’t take a single boom tick again.. by hair-pull throwing him. :O I won another game where he had been ahead roughly 70% to 20% on damage. Another game he started to bazooka-knee advance a lot, but I turtled up and it got him into more trouble than it was worth. He went back to sweeping & jump kicking MK. Both of us were even playing the jump-straight-up defensive mind game. I won another game by a tick-throw reversal on him. Ouch. What could be worse for him? An air-throw win? He’d usually start out with the upper hand and get me back to the corner, but then he’d get too aggressive, and a single flash kick would get me the knock down I needed and then I was on the offensive and he was in trouble. But he was getting better and learning my style. I noticed my hands were starting to shake a little between matches. And everytime the Ranked Match “blind choice” system fed me the same opponent. Well the matching system really doesn’t work when hardly anyone else seems to be online.
Next match.. again he gets the lead. Pushes me back to the corner.. and is ahead 70-20 ish. But a light Flash Kick reversal catches him on a careless jump in. His Guile is on the floor. I Slow Boom.. the range looks about perfect. I walk up after the boom.. the boom ticks him. I’m behind far enough to go for some big risks now, so I follow in and suplex thow him. He clearly wasn’t expecting it as we’d really got into more of a sweep poking pattern for the last few games. I slow boom again.. walk up. And just block. BAFF he flys into the air and I block his flash kick, just what I wanted him to fall for. I suplex him again on landing. I’m coming back. I can feel him getting demoralised.. somehow we end up switching screen sides.. & descend into a sonic boom battle. I am lower than 10% energy, he’s on around 20%, he still has more than me. The clock is ticking low now. He whiffs a boom or two & takes some damage from my booms. I am now on about 5% energy and him on about 8%. I walk forward just as he jumps and he ends up in the corner behind me reversing screen sides again. In the frantic mess I catch him with a MK sweep on landing. He’s down to 2-3% damage – lower than me. 2 seconds left. I just crouch block! He spams a move, then realises the CLOCK.. and walks up and suplex throws me!.. and the clock strikes double zeros just as he is mid-throw.
My Guile crashes into the ground.. the screen rumbles.
No damage is dealt to my bar.
There is no KO. My Guile stands up and combs his hair as his pulls the disgusted-face pose. A 3rd-round win on time out for me. Another utterly sickening loss for him & one that was so lucky on my part, in a way. He’s lost so many times to me now that my XBL rating is now a 100 or so above his. (An ELO rating is WAY too variable for SF, especially online, as I have complained about elsewhere. Fingers crossed they will sort this for HD Remix!). (Oh and just imagine for a moment how much fun this would be if this game had the uploading and replaying and clans stuff that an average game like Halo 3 has!)
I realise my shaking is also due to the fact I am starving and its nearing 8pm and I haven’t eaten anything properly since lunch, so think I had better stop now and eat, even though I really don’t want to. I rip off my headset and start…
I now really know where the phrase “kill yourself laughing” comes from. But this wasn’t me rolling about in pain to an episode of Reeves and Mortimer, this was and an oh-so-evil manical laugh. I had to leap up and stand up to get this laugh out of me. I probably sounded like Sagat or something. And it actually hurt! My luck and the game was just so so funny. And so despicably enjoyable. Painful loss after close loss after close loss, & to finish it like that… I would’ve felt absolutely gut-wrenched, but I can’t recall anything like it ever happening to me. (usually when I lose to the same person many times in a row it is because I am getting trounced!).
But I calmed down after a minute or so and realised I would never have laughed like this if I knew the guy, or if we’d been playing in the same room. I probably wouldn’t even have had the same reaction if he’d ever responded to any of my “good game” comments in game, but like many, he was silent, perhaps even without a mic. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest. But it does heighten the aggression factor and the feeling your opponent is “the enemy”. Oddly even greater than playing for money in an arcade I find. But I did feel very guilty about my reaction, even though it was, in reality, completely harmless and he’d never know about it.
So I sent him a XBL message:
“I am the luckiest sob alive”.
But deep down I knew it hadn’t all been luck.. I knew that on this particular occasion and on this particular game it was deadly true:
LUCK IS A PART OF MY SKILL.
And I was back gaming. An agoner.