This is a Review of Soul Calibur II
A Norwegian Frigate was sunk in the North Atlantic in 1992 by a so-called "Super Monkfish". In my imagination.
I have nightmares about my Xbox. It is an ominous presence within low-hanging rain clouds, a vast shadow the moves slowly but with purpose, obscured just beneath a thin veil of cumulous. On some particularly terrible nights the nightmare is recast to the open seas. There the Xbox stalks me, an unimaginably huge creature from the abyssal depths of the ocean. I never see it of course, but there it is off the prow of my small rowboat, a dark rectangular shape moving beneath the waves. Always droning and buzzing like a hive of bees or whatever else buzzes and drones; like a remote controlled helicopter.
The Xbox never catches me, but I think sometimes that perhaps it doesn't have to catch me to win, or maybe it already has caught me and I don't even know it. I am in its grasp but like the distant stars it is so cosmically scaled that by the time I will feel its icy fingers crushing my heart the Xbox will have already flickered out ten million years earlier. When I walked in to that Toys R' Us I felt like an honest to god cowboy. It was me confronting a primal fear from my dreams and perhaps a face-to-face with the grim reaper himself was in order.
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The woman at the counter looked and acted like Aunt Jemima if she had about five hundred tape worms wriggling in her pancake cauldron. She was gaunt and jovial, two words that are seen together with such rarity that it approaches unfathomable juxtapositions like "Linux wedding" and "princess ape". Do not be alarmed. This is not the face of a racist looking at the computer screen and typing all of this into a text file and I do not pigeonhole people into comical anachronistic racial stereotypes hastily. But this woman was the spitting image of Aunt Jemima, were she to be pared down to her grinning, sassy, southern, and ebony core.
I gave the cash register a sidelong glance for a spittoon. There is nothing more dramatic than walking into a room, spitting a stream of tobacco fifteen feet, and hearing the satisfying "ping" of a brass spittoon receiving your offering. I was deprived of this entrance and instead meekly approached the woman fully expecting to flee from a barrage of "honey chiles" and "no'suhs" that would make a 19th century plantation owner reach for his foreman bell. It was hot that day and sweat had beaded on my forehead like I was a talking pitcher of Kool Aid sans the ability to break through cinderblocks. I could see it in the locked glass case behind Auschwitz Jemima.
And it laughed.
The orchid blossom of my heart.
Please indulge me in a brief aside from this hard hitting review of "Soul Calibur II". In fantasy movies and books you often hear descriptions of weapons forged for evil. These swords, axes, and maces are constructed and ensorcelled with the intention of harming good. They are usually created in an elaborate and sinister process that lends them a sort of evil "street cred" within the context of the story. If you could just walk down the street and buy an Axe of the Marrow Drinker or a Sword of the Wailing Blood then you wouldn't exactly quake in your boots to hear that your neighbor Sintilion the Dread King just bought a Soul Blighter Glaive. Easy access to something evil strips all but the most supremely evil weapons of their dark gravity.
According to all of the previews I had read leading up to my purchase of "Soul Calibur II" the struggle to create the game was more than adequate to qualify it for a line of platinum evil street cred. In case you're not "in the know" and/or "hooked up" like I am about "Soul Calibur II" let me give you a run down on the creation of this game.
Originally dreamt of in 1563 by Vlad the Unholy during an opium hallucination while on crusade near Jerusalem, the overall specifications of "Soul Calibur II" were tattooed on the back of a nun turned whore.
Mideana the Sister of Sin was eventually consumed by Lord Bile the Maggot King and digested over one hundred years in his swollen and segmented body. When her carcass was finally shat out into a bolus of filth on the grave of a pious man the flesh of her back had miraculously been cured and tanned by Lord Bile's digestive system.
The plans were discovered by a Chinese sorcerer named Hung Fan and preserved in a mixture of alchemical mercury and the menstrual blood of virgins.
Hung Fan's secret lair was eventually discovered and pillaged by angry villagers who attempted to burn the tattooed flesh of Mideana along with the rest of the sorcerer's hideous collection. Amazingly the plans survived unharmed and were sealed inside an iron vault by the governor of the Wu-Shan province.
The vault containing the remains was raided by a special unit of the Japanese military in the late 1930s and shipped to the Japanese mainland. The emperor attempted put them to use in occult rituals but at the time Japan lacked the magical powers and could not create "Soul Calibur II".
After Japan was defeated by the mighty American wizard Harry S. Truman, who rained meteors down on their cities in a last ditch attempt to stop their war of evil, the plans were sold at an auction to raise money for the reconstruction of meteor-ravaged Japan. The plans were bought by Japanese industrialist and millionaire J. Reginald Namco.
Namco passed these designs along to his son Arthur Namco who immediately recognized both their potential and the fact that Japan was at last ready to perform the ritual necessary for the creation of "Soul Calibur II".
The ritual began, like all things do, with a mass rape conducted on virgins by conjured demons. The suffering emitted by this rape flew up into the air like a whole bunch of rape eagles and then created a portal to the blasted mines of the Inferno.
Namco mined a vein of pure torment ore and brought it back to Japan where the unholy metal was beaten into a shimmering disc. Eunuchs subsisting on nothing but their own bodily fluids chanted for one hundred days over the disc while hitting it with hammers. The impacts made the disc glowing hot and at the end of the hundred day ritual Namco took it up with a pair of tongs and quenched it in a trough filled with the blood of the righteous.
The disc sizzled and popped and spat hissing blood steam for hours before it was finally ready to be removed. Then the disc was placed into a FedEx next day air envelope and sent off to the duplication facility in Taiwan where this effigy of absolute evil would be made legion.
Aunt Jemima Lite knew all this as her gaze met mine across the counter. Eons of recorded strife passed between us in that silent moment. My eyes told her of the septs of Set that thrived in the deserts of ancient Egypt and her eyes told me of vile offshoots of Santeria that encouraged the eating of the still living flesh of humans. Then she said "whatchu want?" as if to pull me back from the brink of an abyss that threatened to consume me, a silent and terrible game of one-upmanship that would lead to secrets I should never know.
Take this red-veined, oddly angled stoned.
"Soul Calibur II," is what I said at the time, but she already knew why I was there. Why else could I be there? "Halo"? "Mario Golf?" Pedestrian idiocy pedaled to the masses as a gripping look into the secrets of dire magic but in truth nothing more than the same wild lies repackaged. The lies retold to hide the truth, to placate the minds of scientific men who would recoil in horror were they to fully understand the secrets that I do.
How appropriate then that for the manifestation of this unearthly evil I chose the Xbox to be the feminine vessel for its predations. Once again Japan would triumphantly savage the tender womb of a patriotic and symbolic harvest mother. During the 1940s it was Japan's balloon bombs and America's heartland, there, that day in the 21st century, it was the apple-pie and "Family Circus" comics console of these United States.
I felt like Pilat at that moment, handing over my 20 silver pieces for the soul of the Lord's only son. I had to be reminded that it was not a betrayal of anyone other than myself to open the floodgates of the terrible and cosmic reality on my mind. Jemima and I parted ways and I think, in one last look over my shoulder, that I could see a single tear rolling down her sunken cheek.
Woe betides any man who embarks on a journey of this magnitude without first preparing yourself. There are circles of warding to be drawn on the exposed floorboards in chalk and sand, totems to be arranged just so next to you, Mountain Dew and non-oily snack foods to be at the ready at all times should your strength fail you. I had arranged for all of these things and more and I was well-prepared for the coming days when my life and sanity would both hang by gossamer strands so easily torn by a shifting wind.
So it began. The events that transpired after I first inserted the disc of eldritch secrets into my Xbox are still a bit hazy. One truth remains all too apparent however, and that is my total and complete seduction by a foul succubus named Taki. My journal is filled with mad-scribbling passages about her, poems devoted to her as if I were her suitor, and elaborate drawings that appear to have been sketched with my own blood. I dare not share the majority of these for fear of leading others down the same perilous path I took, but here is a sample of what appears to be a beat poem dedicated to her.
Slithering snake in the grass of my heart
Thighs, eyes, and pony tail
Large melons for sale
Sway, cool breeze, but up and down
Duck, they bounce
Come back with that check from my heart
Cash, no sale, eyes rolled back
Yomi or Yummy? I'm on your right track.
Mine, be mine, take this ring
Out and You Lose
Are these diamonds on my face?
Or tears of joy?
Baby, our legend will never die.
The finger snaps heard round the world never came and I fell into a bottle to comfort myself. Taki, for all her dangerous curves and beckoning cries, was forever separated from me by the constraints of this physical realm. She could no more answer my love than I could interrupt her to brush a strand of hair from her face in the middle of her retelling of a great battle. She had taken my heart and cast it down upon the ground, where it flopped and died like a baby bird thrown from its nest behind a basketball backboard by a particularly wild three pointer.
The moral - if anecdotes of one's life even have a moral - is that "Soul Calibur II" is a competent and attractive fighting game but nothing like the leap forward seen in its predecessor. The graphics seem marginally improved over the Dreamcast "Soul Calibur" and the new characters are decent but not incredible. It has proved that Namco is capable of refining and improving on their formula, and for that I am glad as so many fighting games had at least begun to ruin their franchise by the third installment. I'm looking at you "Mortal Kombat". If I were to rate this title on an arbitrary scale of from, say, one to 85, I would probably rate it about a 76. It's a great game but it's not going to be redefining jack or squat in that order.
Dare you enter the world of Dark Castle?
This is Jedidiah "Wearer of irregular polo shirts" Kirchner, designated representative of the Rom Pit and its parent corporation, Unplayable Crap Media, inviting you to watch as we use our cardboard wizard staffs and weak little girly slaps to beat another awful rom into submission. The game is Dark Castle, and the link you should click on is this one.
In the wide world of gaming, there are few genres I despise more than the "ultra-realistic trial-and-error jumping simulation". When the apocalypse comes along in 2012, there will be no room in my gaming fallout shelter for crap like Dark Castle where you have to spend half an hour memorizing the exact combination of actions to get across each screen. And this is coming from someone who would probably rush into a burning building to save the Japanese horse racing games.
As a special bonus for reading this far, here's a second link to the review. WOW!