Finding Kilik

"No, Dad. Not Kick--Guard!"

It's a tone of disdain I was sure was many years distant. And yet my desire to conquer the monster in my genre-closet has brought me up against a formidable enemy: my son.

"Peter, I think I've got you! Watch out!"

My Raging Phoenix Bo flows naturally into a guard, but it's a trick. He comes in with a simple overhead strike. My left elbow shoots forward. I catch his head with the back end of the staff, and he crumbles. I follow through, translating the motion back and up, bringing him upright. He stands there, head lolling comically. He's helpless. The staff flows behind my back, comes around again, lifting him into the air.

"No!" he cries.

Unable to stop, my staff comes down on his lower back in mid air. I drive his lifeless corpse into the wooden planks of the dock.

"K.O.!" announces the overwrought narrator in an oddly non-Asian expression of victory.

"Good one dad."

He's humoring me.

Our session score: 5-17. The five is my score. It's also his age.

Being an intellectual, I approached Soul Calibur 2 as a research project. I selected the "easiest," most newbie friendly character: a dashing beefcake brunet named Kilik, who eschews armor and weapons in favor of belt-buckles and curtain rods. (The curtain rod, I discover, keeps the badguys away long enough for me to think.) I looked up all of his moves and learned them. After all, here was a game where I didn't need to unlock the best moves -- no Tony Hawk here -- I simply needed to learn how and when to execute them! This should be easy!

After a few hours plowing through a thin but satisfying single player campaign, I felt obliged to play the "real" game. And it felt good. Really good. For the first time ever, I was playing a fighting game and not randomly mashing buttons. I was thinking ahead in each battle: "He's big, so I'll drop him with Sheng Su Low Kick, use the time to back up, and then keep him at bay with Phoenix Rage Thrust. If he closes, I'll Heaven Dance on him for the kill."

Home from school early, Peter catches me in the act.

"Dad, what's THAT?" he asks. I turn. He's slack-jawed, a piece of bread hangs from his left hand. His right arm traces a buttery crescent across his freckled mouth. He moves to sit down next to me, feeling his way along the couch so as not to lose sight of the spectacle on the screen.

I reach to turn off the Xbox. My general policy is to limit the violence he sees in video games. But I pause before hitting the big red switch. After a few hours of Soul Calibur 2, I realize the violence is far more cartoon than even Avatar: The Last Airbender, his current animated addiction.

"It's a fighting game bud, it's just pretend." I cringe as I say it, as if I need to teach him about Neverland anymore.

His eyes go wide as he watches Kilik bounce in and out of his horse stance. "They make games about KARATE?" he asks.

He watches, riveted, as I play for a few minutes. I'm in practice mode, so the violence is entirely unidirectional.

"Can he do a roundhouse kick?" he asks. He's been studying Karate for a bit less than a year. His yellow belt is his single most prized possession. At least on Tuesday afternoons and alternate Saturdays.

"Sure." I demonstrate. "And if you hit this button, he does a circle block, just like you do in Sanshin Kata."

He asks for the controller, and I oblige.

"It's a bit complicated. You hit the ..."

But I stop talking. He's already figured out the functions of the main buttons, and the D-Pad was obvious. His small fingers have a precision mine seem to lack -- he can repeat a single attack endlessly. My control inputs are prayers for action, his seem to be divine commands. The spirit of Bruce Lee infuses him, and a circular flow of Chi becomes evident -- out of the screen, into his eyes, through his hands, back to the Xbox, onto the screen.

"Let's play!" he demands.

I humor him, grabbing a second controller. I set his health on unlimited, ensuring my loss. After 4 rounds, it becomes clear that this precaution was unnecessary.

"OK, enough's enough. Time to play for real." I insist.

He melts. He looks at me with sad-puppy eyes. "But dad, I don't want to die!"

"It's OK bud, it's only ever for a second. It's like Lego Star Wars -- you always come back."

Reassured, I set our health bars both to 200%, and we play. And play. And play. An hour passes.

He gets consistently better. I get consistently worse. He grows tired of playing Kilik vs. Kilik, and starts selecting a different character every round. Within seconds, he uncovers an interesting move with each, and proceeds to beat me with it, over and over and over again.

Jessica pops her head in from the kitchen.

"You kids having fun?"

My head swivels. I glare.

"Dinner's ready. You guys can play after if you want. It's a weekend."

I shut down the console. Peter whines with the "never enough" attitude all children share at the removal of opiates. "We can play more tomorrow if you want buddy," I reassure him.

I am relieved. My attempt to intellectualize a game of "button mashing" has been completely outdone by 5 minutes of instinct and fast reflexes.

Perhaps Soul Calibur 5 will be turn-based.

Comments

Fantastic as ever, rabbit.

My control inputs are prayers for action, his seem to be divine commands.

This + being a sore loser = love/hatred for the genre

You and your son are like me and my best friend. We've played for hours at a time only for me to realize that he's been toying with me the entire time with his worst character.

This is one of the couch games that I love so much.

Great read. Fighting games may not be your thing, but in this article you definitely uncovered some of the elements that make the genre great: depth, competition and comradery. It's really nice to read this, especially because it often feels like the podcasters take a dismissive tone when discussing the genre, claiming to have "grown out" of it.

I've never really thought of myself as the kind of guy who'd grow up to have a family and such. Every time you write about your wife and kids though, I get jealous

Ok so no fighting games for my kids. Uh, because they are too violent. Yeah that's it!

I can't wait to play games like this with my kid. He's mastered crawling, next is walking on his own, then a hai-doo-ken on the xbox controller. The correct placement of cherios will ensure he hits the right buttons until he picks it up on his own.

I am seriously considering picking up a 360 or a PS3 mainly for SC4. I like it that much.

I can't wait until my boy can sit on the couch next to me and beat me at a video game. Currently he's still swimming in amniotic fluid though, so it might be a few years. I recall this playing out on the winning side, for me, between my father and I. I recall him playing the last level over and over in an early Medal of Honor. I walk in and ask him why he looked so flustered. He explains and hands me the controller and asks me to give it a try. I blaze through the level (to my own amazement), and just as I finish it, he jumps up and unplugs the Xbox. We still laugh about it.

The implication of your article is that your 5 year old instinctively found good moves with Ivy. I spent hours trying to find ways to use Ivy. I feel both shame, and intimidated.

SpacePPoliceman wrote:
I spent hours trying to find ways to use Ivy.

Hey, it's a family show here! I know she's got the leather "armor" but still ...

I button mash mostly, since I can't remember sequences of movements and buttons longer than about 3 or 4 in a row, but even I can get Ivy to kick some butt against another non-fighting game player like myself. That whip-sword is awesome once you can figure out how to morph it between forms. She's actually pretty fun. Uh, to play, I mean. As of SC1 and 2, that is, haven't played 3 or 4.

I find Ivy to be the most counter-intuitive of the characters. Miss a sequence just slightly and what you expected to be a long range attack will be a short-range arc instead, etc. In other words, the best option for button-mashers.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
I find Ivy to be the most counter-intuitive of the characters. Miss a sequence just slightly and what you expected to be a long range attack will be a short-range arc instead, etc. In other words, the best option for button-mashers. :)

Button mashing with Ivy gets better the more buttons you press simultaneously. This is in contrast to most SC characters, who start teleporting and doing futzy charge moves when you try to get too complex+unskilled.

Of course, Maxi is the other good button mashing option. Hit two buttons and he launches into a non-stop sequences of attacks that last a good 30 seconds.

Clemenstation wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:
I find Ivy to be the most counter-intuitive of the characters. Miss a sequence just slightly and what you expected to be a long range attack will be a short-range arc instead, etc. In other words, the best option for button-mashers. :)

Button mashing with Ivy gets better the more buttons you press simultaneously. This is in contrast to most SC characters, who start teleporting and doing futzy charge moves when you try to get too complex+unskilled.

Ivy and cervates have the "mash the controller with your fat palm" syndrome.

Ahh, the natural evolution of playing HORSE with the kid out on the driveway only to have them finally come of age and kick your rear.

Granted, that's supposed to happen in their teen years, I shudder to consider the implications..

I think the upcoming Rabbitcon should have a SC4 tournament where all the podcasters try to see if they can beat your son.

I've got $10 on the 5 year old.

I feel it is more important to spend time with your kids than it is to shield them from make believe violence. You spend time with them and talk about what they've seen. My son and I are in TaeKwonDo together and they stress the tenets of Tae Kwon Do (courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control, indomitable spirit - I feel I should be doing pushups while typing them out). We also play some fighting games together (Soul Calibur, Street Fighter, Monster Lab). This summer our four year old will start TKD as well. The point is we do it together and we talk about it. We don't go crazy and let them watch Kill Bill and the shows they are allowed to watch on their own are more restrictive.

That said I still get that little voice telling me that I'm failing as a parent. That I should be spending the time teaching him how to read at the 4th grade level, play the violin, and shield him from all violent activity. In the end I'm happy spending time with my kids and if we spend time together playing a game with some cartoon violence I'm okay with that. Plus it makes a great reward for practicing his spelling words.

Oh, and Rabbit. I suggest Mitsurugi. B+K, slash is one of the greatest moves in the game.

Ivy was my fave character in SC1 and SCII. She was fun to use and her attacks were hard to predict. Many noobs didn't know how to use her well so that made my arcade days extremely fun. It's too bad they gimped her in SCIII and SCIV. I didn't like using her in last two sequels. She's weaker and less fun to play.

Btw Rabbit, whenever you get SCIV, we can play online together. Just don't give up when I kick your ass.

I think I just realized that your wife's name is Jessica Rabbit...

JohnnyMoJo wrote:
I think I just realized that your wife's name is Jessica Rabbit...

Or Jessica Murdoch, but your way is much more fun

I think that the violence in the Soul Calibur games is pretty tame, and the characters are colorful/exotic enough that I wouldn't worry too much about it. 5 is probably a bit young, but it's offset somewhat by playing together. Plus, once you get your wife playing too, you can make it a whole-family thing.

I've always had a preference for the Soul Calibur series (as opposed to Street Fighter) since it always seemed a bit more deliberate and better suited to my turn-based brain. It gives me a chance to think a bit and compete on a mental level with younger opponents, who are almost certainly quicker when it comes to controller-fu. Still, if I can guess what my opponent is trying to do, I have a chance to counter it in true rock-paper-scissors fashion.

Ivy has a very weird dominance curve. She's great for beginners and experts, but terrible for (and against) intermediate players. Use at your own peril, and only if you're willing to tackle the Ivy learning cliff.

Kilik is generally good for all skill levels, being very easy to learn and having a good mixture of speed/range.

- Alan

AmazingZoidberg wrote:
Great read. Fighting games may not be your thing, but in this article you definitely uncovered some of the elements that make the genre great: depth, competition and comradery. It's really nice to read this, especially because it often feels like the podcasters take a dismissive tone when discussing the genre, claiming to have "grown out" of it.

I just realized yesterday that there's at least one thing that I'll never grow out of, and that will always cheer me up: "I Can't Dance," by Genesis.

My Daughter commanded that I make her a character in SC4 that looks like her, but is in a cat suit and has nun chucks. I was only too happy to oblige. She's learning well and can take her mother out pretty easily if she's in the mood. Did I mention she turns 5 in June?

Astaroth FTW, by the way...just thought I'd put that in there...

Benticore
Out

rabbit wrote:
Avatar: The Last Airbender, his current animated addiction.

Mine too. Stuff like this is why I say my age is 27 on paper, 5 in reality.

Soul Calibur is one of those games that certain people just mesh with. Last Thanksgiving, when my rather huge family all congregated at my parent's house my little brothers and I started up a Soul Calibur 2 tournament. My dad, who never ever ever plays video games wandered in and decided he wanted in to our game. After picking up the controller and having us explain to him that the directional keys moved your guy around and the other buttons made him commit violence, he proceeded to utterly thrash me with Rafael. To this day I don't know how he did it.

I love my father dearly and he's taught me many things... but sometimes the buddy buddy father son stuff people write about creeps me the hell out.

I guess I'm just from a different generation. O.o

Great read. -Even if he can't get the more difficult combos, Rabbit hit the complex and contradictory things I feel about fighting games.

I haven't lost to five year olds (yet), but all my friends own me in fighting games, and the last time I really felt I'd mastered the combos with a particular character was with Chung Li, in the orginal SNES version. Hate to admit it, but that does change the gaming experience somewhat.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
Of course, Maxi is the other good button mashing option. Hit two buttons and he launches into a non-stop sequences of attacks that last a good 30 seconds.

Maxi is not a good button mashing option, for exactly the reason you list. You'd better be sure about your intentions when you enter one of his loops. It might be time to resurrect the GWJ Fight Club.

Maybe you should get some Virtua Fighter 5 going, then at least you can lose to your son at a man's game.

Joking of course, I love me a bit of Soul Calibur. Cervantes is where it's at: undead pirate with a gunsword? What's not to like?