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Killer Instinct: A Love Story

Leave it to an impromptu session of Soul Calibur played at a friend's house, on the GameCube of all devices, to spark up nostalgia. I last recalled playing the game nearly a decade ago on the Dreamcast console, and immediately remember how a seemingly never-ending line of friends and co-workers would line the couches at my apartment for a chance at glory... be it born from finely-tuned techniques and hours of late-night practice, or mere button-mashing and plain dumb luck.

(This is not, however, what inspired the sweet euphoric afore-mentioned nostalgia.)

I lost a match to one of the lesser qualified competitors the other night, one who managed little control over what buttons his thumb vigorously tapped while lifting and tilting his controller as if there were a radio-controlled penis he was trying to command towards some digital vagina on the TV. Whatever the case may be, I got beat. I was using Hwang, too. It never happened much back in the day, but whatever, I'm rusty. And button-mashing, in clinical studies, will occasionally lead to victory in Soul Calibur.

As I hung back following the loss, perhaps sulking a bit over a freshly bruised ego, I centered my thoughts on where they had been while playing earlier: Killer Instinct. My inspiration for using Hwang to begin with, even way back when, was because he reminded me of Jago - the quickest drawing swordsman in video game history. The first time I saw that signature leaping kick followed by three upward swipes with his sword, I knew I had to learn it. Weeks later I was doing with ease, watching 12-15 hit combos flash across the screen.

This, folks, is what nostalgia means.

To be playing one game, although in the same genre, and be completely reminded of another even though you're not even playing it... and it's been years since you've seen it. To have a move or maneuver remind you of a character you once loved and adored. To have a memory transport you to another place and time.

During my years at college my roommate and friend since 6th grade would blow off our studies and wander down to a pizza shop across campus. We'd usually burn one down on the way, grab some thick Chicago-style pizza and a soda once we were there, dine like kings, then roam down the stairs to the basement where an outdated but technically sound arcade was sprawled. And it was there that any and all laundry money, a massive heap of quarters, was fed into the Killer Instinct cabinet. Didn't matter what day of the week... Didn't matter if final exams were around the corner. Sounds cliche but I majored in Killer Instinct.

The beauty of that game could not be centered in any one direction. The graphics were splendid. The moves were fluid, and putting combos together from front to end left you with dozens of your own hand-crafted options to attack with. And look damn slick doing it. Watching an ultra combo for the first time put an awe-struck grin from ear-to-ear on my mug, birds started chirping, Sinatra started singing, etc... True love.

My buddy had his favorites: TJ Combo and Sabrewolf. Their styles were similar, as were their button schemes. I originally had my own favorites as well in Thunder, Fulgore, and Glacius. But found that learning the other character's moves was just too fun and challenging to ignore. Cinder, Orchid, and Jago soon followed. When the SNES version came out, although nowhere near as pleasing to eye, I learned the rest of characters and their respective moves. And with them my love for the game grew even larger.

Good times. I'd write a poem about this game if I had the time.

The rumors surrounding a possible KI3 in recent years have left me foaming at the mouth. The wait has become painful. And sometimes I'll realize how the second installment of the game seemed like more of a step backwards then anything. Maybe a third isn't even necessary... particularly if it isn't styled with the right hands and right ideas. I dunno. I just miss this game. I miss it like a long-lost love, as if a woman I should have proposed to years ago. The game is just too unique to ever forget about.

At this point I'd give up hopes for KI3 for a chance to play the original on my console. Just scratch the third title and give me the first one, with everything the same exact way it was played in the arcade.

I'm ready to love again.
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About diceshow7one of us since 7:00 AM on 06.21.2009

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