13 February 2010
I've always been a sucker for underdog products.
When everyone else was playing with Star Wars figures, I was still playing Army men.
When my best friends were collecting all those cool He-Man action figures, I was kicking it with Crystar: The Crystal Warrior (Never heard of him? You're not alone.)
And when the gaming world scoffed at the SEGA 32X and looked ahead to the superiority of other machines, I marched right out and bought one.
I've never regretted it.
At the time I was a cub reporter with the Providence Journal – living in a large house with grad students and restaurant workers. We stayed up late, had lots of parties and pretended we were still undergraduates. When I first brought home the 32X it was a revelation. We didn't know it was a poorly marketed albatross for the venerable SEGA Genesis. We just knew it came with a lot of extra wires, looked pretty high tech and allowed us to play the best fighting game ever made for people who don't know how to play fighting games: Virtua Fighter.
We spent many evenings passing around the controller in makeshift tournaments. We marveled when Pai's little hat would get knocked off by a kick to the face. We cheered when one of us would pull off a flawless victory - a "perfect" – against an opponent.
We drank beer and mashed buttons.
It was not an elegant way to spend our evenings, but it was not an elegant game. Even someone who had never played before could hack their way to victory if their timing was right.
Or if they chose to play as Pai. Easily the best fighter of the bunch, her victories mounted like so many quarters at the bottom of an arcade cabinet. Until one day, a roommate with too much time on his hands was able to utter these now-famous words:
"I beat Pai with Mau today."
And what a day it was.
By Victor Paul Alvarez