Through some impressive scrounging we managed to gather a little over thirty fighting games across a host of systems. Some were timeless classics that we had devoted hundreds of hours to in the arcades of our youth, while some were moderately obscure titles that we had heard about but never played, borrowed from friends of friends. Others were rescued from the bargain bin, bought solely because they had "fight" in the title, or pictures of guys punching each other on the cover. Once we assembled all of these games, and everyone had settled in, we hashed out a few basic ground rules.
1. No handicaps and no cheat codes. Any of my wins would have to be legit.
2. No playing characters that are already masters of drunken combat. No Shun Di in Virtua Fighter, no Brad Wong in Dead or Alive, no Chin Gentsai in King of Fighters, no Bo' Rai Cho in Mortal Kombat. We decided that the playing field was only big enough for one Drunken Master. Plus Bo' Rai Cho kind of sicks me out.
3. No blaming your controller. Because, come on. Who does that?
I came out swinging. First on the list were two versions of Guilty Gear XX, first #Reload, then Λ Core Plus. These metal-infused fighters are paragons of excess, boasting bizarre characters and a thudding, insistent soundtrack. I cast my lot with Faust, a bean-thin maniac with an oversized scalpel, wearing a paper bag over his head. Faust's move set, full of wild lunges and sudden extensions, seemed perfect for the part. Though a complex and frenetic technique, occasionally, random button-mashing threw me the odd bone - the Guilty Gear games, in their devotion to over-the-top combat, have the possibility of one-hit-kills which I was able to unlock through no fault of my own. In one fever-pitched round of inspired mashing, I must have hit the sweet spot: my character strapped my opponent to a gurney, whipped out an explosive plunger, and blew up the stage, leaving nothing but blasted desert where the battlefield once stood. We chalked that down as a win for me - what more is there to do once you've blown up the world?
A lot of moves ended up working that way - rather than being trusty mainstays that allow for a disciplined control of the fight, my characters would blast forth special moves willy-nilly, often at the strangest times. Instead of seeming like a part of my own repertoire, they seemed to spring up out of nowhere like magic, and disappear just as quickly. At other times, I encountered old techniques cast in a new light.
In one match in Street Fighter II, while playing as the man-beast Blanka, I hunched over and electrified my body... then stayed that way for the rest of the fight. My opponent waited patiently as the clock ticked down, but my Blanka had hunkered down into a groove, with no sign of stopping. He may be somewhere out there still, glowing incandescent against the Brazilian night.