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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

War Stories: Falco vs. Samus

There are few things in history that are as reliable as enmity between brothers.
Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Kay and Arthur, Hamlet Sr. and Claudius, etc. Sometimes the older brother possesses something the younger brother wants; at other times, the younger brother lives his life while the older brother must mind the farm; there are even the scant few tales where each brother has his own pros and cons, and the two must learn to work together.

Tyberious and I have been all of these things, but for the purpose of this tale, I will be portraying the dick older brother of lore, while Ty shall be the underdog who deals me my comeuppance.

Since the beginning of our competitive gaming lives, I have been less than subtle about my goals toward Ty: to crush him, at every opportunity, by any means other than cheating. My methods never varied, and the goal rarely changed. When our parents would insist that I stop, I would do so, but only to the level that I gauged it necessary to prevent punishment. His cries of unfair treatment would fall on deaf ears; all he had to do was get better and there would be no issue. The intervening years were not kind to him.

Street Fighter II. Pokemon Red. Mortal Kombat 3. Jet Moto 2. Need for Speed II. GoldenEye. Mario Kart 64. Pokemon Colosseum. Tekken Tag Tournament.  Armored Core: Another Age.

Then, one summer, he got a GameCube when school let out. The N64 had been his, since the PS One and PS2 were firmly mine. I wasn't overly concerned, since there weren't any GC games I was dying to play, and my PS2 was in the prime of its incredible life. I didn't really pay much attention to the Cube until we got Super Smash Bros. Melee, which I still think is the best of the series. Ty and I had played the original for hours in Toys 'R' Us until we finally got our own copy, and Samus Aran was unstoppable in my hands. Melee, with its faster, floater style, only intensified Samus's aerial ferocity and ability to recover from crazy-long falls. Tyberious must have tried every character on the roster, but our traditional one-on-one duels always favored the morphball mistress.

That was also the summer I got my driver's license and the one leading up to my senior year, and so I began spending less time at home. At some point, Ty picked up the now cult classic Custom Robo, an anime-style mix of Pokemon and Armored Core. I watched him play it a few times, and it looked cool, but I was spending more time trying to hold girls' hands and game controllers made that difficult. So he kept playing. and I kept nervously squeezing the arms of couches, theater seat rests, and my own knees.

I don't remember anything about that day, except coming home and finding Ty... waiting.

"Hey," he said. "Let's play Smash Bros."

Having spent an entire summer without more than grazing some fingertips, I was in a mood to boost my masculinity by defeating a 13-year-old in a game about Nintendo characters hitting each other. Oh to have known then what I now now.

I picked Samus. Ty picked Falco Lombardi from Star Fox, who I always thought of as a cheap palette-swap of Fox himself.

It was a massacre.

Round after round, match after match, Tyberious and Falco showed me the meaning of pain. No matter what map, or gametype, or how many computer allies I had, Falco took home the crown. The blaster he carried kept me at bay; it made me flinch during aerials so that I couldn't recover from falls; his reflector shield sent my own beam cannon shots back at me; finally, his own melee attacks were every bit as fine-tuned as mine, and getting in close resulted in immediate KOs.

Apparently, he had spent hours playing, with a single life, against nothing but computer-controlled Samuses ( Sami? Samusi?). Starting with a single mid-range opponent, he eventually worked his way up to three-on-one matches against enemies set to the highest difficulty. He had trained specifically to do this to me.

Seeming to sense that I was coming to the point of quitting, Tyberious suggested we try something else. Why not, for instance, try out Custom Robo's versus mode. I had played mech games, I knew how they worked, and my mind was dull from the Melee fiasco.

Admiral Ackbar would have been so ashamed.

Ty had beaten the game on every difficulty level, and defeated all of the unique CPU mechs in the arena mode. As such, he had every piece unlocked, had built several units of almost deific power, and understand every nuance of the combat system. The final straw came when he offered to scale back the weaponry he was using and let me use one of his designs; not only was I feeling low enough to accept, but it was of no avail.

I had been taken to school. Twice, in as many hours.

It would be a lie to say that we've put our competitive ways aside and learned to just appreciated playing, a lie which Wolfwood, Baminatrix, and numerous other would call me on while they laughed in my face. Yet the ground is more level these days, with each of us finding roles in games at which we can excel, and with their still being distinct genre lines we try not to cross. Ty challenging me to a racing showdown would be as foolish as me boasting against his FPS skills, for instance.

I will say this much, though: when it comes to certain games, Ty attacks them with both ferocity and precision. He learns how they work and utilizes every possible advantage, and demands that those of us playing with him excel just as much, to an almost maniacal level.

He learned to get better.

I'm the proudest any older brother could be.

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