The Dreamcast was always a vessel for Soulcalibur. Let’s not fanny around with pussy-footing and other vagina-related figures of speech. The Dreamcast was built to gestate that game into life.
Soulcalibur is that brash, shouty girl you always had a crush on but inevitably will end up sticking a stiletto into your eyeball. Exotic, but sort of mad. Great at the time, but makes you look like a fevered idiot, of which you are ashamed of later and hope that no one filmed it. It is the crush you have that will ultimately peter out into a vague memory of that time you drunkenly sneezed up some cocaine and played that one game all night just to be ‘crazy’ and ended up getting noseblood in your VMU and looking like an arse in front of your flatmates and now you spend the rest of your life humiliated.
It’s not always the time for that.
If you’re me coming home from the pub with a boyfriend trailing behind you, you don’t exactly want to remind them of the fact that next to Ivy’s your chest fixtures have as much heft as two marbles in a Tesco shopping bag. As well as that, I’m annoyingly good at fighting games and the thing I don’t want to do is wilt the poor guy’s libido with a brutal slayage of ego. That is anti-sexytimes. That all leads to hurt feelings and him crying in the bathroom whilst you fumble around for some bent I’m-sorry-rollup and some apologetic wine.
You want to look smooth. You want to look suave. You want to be able to win a game a respectable amount of times without button mashing yesterday’s Chanel Rouge Noir off your scrappy hangnailed fingers.
Under pressure, your eyeline trails slowly across your pitiful game library, and lands gently on Virtua Tennis 2. You remember it being the sort of game you can make calm tactical decisions over, and press a button with grace. You remember it being the sort of game that can make every match look like your offbeat serves and outlandish lobs were entirely planned. You boot up Virtua Tennis 2, what you think might be about as suave a game you can get on the bucking hipster console that is the Dreamcast, in an attempt to ludo-semantically inform him through your gamepad that you are in bed as you are in Virtua Tennis 2: elegant. Like a swan making love, or something.
(I wonder if swans make love elegantly. Knowing my luck it’s probably just like Godzilla rutting a shark.)
The game boots up and drops into the title screen, and you suddenly realise you had forgotten one thing. Here is the thing you did not remember.
The shitty music.
You immediately feel like a fool.
Why are videogames so stupid, you think. Again.
With some sentimental nerdishness and a great deal of love, allow me to take you through a series of aural contraceptives.
The track ‘Choose a Player’ is almost infantile in its excitement about your selecting a player from the frankly mundane selection of 2001’s superstar tennisers. Tennis people. Tennisens. You imagine the composer of this music sort of writhing around in a sweaty booth with a bright orange baseball cap on backwards, screaming “YEAH BITCHES!” and other such profanities about people’s mums at an empty studio after everyone has gone home so that he can give himself a massively inflated sense of self-importance. A self-importance which is sort of admirable in the face of other soundtracks. This is 2001, when you get such soundtracks such as this:
Imagine looking at Tim Henman’s face and listening to that soundtrack and trying to make a decision as to whether he is chosen or not. That’s right. You would cry. You would cry.
Look into his face
But instead there is Virtua Tennis bopping around in the background like a maniac child with its milk teeth missing jumping all over you because it really needs to go to the toilet and you have to take him.
Videogames! Videogames. God, aren’t they good? My fingers crave the clunky Dreamcast controller like absolutely no fucker’s business. NEXT:
This is a sensitively put together piece of arse that is the sort of track that an asshole gym trainer would put on if he hated you. It starts out with a promising sped up M People beat that could easily fool you that you were in for a cheeky nineties track - no it wouldn’t - but then the drum machines kick in and you actually hate yourself for thinking well of it and you’d rather die in a fire than have someone barge in and catch you listening to it. In my research I couldn’t actually get to the end of this one. I had to stop to take a swig of whisky and cry a bit before carrying on.
LIFT THOSE LEGS! LIFT THOSE LEGS! LIFT THOSE LEGS! CHANGE!
Here is the next blinding piece:
Yeah, it’s called ‘Natural Blue’. How do we know it’s a natural blue? Have we seen the collars and the cuffs?
This one you know is going to be terrible too. It tries to tease you in with an early ‘I’m a game for children on the PSX’ vibe with that pared-down rave business and then the tambourine kicks in and you just want to saw off your own leg and eat it with some chutney. Then it has the nerve to kick in with that aspirational stuff - it’s now the sort of track you can imagine Kate Bush doing ‘mysterious’ arms to if she’d ever got broke and gone on crack and owed a debt collector her first daughter and had nothing left to live for and had to take a gig dancing to this live on stage.
Now around 0.40 it is intensifying into a sort of cheap Casio keyboard climax, and then it does a drum breakdown where it seems like the person has had a fit on the keyboard. Actually a lot of this track is like the person is having a fit on the drum keys. And then it goes back to Kate Bush ‘mysterious’ hands.
I LOVE THIS GAME. MORE MUSICS PLEASE
‘Fuel of My Spirit’
They went mad with this one. I imagine the composer of this track as a tiny German man with a goatee and long hair who is going through a rough time with his marriage and this song is his shot at ‘alternative and edgy’. This track takes itself seriously. It is HARDCORE. This is his marriage on the line. This song is going to sell Virtua Tennis 2s. Feel his sorrow and rage!
But seriously, I hope his marriage is okay.
‘Solitude’ (At least I think it’s called Solitude, on Youtube someone has called it ‘Solitud’, which to me sounds like a better title.)
This track is really quite interesting because I think from the start it almost sounds like it could have ended up on the GoldenEye soundtrack - which is a compliment. Naturally that is arsed up from 0.24 when weird noises arrive, but I stand by my assessment of this piece having a soupcon of badass with a whiff of barnyard and a flabby finish.
The best thing about this track is that ‘CptWolfgang’ commented that this track is his ‘favourite track in the game hands down’. I want to meet CptWolfgang for a beer. I think we’d get on.
Lastly, a special mention to ‘Show My Ability’. This is a truly traumatic piece of music.
If you manage to have a wank to this successfully, let me know and I’ll enter you into a prize draw for my admiration.
There you have it: one of the Dreamcast’s best games has one of the silliest soundtracks of any sports game. These days we have SSX, the Skate titles, and the revolutionary Rockstar Table Tennis to teach us how suave dynamic beats can enhance the most routine moment. In the recent reinvention of SSX you surf your board over clouds to an electronic beat that responds to the shake of your character’s hips. You take off, the music muffles, land it - and the bass kicks in again. It’s the most satisfying thing in the world. It is also extremely sexy. Unlike Virtua Tennis 2, the poor thing.
It would have been pretty wonderful if Virtua Tennis 2’s soundtrack had been given a dynamic expensive soundtrack, and yet, if your date leaves the room, or, god forbid, they fall asleep on you cursing Tim ‘the Tiger’ Henman, you will still find yourself bobbing along to the drum machines and making a prat of yourself. Perhaps that is its triumph: despite being some weird nineties trash, the music retains some real energy in it. It lends very little to Moya’s smash (who really needs to add anything to that magnificent piece of physics fine-tuning?) but it does give the game a certain childish gumption - a sort of outrageous giggly high like it had consumed too many Chupa Chups and Sherbet Dip Dabs and had fallen off the sofa gurgling. It’s a traditional Sega trapping that reflects how little Sega had changed by 2001. Perhaps that is why it decided to exit the console market that year: the failure to adapt had caught Sega by the throat.
Virtua Tennis 2 is not a suave game. Virtua Tennis 2 is a grinning gerbil with a rave soundtrack following it around. A surge of Sega sentimentality though, and you really won’t care. It won’t impress anyone, but it sure is infectiously moreish. Sort of like that cocaine you accidentally got down the side of your X button that one time you were playing Soulcalibur. God, you regret that. The Dreamcast is a dangerous machine.
Cara is a contributor to PC Gamer, Rock Paper Shotgun, Nightmare Mode and Unwinnable. She cheats on writing with full time games production. In between falling in love with everything sometimes she sleeps and finds time for a pint. Please stop her tweeting at @Carachan1. She shouldn’t be up this late.