Soul Calibur 2's Weapons Master Mode was a very fun mode to any who have played the game. However, within the mode lay a challenge that many dreamed to achieve: To reach the rank of level 99. And today I achieved this dream. And without any of those wimpy Action Replay codes, either.
To put this into perspective of anyone unfamiliar with the game, to complete Weapon's Master Mode and unlock all the weapons, characters, costumes, arenas and art, could take upwards of 20-40 hours. Upon completion, most people would achieve the rank of either Grand Edgemaster of the Wolf or Basilisk, level 76 and 77 respectively each requiring 400000 or 500000 experience. From then on, in order to achieve a higher rank, one must replay certain levels again and again in order to gain experience, a powergrind similar to any RPG. What differs to most RPGs is that attaining a higher level doesn't increase your stats in the slightest, it is only for a title of self-satisfaction and bragging rights.
While most people I know forget about grinding to higher levels, there are a dedicated few, who decide to push themselves for the bragging rights. Level 98: Legendary Edgemaster of the Phoenix used to be the benchmark. I only knew a couple of people with that rank whom I respected, and I used to be among them. At 7 million experience points (over 10 times the amount needed for level 76) it required a lot of dedication to sit at the screen and grind the same repetitive thing for around 20 hours. However, the next level, level 99 required over 10 times the amount of that: 99999900 experience. It appeared so far from grasp, that for all of us, level 98 seemed like the only reasonable and achievable feat.
Level 99's existance was really only known through the use of Action Replay codes. Felix M.C Li was the first (and possibly the only one so far) to post screenshots on the web of the rank. However, it was on the Japanese version of the game, where the names of the ranks differed slightly. Level 98 was 'Legend Edgemaster of the Phoenix' instead of 'Legendary Edgemaster of the Phoenix'. It prompted a few of us to wonder whether level 99's title would be slightly different on the PAL version than the Japanese's 'Ultimate Counter Stopper'. However, no screenshot has existed to confirm anything.
After careful consideration and calculations, I realised that given time and persistance, it would be possible for me to achieve level 99 without the use of any cheat device.
In Weapons Master Mode, the level Er Rai is known to give the greatest amount of experience for the least amount of effort. The arena is Money Pit, one of the smallest in the game, coupled with the level affect to make it easier for players to fall off the edge meant that it was very easy to win by ringout. Each win grants 3800 experience. A ringout could easily be achieved within the first 5 seconds, longer if you were unlucky or lacking in concentration. Including loading times, it was approximately 20 seconds to complete the level and earn yourself 3800 experience.
This meant that on that level alone, by repeating it constantly, one could get 10000 experience in about 1 minute, 100000 experience in about 10 minutes, 1 million experience in about 100 minutes, 10 million in about 1000 minutes, and 100 million required to achieve level 99 in 10000 minutes. That only equates to about 167 hours. However it would require almost full concentration throughout the grind.
Luckily for me, my television has a picture-in-picture function which allows you to view two channels simultaneously. Using this, I could put Soul Calibur 2 in a little box in the corner and half-heartedly grind while watching television and movies in the larger channel. However, with my attention diverted to the television, it took longer to ringout the opponent and also resulted in occasional losses. Taking the setbacks into account, I predicted that it would probably take me upwards of 200 hours to complete. In my normal life, finding such a time for such a trivial pursuit seemed impossible. However, luck would come my way.
After the completion of my high school exams I would be left with over 3 months of holidays until I needed to start university. Such an opportunity normally does not occur, the longest school holiday before then going for only about half as long. With over 90 days, if I managed to grind 1 million experience a day (about 2 and a bit hours each day), I would achieve it before I go to university and have breathing room in case I had to take holiday trips with the family. I figured that with such a long holiday I probably wouldn't spend the entire time partying with friends or playing other games and I needed something else to occupy myself. It seemed like the perfect solution.
On the 13th November, 2006 I had finished my final exam and began my quest. Using Mitsurugi armed with the Damascus Sword (a high strength, high defence weapon, however guard is disabled), I was able to push through. Meanwhile, on the TV I forced myself to sit through cartoons, the news, daytime soaps, comedy festivals etc. There were high points and low points.
Midway through December, I hit my first snag. Those two lovely words: Twilight Princess. A game that I'd been dreaming to possess ever since Wind Waker ended up being cel-shaded. I had avoided the Zelda forums and reviews altogether in order to preserve my experience. Unfortunately for my goal, it meant that the Gamecube had a different disc inside of it for the first time in a month, and while I quickly beat it in a couple of days, the game was so large that collecting everything would take much longer. Coupled with my brother's desire to beat Twilight Princess himself, I was unable to grind for about 2 weeks.
By that time the Wintersday (Christmas) event in Guild Wars had started, and I found myself drawn away again, hooked into another game and unable to pull away. I regained momentum for a while near the end of the year.
Then, in January, my family took a trip up to Sydney, staying for about 5 days. I had brought the Cube along hoping to get some grinding in as well, but unfortunately it was too difficult to manage. After the trip, I felt a little lazy, and had decided to play other games instead. The holiday drought of television programming had meant that there was nothing worth watching to grind on even during prime time. It was a major setback. Luckily, I was already halfway to reaching my goal by that point, and when the holiday programming ended, I resumed the grinding once again, this time at a much quicker pace. I intended to get around 2 million experience each day if I was to catch up for what I had missed.
Luckily the weekly programming during prime time improved across the board. Top rating dramas from the US started appearing each night, and I found myself recording some shows while watching others, then watching the tapes during the day. Better movies began premiering on television too, and I grinded while watching everything. However, my family began to get annoyed when about a quarter of their screen was missing while they were trying to watch a blockbuster action movie, but I wouldn't relent. As I got closer and closer, I started grinding more and more desperately trying to get it done before university started.
February 22nd, 2007. It was my 18th birthday. Aside from some minor celebrations with my family, nothing much was done. My friends were much too busy organising things with the university for the upcoming year, and my birthday party had been planned for the coming Saturday. With little else to do that day, and only 5 million experience away from my goal, I vowed that I would reach level 99 by the end of the day. However, it would require over 10 hours of grinding, basically the entire day. I started off watching the episode of 'Heroes' I had taped from the day before, I decided not to fast forward past the commercials to make it last as long as possible. Following that was part of the previous evening's 'Late Show with David Letterman' I had also managed to tape. The video lasted for about one and a half hours. Following that I watched an hour of news, followed by an hour of 'Law and Order'. I ate my lunch quickly during that time. Proceeding that was an hour of Oprah, something I wouldn't normally watch, but I was desperate, I needed something to take up that period of time, so Oprah had to suffice. Oprah was followed by 'Ready, Steady, Cook!', an Australian cook-off show in the same vein as 'Iron Chef'. After that, I could stand no more mediocre television, and put in my 'Appleseed' DVD. Some high quality anime lasted for a while, but that ended and I was still far from reaching my goal. I decided to put in my 'Halo 2 Limited Edition' bonus DVD next, and watched through the 'Behind the Scenes' before the salvation of 'The Simpsons' came to my rescue. It was short lived, but I kept grinding through that, and 'Neighbours' which followed. I grinded a little during 'The Biggest Loser', and also ate my dinner. Following that I switched channels and continued grinding through 'My Name Is Earl'. Then came 'Lost'. It was almost 45 minutes into 'Lost' when I realised that I was almost there.
I changed the channel so that the full screen showed my Soul Calibur 2 progress. At 99999500 experience, I saved, then entered Er Rai for what would probably be the final time. Yoshimitsu was knocked off the edge easily, and I eagerly awaited the mission completed screen. As the experience piled in, I held my breath before sighing in relief. I had made it. My goal was complete.
The PAL version's title did differ to the Japanese's, it isn't 'Ultimate Counter Stopper', I think it's actually better. However, it isn't really the title that I took pride in. It is the achievement that goes behind it. If you want to know the title rank, you only need to look below.
It was a goal that few would ever have the time and dedication to reach. And the lack of sanity. Thanks for reading about this ordeal, and good luck to any who attempt it!
TARGET ACHIEVED: 22nd February 2007 9:15pm (GMT +10)
Lv.99 Ultimate Edgemaster