On December 15, cosplayer and light gun arcade game master Eddie Esguerra went viral on social media. DC Comics editor Andi Khouri Tweeted a video of him dual wielding two pistols in Time Crisis 2 as if he were a character in an anime by. The video, in which Esguerra dodges like a boxer and flicks his hands like a seasoned gunslinger garnered 1.7 million views.
It wasn’t the first time Esguerra’s unique style of playing Time Crisis was captured on video and blew up. Last April he was spotted tearing it up in the same Los Angeles restaurant arcade called Button Mash. YouTube is also filled with short, anonymous clips of Esguerra operating in the wild at various arcades. What’s so impressive about his dance routine isn’t how complex or fluid it is, but the fact that its part of a high-score run through an exceptionally challenging series of games. It’s almost as if he were taunting thearcade machine for being unable to keep up.
Time Crisis is a two-player cover-based shooter on rails. It was first released in 1995, first as an arcade-only game before being ported to the PlayStation two years later. Players step in and out of cover by pressing a pedal with their foot, and kill whatever enemies are on screen by firing a toy gun with a photosensor inside that registers hits. Once an area has been cleared, the characters automatically move onto the next. Surviving requires quick reflexes and a lot of memorization, making it an ideal game to build a character-based performance out of.
“I never really thought or planned out my choreography, Esguerra told Kotaku in an email “I developed it over time.” The pedals make it hard to move around too much during intense firefights, so he needed to try and add extra flair elsewhere. “At the end of the first video on top of the train when I dodge the blue enemy rounds over and over again I only really do that if that is the last enemy of the level and I could take them down with one shot, also if I have enough time. If an enemy is close enough I would turn my head either right or left and shoot the enemy as if it is a no-look shot.”
Most of the time he only operates one player’s character at a time depending on which is facing the biggest threat. If he’s feeling exceptionally daring he’ll press both pedals to pop both players’ characters out of cover and go full tilt. And if both characters die, he’ll start over from the very beginning.
Esguerra was in the Mirage Casino in Las Vegas the first time he ever laid eyes on Time Crisis. Around five years old in the mid-90s, his family decided to take him to the casino’s arcade while on one of their annual vacations.
“A stranger put in a quarter for me,” Esguerra said. “I got to play the first level of Time Crisis and I’m sure I died in the first area. It was hard for me, but exciting, and I kept playing year after year ever since.”
It wasn’t until almost 20 years later in the early aughts that he finally started to master the game. While attending Los Angeles Community College, Esguerra discovered there was a family arcade across the street that had Time Crisis as well as a bunch of other light gun games. “After class I would spend hours playing Time Crisis, House of the Dead, Silent Scope and Police 911,” he said. While he’s become known for Time Crisis 2, his routine is the culmination of all of his light gun game experience. He first started ducking so much because of Police 911, which actually tracks player movement when it comes to reloading and dodging bullets. In games like House of the Dead he would move and shoot at the same time to try and make things more difficult. And once he started to be able to beat Time Crisis in a single life, he decided to start dual-wielding the other character as well and adding in movements he’s perfected for other games to challenge himself even more.
“I think people love watching me play because they’ve never seen anyone dual wield Time Crisis,” Esguerra said. “When people come up to me they usually say they never thought Time Crisis could be dual wielded or could not be beaten with one credit per side.” A lot of people have seen Time Crisis machines at one time or another. Some even coughed up the money to die a few times playing them. But still fewer have ever seen how the games actually end. Esguerra thinks that’s part of what makes his performances extra special.
“I do it because it is much fun for me plain and simple,” he said. “I just enjoy the challenge...and I love watching people’s reaction, especially when their jaws drop.”