Shen Yuan and Shen Chan could not be more unalike, but like Billy and Jimmy Lee, they work so well, and so effectively, together. Twin furies of yin and yang, these two Singaporean Soul Calibur V players took the fighting game world by storm at EVO 2k12.
Their performances had crept up on EVO and taken all attendees there by surprise. Obscurity had been Shen Yuan and Shen Chan’s middle names at the start – they had stopped playing Soul Calibur (SC) following the World Game Cup last year. That they were suddenly primed to take top two spots was an upset indeed.
A wrong step by Shen Yuan saw him knocked out of the running midway through the tournament, but not before he had knocked some of the world’s best into the losers brackets, or out of the competition entirely. Shen Chan, on the other hand, unassuming Shen Chan, went on to make history as the first Singaporean ever to reach the Top 8 in an EVO competition. And then went on to take an incredible first runner-up placing.
Who are these two guys, and what has made them into the men they are today?
RGB finds out for you.
Eight years ago, a jock woke up in class to realise everyone had paired off for an English project. That is, everyone except him and the class nerd. The jock, Jovian Chan, reluctantly grouped up with the nerd, Raymus Chang, and went over to the latter’s house for the project. And the rest, they say, is history.
“The first time I went to his place, we were in his room. I was typing our composition out. And I saw his sister… It was love at first sight… I wanted to come back again,” said Jovian, better known as Shen Chan.
It was fortunate that both boys had then discovered that they shared a common love for Soul Calibur, because it afforded Jovian an excuse to go back to Raymus – or Shen Yuan’s – home. He never did end up with Raymus’s sister, but he did find an invaluable and lifelong training partner.
“Yuan and Chan are polar opposites,” echoed Samuel ‘Shen Ou’ Ong, another member of the Shen fraternity. “But their working relationship is too powerful when it comes to the game.”
“At EVO, the people I couldn’t beat, Chan destroyed. The people that Chan couldn’t beat, I destroyed,” said Raymus.
This synergy comes from eight years worth of training together. Virtua Fighter, Street Fighter – they’ve worked their way through these games, learning their nuances, and lived to be better players. But no competitive player is made without his community, and only one other man does not a community make.
Shortly after they started playing together, the duo met a fellow called Panther, who introduced them to Singapore’s then Soul Calibur community.
“It was a very casual community – it was like casual players trying to be really good at the game,” Raymus explained. But the aspect of casual play diminished once Soul Calibur III was released.
“You couldn’t get away with a lot of things that you could now,” he said, adding that the many amateurs who made up the bulk of the community subsequently quit the game, leaving ten or less serious players of Soul Calibur III. With the dearth in practice partners, Jovian and himself only started getting better when a Hong Kong player known as Lau paid Singapore a visit.
“We beat his ass,” Raymus recalled, laughing. “And he gave us his SBO slot.” Both Jovian and Raymus were then too young to head over to Japan on their own, so they gave that opportunity up to another player. But the siren song of Calibur beckoned, and so when Soul Calibur IV was released, Raymus made a trip to Japan with a couple of fellow gamers.
“I lost quite badly there, but I came back more experienced. So by Soul Calibur IV, we had quite a different approach to the game,” Raymus said. Following the Japan trip, Jovian and Raymus both got the opportunity to head down to Cannes for the World Game Cup. In that same year, Korea’s Kura went to EVO and dominated the tournament, exposing the Western world to a completely different play-style. Players were starting to sit up and wonder – just what is Asian Soul Calibur play? But the Singaporean duo stopped playing soon after.
“There was no reason to, because if you want to compete in Singapore, you have to work harder than anyone in the world,” Raymus explained. And once they swapped over to Virtua Fighter and Street Fighter, few remembered that they had been part of a small group of Asian Soul Calibur players destined to bring the European-dominated game to its knees.
Fast forward to Soul Calibur V exploding onto the local scene. Veterans Raymus and Jovian stepped up to the plate once more in spite of their previous inactivity. “Gaming passion is in my blood,” Jovian said, when asked why he picked Soul Calibur up again. “And if I don’t carry on Soul Calibur, what will happen to the newer players…?”
Soul Calibur V quickly became a staple of the local FGC, meriting its own slot in the weekly Battlefield Fridays game roster, as well as reviving the Soul Singapore group. New players were blooded into competitions. And when the EVO signups rolled around, the community realised it had a sizeable number of representatives attending it.
That sparked a strenuous training roster, with the group meeting multiple times a week at Tough Cookie Gaming Café for sparring sessions. “My training mode hours were over two hundred just for Soul Calibur V,” Raymus told us. Jovian and him spent hours in their training labs, studying anything and everything about all the characters. But it was still not enough.
“I didn’t prepare enough,” Jovian admitted, of his loss against Shining Decopon at EVO 2k12. “We did the strategy and everything but it didn’t work out.”
Raymus’s early elimination from EVO also meant that Shen Chan was left alone in his matchups. Like a matching pair of Pokemon, the Plusle and Minun of Singapore’s Soul Calibur scene worked far less effectively without each other. Common sentiment on the ground is that Raymus would have steamrolled Decopon to face Jovian in an all-Singaporean grand final, had he not been eliminated before his time.
That would have been a match for the history books, because Raymus has never been able to best his other half.
“Eight years and I haven’t beaten Jovian in Soul Calibur, Virtua Fighter, or Street Fighter,” said Raymus. “I’ve never beaten him in any game in a tournament for eight years. I just can’t win this guy. I don’t know why.”
The two firebrands of Soul Singapore are a strange match. Jovian is a full-time national serviceman. He is a homebody, as far as we can tell. When he won cash vouchers in the SEA Major, he passed them on to his mother. He has a long-term girlfriend who dutifully supports his gaming ambitions.
Raymus, on the other hand, is fair and unearthly, and carries himself more prettily than most girls. He adores fantasy stories written in old English, and recently gifted himself with a couple of books worth more than S$300, all because they were first edition prints. “Lord Dunsany wrote…” he’d sometimes say.
As far as friends go, they’re very different individuals. According to Raymus, Jovian is a simple guy, unlike him. Jovian hates seafood, expensive restaurants, and anything with bones in it; Raymus loves all that. Jovian liked Raymus’s sister; Raymus doesn’t.
“The only thing similar (between us),” Raymus said, “is that we like Calibur, and Dudley and Vega’s (their SF characters) birthdays are on the same day, and both of them like roses.”
But it’s these differences that seem to have served them well in both their personal lives and their would-be professional gamer dreams. There’s just a strange, inexplicable chemistry between them, according to Jovian.
“We can’t stand each other, but we still love each other,” he said.
At EVO, it was adapting each others’ playstyles that got them past certain opponents. It was knowing each other so well they could actually slip into the other’s styles. And as training partners, this sort of synergy will serve to only push them higher into the FGC’s strata of recognition.
With Shen Yuan gearing up for MLG and Shen Chan already booked to dominate at the SBO Qualifiers in the Chinese city of Shenzhen this coming weekend, we can only acknowledge that these two young players’ futures will be bright indeed.
(Photos: Edmund Yeong Photography)
Double Dragons is a feature on Singapore’s local fighting game community, a continuation on our coverage on the ‘FGC’s Shens’.