|Namco has built a
reputation for brilliant translations from the arcade to the console, and theyve
also built a reputation for making the coolest fighting games around. Lets face it,
Tekken 3 is the coolest game thats ever been made. If Id have spent as much
time actually learning kung-fu as I did playing Tekken 3 Id be levitating upside
down in a Tibetan monastery right now. For good or for ill, I chose Tekken over levitation
and Ive never regretted it. Besides I figure I still have plenty of time to become a
kung-fu master. Well Namco continues its reign of brilliance with Soul Calibur, and
judging by how much of my time it has already sucked up, its going to be a while
before Im breaking blocks of ice with my forehead.
This is the best looking fighting game that has ever been made on any system. It even manages to top the arcade version. Graphically speaking Soul Calibur does to Tekken what Tekken did to everyone else in 1996. Its the next level, plain and simple. The graphics are so good that games sitting next to Soul Calibur at your friendly neighborhood retailer probably get a little cooler just from basking in the iridescent glow of its magnificence. Namco didnt even bother with an FMV intro, they just let the game's graphics, running at a blistering 60fps, dazzle you into ecstasy-- and dazzle they do. With eighteen beautiful characters to choose from-- ranging from sweet sweet Sophitia to the slicing and dicing Mitsurugi, the whips and chains of that irresistible Ivy and the warrior gimp Valdo , this game has a character for everyone. Straight out of Tekken 3,Yoshitmitsu even opts for a change of scenery and joins the cast to give that sword of his a workout.
As if that werent enough of my raving about the graphics, let me tell you about the arenas. The backgrounds are beautiful almost to the point of distraction. Stunning mountains, amazing statues with molten lava flowing around them and a battle on a raft speeding through an underground river are a few of the highlights of your journey, but all of the arenas look impressive and even vary in size and shape, giving them all a unique feel.
Veterans of Soul Blade will find a very similar setup for the one player game. In addition to the arcade mode you have a quest mode available. In quest mode you basically walk the earth looking for clues as to the whereabouts of the legendary sword, Soul Edge. Along the way youll run into other warriors with the same plan as you have and theyre almost always less then pleased to meet you. You then have to negotiate a deal for your safe passage which means you have to take out your sword (or other implement of destruction) and proceed to beat the crap out of them. All of the stages are unique, however, and this is just a heck of a lot of fun. You have all sorts of nasty surprises in store for you including slugging it out while sinking in quicksand, having glowing green rats run around and bite your feet while you fight (very cool to watch), giant winds trying to chuck you off a cliff, dueling invisible opponents, and many, many others. As you beat various stages you earn points. You then take these points to the museum and use them to buy art cards. In addition to giving you neat pictures, some art cards unlock new stages, new game modes, or new costumes. Its pretty impressive, lots of fun, and greatly enhances the games appeal as a one player game.
Well, stunning graphics and nifty features will only get you so far, but what about the game play? When Soul Blade made its entrance to the PSX market in 1997, it looked great , but played a little too simply. Soul Calibur corrected a lot of things, and is a lot deeper than its predecessor, but could still do a little better. It lacks the majestic and unique combos that give the Tekken 3 characters such personality and depth. Most of the basic moves are fairly similar to one another, which detracts from an individual feel to the characters. The game as a whole seems to emphasize poking rather than laying it all out in wicked looking combos. You can do a little too good at the game just by smashing lots of buttons down repeatedly, but the trained master with loads of special attacks and three move combos in his arsenal will probably still come out on top. Learning to block correctly is as important as always, but mastering the parry separates the hard core fanatics from those with a moderate interest in the game and puts you in the next level. A parry is when you strike your opponents weapon as they are attempting to strike you, deflecting the blow and putting them off balance, which gives you more then enough time to counter attack and take back the momentum.
The character endings definitely could have been a lot better. Theyre some still, black and white pictures with a few text boxes that give you a short summation of your warrior's life and times. Oh well, a relatively small complaint in an otherwise brilliant game.
Soul Calibur is a must have for the die hard fighting fanatics and those with a moderate interest alike. If you havent seen it yet, then you havent seen what the Dreamcast is capable of. Considering this is a first generation title, it has my mouth watering for things to come. Does it surpass Tekken 3? Is the king really dead? Well he sure looks dead, but I think theres still some life left in the old chap. One thing is for certain though, when it comes to hardcore fighting games, Ive seen the face of the future and it still looks like Namco.