Review: No, you're not having a flashback. We're just two years behind on this one.
Last week we posted my article on the Top 10 Must Own Dreamcast Games, well, the ones I believe you must own, and I'm the Editor-In-Chief so you have to listen to me, muhahah? damn power trips. Anyways, the game that I picked to be the top must own title is suspiciously missing from our review section, that game is of course Soul Calibur. Namco's highly praised, super played, wonderfully made, just won't fade? ok enough rhyming, you get the point, the game kicks major ass. And for those few who don't know, it was released way back on a date you may all remember, 9/9/99, which also happens to be the greatest day of my life, sad isn't it? So, that would make this review almost two years late. That's okay though, like the popular saying goes- ?better late than never?.
In wake of this review I went back and took Soul Calibur for a much belated spin, so this review is actually kind of unique seeing as I can draw a good comparison to how it has stood the test of time. And I'm happy to announce that it has accomplished this very well, in every department too, the graphics, sound, gameplay, and features all compete with the best fighters of recent, and it still beats them all out in the long run. For all of us who have experienced this game already, it doesn't have that ?wow factor? that it did two years ago, even the fun-factor has dropped significantly, but that's to be expected from a game we've already played a billion times, that billion is literal by the way. As for the newbies, although I think just about everyone has played this game, they'll find this game just as good as any game on the market today, not bad for a two year old game eh?
Soul Calibur's major drawn in (yes, better than the jaw-dropping graphics) has always been its amazing fighting engine. It's not as skill oriented as say? Virtua Fighter, or as flashy as Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, but it's a perfect balance of both. Some even call it Tekken with weapons, and considering that Namco developed them both, you could imagine why. Just as in any fighter, Soul Calibur pits you and an opponent in an arena where you must fight to the death, or just till someone recieves a really bad beating. Dead on controls complements the gameplay very well, two different attacks, a kick, and a block button are at your disposal. And just about any combination between the D-pad, attack, and kick buttons usually results in a special attack, which results in literally hundreds of special moves and throws throughout the game. Not to worry though, Soul Calibur is equipped with an in game moves list that really comes in handy at times. This is also one of the main reasons why the game has such staying power, to master each of the characters takes a great deal of time, not to mention patience.
Really cool characters usually make or break a fighting game, just look at the likes Street Fighter 2 and Tekken as examples, and Soul Calibur easily ranks at the top of list when it comes to this. The characters themselves are still some of the ginchiest ones around in the gaming world today (some hot women too). Ivy, with her unique sword/whip weapon and dominatrix attire, Maxi, the nunchaku welding Elvis impersonator, and the ever-popular Killik, whose long stick (no jokes here please) seems to put other opponents at a disadvantage, are just a few of the examples of some uniquely designed, attitude driven characters. And just because the ladies don't have the bust that the Dead Or Alive 2's women have doesn't mean they're any less attractive, no doubt about it, Soul Calibur has some hotties.
Even after two years and countless released Dreamcast games, Soul Calibur is still king of the hill graphically. While titles like Shenmue and Sonic Adventure 2 might push the Dreamcast to its limits, I still believe for some odd reason that Soul Calibur has the overall package down better. I don't know how Namco did it, but they did things two years ago that some of the Dreamcast developers have yet to match, and probably never will since they're now all gone. Character design is top-notch, with each character moving at a smooth 60 fps, each of the 3-D arenas are beautifully rendered and show some nice effects, take the sunset in Cervantes' stage for example. Nice spark effects are used when weapons clash against one another, and the lighting work is simply amazing as well. It seems as if everything is just perfect visually, and you'll be hard-pressed to even find a Playstation 2 game that can stand up to Soul Calibur in this department.
The audio department is no slouch either. Each character has their own distinct voice that fits them perfectly, even though it's all in Japanese it still sounds great. Soul Calibur also contains a masterpiece of a soundtrack, everything about the brilliantly orchestrated tunes are first-rate. My personal favorite is the music in Ivy's stage, it kind of reminds me of Castlevania. Most of the other effects include the clangs of weapons and clacks of body blows (once again, no jokes here) that are all done to perfection.
Namco has always been known for upgrading their arcade-to-console conversions with an abundance of innovative features, and Soul Calibur is certainly no exception. There are tons of play modes, including arcade, versus, survival, and most importantly mission mode. The mission mode of play is easily one of Soul Calibur's most worthwhile features. In it you take on certain missions that range in objective and difficulty. Once you complete your objective you gain points, with those points you buy pieces of art, with that art comes new additions. New characters, costumes, and modes are the main additions you can earn, a few other features are unlockable too, like a weapon change option and the ability to have a liquid metal looking character.
Some of the new modes you unlock aren't necessarily playable though. There is a character profile mode; here you can obtain all the information on any character. One of the cooler modes is the demonstration mode; here you get to see each character do a martial arts demonstration with their weapon of choice, very fun to watch indeed. While these new features aren't anything mind-boggling, they do add a great deal of replay and entertainment.