Journey Back… Soul Calibur IV
Into this stage of history…
Soul Calibur IV is upon us. The game has long been a staple to fighting came fans. This version is actually the Fifth in the series. (Let’s not count Legends on the Wii) Getting it start on the PsOne as Soul Edge, this game from Namco could’ve easily become Tekken with swords. As we all know it became so much more.
Starting with the stellar Soul Calibur on the good for its time Sega Dreamcast. Namco redefined what a fighting game could be. Full of graphical flare and animation, this game immediately became the killer app no one thought it could be. It kept legends of fans happy until the sequel came out with a new quirk.
The original “Next-Gen” was upon us and Soul Calibur 2 saw release on all three major consoles. R.I.P. Dreamcast. But with it, came more fuel to the console war fire. Namco decided to include three special characters for each console. That announcement sent the Internets ablaze with fury about which console had the best character. PS2 got Heihachi Mishima of Tekken fame, GameCube got Link, and the XBOX got Spawn?
The first two made sense as they were tenants of said consoles, but the XBOX wasthe fledgling new kid on the block and hadn’t benefited from having a star character to include. I personally liked playing with Al but I had to concede that Nintendo’s Link was probably the most worthwhile inclusion. I mean Heihachi didn’t even have a weapon!
Soul Calibur 3 suffered from the fact that part 2 was so great. It went largely overlooked, not to mention the fact that it came out exclusively for the PS2 when everyone was anticipating the new “Next-Gen” consoles. So lets skip over that.
Which brings us to the newest iteration. Soul Calibur Eye Vee. Again Namco reached down into it’s bag of tricks and decided to give the consoles an “exclusive” character, with Darth Vader!?!?!?! for PS3 and Yoda!?!?!?!?! for XBOX360. Now, how two Jedi (technically three but we’ll talk about that lata) ended up on this stage of history is anyone’s guess. We can pretty much expect anyone who can fight to be open season for entry.
Now. First things First. The game looks beautiful on both systems. The animation is top notch, and the vistas are great. I’ve always felt that this series couldn’t look better and then it does. But I have to ask… It must be some sort of tradition or something, but how come fighting games don’t have deep character interaction and fully fleshed out endings and stories? I don’t want to read about it, I want to SEE it.
Namco first teased us with the original TEKKEN with these non-sensical CG endings. Damn right we beat the game with every character just to see those beautiful 10 sec endings. Even if they didn’t make any damn sense. But this part of the fighting game experience has not been updated. This is unacceptable, especially when the Soul Calibur series goes as far as giving you paragraphs to read about each characters personal journey and interactions. I know it may be a budget thing, but damn it, that would be NEXT GEN. Other than that you aren’t really luring me into connecting with a character other than I just like their moves. This isn’t the arcade (yes I know it’s there too) give me a reason for beating that boss who kicked my ass 32 times.
End rant… The game is still beautiful ya’ll!
The gameplay on Soul Calibur is a mixed bag. Like any fighting game ever created, there are imbalances between certain characters. To this day, Mitsurugi is too powerful and the majority of his attacks connect no matter what you do. Maxi is great for pulling out a win with constant barrage and girls (all 2,000 of them) are annoying as hell. But the game is still fun, because its beautiful to see the distinctive fighting styles collide.
Too often an important hit just misses or even worse connects but doesn’t register, but it’s often forgotten at the beginning of the next round when you release a combo straight from a Shaw Bros flick.
In this stage of history, Namco introduces a visual guard break, consisting of head, torso, and legs. When broken your character becomes more vulnerable to attack of that area and is disrobed! This is where 2,000 women is a good thing ;-). Fighting women in their skivvies may give some heart attacks and the uninitiated to sit back down after unleashing their wrath for fear of their mums or sisters questioning their playtime.
Speaking of control, I have no idea how the game works on a normal controller. Purchase of a new SC game, for me, also includes a purchase of the official arcade stick from Hori. 60 beans? That’s a steal for comfort and memories of the arcade machine in the Pizza shop. (Damn I have to many video game accessories) The Hori stick gets my full endorsement, with its metal plate for a bottom, official 8-way arcade joystick and authentic buttons with microswitches. You just can’t get a better feel. I suggest copping it, and for you trash talkers you can plug your XBL headset in as well.
As for the included characters I have to say XBOX has gotten the short end (pun intended) of the lightsaber once again. Yoda may be the most revered Jedi in history and made people wet their pants when he fought Dooku in Ep 2, but playing with him has the unduly effect of feeling cheesy on both sides.
He is too short to grab, so no grabbing Yoda. Nope, Yoda can’t even grab Yoda. I guess he got the Teflon force! Plus almost ever attack causes him to launch himself in the air and swing around like a gnat. I totally wouldn’t want to fight him in real life, much less the game. Its fun to watch Asteroth bring down the axe on him. But I guess I’m just sadistic.
Vader on the other hand, is balanced well and fights like a Zen master. Errrm Jedi Master. His attacks aren’t too powerful and it’s generally fun to fight with him. I’ll do a separate review on Vader.
But all in all they don’t stick out, but I doubt many people will rank them as their favorite SC fighters.
Who is your favorite fighter? Well now I get the chance to create my own (I know it was in SC3 but we’re not gonna talk about that, are we? Right) and take him online and vanquish the world. Although I don’t like the fact that your characters moves are identical to the character they are based on, I respect the limitation, but it would be great to add some flare to the style. Like err a drunken monk with a staff. How cool would that be?
I also wish that they included a screen capture and upload system in the game similar to Halo 3. People have made all sorts of creations online Hulk, Snake, Raiden, Altair and many many many more. It would be cool if you could legitimately send your creations to yourself and make galleries, come on “Next Next-Gen” let’s go with the simple features already.
When you create your character you get to take them online for the first time. Yippee! I get to bust some ass with my Afro Shoalin Monk Hells Wind Staff dude! I wish you could see! I played dozens of games without the dreaded lag that has plagued the one-to-one input necessary for the precision of fighting games. EVERY FRAME COUNTS! This bodes well for the upcoming Street Fighter Eye Vee! Fighting fans rejoice the time may come where we don’t have to be in the same room with each other and can really claim supremacy due to the ability to take on many more challengers.
The ranking system isn’t as robust as it could be, but it’ll suffice.
Yup that’s Soul Calibur IV in a nutshell. If you are a fan of the series, pick it up. You will definitively melt away the hours when you have friends over.