Call it bad timing for the release of Soul Calibur II. It could have easily dominated fighting game of the year awards if it were released a bit earlier. Instead Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution took the crown. For the record neither game is a bad fighting game or even a bad game, both are excellent. What Virtua Fighter 4 did offer that SC II was an evolution in solo play. A deep training system, a virtual arcade and the fact that you can customize the Shaolin monk Lei-Fei with a motorcycle helmet were just some of the improvements. Sega designed Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution for a console audience, while Soul Calibur II kept its arcade charm. Namco takes a bunch of pointers from Sega and utilizes them in Soul Calibur III.
To start off with the new single player modes you can play through a story mode for each character in the game. Yes, you will be fighting one on one in arena, but the story mode offers you choices. The player chooses in which direction to look for the enigmatic sword, Soul Edge. Should you ask the local townsfolk or do you rush randomly into the mountains? This leads to story branching points and more importantly plenty of secrets to find. In this mode you can discover new (old if you ever played any other Soul Calibur game) characters like Yoshimitsu instead of having to fight hundreds of fights to unlock him. Soul Calibur III even takes a tiny cue from Resident Evil 4’s action based cutscenes. Randomly when you’re character is talking about why he/she must fight a small, too small window with button commands appear. If you hit them perfectly you’ll perform a dodge or maybe a good kick to the face. In either case you’ll avoid losing precious life before you even start the battle. If you aren’t a fan of the timed presses you can ignore the whole system, since you’re only losing a tiny bit of life anyways.
Looking for something deeper? Then check out Chronicles of the Sword. In this mode you take your personally created fighter through chapters of fighting. You start out as a level 1 monk, dancer or whatever class you choose. Each battle nets you experience to help you build your character’s stats. If this mode sounds familiar to Tales of the Sword in Soul Calibur II, it’s similar, except that you it adds in a little more strategy. Each chapter starts out with you on a battlefield map where your goal is to capture the enemy fortress. You could plan out the optimal route to the goal, while trying to avoid as many fights as possible. Or you could rush in and demolish every fortress in your path. Either way the system offers gamers who want to spend some time planning a chance to do so and straight forward fighting. If you want to forget the whole story mode set up take your chances in world competition mode. You won’t be playing online, but in a virtual world. This mode is similar to the virtual arcade system set up in Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution where the player will play tournament after tournament.
Playing through any single player mode will get you gold to be spent at the local shop. You could buy a new staff for Seung Mina or you could spend the cash on new clothes for your custom characters. You know you want that new cool looking vest, even though it doesn’t do anything but look stylish. The character customization system is incredibly deep. You start out by picking a class, which will determine your move set. There are a couple of unique classes like the thief, who has ranged smoke bombs as a weapon. Or instead select the “soul” of another warrior. Then take a barebones fighter and design him/her into your dream warrior. Add in missing video game favorites like Link and have him face off against Luke Skywalker. Soul Calibur III makes anything possible, if you spend enough time with the character creator mode.
However, the soul of Soul Calibur is fighting. Everything boils down to the fluid fighting that Soul Calibur has always been known for. Soul Calibur III sticks to this and all of the other mechanics that made the series great. On the other hand Soul Calibur III sticks to the formula, a little too much. The differences between SCII and III are minimal, a few new moves for Mitsurugi and a handful of new characters. Ring blade wielding Tira joins the cast as a heavy hitting female warrior, who has attacks with grace. Zasalamel comes in with scythe in hand. He acts like a faster moving Astaroth with lighter hits. Three entirely new characters to a total roster of thirty plus whatever you can create is good sized roster, even though many of these are repeats. Thankfully, the gameplay in the Soul Calibur series can still hold up without any major evolutions. You’re still going to have fast action, horizontal attacks to sidestep and crushing vertical blows. There are guard impacts for expert players to master, stunning blows for turnarounds and soul charges to mix up attacks. All of this is still great, but didn’t we get a new game?
Soul Calibur III continues with sticking to familiar territory when it comes to presentation. We have the same character designs from way back to Soul Blade, with some new costumes. The character models actually look a little less detailed than they did in SCII, but that comes at the cost of the character development system. The backgrounds make up for it. Soul Calibur III has immersive, colorful arenas to battle on. The soundtrack in Soul Calibur III is more of what you would expect. The game retains an epic soundtrack with a few notable songs, but the themes don’t feel any different from any other Soul Calibur track.
In a nut shell Soul Calibur III is more of the same. But even though it plays like Soul Calibur 2.5 battling Nightmare against Sophitia never gets old. The minor tweaks and new single player modes warrant a purchase from the fighting game audience out there.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 0
Since the Japanese version isn’t released yet we’re unsure about how difficult the game would be to play if you get that version. But you can save yourself any of the importing problems if you pick up the US version, which includes the Japanese voices.
Soul Calibur III is out in stores right now, check it out.
+ Pros: A deep single player mode with separate story lines for each character, a chronicles mode and virtual arcade. Beyond that you can take your custom character to match blades with a friend. Soul Calibur III gives you bang for your buck.
– Cons: Besides all the new modes there aren’t any major developments over Soul Calibur II or the original Soul Calibur.
Overall: Even though it isn’t a major evolution in the series, Soul Calibur III fills the void of what was missing in Soul Calibur II a deep single player experience.
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