Soul Calibur III
Since the series marched onto the Dreamcast in 1999, Soul Calibur has become one of the most popular fighting games out there. It has developed a reputation for sporting top notch visuals, solid gameplay, and plenty of extra gameplay modes to keep players busy. Now, with its third iteration having hit the PlayStation 2, the series continues this trend. However, Soul Calibur III feels an awful lot like its predecessors, begging the quest as to whether or not the game is necessary in the first place. Sure there are gameplay tweaks, and even prettier visuals, but these changes donít feel like a noticeable leap for SC3 over SC2. There are some new game modes added, but theyíre extremely superficial, and no one would miss them if they were never implemented. Be that as it may, Soul Calibur III is still a high quality fighter, but likely only diehard fans will appreciate the improvements in this edition.
with most fighting games, Soul Calibur III has an extensive roster of
characters from previous Soul Caliburs have returned, with three new
faces joining the fray. Playing
these new characters, it feels like Namco simply added to existing
archetypes. Zasalamel carries a large scythe that can be a bit clunky to
swing around, but can take down enemies in a hurry once one gets a
handle on his combos. Next
thereís Setsuka with her sword and umbrella.
Sheís neither fast nor slow, but steadily wears down her
opponents. Finally players can also play as Tira, the most agile of the
bunch, as she dances around quickly stabbing and swinging away at
enemies with her deadly hula-hoop.
This in mind, thereís a little something for everyone in the
selection of new characters for Soul Calibur III.
Playing as the other 27 players feels instantly familiar, though
some of the costumes theyíre sporting are just intrinsically wrong.
Why does Astaroth need to have a hammer on his head?
Why does Cervantas look like a geriatric version of Rob Zombie?
We may never know the answers to those questions, but one thing
is certain, those images didnít need to be in this game.
Despite some questionable wardrobe decisions, Soul Calibur III looks extremely good, though. Itís becoming increasingly obvious that developers are finally getting to the point where they can push the PlayStation 2 as far as the machine will go. The detail has been cranked up yet again this time around, and the animation is as smooth as ever. Generally the various characters look quite nice, and their special attacks look extremely devastating with all the flashes of energy, and debris that goes flying about. Most impressive are the various arenas in which players fight. Each of them are incredibly detailed, with little touches added to the architecture, fauna, nearby creeks, or whatever other types of eye candy that happen to be in the area.
always, the Soul Calibur seriesí audio continues to impress, largely
thanks to Soul Calibur III again going with a sweeping orchestral score.
On top of this, the sound effects have a whole lot of punch,
especially for those with a decent surround sound system since this game
itself is quite similar to that in previous Soul Calibur games.
One thing that the series has always had going for it more than a
lot of other
3D fighting games is the scalability of the playing experience. Veterans of the genre can quickly learn the moves, and find a deep fighter. Meanwhile, those who havenít played a whole lot of fighting games can still pick up the controller, learn the basics and have some fun without suddenly becoming overwhelmed. However, the game does suffer from some inconsistent difficulty in single player mode. Players can be going along fighting one opponent after then next with the difficulty slowly increasing when suddenly theyíre up against an exceptionally tough individual. After finally beating the person, things become easier again for a time until players find themselves against another particularly difficult foe. There isnít any rhyme or reason to this either with specific characters being easier of more difficult to defeat. Itís just that they bring their super A-game at random intervals. The one character that is consistently hard to beat relative to all of the other characters, though, is Abyss, the final boss. Compared to all of the other characters in Soul Calibur III, this guy is incredibly tough.
While Soul Calibur III continues to get the fundamentals right, a lot of the extra bells and whistles that Namco decided to throw in this time feel forced. There are all these extra modes of play in the game that may look good on paper, but sometimes fall flat when executed.
For instance, thereís the gameís story mode. Leading up to the gameís launch, Namco was hyping this up as being an incredible narrative experience. Hell, youíd think they were releasing the next Lawrence of Arabia the way the publisher was going on, yet what we see in Soul Calibur III is a bunch of uninspired stories delivered in the most uninteresting manner possible. As an added curve ball, thereís even a real-time strategy mini-game that feels more like an excuse to have characters run on a tiny map, and get into the occasional brawl. Frankly, if gamers want a strategy game theyíll fire up a far more robust product like Age of Empires. Chronicles of the Sword mode just wastes peopleís time.
though, the character creation mode is really quite fun.
Players go in and pick their gender, basic class (barbarian,
ninja, saint, etc.) and begin to customize the appearance of their
budding warrior. What makes
the enjoyment so surprising is that the armor and clothing one can cloth
their warrior in doesnít add any benefit while theyíre fighting.
Itís just for looks. Yet
time and time again, Iíve found myself trying to unlock more armor, or
earn enough gold to buy more in the shops so I can doll up my characters
just that much more. This
mode by far continues Soul Caliburís ability to sink its claws into
completionists that absolutely must unlock and collect everything in a
Looking at the total package, itís hard to shake the feeling that Namco simply played it safe with Soul Calibur III. The gameplay is very similar to previous games, and the game looks better than ever, but for the most part all of the extra modes arenít a huge leap over that found in previous titles in the series. At the end of the day, Soul Calibur III is an extremely good fighter; just donít expect it to reinvent the wheel.
December 4, 2005
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