Well I didn't think it could be done, I never thought there would be a better fighter then Tekken 3 (at least not so soon). But Tekken's own creators, Namco, have really outdone themselves. Soul Calibur is the most amazing fighter I've ever played. Its graphics, gameplay, depth, and all around greatness make it the best fighter ever. There are 20 characters overall, 10 to start with, the rest you collect. Each character has a huge list of moves including combos, super moves, counters, and more. Although some characters you collect are just copies of others that look different. Such as Rock, he is pretty much Astaroth with a different look.
Similar to Tekken, there is a mission mode. But its very different from Tekken's, it is extremely larger and isn't a Final Fight (a Genesis game) type run through of the level. Instead you follow a story and fight characters to gain points. Points buy you art, which open up new missions for you to play in, and best of all, new features for the game. I'll explain. When you choose your mission, there is a story of why you are fighting that certain character or characters. On some missions, your attributes are different or there are certain environmental hazards. Like in Voldo's stage, on one mission in that stage the rats that run around actually hurt you and make you fall to the ground if your bitten by one (they run into your feet). And in another mission, you start out poisoned and your life slowly drops, making the mission that much harder. None of these things happen in any other mode (i,e. Arcade, Practice), only in certain mission modes. Anyways, so once you win, you get a certain amount of points. You receive the points, go to the art gallery, and buy an art. Certain arts you buy will open up new features, such as a new costume for a character, a new mode like 'Extra Survival Mode', etc. There is so much to do in mission mode, it will take you a while to unlock everything. You still collect characters by finishing the game with a certain character, but that's not the only way. You can also obtain them through buying an art in mission mode.
What makes this game better than Tekken, in my opinion, is the weapon-based fighting. Fighting with weapons is much more interesting then the normal punch/kick fight of most games. All the coolest weapons are included in this game like the axe, sword, nun-chucks, staff and sai's (excuse me if I spell this wrong). Just watch two people who have mastered this game duke it out 1 on 1, it is a truly amazing experience.
The graphics are unmatched, you have never seen a game look this good, even in the arcades. Characters are amazingly smooth, and there's never a time when they break up. There is so much amount of detail in this game it's not funny. The characters make facial expressions, and their lips move perfectly with the speech. Hair blows in the wind, as do the characters clothes. And get a load of this, the girls boobs jiggle! That's right, they bounce baby! Never has a game had this much detail. You can now see Lizard Man's scales (unlike in Soul Blade where he was a pixelated mess). Characters aren't the only things with immense detail, the stages are some of the best in any fighting game. Rats run around in Voldo's stage, water shoots out of a fountain continuously in the Coliseum stage, cannons shoot from a nearby boat and fly over your head in the Takamatsu Castle stage. Each stage contains this huge amount of detail. What's even cooler is in some stages you can change the time of day, the season, and choose alternate colors for a stage. For example, you can change the time of day from daylight to nighttime, and change the season from flowery spring to snowy winter. The stages are also now in fully 3D, unlike its arcade counterpart. Water drifts, background objects move, it's a sight to see. I really like Yoshimitsu's stages where you're on a raft constantly flowing down a stream in a tunnel, it's a fun stage to fight at. Come to think of it all of them are :) All this happens at a blistering 60fps, amazing.
The gameplay is really deep, there is a humungous list of moves for each character. It may seem complex at first, but its really easy to get into. Combos are easy to perform because they are so simple to open up, there is an almost infinite amount. Just find moves that link well with others and you have your own homemade custom combo. I never once looked at a strategy guide for this game and I've already learned over 15 combos (I write them down in my handy red notebook). New to this game, and actually to the fighting genre itself, is the 8-way running system. Not only can you side step, but you can step in diagonal directions too. This allows you to get to other sides of your opponent faster. Throws are also performed differently, pressing X+A will perform a throw animation, and depending on which side of the character your on your gonna do a different throw. With the exception of some characters, they can press Y+A to perform yet another throw, but this throw only works while your in front of the character. If you're on any other side it will do the same throw pressing the X+A button would have done. Throws can be countered or blocked by pressing certain buttons the same time the other character gets a hold of you which will push the character back and make a sort of "boing" sound. Blocking is also more complex with Guard Impacting. There are two types of guard impacts, one which pushes your character back when you block, therefor leaving them open for at attack or combo, and one that pulls the character to your side and has them facing you sideways, which is great for opening them up for a throw. Each character is completely unique (except for most of the extra characters you collect), with their own fighting style, strengths, and weaknesses. For example, Maxi's weakness is his short range, but his strength is his quick speed and ease of use. Kilik's weakness is his relatively slow speed (compared to the fastest characters) but has great range and is also easy to use, Astaroth's strength would be his extremely long range and power and his weakness being his slow speed and complexity.
The Dreamcast controller works almost perfect with this game, all the buttons are easily accessible and aligned great. However, there is the problem that comes with most console controllers. I found it hard to perform attacks that required you to press X+B at the same time, attempting to press them usually ended with me pressing all four of the face buttons at once. Since only a very small amount of the characters attacks require you to press X+B at the same time, it really isn't a problem. For maximum control, buy the Dreamcast Arcade Stick. It works perfect with all fighting games.
The sound and music in this game are topnotch. Every swing of a weapon is right on target, as are the bangs of two weapons hitting eachother and the slamming of a person into the ground or into the water during a ring out. Each character sounds according to their physical appearance. Taki has a female voice that would never be mistaken as a male's voice, Mitsurugi has a male's voice that would never be mistaken as a females (like in many Japanese games), and Astaroth has an evil and very deep voice, considering his huge shape and evil appearance. The narrator also sounds great, you can understand each word he says. I know this isn't really something that needs to be brought up, but just listen to the narrator in Power Stone and you'll understand completely. The music is the best in any fighting game out there. There is a different music track for each stage, and each sounds terrific. From slow paced, peaceful music (though peaceful, goes great with the stage), to quick, action packed music that will make you want to go the extra mile. Even the music that plays while selecting which art to buy or during the character selection sounds great.
Soul Calibur is a fighting fans dream, even newcomers will find it easy to get into and enjoy it immensely. There is so much to learn in this game, and it will be a while before you can master a character. I'm currently working on mastering Maxi, and soon after hope to master Hwang. Since there is so much depth and so much to do, there is an extremely high reply value. I've had this game since launch day and still enjoy it every bit as much as when I first got it. Learning characters is highly rewarding, like I said earlier, just watch two people play against eachother with their best characters (assuming they mastered those characters) and it will look like a high budget action seen in a movie. If you like fighting games, wait let me rephrase that. If you like games, this one should be on the top of your list. This game alone proves Namco is the king of fighting games, I don't expect a better game to come out for a long time. Unless they release a Soul Calibur Tag Tournament, I love tag combos. Soul Calibur is THE game to get this year, don't miss out on it.
Review By: Sean L.