Let me start off by saying that Iím not a huge 3D fighter fan. Donít get me wrong, I am a huge fighting game fan, but 3D fighters are what youíd sayÖ "not my bag". I much rather play Street Fighter 2 Turbo than any other fighting games out there. Okay since you know where I stand, Iíll start on my review of Soul Calibur by Namco.
Soul Calibur is the sequel to a very popular 3D fighter in the Arcade and the Playstation by the name of Soul Edge (or Soul Blade). The Arcade version of Soul Calibur is running on the Playstation friendly System 12 (which is basically a Playstation on steroids). Since Soul Calibur was on the System 12, logically everybody thought that Soul Calibur, if ever ported, would go on the Playstation. But, surprise surprise. Namco announced that Soul Calibur would be Namcoís first game for the Dreamcast, and bypassing the Playstation.
Instead of just doing a straight port from the System 12 hardware to the Dreamcast hardware. Namco instead made vast improvements to this game while porting it over to the Dreamcast. Now all the character in Soul Calibur for DC has more animations, and higher polygon count compare to their Arcade counterpart. I was totally blown away and how realistic the movement was. So with the increase of complexity of charactersí model, and more animation, how does this game look?
Graphically, Soul Calibur for the Dreamcast is totally amazing! The characters are far superior in details and complexity than any other characters in any game, be it console or arcade. The only thing that rivals how impressive these characters look, are the CG counterpart of them in the CG still images. All the textures are crisp, and so sharp, itís jaw dropping. For example the writing on Mitsurugi costume (his second one) is totally readable from far, and also while up close, the writing is super sharp, and very easily read (thatís if you know Japanese =]). Thereís two small flaws graphically I can find with this game. Firstly, the levels arenít as impressive (with the exception of Seigfriedís stage in Venice). They seem all seem to have a few structure in the background, and the rest is a huge background image the surround the whole arena, kinda like Tekken 3 for the PSX. Secondly, there are few minor clipping problems. Hair on characters seems to go right through weapons and body parts, which makes it look kinda weird. Since you can only see this clipping up close itís not a real big deal. The two flaws that I mention, are just small little errors, that are easily overlook, especially in a heat of the battle.
What can I say about the sound? Well all the winning speeches are readily heard, and very crisp. The background music is perfectly matched for each stage. The sound effects for this game are truly amazing! All the "cling" and "clang" are so good, that you might believe that youíre right there witnessing the battle as a spectator. The speeches, background music, and sound effects make this game amazing to listen to, and enhance the overall game.
So how good is the game play? Well the controls are very tight, and all the moves can be pulled off consistently without any troubles. Since the controls are tight, combos come off pretty smooth, and new combos are also can be learned quickly through the "Practice Mode". So what modes/extras are included in this game?
Thereís the standard Arcade Mode, and Versus mode. Some other modes that are included in Soul Calibur are, Practice Mode, Survival (beat up as many people as possible, without dying), Museum, Extra Survival (same thing as "Survival", with Sudden Death rules), and Mission Battle (go around finishing mission to earn points). While there is plethora of game modes and extras in Soul Calibur, the one that really interested me the most in Soul Calibur has to be the Mission Battle.
Mission Battle is quite different from the standard Arcade mode. Instead of just trying to beat everybody for the sake of finishing the game, in Mission Battle, you try to beat mission to earn points to buy art, in the Art Gallery. To complete a mission in Mission Battle, you must complete the required element(s), some missions might be just defeat your enemy, while other missions requires you to defeat your opponent in a set amount of time.
With tons of secrets, and extra modes, this game have huge amount of reply value. With 19 characters in total, prepare to not have a life (fortunately, I didnít have a life before this game, so itís not a big loss) if you want to master all the character, which adds to the reply value of this game.
Even though the graphics for Soul Calibur are the best out there right now (console or arcade), and having secrets up to ying yang, I didnít find this game as enjoyable as Street Fighter Alpha 2. I have to admit Soul Calibur for the Dreamcast is the best 3D fighter Iíve played, but Iím not blown away by Soul Calibur overall. Even though Soul Calibur didnít blow me away as it did for other people, it did keep me amused while playing it, and isnít that what a good game is suppose to do anyways? Bottom line, good game, excellent graphics and control! Great for 3D fighter fans, fun for 2D fighter purist :].
Review By: Stephen Lam (Shinji)