If there's a pretentious announcer telling you that "the soul still burns," then you must be playing Soul Calibur IV. After a short three year hiatus, Namco Bandai has finally come out with a Soul Calibur sequel worthy of the name. For whatever reasons the last two iterations haven't blown me away, Soul Calibur III felt unbalanced and the recent Soul Calibur Legends was an unadulterated disaster. Thankfully this sequel (the fourth, believe or not) is no slouch, making up for not just one but two disappointing Soul Calibur titles.
The rules of Soul Calibur haven't changed much since its inception back in 1995. This is still a standard 3D one-on-one fighting game; it's basically Tekken with swords (and better graphics). You take control of characters, most of who feel like they were ripped straight out of some alternate reality Victorian era fight club. Regardless of the characters and the arenas, all you need to know is that this is an arcade style fighting game that is incredibly easy to pick up and extremely difficult to put down.
The Soul Calibur series has always been known for its novice-friendly gameplay, and Soul Calibur IV is no exception. The gameplay consists of two attack buttons and a kick button, outside of that the only thing you need to know is to block and avoid incoming attacks. Unlike Virtua Fighter and other recent 3D fighting games, Soul Calibur manages to be accessible enough to those new to the series and yet deep enough to keep the hardcore fighters satisfied. Best of all, no matter what you do, the game's smooth gameplay and shiny graphics make the whole thing look stunning.
Soul Calibur IV keeps a lot of the old familiar faces (Mitsurugi, Siegfried, Voldo, Maxi, Cervantes, Lizardman, and so on). On top of the returning roster, we also get two brand new characters - Algol (a ferocious boss character that wields both the Soul Calibur and the Soul Edge swords) and Hilde (a heavily armored woman with a long spear). It's also worth mention that there are a few other "new" characters, but they are mostly pallet swaps of other characters, so calling these brand new characters is a tad misleading.
You can't get through a Soul Calibur IV review without mentioning the biggest addition to this franchise: Star Wars. I know, it sounds crazy, but for reasons that confuse and bewilder me Namco Bandai saw fit to include not one, but two different Star Wars characters. Considering the game's emphasis on weaponry these two characters don't feel as out of place as they probably should, however it's still a little jarring to go from old school sword fighting to seeing people with laser swords. Depending on which version of Soul Calibur IV you buy you will get a different well-known Star Wars cast member. The PlayStation 3 owners get the mighty Darth Vader, while the Xbox 360 users make do with the teeny tiny Yoda. It's a shame that it has to be one or the other, I can only imagine that there are a lot of nerdy fanboys that would love to see Yoda battle Darth Vader. I personally couldn't care less, these characters neither improve nor damage the game, they are just there to grab headlines and attract new people to the franchise.
Oh, and did I mention that you can also build your own fighter? Taking what is perhaps the best part of Soul Calibur IV, this new installment allows you to build and customize the character of your dreams. Although it sounds silly, some of the most thrilling moments of this fighting game come from winning new clothes and accessories for your character. They don't just make your character look different; these items actually improve his or her skills and gives them added bonuses. Throw all of this together and you have one of the best character line-ups ever assembled for a fighting game. Heck, even if you hate every single one of the characters Namco has created, you can still come up with your own wacky designs and have just as much fun.
The modes found in Soul Calibur IV range from the mundane to the spectacular, with very little room in between. There are a few obvious modes that greet you from the get-go, including a standard arcade mode (where you fight through a set number of levels and face a boss), a story mode (which is basically the same as arcade mode, only with a couple of cinema scenes thrown in for good measure) and the standard versus mode. These modes aren't bad by any means, but fans of the genre will immediately know what to expect from each and every one of them. These are the same boring modes we see time after time, they are not the reason you turn to a Soul Calibur game.
Fans of the series have already done and seen most of what Soul Calibur IV has to offer, but that shouldn't keep you from picking up this phenomenal fighting game. See why this is still the best weapons-based 3D fighting game. With an amazing line-up of characters, stunning visuals and a create-a-fighter option that is actually fun, Soul Calibur IV is a must-buy for any fighting fanatic.
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!