Soul Calibur III ReviewCain Dornan
Namco has long been the master of fighting games, with their Tekken and Soul Calibur series being amongst the most popular fighting titles currently available. The Soul Calibur series has continued to evolve and advance the enjoyable gameplay that the series has offered from the start, allowing both long-time veterans and new gamers to enjoy everything the weapon-based fighter has to offer. After the success and praise that Soul Calibur II received, it was only natural for the third installment to garner plenty of hype and attention. But the question quickly arises as to whether Namco has created another stunning fighter, with the final answer being slightly more obscure than what one would originally expect, as some new inclusions are certainly questionable as to their relevance and entertainment values.
Soul Calibur III essentially feels the same as its predecessor, with a number of small additions and tweaks that manage to make it a slightly refreshing experience for long-time fans of the series. At its core, the game is the same as Soul Calibur II, with the overall feel of the game standing true to its predecessor that hit shelves several years ago.
A total of thirty characters provide a satisfying variety of different fighting styles and maneuvers, with each character offering their own host of unique moves that have been selected carefully to add a level of strategy to each battle. Namco has added three new fighters to the list, who join the already impressive lineup of classic fighters that have aided the Soul Calibur series in gaining the current positive image that it has today. The first of the new characters is Tira, a wild little female character who dresses in jungle-like outfits and bears a razor-sharp sword that has been twisted to form a large circle, which she uses in a similar fashion as a hula-hoop. There is also Setsuka, who is an upper class, cleanly dressed female who carries an innocent looking parasol, which conceals a lethal blade that forms her weapon of choice. The last of the new character additions is Zasalamel, a muscular African male who dresses in elegant white clothing and carries an oversized scythe.
The controls have been effectively mapped to the PS2 controller, with the block button being centralized by assigning it to the X button, allowing for quick blocks during fights by only moving your thumb slightly from the surrounding combat buttons. The clean and effective controls allows Soul Calibur III to be a faster moving game than most other fighting games.
Soul Calibur III offers a large assortment of different gameplay modes to be experienced. The Tales of Souls mode, for example, allows gamers to play through each players individual story as they seek the bearer of the legendary Soul Calibur sword. Each player offers their own storyline that pans-out as you proceed through the relatively short mode, with players occasionally offered the opportunity to choose their own path that will slightly differ the storyline and the battles that you encounter.
There is also World Competition, which is further split into two different modes; Tournament and League, which can both prove to be a challenging experience. The Tournament mode, for example, requires you to participate in twelve consecutive tournaments without losing a single battle. Considering that each fight you participate in grows in difficulty, this mode clearly separates your standard player from your skilled Soul Calibur player. There is also Soul Arena, which offers an arcade mode-like Quick Play that simply involves beating eight characters, while the Mission mode offers a slightly more interesting experience. Each battle is affected by different rules, which range from the wall dealing considerable damage when a character is slammed into it, or fighting on a rotating circle that continuously drags players towards one side. There are also more collective modes, such as trying to obtain as many coins as possibly while fighting.
Then theres the Chronicle of the Sword mode, which is the newest mode addition to the franchise. The mode is essentially a real-time strategy, requiring you to move your character around a game board, visiting various locations and talking to people. The mode also comes packaged with a character creation editor, which allows you to create your own custom character from various items that can be purchased in the games Shop. Unfortunately, while the mode does offer a different gameplay style than what is found throughout the rest of the game, the mode is simply not presented or executed well. Upon start-up, you are drowned with too much information too quickly, resulting in the mode being initially confusing. Furthermore, the level of interesting occurrences that happen in this mode is equal to counting the bricks on the side of a house, as the mode is largely presented in text that is simply not captivating. While true real-time strategy fans may spend some time with the mode, most fighting fans are unlikely to spend any longer than ten minutes with it.
On the multiplayer side, Soul Calibur III offers Vs Standard, which simply allows you to go head-to-head in a single match, while Vs Competition is essentially a multiplayer version of the World Competition mode, allowing you and a friend to compete in a Tournament or League event.
Soul Calibur III also offers a number of additional modes, such as a Practice mode and a Museum, which contains concept art and character profiles, allowing you to view personal details on each character and learn more on their past. There is also a Shop, where you can purchase additional weapons, armour and items with money that is earned when competing in events.
As a long standing tradition in the series, Soul Calibur III is visually impressive, pushing the PS2 hardware to its limits and presenting one of the best looking fighters currently available for the system. While the visuals have not advanced significantly over the previous game, the beautifully detailed characters and environments offer plenty of eye-candy. A variety of solid voice acting, sound effects and music further compliment the games overall presentation.
While Soul Calibur IIIs core gameplay differs little from the previous game in the franchise, the addition of further modes aids in providing a slightly enhanced experience that will please long-time fans of the series and capture the attention of those who are new to the fighting genre. The only problem with Soul Calibur III is the over-use of levels that were found in the previous title, and the rather disappointing Chronicles of the Sword mode that fails to offer any true gameplay life. The level of polish, however, does allow for these problems to be overlooked, as the fluent controls and impressive presentation are certainly of a high standard.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.