Soul Calibur IV ReviewDustin Wright
As someone who has never been very sucked into the fighting genre, there is one game series that I can always make an exception to: Soul Calibur. Why is this? What is it about Soul Calibur that draws in gamers who are not into the fighting genre, and most recently, what draws them into Soul Calibur IV? I believe it is a mix of things, a mix I am happy to say that is alive and well in the latest game in the series.
First of all, Soul Calibur has traditionally been about keeping a balance between a pick-up-and-play fighter and a hardcore fighter, something it does well in spades this time around. Soul Calibur IV is a bit slowed down like Soul Calibur III was for the PS2, but this does not break the game in any way. The graphics are simply gorgeous, the most shockingly gorgeous game in the series since the original Soul Calibur. Remember how you felt when you first played Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast (for those of you who didn't, my apologies)? Be prepared to get this same sort of feeling again.
Soul Calibur was also the first fighter to really pull off a weapons-based fighting game. Sure, Samurai Showdown can be considered the first, being released even before Soul Edge, but it was the Soul Edge/Soul Calibur franchise that really perfected it. For one, it was not just swords as in Samurai Showdown, it was a great deal of different weapons with extraordinary moves to pull off, which brings me to my next point: Sound. The sound in this game is simply phenomenal, and that may not sound like much but when you hear it, it is like candy to the ears. As I was playing as Yun-Seong against Siegfried, the sound of steel hitting steel was exactly how it should sound. The loud clang of weapons hitting other weapons and the different sound and pitch of how or where a weapon is hit is exactly how it would sound in real life. Sound design is something we as gamers do not really think about but when you first hear the sounds in this game, it will take your breath away. Phenomenal.
The original Soul Calibur was also the first fighter to really have a ton of unlockables and modes. It was the first to include an adventure mode where you had all kinds of different scenarios playing out. For example, as the story progresses it tells you that you were attacked and poisoned by two thieves. As a result, you have to fight and beat these thieves while your health is depleting due to being poisoned. It was things like this that really set apart Soul Calibur from other fighting games of the time. And yes, Soul Calibur IV does include a few different modes, sadly no adventure mode. Instead we have, in addition to story and arcade mode, the Tower of Lost Souls mode, where you must make your way up through over twenty different floors of enemies. It is very fun to say the least, and is also very challenging. Another mode, although not new but well worth mentioning, is the more fleshed out character creation mode, which is hands down better than Soul Calibur III's. It is somewhat addicting to make characters that you think of offhand. Add to the fact that you can buy new weapons for not only your created characters, but main characters as well, and you have a very customizable fighter at hand.
And last, the sheer draw of Soul Calibur, as with any other fighting game, is human competition. I played hours upon hours of Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast with my friends in my early teenage years, and Soul Calibur IV is no exception. As I play with different people, memories of the original come rushing back, and is mixed with a bit of nostalgia and newness. The gameplay is just as much fun as it ever has been, if not more.
A much welcomed addition, and the best addition to date, is Xbox Live support. Having played a few other fighters online, I can honestly say this game gets online support right. Of the already eighty matches I have played online, it has only lagged twice and was never unplayable. That is a great achievement in itself and I commend Namco for pulling it off. Playing Xbox Live feels almost like being in an arcade many years ago being challenged to play a round. And the more you play, the more the fighter you are using gains experience, the more gold you receive if you win, and the higher your level goes. And people are playing the heck out of this thing. I looked on the leader board two days after this game was released and saw that someone had already reached level 72 and had played over 600 matches. In second place, level 71, so there will not be a lack of competition. If you have been looking for a fighter to play on Xbox Live, look no further: this game is worth every penny.
So how good is this game? Fantastic. As unbiased as I can be, I really do not have any negative words to give it except the addition of an adventure mode would have been even better. And that's about all of the negative words I can give it. If you love fighting games you owe it to yourself to pick this up, and even if you don't, even if you are only looking for a good party game, pick this up. It is Namco's greatest fighter to date and one of the best of all time.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.