For the past couple of months, everyone who's been wanting to purchase a Dreamcast has thought of one game; Soul Calibur. Yet, no one took notice to this game when it quietly made it's way into the arcades around the summer of 1998, save for those hardcore Soul Edge/Tekken players. When I first played this game, I knew that Soul Calibur was always destined for something greater. Ever since I started playing this game in late November-early December in the arcades, I knew that it should get the recognition that it deserved, but somehow I felt that it couldn't be possible on the PlayStation. Something as complex as Soul Calibur was just unattainable on a piece of 5 year old hardware, even though it was basically built on the same System board as Tekken 3. Well, my wishes have come true, because Soul Calibur for the Dreamcast is everything it's promised to be and a ton more.
The story behind Soul Calibur is that the legendary pirate Cervantes had a vicious battle with the Greek warrior Sophita, who managed to destroy one of Cervantes swords, called Soul Edge Female. In the process, she was seriously wounded, but the "Underground Hunter" Taki (my personal fave) came to her rescue and defeated Cervantes. With a piece of the Soul Edge Female, Taki took Sophita and left. Later on, the knight Seigfried stumbled upon the body of the pirate, and tried to take hold of his sword, Soul Edge Male. Just then, the sword became possessed and attached itself to Seigfried, creating the demon knight known as Nightmare, and thus.... our story begins.
Everyone knows about how amazing SC looks on the Dreamcast, and while it didn't look half bad at the arcades, it looks 100 times better on the Dreamcast. All the jagged edges of the arcade version are gone, the colors seem a lot brighter and more varied, and many of the special lighting effects are superbly done. As well, all the arenas are perfectly modelled in 3D, a notch up from the 2D 1/2 backgrounds of the arcade. The fighters themselves possess better textures and a higher polygon count. You can even see the strands of hair from Mitsuguri's 2P costume swaying as he bobs his head up and down, it's truly amazing. Every warrior, from the mighty Astaroth to the beautiful and deadly Taki looks amazingly sharp and are motion-captured to perfection, as can be seen by their katas (my personal fave is Maxi's Twin Nunchukus kata). So many things can be said about how amazing SC looks, and it deserves the praise of being the true 'killer app' that the Dreamcast needed to build its foundation on. What everyone has noticed is that Soul Calibur is without any CG movies whatsoever, but this shouldn't shock you. The arcade version of Soul Calibur never included any CG either, and the endings are the exact same for each version.
As for the sound, what can be said? It's absolutely perfect. It fits the mold of the game perfectly, with highly epic scores filled teeming with life. My personal favorite BGMs would have to be Ivy's and Maxi's. Ivy's has that amazing riff at the beginning with the harpsicord which gives it that creepy, tingly feeling (just like Ivy ^_~), and the new evil laugh that Astaroth possesses must be heard to be believed; it's truly demented. Every clash and clang of your weapon is keyed perfectly in Soul Calibur, and it just adds to that epic, grandeur feel even moreso. The voiceovers that Namco have provided are amazing as well, and are even synched with the fighter's lips... amazing.
While so many people raved about how amazing SC looked, how many people can honestly say that they knew that the gameplay was amazing? Not many, unless you played it for a few weeks at the arcade, you probably didn't even know there was a game underneath. To the uninitiated, Soul Calibur can seem like a button masher's dream; you got guys like Maxi and Lizardman who are relatively easy to mash with for beginners, as well as Cervantes (who is overpowered IMO) who is a secret character in the game. Sure, is it masher friendly? You bet, and that's one of the beautiful things about Soul Calibur. Anyone can pick up this game and start playing instantly, and not have to worry about how to do special moves and how to learn priority, because in Soul Calibur, offense is the key to winning; whoever attacks the best will always win in Soul Calibur. Beyond the basic system of offense and defense, there lies many aspects that some fighting games have experimented with, but few have gone to exploit. In Soul Calibur you need to be able to exploit everything in order to become somewhat of an expert. You have Tap motions (straight from MK and Tekken), Circular Motions (straight from Street Fighter), and then you have relatively new ways of attacking, such as Motion Delay (delay your moves by holding onto a button for a longer time), Motion Shifts (pressing the joystick in a direction after the attack button for a slight change in axis), and literally dozens more. Even defense is totally deep in Soul Calibur. Aside from your basic guards, you have Parries (which brings your opponent to one side), Guard Impacts (a mainstay from SC's predecessor Soul Edge), as well as Tech Rolls (a la Tekken), Air Tech (a la SF) and even Air Control, which lets you contort your body in a way so that your character will usually fall out of harms way of a juggle combo. It's safe to say that Soul Calibur is definitely one of the complex, if not the most complex game that exist today, and with a total of 19 characters to use, you'll be spending a lot of time mastering all of them.
Problems with Soul Calibur? There's a few things that bug me slightly with the Dreamcast version. For one, I don't understand why the decided to censor Voldo and his crotch spike. What difference does it make? LOOK at the guy! If you take out his crotch spike because of some sexual innuendo that a player might feel, hell, just censor the entire character! The man is basically in bondage! Another problem I have with SC is the arrival of Cervantes, who just makes the game unbalanced whenever he's used. He's a tad too overpowered compared to the rest of the cast, and it throws off the game's balance ever so slightly.
The verdict on Soul Calibur? You won't find any argument here; it's totally perfect. For someone who's been an ethusiast of the game for over 11 months, how can I not give it a perfect score? After all the hype it's been through, after all the praises it's earned, how can someone not like this game? It's simple, you can't hate this game from a gameplay perspective, because there's something for everyone in this game, something for a newbie, a fighting vet, an early adopter to the Dreamcast... it's all here in one small little disc. For those of whom who haven't played Soul Calibur yet, I urge you to play it soon; at the arcades, on a Dreamcast, whatever, you need Soul Calibur, and it knows it.
· · · Reno